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As many of you know, I am a great believer in reading aloud to children. But there is another skill which leads to their language development that doesn’t get discussed or encouraged as often as I’d like. It’s the skill of having your child re-tell the story back to you. This activity allows them to develop many great literacy skills for life.
- By re-telling the story, your child uses the language patterns they’ve just heard as the story was being read.
- Through narrating or re-telling a story, your child immediately uses the vocabulary they’ve just heard.
- Nothing teaches story sequence better than having your child re-tell the story.
- The power of re-telling is one of the best tools to increase memory retention in your child.
- Re-telling a story is a great way to create flow and story structure in your child’s writing.
How to Create a Re-telling Moment:
- Starting at about age 4 or 5 ask specific questions about events which happened in the story. Cover items such as who the main characters are, what happened in the story, and what was the outcome or ending of the story.
- To instill a sense of story continuity (starting at about age 6) I would tell my children well-known fairy tales. After reading them a couple of times over a few days, I would ask them to re-tell the fairy tale to our family reading circle.
- As we entered the chapter book years the kids would re-tell the part of the story we had read that night. The next evening before I would start reading again, I would ask one of my children to re-tell the story from the beginning to where we had stopped the night before.
- As we read our family chapter book, I usually keep a running vocab/fact list going. As we get ready to re-tell the story to our previous stopping place, I’ll pull out the list and present it to that night’s appointed narrator.
Some Simple Rules
There is often a great need for other siblings and sometimes even parents to correct the child doing the re-telling. It’s best to wait until the re-telling has finished and then approach the subject by asking each person to say one thing they liked about the re-telling. It’s only after ending the compliments that I come in with one or two small corrections. Reading and re-telling time isn’t about perfection, it’s about enjoying books as a family. There is a lot of time during the day to work on perfecting language skills but not during story time.
Make sure that everyone stays on task, and if it’s a group re-telling, make sure everyone gets to say something. If it’s a solo re-telling, the others in the group are fulfilling a very special duty and that is the role of the active listener. Remind everyone before starting that there isn’t any correcting, just listening.
If you haven’t been re-telling your books and stories, give it a try and let me know how it goes. I think you’ll be amazed how quickly your children start using the language they’re hearing in the book. There is so much reinforcement in doing the deed as opposed to passively sitting by and trying to capture the vocab, story structure, characters etc.
Happy Reading and Re-Telling Everyone !!!