More and More Retelling

By now I guess you have the idea that I really value retelling and acting out stories.  It gives children a great sense of story, helps them remember details, requires sequencing,  expands their vocabulary, provides kinesthetic experiences for children who learn best through moving, encourages children to be actively involved, and is a good way to  assess a child’s understanding of the story.

I already shared several books, along with the pictures I used for necklaces, headbands, or magnetic or flannelboard pictures.  Through clipart and the internet I know you all have good access to pictures that you can use to retell all kinds of stories.  I would just like to share more books that I have found work really well for retelling activities with children.

Someone Bigger is another great story to reinforce characters and act out.  It tells about a little boy and his Dad who are flying a kite, the boy wants to hold onto the kite but he keeps hearing that it needs to be someone bigger.  After a bunch of animals and people get pulled up into the sky, the little boy finally pulls them all down.  This would be great to compare with The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins.

This old favorite is great for the whole class to act out at the same time!   I love to have all the kids walking with their “toes pointing in” and “their toes pointing out.”  Also pretending to “smack” the snow covered tree.  There is so much fun language in this book!  It is great to review the idea of events in a story, one time my class listed and counted them – there were over 20 events!  After several rereadings I asked the children to draw and write about about 6 events in the story and we made a little Peter shape with their own photograph glued onto the red, pointed hat shape!  They used their Peter as a pointer as they retold the story!

This is another older book that has lots of great events to retell.  I made “costumes” for Harry out of brown paper grocery bags that showed how Harry got dirty, dirtier, dirtier still, and dirtiest of all.  It also is good to talk about setting – we made a few props to show the different places that Harry played, it was fun to act out.  When the class gets involved in this process it really makes a big difference in their remembering the story and retelling it.

Many years ago when my children were young we used to go to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio.  For years they had a Berenstain Bear section of the park that gave the children a chance to re-enact this story.  Anyone else remember this?  So in my classroom I loved setting up an obstacle course where the children pretended to go out the window, down the tree, over the wall, under the bridge, etc.  I made construction paper trees, etc. and taped them onto chairs, we used 2 trash cans for between the rocks, went under a table for the bridge, I made a blue shape for the lake.  Then at the end when the bears go up Spook Hill I used a small 2 step ladder and put an owl stuffed animal at the top.

I had the children act this out in small groups (only the leader of each small group got to go up Spook Hill).  Then I typed up the story with one sentence on a page to make a class book.  Sometimes I added a few more events, like between the cars, over the railroad tracks, etc. to have enough pages for each child – or you could have 2 children work cooperatively to illustrate a page.  I gave each child a picture of Brother Bear run off on tan construction paper.  They drew the event and glued the bear on their page, then we put them all together for a class book.

Another great Don and Audrey Wood book is Silly Sally.  I took each child’s photograph standing with their legs apart and reaching up with their arms far apart.  I glued them onto this page:

Silly Sally

Upside down of course – so it looked like they were standing on their hands.  Each child decided how he would go into town – skipping, singing, running, rolling, etc.

I made this cover and put them all into another class book.


In the fall we acted out 10 Apples Up on Top, by Theo LeSieg.  I asked one child to lie on the carpet and put a plastic apple on his head, and took his picture.  When you look at the photograph it looks almost like he is standing with the apple balanced there.  Then the next child had 2 apples, the next 3, etc.  After that we counted backward, I included 2 children with 0 apples up on top.  It is really fun to see how it looks like the child has 10 apples balanced on his head.  This is great practice for counting backward too!

At Halloween it is fun to read and act out The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and Megan Lloyd.  Even without using any props it is fun for them to stomp, stomp; wiggle, wiggle, etc.  I liked to practice this with my class, and then read it again when parents came for our Halloween party.  I asked them all to participate, and always got a laugh when the children knew the actions and had to teach their parents.

It would be easy to bring in shoes, pants, shirt, etc. to act this out – or even use clipart pictures of the objects for the magnet or flannelboard.

Most Fairy Tales are naturally great stories to retell.  My class loved the Gingerbread Man, 3 Billy Goats Gruff (using a table for the bridge!), Hansel and Gretel, The 3 Pigs, and the Little Red Hen.  I fit these into our schedule through the year, some at holidays, some when we visited the farm, etc.  These stories have concrete beginning, middle and end; I often asked the children to draw and write about those parts.  Of course we talked about how many events happen in the middle of stories.

My husband helped me make great houses for the 3 Pigs.  He cut out masonite in a simple shape of a house, with a flat roof.  They were about 30 inches wide by 4 feet tall.  He cut a square window out near the top.  Then parents helped me decorate them – one was covered with tan felt, then raffia was glued on for the straw house.  The next was covered with dark brown felt and we hot glued sticks onto it.  The last one we painted red and drew lines to make the bricks.  These were light enough for the children to pick up and hold.  When we acted it out, the pig would hold the house, and kneel behind it – peeking through the window.  When the Wolf blew it down, they laid the house down and ran over to the next house (no wolf eating pigs!).  We used this reenactment as part of our end of the year program – very cute!

Six Crows by Leo Lionni was another good book for acting out.  It was a story of a farmer who was trying to crow wheat, and crows who kept eating it.  They began a battle that neither side could win, and finally learned it was best to try to share and get along.  It was a good lesson as well as a good story to play.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper was fun to act out too.  I made train cars the same way I made the cars we played with for our Transportation Unit, out of xerox paper boxes.  I retold the story by simplifying the script a bit and the children loved acting it out.  Here is the idea of how I made the cars, these were used for Driver’s training during our transportation study.

Sometimes we retold stories by drawing and writing instead of acting them out, or as a follow up to acting out.

One of my favorite stories for this was Haircuts for the Woolseys by Tomie de Paola (my favorite children’s author!)  This is a great spring story about a family of sheep who get sheared (haircuts) for the spring, and then it snows again and Grandma sheep solves the problem of them being too cold.  It is great for retelling the beginning, middle and end 0r characters, setting, problem and solution.  It is really fun to read if you live somewhere that often has this weather problem – one day of beautiful spring weather, the next another snow storm!

Here is a copy of the template I used for the children to retell the beginning, middle and end of Haircuts for the Woolseys.  Copy the two pages back to back and fold it in half to make a booklet.

Of course you could easily change the title of the book and use this template for retelling the beginning, middle and end of any story.  Depending on the time of year I sometimes made a larger box for drawing, and only one or two lines.  By later in the year most children were ready to phonetically write most of their ideas.

Here is a printable copy:

Haircuts for Woolseys

Eric Carle’s book – A House for Hermit Crab is another one we made a project to retell.  I made a simple crab shape and copied it on red paper, then a shell copied on tan or yellow.  The children cut and glued it together then drew and labeled all the ocean animals that the crab gathered.

Sometimes this was part of a book we made about the ocean, other times it was just a project on its own.

Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni was fun to follow up with a project where each child took a fish shape and used scrap paper to make it look like another animal or person.

Who Took the Farmer’s Hat by Joan Nodset was fun to act out using a big straw hat, then each child cut out a construction paper hat and drew their own idea of how the hat might be used by an animal.  You could ask them to retell how it was used in the story, or make up their own idea.

We loved acting out and remaking Mrs. Wishy Washy too!  There are so many others!

I hope this gives you a few new ideas to include sometime!

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