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Teaching Retelling With Wordless Picture Books

Teaching retelling is such an essential skill for students to learn, especially in first grade. Teaching retelling with wordless picture books is even better! Retelling is one of our power standards that we focus on all year long.  I love to use wordless picture books to teach retelling.  Keep reading to find out more and get a freebie to help you teach retelling!

teaching retelling with wordless picture books

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The Reading Crew Link Up

I’m joining up with 18 other teacher bloggers to bring you ideas of mentor texts to use for reading and writing. Each post has a lesson and some still have a freebie to go along with it.  All of us are also offered giveaways which are now closed!  Congrats to the winners!  Make sure you get my freebies below and link to all of the other posts to get some awesome ideas!

teaching retelling with wordless picture books

Let’s get started!

When I start teaching retelling in first grade I love to use wordless picture books.  Wordless picture books are books without words.  I think wordless picture books are great to use because the students get to tell their own story based on the pictures.  This is also a fabulous way to practice storytelling and teach students that pictures are also important to pay attention to while reading.  Once you get into writing workshop and having kids write their own stories, having students practice storytelling with wordless picture books really pays off in their writing.  This also builds oracy and is great practice for your bilingual learners.

What is retelling?

Retelling a book is when you tell the essential parts of the story, in order of occurrence, throughout the book. The standards retelling meets are:

Key Ideas and Details:

Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
Retelling allows students to describe and organize events of a story which supports their overall comprehension skills.  Bilingual learners especially benefit from retelling stories because it helps build their oracy, or oral language skills while allowing them to analyze the story and build vocabulary.  Retelling also encourages students to monitor their own comprehension and understanding.  If they are unable to retell, it is imperative the we teach students to reread for understanding.
There are a couple of ways to teach retelling.  One way is to use the words first, then, next, after that and finally.  These transition words encourage students to tell the important events of the story in the order that they occur in the book.  Another way is to have students tell the important story elements including the characters, setting, problem, important events, and solution.  Whichever way you choose to teach it, wordless picture books are an amazing tool you can use to teach retelling. Students do not get caught up in the words when they are retelling, they essentially get to tell their own story based on the pictures.

Favorite wordless picture books

Some of my favorite wordless picture books include:

My absolute favorite wordless picture book is Hank Finds an Egg written and beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Dudley.  This book is the absolute cutest!  Hank finds an egg on the ground while walking in the woods.  He sees the nest high above and tries several ways to get the egg back in the nest.  He even has to keep it safe and warm overnight.  At the end of the book, Hank gets help from another animal.  You’ll have to read it to find out who helps him and how they get the egg back into the nest.

hank finds an egg, retelling with wordless picture books

Before you read with wordless picture books

As I would with any of the interactive read alouds I do in my classroom, I start by taking a sneak peek or picture walk through the first few pages.  When books have an exciting ending, like this one, I don’t like to give the ending away so I don’t “walk” through the entire book.  If I want to practice predicting, I definitely make sure not to go through the entire book either.

Before we begin reading, I want my students to get an idea of what the book is going to be about.  This begins to support their comprehension and build background knowledge, as well as give them an idea of what happens at the beginning.  This also helps them begin to put a retelling together.   I also like to brainstorm about the topic of the book.  When we brainstorm, I have students turn and talk with their partner and discuss what they think the book might be about.  In the case of Hank Finds an Egg, I have them talk about forests.

Click >>HERE<< or on the image below for this freebie.

background knowledge with wordless picture books

While the students are talking with their partner, I write some of the ideas I hear onto our brainstorming page.  I also call on a couple of students who share a few more ideas.  For your bilingual learners, this starts building some important vocabulary that they might hear or need when listening to the book and retelling. With this particular book, I also encourage them to predict what might be in the egg and what they think might happen during the book.  Once we are done building that background knowledge and predicting, in a typical read aloud, I would also introduce a few vocabulary words.  With wordless picture books, there is no specific vocabulary to teach so I move right into reading the book.

Want to learn more about interactive read alouds?  Check out >>THIS<< blog post!

During reading with wordless picture books

It is time to “read” your wordless picture book!  Get ready for some fun!  I like to read wordless picture books a few times.  This usually takes a couple of days.  You don’t want to rush it.  Here are 3 ways you can “read” wordless picture books.

3 ways to read wordless picture books

Read the pictures

The first way is by just looking at the pictures. The first time I show my students the book, I let them just observe the pictures.  We don’t say anything, we just take in the pictures.  I love watching their faces during this read.  As we go through each page, I can sense when to turn the page.  As students start moving or wiggling, I know they are done with that page and ready for a new one.  We make our way through the book and take our time looking through the pictures.

On this page, I love seeing their faces as they realize that the egg fell.  No words needed, just observations.

retelling with wordless picture books

Partners tell the story

The next time we read, I have students turn and talk after each page or two.  This begins to build the oracy of storytelling and partners begin to build the story of what happens in the book with each other.  It is very important during wordless picture books for partners to talk and work together.  Before sharing with their partner, I always go over the turn and talk expectations.  I want to ensure that partners are listening to each other and that both partners are getting the chance to talk.

Partners may say that Hank found a log and rolled it over to the tree but it wasn’t high enough to reach the nest.

hank retelling 2

Class tells the story

Another way to read wordless picture books is to work as a class to tell the story.  If you have time to read it again, this is a fun one!  As you go through this time, have your class tell the story.  It is important for everyone to listen so they know what is going on and what they could say happens next.  I typically start and then have students turn and talk about what words they would use to continue telling the story.

A student might add to the story with: “that night, it was time to go to sleep so Hank said goodnight to the egg, covered up with his leaf blanket and went to sleep.”

retelling with wordless picture books

After reading: Retelling with wordless picture books

Now that you have read the book once, or maybe three times ????, it is time to do something at the end.  If you use Units of Study Reading, you may be familiar with one of the very first lessons in first grade.  This is where you begin teaching retelling.  When I begin to teach retelling I like to have a visual for students to use.  Here comes the important part: teaching retelling with these wordless picture books.  You can’t stop at reading, you have to do SOMETHING at the end!  Depending on your standards or school expectations you can teach retelling a couple of ways.

2 ways to retell a story

  1. The first way is by using the words first, then, next, after that and finally.  These are transition words that support their retelling and emphasize the importance of the order of what happens in the book.  Using a retelling hand is a great visual to support this.  I like using this retelling way in kindergarten and first grade.  Students just tell what happens in the book in their own words.  Encourage them to start by saying first and putting out their thumb.  Then have then add fingers while they continue telling what happened in the story while using the transition words.
  2. Another way is to have students start with the who and where, or the characters and setting and then move into the problem and solution.  While most books have a problem and a solution, and it is pretty obvious in Hank and the Egg, unless students know what these story elements mean, this one will be difficult.  This retelling strategy would be better for later in the year for first graders or second grade and above.  Using the bookmark included in your freebie, which you can get below, I have students point to the part they are retelling.  You could also use a paper clip or mini clothespins (who doesn’t love mini clothespins ????) to point out where they are in the retelling of the book.  Move the clothespin down as you go through each step.

Whatever way you choose to teach it, retelling takes A LOT of practice!  By using wordless picture books your students will build oracy, practice their own storytelling and be able to focus on just the pictures to understand what is happening in the book.

Retelling with wordless picture books freebie

I have joined up with some fabulous teacher bloggers to share other amazing mentor texts and resources with you.  We are linking up and there are EIGHTEEN books and ideas!

To help support your retelling using this book and other wordless and regular picture books, I have created >>THIS<< freebie for you!  Sign up to get your free retelling resource.

Click >>HERE<< or on the image below for your free retelling resource. 
teaching retelling with wordless picture books freebie

Teaching retelling with wordless picture books is so fun and your students, especially bilingual learners, will get so much out of it.  Let me know in the comments how it goes!

teaching retelling with wordless picture books pin

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