Retell Activities for First Grade

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Being able to easily retell a story is a foundational reading comprehension skill for first grade students. It's an activity that can be done with every single read aloud. It can (and should) be done whole group, in small group, with partners, in literacy stations and during independent reading. It's also a great skill for parents to work on at home. 

To retell a story, students tell about a story that they have read or heard with “attention to detail”. 

Students must be able to describe the different parts of the story including beginning, middle and end in detail. They must also try use the same vocabulary and language from story. 

This sounds like an easy skill, but students can often do a basic detail. But they struggle to add details and use the vocabulary and language from the text. 

How to Introduce Story Retell for First Grade

If you teach lower elementary, then you know that there is SO much that goes into the comprehension of a book. First grade students are learning so much at this age and even listening comprehension requires their little brains to work so hard.

Why do I bring this up?

Because I want you to think about how hard they are ALREADY working when they are listening to a read aloud and when you use a mentor text to introduce a NEW SKILL, most students’ brains go into overload!

So what should we do instead?

Start with a non-text activity. Let me introduce you to a new kind of “slideshow”. 

I like to use interactive slideshows/powerpoints. My slideshows always follow this order: 

  • Teaching Slides: Introduces students to WHAT the skill is
  • Guided Practice: Introduces students to HOW to apply the skill
  • Interactive Practice: Gives students an example and allows them to PRACTICE the skill in an easy and concise way

Retelling Activities for First Grade

After we practice the slideshow, then we practice building our story retell muscles with some guided and independent practice. 

I've found the best and easiest way to do this is with photographs or images of things that my first grade students know a lot about. 

My students do this Sequence a Story activity (seen on the right). We do one together as a class for guided practice. 

For this activity, students must correctly sequence a set of pictures, then tell a story using the pictures. This is a great activity because two students can work together, then each one can tell their own story. 

Having students work together and listen to each other practice is a great way for them to expand their story retell skills. 

Then, this activity goes into their stations for Guided Reading. 

The best part about this activity is that you can leave it out for several weeks because each time students can choose a new set of pictures! 

The key to making this station activity work is to make sure the students are explaining their retell with DETAIL.

When writing and oral retell, you should encourage students to use transition words such as “first, next, then and last”. But also make it clear that there are more than just four parts to a story. 

Digital Story Retell Activities for First Grade

Whether you are teaching virtually (thanks alot COVID) or in the classroom, our students are primed now more than ever to complete activities digitally. 

The Sequence a Story station activity I just showed you is available digitally also!

You can read more about how to integrate Digital Comprehension Tools here. 

Retelling Activities for First Grade

All of the activities that you found in this post, both printable and digital, can be found in my Story Retell Bundle here.

You can save up to 20% by purchasing the items together, but you can also purchase individual items to better fit your needs!

Best Books for Story Retell

**You can use the recording sheet from the Story Sequencing station with all of these read alouds!

More First Grade Favorites

Retell Blog Post
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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!