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In the Classroom:
Story Retelling Boosts Children's Reading Comprehension

Many teachers and early educators are familiar with the wealth of research indicating that reading aloud to young children enhances literacy development. However, studies have shown that the learning experiences that occur before, during and after reading aloud have an equally important impact on literacy development.

Story retelling - the process by which a child listens to or reads a story and then summarize, or "retells," the story in his or her own words - is a technique that ties into these learning experiences and is an effective way to improve children's reading comprehension. For young children who are just starting to develop their reading skills, this exercise can be extremely helpful.

Studies on story recall have found that extended use of the technique of story retelling leads to large improvements in story comprehension, making inferences, and understanding of story structure. Rather than having children answer specific questions about story details, story retelling requires children to focus on the bigger picture of the story and therefore allows the teacher to see how well a child understands the story as a whole. By having children tell the story in their own words, educators can identify children's strengths, and specific areas of difficulty that arise for individual students.

While a child is retelling a story, the teacher can help by asking open-ended questions when the child pauses or seems confused. Questions such as "what happens next?" and other general content questions can help the child without influencing how they respond. The goal should be to encourage students to think critically about the story and to improve their comprehension and vocabulary by having them articulate their thoughts. As children become more comfortable with retelling stories, their language and listening skills will improve.

Comparing children's retellings over time can be useful in monitoring their progress in comprehension. In addition, story retelling can also be a helpful technique to assess a child's comprehension.

Overall, story retelling helps children develop important reading skills while allowing the teacher to easily assess their progress over time. Incorporating this teaching technique into an early education setting can greatly improve children's reading comprehension and vocabulary as well as help them become more engaged in the reading process.

Source: The Power of Story Retelling, A. Gibson , J. Gold, and C. Sgouros, The Tutor, 2003.

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Facts in Action, July/August 2003

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