One of the most striking things about watching a struggling reader is how little they comprehend.  (To my phonics and decoding obsessed folks – like me! – yes, the super striking thing is watching a student struggle to decode…but this post is not about that…there are many others that are!)

I can remember just racking my brain trying to figure out how to get kids to just tell me the gist of what they’ve read.  I would practically spoon-feed them information and then praise them wildly when they basically finished each word that I spoon-fed.  They didn’t comprehend, they read my lips!  (I was desperate…what can I say?)

What I realized is that retelling doesn’t happen naturally.  Duh.  (I wasn’t a quick learner…)

It must be taught.

But how?

What I know is that kids do really well when they are given a frame that they can use to essentially fill-in-the-blanks.  The reason I’ve found that frames for responses work is because kids can replicate them again and again – they can use the frames in a slew of different circumstances.  I also found that I made great assumptions that kids already knew how to retell what they’d read.  I have been proven wrong again and again on this!

Fill-in-the-blank frames help kids create routines.  Routines lead to mastery.  And, well, mastery leads to a whole bunch of confidence and other really great things for kids.

So, whether you teach kindergarten or 4th grade or 11th grade, I encourage you to teach this frame as a way to make sure that kids understand how to retell.  Don’t assume that because you teach older kids, they have this skill.  It’s shockingly simple, but shockingly necessary.

If you’re a Common Core implementer, you know that this is a BIG BITE out of RI and RL Standards 1-3 at every grade level!  If you aren’t a Common Core implementer, then teach this anyway – it’s a BIG BITE out of kids comprehending text so much better.

Here’s the frame I use to teach all kids to retell what they’ve read:

In the beginning of ________, there was an important event. That event was _______.  As I continued to read, I saw that ________ happened. This was important because ____________.  At the end of ________, ___________ took place.

Here’s an example:

In the beginning of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there was an important event.  That event was that the little girl showed up at the Bears’ house and started snooping around.  As I continued to read, I saw that the bears came home.  This was important because it scared the girl half to death!  At the end of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, she ran away and never came back to the Bears’ house.