Picture Books to Teach Retelling in the Classroom
Retelling a story is the reader’s account of what happened in a book. These picture books help teach this important comprehension strategy.
Why Use Picture Books to Teach Retelling a Story?
Retelling is a foundational reading skill. It involves identifying the important parts of the story in order, including characters, setting, problem & solution. Retelling develops sequencing skills, print concepts, descriptive vocabulary, thinking skills, and visualisation techniques.
Many books in your classroom or school library will work for teaching retelling a story. Don’t forget wordless picture books. They encourage students to focus on storytelling and comprehension rather than ‘remembering’ the text when retelling a story.
Retelling a Story Strategies
There are a couple of retelling strategies many teachers use.
1. Using the transitional words first, then, next, after that and finally/lastly. These words help students focus on the order of events.
2. Story maps help students focus on the most important story elements, including determining the principal characters, setting and the problem & solution.
Story Retelling Prompts and Questions
- Retell the story in your own words.
- Retell the most important events in the story from the beginning, middle and end.
- Retell the most important events in order.
- Who was the story about?
- How did the story begin?
- What happened at the beginning?
- When did the story happen?
- What was the setting(s)?
- What happened next? Then what happened?
- What’s happened to [character] so far?
- What did [character] do next?
- What did [character] do after [event/action]?
- What was the [character’s] problem?
- How did [character] solve the problem?
- How did the story end?
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Picture Books for Retelling a Story
After the Fall by Dan Santat
A retelling of Humpty Dumpty from the egg’s perspective. Promotes perspectives, a growth mindset, perseverance, and courage as Humpty Dumpty conquers his fear of heights.
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Three children use their imagination to create real-life objects after finding magic chalk. This wordless picture book promotes creativity, friendship, responsible decision-making, creative thinking, problem-solving and retelling.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
A young boy and his grandfather lack a common language and struggle to communicate, leading to confusing, frustrating and silent meetings. When they discover their love of art they communicate with each other through art rather than words.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
A boy’s life changes for the worse when Jeremy Ross moves to town. He is Jeremy’s enemy. Dad’s advice is to make an enemy pie, but it will only work if he spends the whole day with his enemy. They end up having so much fun the boy doesn’t need the pie. Use to discuss kindness, conflict resolution, bullying, and problem-solving.
Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe
A young boy loves the jar full of fireflies he has just caught, but when their light starts dim he sets them free to keep them alive. Use to discuss visualizing, summer, inference, making connections, freedom, first-person narration, responsible decision-making.
Flotsam by David Wiesner
A young boy discovers an old camera on a beach. When he develops the images, they are not at all what he expected. He discovers an underwater world he didn’t know existed. One photo shows a child holding a photo of another child, who is also holding a photo of a child and so on. They all returned the camera to the beach for someone else to discover its magic. Use this wordless book to teach inference, making connections and interpretation.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day. Promotes a sense of belonging, compassion, friendship and social awareness.
Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson
A bear takes shelter in an empty apartment in Snooty Towers. He tastes some food but it is too soggy or too crunchy. He sits on the cat and bursts a beanbag chair. When the family return the bear recognises the mummy. It is Goldilocks all grown up! Compare and contrast with the original Golidlocks and the Three Bears.
Hike by Pete Oswald
In this wordless book, a father and child get ready for a day in the mountains. They spend the day hiking, planting a tree, throwing snowballs and taking photographs. They return home to a glass of milk, cookies and have a look through a photo album of different generations of the family enjoying nature.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
I am Enough follows a girl as she makes positive affirmations for those who lack self-esteem and self-acceptance. This book celebrates children for who they are and reinforces themes of acceptance, self-esteem and poetry.
I Got the School Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Feel the positivity and enthusiasm as a young girl starts school. She shows empathy to students who are struggling with first day nerves and makes new friends. Told in the first person, the girl shows how fun and exciting school can be, especially if you have a positive mindset. Promotes self-esteem a growth mindset, self-confidence, enthusiasm, empathy, curiosity, and relationship skills.
Journey by Aaron Becker
A lonely girl escapes into a mysterious world and witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. With courage, the girl outsmarts the emperor's army to set the bird free. Journey is a wordless picture book that promotes confidence, perseverance, problem-solving, risk-taking and creative thinking.
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
Koala Lou worries when her busy mother forgets to tell her how much she loves her. She sets out to win the Bush Olympics to win back her mother's love. She doesn't win but realises she had never lost her mother's love.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
When war comes to Iraq, librarian Alia Muhammad Baker worries about her library and its books. With the help of the community, she starts to move the books to her own home. Through Alia's courage and perseverance, much of the library collection is saved before the library burns down.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
A mouse is captured by a lion who unexpectedly gives the mouse its freedom. When the lion is trapped by hunters the mouse bravely gnaws through the rope and returns the lion’s good deed by setting him free. This wordless picture book promotes gratitude, cause and effect, kindness and courage.
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin
Little Red comes across a wolf but she's not scared. As she continues her journey to Grandma’s house the wolf rush to the house and eats Grandma. Little Red looks through the window to see the badly disguised wolf. Rather than a huntsman coming to her rescue, Little Red saves herself. Compare and contrast with the original Little Red Riding Hood.
Lon Po Po by Ed Young
A mother leaves her three daughters at home while she visits her mother, Po Po. A wolf visits the sisters and the younger one lets it in. The two older sisters have to devise a plan to escape and kill the wolf. Compare and contrast this Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood with other versions.
Me and You by Anthony Browne
In Anthony Browne’s version of Goldilocks, we discover the motivation behind her visit to the Bear’s house. Alone and living in a disadvantaged area, she comes across a bright and inviting home. As she goes inside we see events from the perceptive of the bears, giving the reader the chance to compare both sides of the story. Use to promote sequencing, retelling and inference skills.
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Mufaro's two daughters react in different ways to the King's search for a wife – one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king disguises himself to learn the true nature of both girls and chooses Nyasha, the kind and generous daughter, to be the queen. This African folktale promotes themes of jealousy, vanity and kindness.
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Entering the napping house we see grandma, a child, a dog, the pet cat and a mouse all asleep on a bed. That is until a wakeful flea bites the mouse and starts a chain reaction that wakes everyone up. Use to teach cause and effect, recurrent patterns and sequencing.
The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett
All the birds had an egg, except Duck. He shows great compassion when he finds his own egg. The anticipation builds as the egg hatches. What will be inside? Promotes open-mindedness, compassion, responsibility and a sense of belonging.
Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson
A little girl and her grandmother live and work in their general store. They try to rent out a dilapidated apartment, but no one is interested. The grandmother is unsure of renting it to a couple who express their interest. The girl intervenes and the couple brings the building to life with their optimism and hard work. Their positivity spreads, and the grandmother slowly accepts the couple as part of the family. Use this wordless book to discuss acceptance, different perspectives, open-mindedness, assumptions and judgements, and a positive attitude.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Princess Elizabeth saves her fiancé Prince Ronald from a dragon only for him to tell her to clean herself up and look like a princess. Elizabeth happily skips into the sunset by herself. Promotes gender roles, independence, self-esteem and strong female characters.
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
A boy stands in his goggles and dives into a pool full of people. He meets a girl who shows him the way to a forest of fish and plants. They play with the fish and watch a whale before it leads them to break cover in the busy pool. This wordless book promotes relationship skills and creativity.
The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isadora
During a terrible storm, there was a loud knock on a palace door. A young woman enters from the rain and is given a bed for the night. After an uncomfortable night sleeping on forty mattresses on top of a pea, the royal family knows she is a real princess. Compare and contrast with the original The Princess and the Pea.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Princess Smartypants did not want to get married, so when she sets her suitors a task they all failed except for Prince Swashbuckle. Princess Smartypants kisses his cheek, turning him into a toad. She was never bothered again. Promotes themes of independence, gender roles and problem-solving.
Ralf by Jean Jullien
Ralf is always getting under everyones feet no matter what hr does. One night he smells smoke and stretches his body around the house trying to wake the family. After being saved, the family accept Ralf for who he is even if he still gets in the way. Reinforces themes of acceptance, caring, courage and problem & solution.
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson
A girl picks colourful flowers poking up through the cracks in the pavement. She places her flowers on a dead sparrow, a sleeping man and into a dog’s collar. At home, she places flowers in her mother’s hair and a few on her brother’s head. This wordless book promotes kindness, generosity, making a difference and inference.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
A young boy is captivated by the first snowfall of winter. He walks around the city, wondering how he can capture the wonder he feels. Promotes curiosity, retelling a story and making connections.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
In the late 1800s, Horace Pippin drew anyone around him. He filled notebooks while fighting during WWI, but when he was shot, he could not create his art. Through practice and patience, Horace regained the use of his arm and started creating art again. Use to teach overcoming adversity, perseverance, a growth mindset and determination.
A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker
A girl grieves the loss of her dog Sascha in this wordless picture book. The family goes on holiday, but without Sascha, it won’t be the same. The girl finds a golden stone in the ocean and can only imagine how it got there. She takes it homes and uses it to mark her beloved dog’s grave. Promotes resilience, self-reflection, cause and effect and compassion.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
After almost being eaten by a big fish, Swimmy works together with a school of fish to frighten off the big tuna. Use to promote problem & solution, cooperation, courage and overcoming fear.
Tough Boris by Mem Fox
Boris von der Borch is like all pirates, tough, mean and greedy. But a young boy discovers a softer side when the pirate’s pet parrot dies. Use in the classroom to discuss gender stereotypes, making connections, word choice, and drawing conclusions.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed A City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
Over 100 years ago, Katherine Olivia Sessions started a movement to transform the desert town of San Diego into a garden-filled oasis. Today, her parks and garden can still be found all over this green city. This biography reflects on the ideas of following your dreams and staying strong in the face of adversity.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The reader gets to decide who is telling the truth in this fractured fairy tale of The Three Little Pigs. The wolf insists he was just trying to borrow some sugar to make a birthday cake for his poor old granny. Promotes different perspectives, persuasion and honesty.
Wallpaper by Thao Lam
A young girl is too shy to approach other children when she moves to a new house. She picks at the layers of wallpaper in her bedroom and discovers a mysterious world. She plays with imaginary friends and is chased by a monster who she finds is not to be feared. Back in her bedroom, she has the courage to say hello to the children playing outside.
Wangari Maathai by Franck Prevot
The inspiring Wangari Maathai started a movement in Africa to prevent deforestation. She encouraged African women to plant trees leading to thriving farms and communities. She then gave seedling to men, school children and even soldiers.
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Penelope Rex's first day of school doesn't quite go as planned when she eats her classmates. Unsurprisingly, the other children are scared of her. She finally learns a lesson which helps her understand how her classmates feel. Promotes empathy, self-management and making friends.
The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse by Mac Barnett
When a mouse is swallowed by a wolf he thinks his life is over, only to discover a duck who has made himself at home. When a hunter decides to kill the wolf the pair have to cooperate and make a brave decision to save their lives Promotes themes of cooperation, courage, problem-solving and creative thinking.
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Of course, many books can be used for retelling a story. This is just a collection of books that you may or have not heard of, and will hopefully apart some ideas of other books you can use in your classroom.
Here are a few videos you can use with your students that go through the process of how to retell a story.
1 thought on “Picture Books to Teach Retelling a Story in the Classroom”
What a lovely, brilliant, amazing article of yours. Cant wait to read more on this regarding this topic. Thanks!