Five children sitting with legs crossed, holding open books, against a blue background with the text "retelling a story" overlaying the top.

Incredible Power of Picture Books to Teach Retelling in the Classroom

Looking for fun and effective picture books to teach story retelling in the classroom? These picture books are engaging, great for students of all ages and levels, help improve comprehension, and provide a helpful tool for retelling stories.

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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 and solution. Retelling develops sequencing skills, print concepts, descriptive vocabulary, thinking skills, and visualisation techniques.

Picture books are a great way to help students learn how to retell stories. They offer colourful illustrations, engaging stories, and creative characters that help children focus and stay engaged. 

Teaching retelling skills through picture books can help your students remember stories better and develop language, comprehension, and creativity with their vibrant illustrations, understandable language, and imaginative characters.

Retelling a Story Strategies

There are a couple of retelling strategies many teachers use:

1. Use the transitional words first, then, next, after that and finally/lastly. This vocabulary helps 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, problem, and solution.

3 girls sharing a book

Prompts and Questions to Use When Retelling a Story

  • 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?

Picture Books to Teach Retelling a Story

Many picture books in your classroom or school library will work for teaching retelling. Don’t forget wordless picture books. They encourage students to focus on storytelling and comprehension rather than ‘remembering’ the text when retelling a story.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

A fresh retelling of the classic Humpty Dumpty story told from the egg’s perspective. Humpty Dumpty bravely faces his fear of heights, teaching us about courage, overcoming adversity, and the importance of self-esteem.

After the Fall promotes discussions around character traits, perspectives, and a growth mindset. It encourages students to understand and embrace their fears, foster adaptability, and celebrate resilience.

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

Piggie and Gerald think creatively about including their new friend in a game of catch. Promotes problem-solving, compromise, fairness and relationships skills.

Chalk by Bill Thomson

Three friends find a bag of magical chalk at the park on a rainy day – whatever they draw becomes real. A sun clears clouds, butterflies fly, and dinosaurs leap from the 2D realm. When a child’s drawn dinosaur chases them, they must creatively resolve the problem.

Chalk promotes creativity, problem-solving, and the power of imagination. It offers a lesson about responsibility and consequences, teaching children that every action can have effects they must deal with.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum adores her unique name but faces teasing at school due to its uniqueness. However, when her music teacher names her baby Chrysanthemum, it triggers a shift in perspective, leading her classmates to appreciate their unique identities and Chrysanthemum’s.

Chrysanthemum encourages your students to embrace their identities and respect others’ uniqueness. It reminds us that open-mindedness and empathy can shift perspectives.

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

When Farmer Brown’s cows stumble upon a typewriter, they start typing letters demanding electric blankets. Things escalate quickly as the cows strike, and Duck is the mediator. But the peace doesn’t last long when the ducks have their own demands!

Click, Clack, Moo story promotes dialogue about fair negotiations’ importance, communication’s power, and the essence of compromise.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

A young boy and his grandfather cannot communicate through words due to language differences. They discover a shared love for art, transforming their interactions from frustrating silence to vibrant storytelling.

Drawn Together explores communication, open-mindedness, identity, and intergenerational relationships. It also emphasizes the power of making connections through non-verbal communication. 

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

When Jeremy Ross moves to town, a boy’s life changes for the worse. He is Jeremy’s enemy. Dad advises making 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 he sets them free to keep them alive when their light starts dim. Use to discuss visualizing, summer, inference, making connections, freedom, first-person narration, and responsible decision-making.

Flotsam by David Wiesner

A boy stumbles upon an old camera on the beach. Developing its film reveals an underwater world beyond imagination, a visual narrative linking children across time and space.

Flotsam, a wordless book, inspires discussions on perception, perspectives, curiosity, and observation.

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 Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

As the seasons pass, a lighthouse keeper records every detail of his routine in his logbook. He records the family’s daily activities as the days pass with fog, strong winds and icebergs drifting by. When he falls ill, his wife takes over his role to keep the warning light shining and care for her husband.

Read Hello Lighthouse to promote discussions on the passage of time, daily life, responsibility, nature, the change of seasons and love.

Hike by Pete Oswald

Hike is a wordless celebration of the bond between a parent and child and their shared love for nature. Embarking on an adventure in the mountains, they plant trees, play in the snow, and take photos, creating lasting memories.

The lack of words in Hike allows students to narrate the story themselves, prompting discussions on topics such as bonding & shared experiences and respect for nature.

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O'Hara

Hortense tries everything to leave her shadow behind. Finally, she escapes it by slamming the window to cut it off. When the shadow returns to scare off bandits, Hortense realises her shadow is indispensable to who she is.

Journey by Aaron Becker

This is the first of two books great for retelling a story by Aaron Becker. A lonely girl discovers a magic red marker and creates a door that transports her into an enchanting world filled with wondrous landscapes and adventure. She witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. She outsmarts the emperor’s army to free the bird. 

The girl’s journey inspires courage in facing challenges, persistence in pursuing goals, and thinking outside the box to overcome obstacles.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

This is the first of two books great for retelling a story 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 has never lost her mother’s love.  

The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter

When conflict comes to Iraq, librarian Alia Muhammad Baker’s biggest fear is for the safety of her beloved library and the treasured books within it. With the help of her community, Alia bravely transports the books to her own home, risking her safety to save much of the library’s collection from imminent destruction. 

Alia’s courage and perseverance resulted in a victory for the library, allowing people to access the resources and stories within.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

A mouse inadvertently gets trapped by a lion, but instead of becoming a meal, the mouse is graciously set free. When hunters trap