Retell a Story
Reading to your child is the single most important thing you can do to foster a love of words. The experts are unanimous on that opinion. They will also tell you that memorization isn’t as important to the process of a child becoming literate as comprehension. That’s where text retelling comes in handy.
Text retelling uses various methods through which children “retell” a story. It helps you gauge your child’s progress in word comprehension and in making meaning (understanding the essence of a story). One of the methods for retelling is acting out the story after listening to or reading it.
What you’ll need is a short book with a simple plot with which your child is already familiar. Betty Rowan, who wrote the now out-of-print book, Learning through Movement (New York: Teachers College, 1982), suggested the following criteria for determining whether a story is appropriate for dramatization:
Once you’ve chosen such a book, read it to your child. Then, depending on his level of readiness, as well as his experience with this process, you can ask him to:
- The story must have action.
- The plot must include changes in emotion.
- Only two or three of the story’s characters should be involved in the same action.
- These characters should have different personality traits.
- Demonstrate some of the words and emotions in the text. For example, if a character was sad, ask your child to show you how a sad person looks and moves. Also, choose verbs and adjectives that lend themselves to dramatization. Action words like stomp, slither, stalk, and pounce, as well as descriptive words like enormous, gentle, strong, and smooth are great examples of words your child can depict for you.
- Act out the story while you’re reading it through again.
- Act out the story from memory!
Two of my favorite books to use for dramatization include The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (I’m quite fond of the story’s moral) and Tomie dePaolo’s Strega Nona. But my – or your – favorites don’t matter as much as your child’s!