Making a Retelling Chart for Reading

Retelling a story is an important skill. A child’s ability to retell demonstrates they comprehended the story. For years I used a retelling chart, made out of fabric and hung on the wall. After we read a story, my young students and I would go through the key parts of the story together. In this post I will share how to create a dry erase retelling chart for your family to use and reuse at home.

Before we get to the craft part of this activity, here are the key elements of a story and what a child should be able remember and retell. Of course, in the beginning, you will demonstrate this process. Teachers call this modeling. Then you will guide them as they retell a story. Overtime a young child will be able to do this independently.

Key Elements for Retelling a Story:

Setting: When and where does the story take place?

Characters: Who is in the story?

Problem: What is the problem?

Solution: How is the problem solved?

Three Key Actions/Events: What are the key actions or events in the story?

The Heart of the Story/Lesson Learned: What is the reason someone told this story?

For a Dry Erase Retelling Chart You Will Need*:

· sheet of paper

· markers, crayons, or colored pencils

· plastic picture frame (this can be 8.5 x 11 in. or any size that you have, I recommend larger so there is space to write with a dry erase marker; I picked my picture frame up at a yard sale a few years ago)

· dry erase markers

*If you don’t want to make this a craft project, my free retelling chart is shared in Learning: Tools and Ideas! You can choose between a coloring sheet style or one that is painted. Simply print the one you would like and frame it. If you don't have a picture frame, you can write with pencil directly on your copy.

How To Make the Retelling Chart

1. Plan how you will arrange each topic (take a look at my template if you would like some ideas)

2. Write each of the key elements (listed and explained earlier), leaving space for each one to have an answer written

3. Draw a related picture next to each key element. This can be fun for the children to do! They could draw directly on the paper, or on other paper and cut it out and paste it onto the retelling paper)

a. Setting

b. Characters

c. Problem

d. Solution

e. Three Key Actions/Events

f. The Heart of the Story/Lesson Learned

4. Place the paper into your plastic picture frame!

Using the Retelling Chart

1. Assign jobs to your family members or work together, letting the questions shared earlier guide your conversation. With my class I would model this first, typically with a story we already know and love. As children become more familiar with the tasks and parts of retelling a story, they will need your guidance less and less.

2. Write answers to each of the questions using a dry erase marker.

3. Take turns retelling the story!

Making a Fabric Retelling Chart

If you would like to make this with fabric instead, great! Modify the directions to include fabric instead. Use hot glue or fabric glue to attach the pieces. I used a large felt piece for the one in my classroom. The top can be wrapped around a dowel rod (hot glue the fabric to itself). Add string or fishing line to each end of the dowel and hang it on the wall.

For my class I had clear plastic strips that I attached to the felt background. They were the size of sentence strips.

Works Cited:

*At a literacy conference many years ago I received a “Retelling Shape Go! Map.” and a chart to help guide the activity. The session was based on The Power of Retelling by Vicki Benson and Carrice Cummins. A copy of the book, The Power of Retelling, can be found here:

*The book shown in the example above is called Grandma's Purse. It is a delightful story written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley- Newton.

*Kindergarten Standards for Retelling:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.2 With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.3 With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.6 With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.


First Grade Standards for Retelling:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.1 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.6 Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.


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