Young children’s early literacy behaviors center around attempts to make meaning. When children talk about stories in books, before they are even aware of the print, they use the pictures as a guide to the meaning of the story and are able to give credible retellings based on their understanding of what they have heard. When they write, young children intend to make meaning.
Their pictures and scribbles and approximations of actual words are done purposefully. As their attention shifts to print, it’s not unusual for children to focus on letters and sounds in books and in their own writing, and forget about meaning for a time. Parents and educators can help them by retaining a focus on meaning.
Activities for Helping Children Develop Making Meaning from Print
Praise children for their reading and writing attempts.
Talk with children about their efforts.
Example: Say, “Tell me about your writing.”
Model your own reading and writing for children.
When reading a book for the first time, talk about what could happen in the story. Stop occasionally and ask the child to predict what could happen next.
Talk about books and stories before, during, and after they are read. Ask children about their favorite parts. Ask if anything surprised them, scared or worried them, or made them laugh.
Encourage writing for real purposes and to share with others.
Assessing Comprehension by Retelling
In retelling, the student is asked to retell what he/she read. The retelling is scored for the presence of important structures of the text.
For example, if a narrative text is read, the child should retell using the important elements of a story [setting, main character, goal or problem, events that led to acquiring the goal or solving the problem, and the resolution].
If a nonfiction text was read, the child should retell the main ideas and relevant supporting details presented.
Story retelling is both an instructional and assessment technique that measures the reader’s ability to both remember and understand a text. Story retellings are especially effective with young children because of their interest in hearing or telling stories.
Important Points about Story Retelling
Story retellings require teacher modeling.
Story retellings develop language skills as children use their own words to retell the story.
Story retellings require readers to be aware of story grammar, characters, setting, problem, events, resolution, theme.
The absence of one important element in a retelling helps inform the next day’s instruction.
The use or lack of use of teacher prompts to complete the retellings assists the teacher in the assessment.
Research has shown that the more practice children have with story retelling the more proficient they become.
Research has also shown that story retellings are a more effective after reading measure than teacher questioning.
Retellings are similar to real-life skills selecting and organizing essential information.
Use suitable props or a flannel board to assist in the retellings.
Make these available to the children.
Concentrate on the beginning, middle and end.
Tell how the story begins.
Tell what happens in the middle.
Tell what happens at the end.
Introduce simple story elements first.
Tell who is the story about.
Tell what happened in the story.
Tell where and when the story took place.
Add story grammar terms.
What is the problem in this story?
How is the problem solved?
Include the use of a story map to use as a guide in retellings.
Make a timeline that retells the story.
Have groups of children draw a picture.
Add the pictures to the appropriate place in the timeline.
Remember to keep the story as the center of the experience, not the retelling.
Assessing Story Retellings
Allow the child to tell everything she can remember about the story.
Wait at least five seconds for a response.
Allow the use of a story map to guide the retelling.
Use teacher prompts only when necessary.
A Simple Checklist
The following checklist may be used to assess a students ability to retell a story:
The child is able to:
Name the characters
Tell about the setting
Tell about the problem
Tell about the solution
Tell the beginning, middle, and end of the story
Retell the events in sequential order
Relate to background information
If the student omits an item, prompt the student specifically about that item. in the text.