Bedtime story hour is the perfect time to introduce stories for retelling.

How to Teach Children to Retell a Story

by Julie Christensen

Even younger preschoolers can retell a story with a bit of help. Besides being an adorable and engaging activity, teaching a preschooler how to tell a story introduces literacy skills such as understanding plot, sequence and character development. Oral storytelling can improve imagination and problem-solving skills. Pick stories that you can tolerate reading over and over, though, and keep the learning entertaining.

Select stories with a predictable plot and memorable characters. Ever wonder why folk tales have such enduring appeal? Kids love these stories for their repetitive, easy-to-remember plot and few characters. For example, in the "Three Billy Goats Gruff," you've got three goats who all say basically the same words as they cross the bridge. Ditto for "The Three Little Pigs." Modern folk tales worth exploring include "Abiyoyo," by Pete Seeger or "The Little Old Woman Who Was Not Afraid of Anything," by Linda Williams.

Read a story aloud to your child a few times. Use your best storyteller voice to keep it interesting. Before you start the story, look at the book cover art. Ask, "What do you think this story is about?" Then after you've read the story, ask "What happened at the beginning? In the middle? At the end?" Also ask questions about the character's motivation. "Why do you think the troll was so grumpy? Why wouldn't he share the bridge?" There's no right answer to these questions, but they help cement the details in your child's mind.

Re-read the story once your child is familiar with it. As you read, stop talking every now and then and allow your child to fill in the end of a sentence or a bit of dialogue.

Act out a folk tale or repetitive story. When kids use their whole bodies to tell a story, they're much more likely to remember it. Use simple props or even puppets. Kids can also write their own stories based on a folk tale, draw pictures or make paper bag puppets.

Ask your child to tell the story. Get the video camera or take pictures to make it more memorable.

Items you will need

  • Folk tales
  • Props and puppets
  • Paper, crayons and markers
  • Video camera


About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."

Photo Credits

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