Retelling improves reading comprehension

iStock_000016837201_ExtraSmallTraditionally, kindergarten teachers have used “retelling” as a strategy to improve the comprehension and oral language complexity of children. Research has consistently shown that there is a direct correlation between the quality of a child’s oral language and his reading comprehension. It has also shown that a child’s comprehension improves when given the opportunity to talk about what he reads.

While data is inconclusive, it is assumed that mentally organizing a text in order to retell it orally focuses a student’s attention in a way that increases understanding and thereby his ability to answer questions.

The recent research of Koskinen, Gambrell, Kapinus and Heathington indicates that retelling is also effective with less able readers in upper elementary grades. Studies involving 4th graders as well as learning disabled students show positive results. Kapinus et al. found that after only 4 experiences with retelling, students were better able to answer both explicit and implicit questions about the text.

Retelling efficient and effective

Koskinen et al. used a technique in which students were paired, one acting as retller and the other as listener. After reading a passage silently, the reteller would relate the story to his or her partner. Teachers guide students both in retelling and in active listening skills. The results of this method showed improved skill on the part of both teller and listener.

It is recommended that when teachers begin to use retelling in their classes they:

-explain the purpose for retelling

-demonstrate retelling themselves by reading a portion of a text (50-100 words) and retelling it in 2 or 3 sentences

-demonstrate to the active listener how to prompt with questions and how to give positive responses

-allow for independent practice

The researchers also recommend that teachers begin the retelling procedure with narrative stories, since this is easier for most children. Passages should be short and structured so that students can read and retell the passage in 10-15 minutes, thereby ensuring good attention.

There is evidence that, through retelling, less able readers learn about organization and improve their ability to retain information. All in all, it can be an effective alternative to teacher questioning.

The Reading Teacher May 1988 pp. 892.

Published in ERN November/December 1988 Volume 1 Number 1

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