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Read and Retell

Monitoring and Assessment | Four Resources Guideposts
First Steps Reading Developmental Continuum | Analysis of Reading Strategies |
Read and Retell | Codes of Visual Text | SWOT Analysis | Self and Peer Assessment

A Read and Retell enables practice in a range of literacy skills including reading, writing, listening, speaking, thinking, interacting, comparing, matching, selecting and organising information, remembering and comprehending.

As an assessment tool, it provides information about comprehension, sequencing of ideas and writing skills.


  1. It is important that the context be carefully set by the teacher for the use of the retelling. Students must feel that they are doing it to help them become better readers and writers, not that they are being tested.
  2. In selecting a text, ensure students have had previous experience with the genre/text type, eg fables, fairy stories, reports.
  3. Texts should be of high interest and within the students’ reading ability.
  4. After selecting the text and making multiple copies, fold and staple so that only the title is visible.

The Retelling

  1. Students read the title and write:
  • one or two sentences on what the text with such a title might be about
  • some words/phrases that might be in the text if your prediction was right.
  1. Students share or compare these predictions with a partner or small group.
  2. Everyone reads the text individually. Read in order to enjoy and understand. Read as many times as you need to recall. Some students may benefit from having the story read to them first as a scaffold to them reading the text alone.
  3. Retell the text, writing in your own words. Write as much as you can recall for someone who has not read the text. You must not look back at the text.

Sharing and Discussing

In pairs or small groups ask students to discuss:

  1. How are your retellings different from each other and how are they different from the original text?
  2. Muddled meanings: Did you muddle, change or omit anything so that the author’s meaning was changed?
  3. Paraphrase power: Did you use any words which were different from those in the text but mean the same?
  4. Borrow a Bit: If you could borrow a bit from your partner’s retelling, which bit would you borrow? Why?


Ask students to write down any new learnings they have made during the session and/or any concerns they have. They could also write about what they would like to work on to improve their reading and writing skills.

Sample Text for a Read and Retell

Excerpt from Barbed Wire and Gold Bannisters by Kay Arthur

Jessie was fighting with the gate. It was heavy, and hard to drag back across the bumps and the dust. She pushed at it until there was just enough room to squeeze through without getting covered in too much rust and dirt, and without tearing her school dress on the bits of barbed wire sticking out. She grunted a bit, and swore a lot, as she struggled to push the gate closed after her. And then came the Jack Attack.

The Jack Attack was always the same. A big, strong streak of yellow labrador would race from somewhere out the back, belt around the side of the house, jump at her at full speed, claws and paws scratching as high as her shoulders. Jessie said all the ‘Down boy!...Easy...Okay’ things people say to dogs in such situations, but it always took a few minutes for the Jack Attack to subside.

Tonight she really wasn’t in the mood to fight with the gate, or to fight with Jack, but Jack wasn’t the kind of dog who understood these things. So, he clawed and slobbered his hellos until Jessie gave in and sat her bum down in the dust on the top step of the verandah. She untangled herself from the backstraps of her school bag and grabbed the soft, yellow ears between her fists and wrestled with Jack’s big grinning doggy head.


Brown, H. & Cambourne, B. (1987). Read and Retell. Australia: Methuen.

Arthur, K. (1997). Barbed Wire and Gold Bannisters. In Hyde, M. (ed.). The Girl Who Married a Fly and other stories. Adelaide: Australian Association for the Teaching of English.

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