Retellings and Assessment

How Verbal and Written Retellings Can Guide Instruction

What does the research say?

Story retelling is an effective teaching and assessment tool that enable the reader to focus on specific elements of story structure.

  • Provides a purpose and sustained focus for reading
  • Practice improves the quantity and quality of information supplied by the reader.
  • Performance expectations for the assessment are clearly related to Common Core expectations.
  • According to Gambrell (1991) retelling is a more effective post-reading activity than teacher questioning.
  • Prepares students for real-life tasks such as selecting, organizing, and conveying essential information.

What is a Retelling Assessment?

Students are asked to verbally state or write what happens in the text of a story. Most retellings are scored with rubrics. Retellings include different expectations for fiction and nonfiction text. Retellings expectations must clearly be stated and practiced with the students. Once students understand the purpose and format, retellings can quickly happen after texts have been read. Retellings are a way for teachers to assess students comprehension of the text and ability to analyze and apply text structure.

Perks and Downfalls


  • Retellings are student directed
  • Rubrics allow teachers to assess each retelling with the same rigor
  • Provides opportunities for students to practice speaking skills
  • Students become familiar with the components of text; sequencing, plot, characters
  • Once students understand retelling expectations they can be done quickly
  • In depth assessment of comprehension, provides educators with more data than comprehension questions.
  • Retellings can be scaffolded with the use of graphic organizers
  • Rubrics can easily be found online


  • Oral retellings need to be conducted on an individual basis-they can be lengthy
  • Rubrics allow for differing assessment rigor amongst teachers

story retelling rubric