Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Using a Bookmark to Help Primary Students with Retelling [K–1]

By Laureen S, First-Grade Teacher, Guest Blogger

                                                                                    Today, I am going to share with you a ‘must have’ that I keep in my guided reading basket all year long. It is not reading-level specific and can be used with any narrative text, which makes it a perfect go-to learning tool. Its purpose is to prompt students to do an independent story retell. Being able to retell is one of the best ways to assess a student’s story comprehension, which we know is an important indicator of reading success. Retelling needs to begin with early-level texts to become a strategy that students use independently and efficiently.

I use a story retell bookmark with all of my guided reading groups. You can find a free download of my bookmarks at the end of this post, so you can try this out yourself! As with any new learning tool, the retell bookmark needs to be modeled, which I do within my guided reading lessons.

                                                                                              As a grade one teacher, I find that the majority of my students are reading at the C-G levels, which makes the Joy Cowley Early Birds Complete Set (falling exactly in that level range) a star in my classroom library! One of the books from the set that is perfect for early readers to retell is Where Is My Mom? The book is a Level D and has all the story elements needed for students to do a retell.

My introduction of the retell bookmark with this book begins with me pointing to each section of the bookmark and asking a simple question to the group to go with each section. Here is a sample conversation with one of my groups using Where Is My Mom? as the text.

  • Characters – "Who can tell me the characters from the story?"

    •  The main characters are a child and his mom.

  • Setting – "Where did the story take place?"

    •  The story takes place in a store.

  • Problem – "Is there a problem in the story?"

    • Yes, the boy can’t find his mom.

  • Events – "Who can tell me something that happened at the beginning, middle and end of the story?"

    • The boy is in the toy department and when he looks up he can’t find his mom. The boy looks around the store for his mom.  The boy then found his mom.

    • Note: When discussing the events I purposely use the words beginning, middle and end. There are a wide variety of answers that could be accepted as correct responses.
    • Solution – "How was the problem solved in the story?"
      • The boy and his mom found each other.


    I find it takes a couple of lessons and a fair bit of prompting to guide students toward the independent use of the bookmarks. Once the students have an understanding of the bookmarks, I use the bookmarks in a variety of ways. At times, I have them retell a story with a partner. I make the bookmarks available during read-to-self time, and I always have them in my guided reading basket for both my students and me to grab at any time. I also have one on my wall that is printed larger for easy reference.

    Here is a free, downloadable copy of my Story Retell Bookmarks. If you use them in a creative way that I haven’t thought of, please contact me and share your ideas! Like you, I am always learning and looking for new ways to enjoy reading with my students.  


    Laureen is a first-grade teacher in Canada. She has been teaching kindergarten and grade one for more than twenty years. Laureen loves to make learning fun and you can find her at her blog, Teach With Laughter. You can also visit her TPT page here.