Library Lessons–Teaching Story Elements and Retelling

My library is in quite a unique spot, as it’s only five blocks away from our village’s grade school. Which means that every kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade class walks to the library every month to hear stories and learn something! For the kindergarten I just do stories and library time, and just get to know me. For the 1st Grade, I do a Language Arts lesson, plus a story that plays into the lesson in some way. And for the 2nd Grade, I do a quick story, and a tutorial on how to use the library better.

So for this first post about my lesson plans, I thought I would share my plan on teaching story elements. For lesson ideas I always ask the teachers what they are covering, and try to pair what I’m covering with what they’re doing. Sometimes I might cover something too early, but it never hurts to at least get exposure to concepts before they are actually taught.

So teaching story elements is definitely a core component in reading, and is reflected in the national common core standards, specificially RL. 1.2 and RL. 1.3:

“CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL 1.2–Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

“CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL. 1.3–Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.”

So I always start out my lessons with a question that ties into what I’m trying to teach. The question I ask them first is:

So I tell them to listen to my story and say what’s wrong with it. So my story goes like this, “Once upon a time……The End.”

I’ll then ask them if that’s a good story and they’ll laugh and say “no.” So I’ll ask the class what my story needs. Sometimes they’ll say it needs “more words,” so I’ll say “Once upon a long, long, long time ago….The End.” (Added more words, haha.) Eventually they’ll get that it needs a character, so I’ll add “Once upon a time there was a dinosaur named Mr. Scrumbles….The End.” Then, I’ll ask if I need to add anything, and they’ll say the dinosaur needs to do something in the story, so I’ll say, “Once upon a time there was a dinosaur named Mr. Scrumbles and he was a really hungry dinosaur who went to the pizza library….The End.”

It’s a bit like an improv game, where I add a little bit every time based on their suggestions. Eventually we come up with a full story. At the end I’ll ask if there’s anything wrong with my story now, sometimes they’ll say my story isn’t very good, BUT I remind them that the question was if there was anything wrong with it. It may not be good but it had all the STORY ELEMENTS to be a story. Huh huh! (Thanks to my wife for coming up with this great game to kick off this lesson.)

From there I go into each story element with a Powerpoint presentation. I give the name of each element, what it is, and then use it in an example story that everyone knows.

So in between each slide, I’ll ask them to talk about the story element by talking about the appropriate part in “Little Red Riding Hood.” Like, “who are the characters in ‘Little Red Riding Hood?'” “What happens in the beginning?” Again I use humor to keep their interest so after they give their Little Red example I’ll put it into my Powerpoint, BUT I insert myself into my slides, dressed up as the characters.

They think that this is HILARIOUS and definitely keeps their interest. This is really easy to do yourself, just find a free Photo Editor and cut out your head and stick them on some clipart. You can even animate your cartoons in Powerpoint by using the transition animation functions. The kids love it, some of the even think it’s magic.

Red Riding Hood GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

After that we get into why it’s important to learn about story elements. I kinda breeze past this part, but it’s important that they know that they tell stories every day, and using story elements helps them clarify their thoughts and communicate better..

From there we get into our story for the month, BUT I tell them at the end we’ll be going over all the story elements, and they’ll have to retell it themselves. And for this lesson I ALWAYS do “Black and White Factory” by Eric Telchin. Not only is it the best story ever to do with a class, but it maybe works the best for this lesson plan. Here’s a video of me doing it:

After that, we will go over story elements again, retelling the story we just learned:


What’s great about “Black and White Factory” is that this kinda breaks the traditional “Story Elements” mold. First of all, YOU are one of the characters–that doesn’t happen a lot. Also, there are multiple solutions to the problem, like spinning around, using a vacuum, tipping upside down, etc. Not that many stories have that. And the last thing, I’ll ask them if the problem gets fixed, and they really have to think about it. Because this is another one of the rare stories where the problem DOES NOT get solved (although that’s okay to the characters) so my kids realize story elements can change and be different.

Thanks for reading! I can’t wait to share more of my Library Lessons with you all! Here’s a informal lesson plan if you wanted timings:

(<5 mintues) Introduction/Greeting/Open Presentation

(5 minutes) “What’s Wrong With My Story?” Game

(10 minutes) Slideshow on Story Elements/Inserting them in “Red Riding Hood”

(10 minutes) Reading “Black and White Factory”

(5 minutes) Inserting Story Elements/Retelling “Black and White Factory”

3 thoughts on “Library Lessons–Teaching Story Elements and Retelling

Add yours

  1. It’s so good to see you back in the blogosphere!

    I LOVE this partnership with your local school and lesson plan – especially that beginning! Kids loving feeling like the experts and getting to tell adults how it’s done. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!



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