The #1 … (activity which fosters language development)

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1. Get the full eBook


campfireGetting our students retelling, even in a very simple form, is SO powerful! It creates active listeners and learners and really enlivens the learning process. Throughout my own career as an EFL teacher, retelling is something I plan into my lessons for all levels of learners. Just “remembering” what we’ve learned is a simple form of retelling and something that allows repetition and a “jellying” of the learning experience. Retelling is also incredibly social and we are hard wired for this – think of how we are captivated around the campfire by “story” or how powerful a hold gossip has on us. You can harness this ancient force in your classroom too!

The best way is to give students a variety of language material – audio / video / written. Doesn’t have to be what we commonly associate with retelling – a story. I usually use 4 different types of material for a larger class. Allow them time to understand the material and then put them in groups to retell / share what they were given. Monitor and then when most have retold, split them up into other groups to retell again to new partners. Continue until the final step – have them retell what someone else told them! This type of jigsaw style lesson works well for retelling.

Language is intimately tied to memory. And we understand too little about memory. However, over the years I’ve understood how student’s with higher levels of fluency in a second language have a great ability to retell and “remember” language. So retelling is also a perfect placement/level test. Give students a very simple paragraph or story. They should even at a very low level, understand all the vocabulary/ideas. Next, create checklist of main ideas and information. Ask the student questions and check if they can recall the information. The more information recalled, the higher the level. A simple and effective formative test. See the power point below for some examples.

Here is my number 1 story for use in retelling! It works great. Here too, are some great funny stories for a wonderful retelling lesson for higher levels.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Carol says:

    Hi!.I’m studying a career in teaching and I’m carrying out a research about retelling.Could you tell me please what are the benefits of retelling? and is retelling a technique that improves the receptive skills (reading and listening) or also improves the other skills?

    Thank very much.

  2. ddeubel says:


    Sorry for the late reply (busy these days with moving, relocating).

    Retelling indeed, is a very powerful output focused skill. Retelling allows a student controlled practice of speaking and reinforces a lot of structure that is rather difficult in regular discourse. Retelling is an ancient art, in whatever the language and the interjections/pauses/flow of the language itself is practiced. Not to mention that when a student repeats a passage, they are encountering specific repeated vocabulary and fostering acquisition.

    Of course, it also helps receptive skills but I use it primarily as a public second language speaking exercise. To get students speaking in a controlled fashion and thus gaining confidence. Regular speaking is highly unpredictable and retelling helps because of its predictable nature.

    Thanks for dropping in.


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