Fist to Five: A Retell Strategy

In my classroom, we have been learning about how to retell a story. This isn't something that comes easily to students in the detail we're expecting as educators. I've tried many different strategies for teaching students to retell in primary grades, but my kiddos' retells were always lacking. For example, if I asked them to give me a "beginning, middle and end" summary that's about all I got... no mention of characters or setting.

Enter my Fist to Five Retell. I watch my little ones use their fingers to make all sorts of learning tangible, so why not this? Standardize it so we're all thinking the same things, and the retells are all-of-a-sudden complete and thorough!

First is the thumb: I ask my students to tell me who the main characters are and explain the setting (where and when the story takes place). I love that they use their thumb for this part... it is separate enough from their fingers that they recognize the connection to the retell of the story, but know that it is really additional detail information beyond the retell itself.

Next, students also raise their index finger and explain the beginning of the story.

The middle and ring fingers are raised to give two important details for the middle of the story - how it progresses.

Finally, the pinky is raised to explain the ending. Here, my students are expected to tell how the problem in the story is resolved.

I'm SO impressed with how this structure has helped my students organize their thinking when retelling a story. We created an anchor chart to help us remember the steps:
I LOVE the little hand graphics from Teacher Laura on TpT!

Once my students are successful with the oral retells I'll begin to introduce how to use graphic organizers to create a written retell using the gradual release model. I'll begin the process by modeling on the SMART Board and moving toward my students writing independent retells on paper. I'll be using my Reading Response Graphic Organizers for this!
This 40-page resource is perfect for scaffolding student responses as they move from oral retells to written and includes a SMART Board file with every graphic organizer for whole-class display, and blackline copies for individual student use! Click the image to check out the details!


  1. Erin, I love your 'Fist to Five' technique, pinned it and plan to make it a regular part of my lessons, too! Simple, straightforward, easy to remember! Thanks for a great post!

    1. Thank you so much! My students have been really successful with it! :)



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