Retelling a Story Through Song (2)


Goal: Students will retell the story in a song by determining the important details given in both text and illustrations.

Rationale: This is a group of students who are struggling in the area of comprehension they often cannot identify what the important parts of a story are nor are concise in their attempted retell. Writing a song as a class and focusing on both the important details and the need to be concise and "singable", will give much needed practice.


Materials: Book “The Mouse and the Lion", Large pad of paper and   white board



Classroom set-up- Students will sit on carpet  area as large group


Discuss the pictures and text while reading “The Mouse and the Lion”. Have student use descriptive words to describe what is occurring in the illustration. After the reading have the students web the story noting main characters, setting, and retell. Leave the web where students can see it.


Introduce the idea of writing a song that would tell the story.  The song needs to include only the most important details while at the same time setting the mood for the story. Remind them of the poem patterns that we studied several weeks ago. Explaining that we will be using an ABCB pattern for the first stanza of our song and a DEFE pattern for the second stanza and so on.


The first stanza is going to reflect the first fact of the story retell which was, the mouse found the sleeping lion. Suggest the first line be, “ Once there was a courageous mouse who found a sleeping lion.” Have students suggest  details that should also be included in the first stanza that tell about the mouse finding the lion. Once all of the details have been suggested ask for suggestions for the next 3 lines. Sing the first line several times to help them hear the rhythm and tempo of the song.


Depending on time repeat the directions for the next 4 stanzas over the course of several days.


Type song up  into a book with each stanza on one page. Give a copy to each student and let them illustrate their songbook.


Visit Kindergarten and perform song.


Evaluation: Have students retell the story verbally  checking for their comprehension and correct use of important details. This will be done several days after the song is completed and has been sung.



            This lesson was an eye opener for me. I enjoy teaching poetry and always shirk from singing in front of anyone. After reading the article, The Uses of Folk Music and Songwriting in the Classroom,” by Victor Cockburn (1991) I was eager to try writing a song with my students. This particular group of students are all below grade level in reading. The school I teach at has a manual driven Direct Instruction model for teaching reading and these are students who are suffering from its lack of flexibility and creativity.   For many of them this is the third time they’ve read this set of books using the same structured instruction. Needless to say they had a lot of fun trying this new approach to thinking about what they had read. I definitely had students who were more actively participating and eager than others. But the ones who did not openly participate often were the ones who do participate in other ways. The energy level of the room went way up and a couple of kids had to take a time out at their seats. The activity definitely took a lot of guidance from me but the ideas that were being shared were great. Students were commenting on whether or not student suggestions had actually occurred,  whether  suggestions were important or interesting details, and whether the suggested line fit the rhythm of the song. This is a distractible group of kids who are often off task. This lesson even with moments of down time while I wrote had them whispering, shouting, and singing their suggestions.


The evaluation was  very interesting. The students who had most actively helped write the song really retained more information overall than the rest of the students.  Two of the 7 who were most active are my lowest readers. The rest definitely had retained more details than usual and all had the 4 main points of the story retell down.  I plan on doing this type of retell again. Instead of doing 2 stanzas a day however, I will only do 1 a day over 4 days to avoid to much carpet time. As well I would like to combine the song with a pantomime play of the story for the Kindergarten performance.


Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  music will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.