EL Support Lesson

Reading with Symbols

In this lesson, students will retell stories and use symbols to highlight interesting parts. This lesson can be used alone or with the Readers Record Their Thinking lesson plan.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theReaders Record Their ThinkingLesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theReaders Record Their ThinkingLesson plan.

Students will be able to retell stories.


Students will be able to retell part of a story with grade level words and phrases using symbols and partner support.

(10 minutes)
Reading with SymbolsVocabulary Cards: Reading with SymbolsGlossary: Reading with SymbolsTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives Reference
  • Hold up a book that you have read as a class. Call on someone to briefly retell the story.
  • Ask students to share their favorite part of the story. As students share, try to locate the parts in the book. As you locate each part, put a sticky note on the page and draw a heart on the sticky note.
  • Tell students that the sticky notes with hearts on them show your favorite parts of the story.
(5 minutes)
  • Hand out the Vocabulary Cards to students. As you go over each word, have students locate the card for the word you are reviewing.
  • Tell students that when you drew the heart on a sticky note, it was a symbol. SymbolsAre marks used to represent something. In the case of the heart, that mark represented your favorite parts of a story. FavoriteParts are the parts that you liked the best.
  • Other symbols can be used to represent questions. Draw a question mark on the board and tell students that this symbol is used for Questions, or something you wonder or ask.
  • Tell students that they will be using symbols when retelling a story. RetellingMeans telling a story in your own words.
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out copies of the same book to pairs of students. Read the book aloud as pairs follow along.
  • After reading, have students reread the book together. As they reread the book, they will be using sticky notes to note their favorite parts with hearts and questions with question marks.
  • Draw a heart on the board and write, "A heart shows my favorite part of the story." Draw a question mark and write, "A question mark shows where I have a question."
  • Have student turn to a partner to rephrase how they would use a heart and question mark while reading.
  • Pass out the Reading With Symbols worksheet and sticky notes. Model how to have students fill in the worksheet to retell the story using symbols. Students should fill out their own sticky notes and worksheets.
(10 minutes)
  • Have partners share the work they did on their worksheets.
  • Have partners tell each other about one favorite part and one question they have about the book.
  • Write and model using the following sentence frames on the board to help students retell parts of the story using simple sentences:
    • My favorite part was ____.
    • I have a question about ____.


  • Have students work in a teacher-led small group.
  • Have students orally share about the parts of their stories instead of writing on their worksheets.


  • Have students share details about each part of the story that they highlighted.
  • Challenge students to come up with their own symbols to denote different parts of their story (e.g. parts that were surprising or parts they connected to).
(2 minutes)
  • Ask students to answer the following questions with the corresponding sentence stems:
    • How did we use symbols?
      • "We used symbols to ____."
    • What other parts could we highlight in books?
      • "We could also highlight ____."
(3 minutes)
  • Call on pairs to volunteer to share one of their highlighted parts with the class.

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