Swimmy by Leo Lionni Retell Literacy Center Activity


Create your own Swimmy retelling activity with this free download for kindergarten.

This is how I created a Swimmy retell activity based on the book by Leo Lionni to go in our retell center as a storytelling option for my kindergarten students.

It’s one of my favorite literacy centers. In fact, it’s a natural extension of what we do in the classroom. This is one of the first stories we read in kindergarten and therefore it becomes one of the first stories featured in the retell center.

I usually introduce Swimmy on the third or fourth week of school. I love the simplicity of the characters, the language and the BEAUTIFUL illustrations.

They read they act, they use lots of great vocabulary and are developing fantastic reading habits all while continuing to build their love of reading.

Let me show you what’s in our set and give you the materials to make it happen in your classroom too.

What’s in my retell set

Here are the props I gathered rather inexpensively (and you can too) to bring the book alive once we knew it by heart.

Because this book isn’t as “popular” as Brown Bear, Brown Bear or Red Riding Hood I had to make my own props to match this story.

I made hand-drawn ocean animals from the book. I tried to follow the basic shapes from the book and used markers to color everything.

For the lobster, eel and sea anemones I traced an outline in marker and added coloring with markers.

The little red fish are simply mass cutouts I did by hand – they have no added details.

Swimmy and the large fish were cutouts from black construction paper with colored eyes.

I made the seaweed growing from sugar-candy rocks by coloring a paper doilie and gluing to halves together. All of the seaweed was laminated onto a construction paper background to make it sturdy.

*As a side note, the beanie babies were donated but I know you can easily find them at a garage sale or keep your eye out at the dollar store! But, these were just alternative options for students.

How to make your own Swimmy retell activity

If you plan to make this a year-long literacy center, I highly recommend that you read the Retell Literacy Center Directions for more details and making everything run smooth.

Because you can make this kindergarten activity yourself and once you and your students are hooked on retelling you’ll want to make this a year-long thing.

Here are the materials you’ll need… (may include affiliate book links to Amazon)


  • Construction Paper (red, black, white, gray, pink, green – background paper for animals; brown, blue – background for seaweed)
  • Paper Doilies (cut in half to make seaweed)
  • Optional: Any animals from the story are great to have as stuffed animals or plastic trinkety toys
  • Swimmy Book

What to do

Take your book copy and your props and place them together. A container like an open basket, a book bin or a large Ziploc bag will work!

We liked to keep a blanket nearby these materials so that they could create a theater-like puppet stage to sit behind.

But all they need to do is have the book and the materials and use the props to tell as much as they can:

  • about the story
  • from the story
  • with the story (following along)

Encourage kinders to use as many words from the text as they can remember. With a patterned story like this one, it’s pretty easy, especially if you read this story multiple times before you release it to your students.


There you have it – how to make a Swimmy retell activity for your class. I love that it doesn’t really cost anything but a little time and some basic drawing skills to get it done. {wink}

If you like this activity, check out this list of 20 more famous stories that are great for retelling in kindergarten. Most of them are just as simple to pull together and I’ve found all of the downloadable resources for you.

Other books that are great for retelling in kindergarten


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