Story Retell

Boxcar Children Pizza Mystery Tales2go audio books

Standards and Objective

Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


  • Graphic Organizer: Key Story Elements (download below).

Tales2go Titles

  • The Boxcar Children: The Pizza Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner


The Boxcar Mystery series follows the Alden children who were adopted by their Grandfather, who they initially thought was a cruel man. When their parents die, and the children live together in an old boxcar, it is their grandfather, under a pseudonym, who sets up a reward to find the missing children.  Ultimately he adopts them, but moves their beloved boxcar to his backyard so they can be near it, and use it as a playhouse.  As students listen to the story, one of over 100 titles in this series, encourage students to track the events on a chart.  Distribute the Key Elements Graphic Organizer (download below).

Play: The Pizza Mystery

As students listen to the novel, which will take a few class sessions.  Encourage them to think about the needs of the Piccolo family, the challenges the restaurant faces, the setting, and what could be causing the challenges.  As the story progresses, the clever Alden children find ways to turn the challenges into opportunities, and troubles into clues. Students should keep notes as the listen about the key elements of the story:

Exposition: Setting the stage for the story.
Rising action: What are the challenges? What could be the cause of the problems?
Climax: What is the most exciting event in the story?
Falling action: How is ordered restored? What events make things come to a conclusion?
Resolution: Does the story have a happy ending? What is the outcome?

Summary: Not every student will identify the same details as relevant or critical, especially in an audio book. How a story is interpreted has a lot to do with the priorities and connections the listener makes. Ask students why they chose the details they did for their visual representations of the story.

Extensions and Variations

Students who are artistic may choose to create an advertisement for the Piccolo’s Pizza. Include details from the story in the advertisement’s artwork. The artwork should demonstrate understanding of the story and include text and illustrations that compliment each other.

Fun Fact:
The author of the Boxcar series was a first grade teacher who loved trains because she grew up across the street from railroad tracks.

About the Common Core

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lay out very specific listening requirements, by grade, as part of a dedicated strand for speaking and listening skills. The standards specify the use of ‘other media’ within the standards, e.g., “CCSS.ELA-Literacy 3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.”
Listening is placed on equal footing with reading, writing and speaking. And for those tempted to just pair audio with visual text, that approach is common and valid with emerging readers, but not what the standards intend.
The CCSS also requires students to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. Audio books can act as an important scaffold that allows students to read above their actual reading level.
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