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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More on Narration


Here are some questions one homeschool mom asked about narration: My oldest is going into first grade and is reading probably at a second grade level. One of my goals this coming year is to establish the habit of narration. How should I schedule it? Should I pick a book (like Aesop’s fables) and have him narrate from it once a week? Or do I have him narrate from everything we read? How do I keep his reading and narration requirements from becoming tedious? It seems that requiring too many narrations or requiring a paragraph by paragraph narration of a book can become tiring. Thank you for any tips!

Here’s my answer to this mom’s questions: I don’t advocate using extensive narration with a kindergartener or first grader. Children are naturally interested in telling their stories at that age. When it was time to narrate, I simply and informally asked my children to relate what they learned to me. I didn’t make a big deal of it; my request was casual. I began when they were in about second grade, having them narrate from small sections or paragraphs I read to them (Aesop’s Fables works great). I would sometimes ask questions to prompt their memory and slowly increased the narration selections as their skills developed. We did this a couple of times a week. I recommend you schedule it into the week—lest you forget, as we did for months on end. When my children were able to read well, instead of answering comprehension questions on their reading, I would have them tell me what they read—a simple but valuable exercise. We utilized narration to ascertain our children’s understanding of a subject/book. Again, I had to include it on our schedule so that it became a part of our day. In time, my children knew that when they completed their reading, they would have to tell me about it. This required that they pay attention to the selection. One of my children is dyslexic and would tell me it made reading really stressful knowing he was required to understand and explain it to me. However, it helped him a great deal in the end. He didn’t just skip over passages and skim the selections. It truly developed in him the habit of attention. Charlotte Mason says, “Attention is simply the act by which the whole mental force is applied to the subject at hand. The act of bringing the whole mind to bear.”

As my children got older, they became avid narrators, able to tell me all they had read and learned in great detail and in an orderly and logical manner. However, they slowly developed the habit of narration over a period of years. As my children matured further, around age 12, I began asking for written narrations in place of oral ones. These written narrations eventually became their compositions in high school.

Narration is such an important skill for children (and adults) to master. If they know they have to narrate, they will learn to pay attention to what they are reading. Now I didn’t require narrations when they were reading for pleasure, although I did ask them to tell me about the story in a casual way because I was interested. 

Here are the ways narration has potential for great reward: 

·      Develops Thinking Skills- retelling a story develops their logical ordering, sorting, and reasoning skills
·      Enhances Listening Skills- paying attention during read alouds or lectures helps their listening skills
·      Enhances the Habit of Attention- paying attention when reading as well as when listening to others read enhances their attention span
·      Develops Oratory Skills- verbally retelling eliminates extraneous words such as “uhm” and “like”
·      Gives Child Opportunity to Teach- telling another what they have learned enables them to become the teacher
·      Transmits Ownership of Learning to the Child- telling another what they have learned helps them own their knowledge 
·      Translates to Clearly Thought out Compositions- orally narrating with clarity helps them write with clarity 
·      Increases Retention- retelling what they’ve learned helps them remember what they’ve learned