Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More on Narration

I got this question on narration from my last post: “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 fables) and have him narrate from it once a week. or do i have him narrate from everything we read? and how do i keep our reading times from becoming tedious by all the narrations required. requiring too many narrations or requiring a paragraph by paragraph narration of a book can become tiring.
thank you for any tips!”

I don’t advocate using extensive narration with a kindergarten or first grader. They are naturally interested in telling their stories at that age. I informally asked them to relate what they learned to me. I didn’t make a big deal of it; it was an unserious conversation.

My older children (13, 11 and 9) are now avid narrators, able to tell me all that they have read and learned in great detail, in an orderly and logical manner. However, we slowly developed the habit of narration over a period of years.

I began when they were in about second grade, having them narrate from paragraphs I read to them (Aesop’s fables are great as well). 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 they 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 utilize Narration to ascertain our child’s understanding of a subject/book. Again, I had to put it on a little schedule so that it became a part of our day. They 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 (dyslexic) said it made reading really stressful, knowing he was going to have 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 develops 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.”

This 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 don’t require narrations when they are reading for pleasure – although I do ask them to tell me about the story in a casual way because I’m interested.

Remember that narration has potential for great reward.


Develops Thinking Skills - logical ordering, sorting and reasoning

Enhances Listening Skills – They learn to pay attention during read alouds or lectures

Enhances the Habit of Attention – They pay attention when they are reading as well as when they are listening to reading

Develops Oratory Skills – Extraneous words such as, “uhm” and “like” are eliminated

Gives Child Opportunity to Teach - As they tell another what they have learned, they become the teacher

Transmits Ownership of Learning to the Child – Once a child has told another what they have learned – they own the knowledge.

Translates to clearly thought out compositions – A child that can orally narrate with clarity, can write with clarity.

Increases Retention – They’ll remember what they have been required to remember and retell.

Narration in Action

Begin at age 7 or 8 with small sections (read small section and have them orally narrate it).

Ask questions to prompt their memory.

Slowly increase narration selection (This is all oral until about 12 years old.)

As they mature, begin asking for written narrations.

Narration becomes composition in high school.