Narration, Beginning

narration typewriter commonroom charlotte MasonWhen we first begin narration, and any time I think they are flagging in attention or I think the reading is more complex, I read a single paragraph, then stop and ask them to tell me what we just read about. Other times I read that single paragraph and ask them to tell me one thing they remember from the paragraph. This single paragraph at a time narration is a baby step towards longer readings and narrations over larger sections of the books.

Sometimes we vary the narrations, depending on the book. They might narrate by drawing a picture from the reading and telling me about it, by acting out a brief skit (I set the timer and give them maybe five minutes to plan the skit- otherwise, they spend the rest of the day planning and never performing), by setting up a scene with blocks (Horatio at the Bridge made a particular excellent building block scene) or dollhouse dolls- there are all sorts of ways a child can narrate. They can reenact a scene with Beanie babies. I might ask them to tell me just one thing they remember from a paragraph. Then I might start asking for two things. Sometimes if I am reading to several children, I will ask each child to tell me one thing from the reading. I start with the youngest and work my way up so that the youngest are not left empty headed, saying, “But they already said what I was thinking of!”

Some young learners find it stressful to narrate at first- it’s harder than we realize. So do go gently, but I believe narration is of vital importance to the CM method, and the child who doesn’t narrate his reading (*Or expect to- it’s okay if they hear a sibling narrate instead, and then have a brief opportunity to supplement by adding any important omissions) is really missing out on an important processing tool.

Incidentally, these baby steps work when processing from all oral narration to some written narrations. We usually begin by asking the children to write down two sentences about the reading, then five. Or I will ask them to make a list of what they know about one of their favorite characters. In the nature readings I might ask them to make a list of what that critter eats or is eaten by, or describe where it lives. Gradually, we work our way up.

The form of narration is not as important as the process, especially at the beginning. The most important point is that they need to review the material in their own minds, prioritize it, organize it, think about it, and select episodes or other material that they want to tell about. When you ask them that seemingly simple questions, “Tell me what we just read about,” this is exactly what happens.

You may wish to look over some of our other posts on Charlotte Mason and language arts

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