The Power of Narration

the mind can know nothing charlotte mason quoteWhile there are several things we have done and do for language arts in our shrinking little homeschool (next fall I shall have only two students. The last time I had only two students was, my dears, 16 years ago. How strange it feels), the two constants have been good books and required narrations. I’ve blogged about narration before (a couple examples here and here), oh, and here as well, and now Tim’s Mom at Bona Vita Rusticanda is sharing some great notes she took from a recent Charlotte Mason conference. Here’s a sampling:

Narration is an all-purpose, extremely powerful activity. Transformation occurs that physically changes the brain. “The Power of Retelling: Developmental Steps for Building Comprehension,” and “Read and Retell” by Hazel Brown and Brian Cambourne encapsulate all the principles of the wholistic/natural learning model.

Narration has linguistic spillovers: meaning, phraseology, vocabulary, punctuation, spelling. Children can retain phrases, styles, etc. that they pick up from narrating even after a year.

Narration enables learners to “own” their learning. “Learning that is not accompanied by transformation is shallow and transitory.” (Cambourne) “Reader-Response” by Louise Rosenblatt. The learner “reproduces such Knowledge touched by his own personality; thus his reproduction becomes original.” (CM vol 6)

Narration enables students to:
– write better sentences
– better solve math word problems
– increase vocabulary
– have a much higher level of comprehension

Narration improves concept of story, critical thinking, oral language development.

Critical thinking requires background knowledge and concepts to think critically about.

Narration reveals what a child remembers and what he thinks is important. It shows whether his organization matches the text – and more.

Narration in History: For generations and throughout centuries, history has been passed on through oral narration. People who are forced to increase their oral mind have better mental capacity than those who rely on printed text, note-taking, etc. Jewish Rabbis used oral tradition to relay God’s truth to generations. See “The Singer of Tales” by Albert Lord for studies. Oral tradition is as literary as printed text. The art forms of literature/story-telling were already set and styled before any of the tales were ever written down. Songs, stories and poems can be kept in people’s minds for centuries – intact – with no notes! The more you rely on notes, the less you use your mind.

Emotion drives learning because emotion is what transforms and engages. When the “amygdala” part of the brain is activated by fear or emotion, learning can enter long-term memory instead of short-term memory. Stories, not dry facts, engage our emotions.

It’s good stuff. And for those to whom this seems entirely too easy- remember, a true education happens in the mind, not on workbook pages. You can do the workbook pages, and there are times they serve some purpose- but they serve no purpose at all if something isn’t also going on in the mind. Narration begins in the mind of the learner.

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