Narration Ideas for Older Students

These are just a couple of ideas, suggestions, brainstorming- they are not required, you don’t have to do it this way, and I am sure there are other approaches.  They are for students who have been narrating orally and understand it.


You might have a student write a list of the main points of a reading in bullet point form. I sometimes ask for the main point of each paragraph.

With two of my students, for one section of the book Invitation to the Classics, I gave them the following assignment along with an example to give them an idea of the sort of thing they might do:
As you read, write down a single sentence (in your own words) summarizing the main point of each paragraph-
For example, for page 13, I would have written:
1. Why we need to define the term ‘classic,’
2. People approach the classics in different ways, the authors as ‘custodians’ of our western heritage.
3. The title of the book reflects their goal of introducing others to these works.
4. The book is also a response to questions the authors receive about what books should be read.

What would you write?  – the point of adding here a short example of what I would have written is the same as when the parent takes a turn narrating for a beginning narrator.  This is a new step, and if you haven’t assigned this sort of writing before, it’s helpful to give the student an idea of what you mean.

For another book, you might have the student read for 15 or 20 minutes (or assign a set number of pages) and then ask the student to set a timer for five minutes and write down everything they can remember as fast as they can. At the end of the five minutes, they read it aloud to you. This way the legibility of the rapid writing is not an issue for you, and they can see areas they wish to change. Once there are a few of those narrations under their belts, then you might ask them to revise the narration the following day.

If they are reading a textbook such as a biology book, or any book that gives course objectives or vocabulary words at the beginning of the chapter you could ask them to make sure they include a few of those items in their written narration, if not in the first rough draft, in the later revisions.

This is the time you an begin to add typical essay type questions and compositions- compare two characters, how are they alike and different?

Tell me about the personality of one of the characters in the book, and include supporting information. If you say he is vain, tell me how you know that, what is there in the readings that told you he is vain?

Turn an event in the reading into a scene in a play.

Write about something from the reading as though you are a reporter reporting for a newspaper (or create a video project as a newscaster)

If you owned a mail order bookstore, how would you describe your literature book  in the catalog?

Look over the exam questions Miss Mason used for other ideas.


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The Public Education System is a Mess

Wherever the public school system has its successes, and there are many, after all, millions of kids and adults are in that system, it is in spite of the system, not because of it. It is because of good, hard working, innovative teachers bucking the system in small ways and large, humanizing it, using their brains. It’s because of smart, hard working kids and their parents. IT’s not because of the Institution itself.

Learning Myths You Probably Believe, says PBS. It’s a quiz. I missed one. I am a little disgruntled about that one because I did not like any of the multiple choice options they offered as possible answers. When the answers were revealed, there was some additional information that would have clarified their meaning and I would have chosen it. I have to admit, though, that I know a fellow Charlotte Mason educator who got all of them right, so it’s probably just me.

I like the quiz. I like the information they give. But then they get irritating and demonstrate why they don’t deserve public funding. Note how they switch in the second half from talking about how we really learn to criticizing parents and pushing the teachers’ union agenda- parents, butt out, you don’t know enough to question the experts, hahaha.  Notice the utterly unproven assumption there?  Did any public school teachers take this quiz? Do public school teachers do any better on this test?  I really doubt it.

In fact, the article itself contains information which makes it clear that it is among professional educators themselves that one of these myths is *not* widely known to be a myth- about the idea of learning styles (visual, auditory, yada yada):

Even the U.S. Department of Education sent out an email just this week encouraging teachers to “make [their] own call on how to utilize learning styles in the classroom.” One major recent review of research, among many others, stated that the authors “found virtually no evidence” for the idea.

Why is the Department of Education trying to get teachers to make their own call on this and admitting there is no evidence if teachers already are well informed about this?  How much do you care to bet that we can find some previous missives from the Department of Education promoting this pernicious, evidence free myth?Via ERIC (online library of education research and information, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education):

And that’s just the first category of results. People got this notion of learning styles in the first place from educational ‘experts.’

I’m pretty sure these teachers do not know the above items are all myths.  There’s an awful lot, in fact, that they do not know:

New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it.

There are so many things to criticize about this whole story.  It’s horrible.  It’s so bad I don’t even know here to begin, so let’s just pick anywhere.

For one thing, ONLY 64% of the white teachers were passing!  That’s outrageous.  If less than 100% of your teacher wannabes in ANY demographic can pass a literacy test, you need to rething both the test and the teachers.

The only reason to rethink the test is to make sure it is a reasonable test for literacy.  I mean, if it’s written by people who cannot pass it, ditch the test and find another one. But you do not ditch it because the wrong colour people cannot pass it- you examine the test itself.  If you’ve looked at the test and you’ve ascertained that it’s a test any basically literate American should be able to pass, then acknowledge that the people taking it have no business being paid by taxdollars to teach children anything.  Do something about the people being failed already by the system we have- give them remedial reading lessons, insist on them bringing their reading skills up to par (and that includes the 63 percenters, that ought to be a humiliating score).

There is a lot of criticism of the test itself and that’s fine.  For all I know it’s a howling exercise in the sort of stupidity we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in tests of this sort (remember the poet who couldn’t figure out the answer to test questions on her own poem?)  You still have the issue that minorities are scoring in the 40s while white are scoring in the mid sixties which is nothing for anybody to be proud of.

Those wanting to ditch the test say that anyway, it doesn’t really tell us anything about who will succeed in the classroom.  Look, teaching is a dirty, hard, thankless job and I don’t want it.  I really admire people who can do it well.  I don’t know anybody who can do it well who cannot also read.

And, um, from that NPR story: “More than 40 percent of respondents believed that teachers don’t need to know a subject area such as math or science, as long as they have good instructional skills. In fact, research shows that deep subject matter expertise is a key element in helping teachers excel.”

Reading is required for subject matter expertise.

Probably, all these poor would-be teachers (and I actually mean that with sincere sympathy, I am bitterly sorry for what has been done to them) were taught with these methods.  You really need to read it all.  In fact, bookmark it and go back and read it again and read the links as well.

My husband was given a classroom at school that already had a bulletin board completed and books on the shelves.  The bulletin board is a visual walk through of what to do when you do not understand a text.  He hates it.  He left it up because he’s busy with his kids, but he will be replacing it over the summer.  Meanwhile, that bulletin board looks like somebody read the above article as a ‘how to’ manual instead of a horrible warning of what not to do.

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Thoughtful Reads

Make It Your Own– a four part series, and this is the fourth.  So maybe it will be more than four parts.  I don’t know, but I love this and you should read it, too. They are short, you have time.  You’ll be glad you read them.

You hear this CM quote batted around a bit:

“I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. ”

Don’t miss the context.


The Play Deficit: Get those babies outside.  Go with them.  Leave your work, or what you think is your work, because this is the real thing.

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Why You Should Read Challenging Older Books

George Grant on why we read Plutarch:

“It was the primary textbook of the Greek and Roman world for generations of students throughout Christendom. It was the historical source for many of Shakespeare’s finest plays. It forever set the pattern for the biographical arts. It was the inspiration for many of the ideas of the American political pioneers–evidenced by liberal quotations in the articles, speeches, and sermons of Samuel Adams, Peyton Randolph, Patrick Henry, Samuel Davies, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Henry Lee, John Jay, George Mason, Gouverneur Morris, and Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, after the Bible it was the most frequently referenced source during the Founding era. For these and a myriad of other reasons, Plutarch’s Lives is one of the most vital and consequential of all the ancient classics.”

Click through the link above to read the rest.  While Plutarch stands alone, it also stands tall in a long tradition of worthy minds communicating to minds.

I get a little tired of people dismissing classics merely on the basis that “I don’t believe that we need to read anything just because it’s on somebody’s list.”  That’s not an argument anybody makes.  But some lists are worthy of more respect than others. I do not know who this mythical ‘somebody’ is, but I would not lightly dismiss a book on George Grant’s or C.S. Lewis’ list.

We read Plutarch because he is Plutarch, and centuries of the best and the brightest have concluded he has compiled a remarkable book useful for the education and character building of the young and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Anything that has worked for centuries but isn’t working well in this generation, I generally take a suspicious glance at this generation to see where the fault lies (not 100% failproof, as slavery might be said to have worked well for at least half the people for centuries, but now we in the west at least have a different understanding of liberty and the Golden Rule of doing until others).

If a child can read stuff like Plutarch and Shakespeare and the KJV of the Bible, then there is not going to be any literature in English that is barred to him. He will at some point no longer be dependent on the explanations and interpretations of others.

This is not a *goal,* but rather a side benefit, kids who can read stuff like Plutarch generally do well on the verbal portion of their SAT and ACT scores with no extra studies.

And then there’s this very fascinating research:”Serious literature acts as a rocket booster to the brain.”

More here.  Good stuff, like:

“In one example, volunteers read a line from King Lear: “A father and a gracious aged man: him have you madded”. They then read a simpler version: “A father and a gracious aged man: him you have enraged.”

Shakespeare’s use of the adjective “mad” as a verb sparked a higher level of brain activity than the straightforward prose.

The study went on to test how long the effect lasted. It found that the “peak” triggered by the unfamiliar word was sustained onto the following phrases, suggesting the striking word had hooked the reader, with their mind “primed for more attention”.”

The best books are not books with perfect morals to deliver, sermons candy coated in fiction.  They are books that are true in their characterizations, in their depiction of life, and human nature.

We ask too much of our literature and also not enough.


” We demand that every story be a sermon, that every written thing speak as holy writ. Literature is not so. Written by fallen man for fallen men, the most it can ever do is “hold the mirror up to nature” and show us ourselves in the clear light of art.

Fortunately, this self-knowledge is the first step on the road to virtue. Where endless models for emulation will eventually create a self-righteous Pharisee, true depictions of human nature can make a humble, empathetic man.”

(Circe, What is a Classic, Anyway?)


Doug Lemov on Reading podcast

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IT’s a flowering shrub here, an ornamental.  I have also seen what I thought was ixora as a kind of large (tallerthan me) topiary outside.  I have seen red, yellow, and white.  There’s another common name for it here in the Philippines but I have forgotten what I was told.


Ixora is a genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceaefamily. It is the only genus in the tribe Ixoreae. It consists of tropical evergreen trees and shrubs and holds around 545 species. Though native to the tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world, its centre of diversity is in Tropical Asia.


It grows in the US in zones 10 and 11 and you can get it from your local plant nurseries.  Here’s how to care for it.

It blooms all year round here, and makes a very pretty hedge.

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