Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tips for Leading a Child in Narration

"Attentiveness is a vital part of understanding and remembering, for one does not know what one has not attended to. The practice of oral and written narration is a way for the learner to acquire knowledge as well as to be held accountable in an active way for what is seen, read, and heard."

- Maryellen St. Cyr in When Children Love to Learn

Besides Charlotte Mason's writings, When Children Love to Learn has been the most helpful book in explaining the hows and whys of the CM method to me. In particular, the chapter on narration has been one that I have read over and over again. For a mother about to begin a year of schooling in which narration is meant to be a pivotal tool in nearly every subject, concrete help like that found in that book is very much appreciated :) Over the last few months, I have been gathering together a few "tips" in how to correctly implement narration methods with my oldest daughter. Several of the tips are word-for-word from When Children Love to Learn - I've denoted those quotes with an asterisk. Other tips have come through the CM Moms of Many email group or through information I have come across in the last year or so (but can't remember the source). Here's my little compilation of CM narration tips:

1) Before beginning a first narration, many mothers have found it useful to first narrate once or twice for their child. A short, lively story that captures the child's imagination is desirable for a first exercise in narration.

2) Read (or at least skim) the passage beforehand to note any vocabulary words or phrases that may be exceptionally difficult. Also note dates, cumbersome proper nouns, geographical references, or foreign words that may need a bit of explaining before the passage is read. Some readings will require more "background prep" than others.

3) Write all of the more difficult proper nouns out on a chalkboard/dry erase board before the passage is read.Allow the child to refer to these words when narrating.

4) Begin a lesson with a short narration of the previous lesson.*

5) Explain that you will be requiring a narration from the passage, then read it only ONCE. This is a very important point. As St. Cyr notes, "It is impossible to fix attention on that which we have heard before and know we shall hear again."

6) Narrate less before you narrate more.* By this, it is meant that a young child should narrate shorter passages than a child who has been narrating for some time. With the progression of time and skill, narration passages become longer.

7) Also consider the type of book when determining the length of the passage for a narration. With a closely packed book, one or two paragraphs between narrations are sufficient.*

8) Never interrupt or prompt a person narrating even if a person mispronounces a word. Persons soon forget what they were going to say next when interrupted.* (I am trying to figure out how to record the narration without having to interrupt in order to catch up with my daughter. I'm considering tape recording her narrations and then writing them).

9) When the narration is finished, ask the child if he would like to include anything else. Now is the time to correct errors in content if they are present. There are not to be corrections for grammar and such. Content is the important point in narration. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation (for written narrations) can and should be addressed at a separate time.

10) If there are more than a few children, you may ask (at the end of a narration) if anyone else has anything further they would like to add.

11) At the first, narration should be oral. Written narrations only come after a child is both developmentally ready to handle all the different facets of composition smoothly, and has also had sufficient experience with oral work.

More to come as we "trial and error" our way through Year One :)