Over the course of my homeschooling journey, I continually came across this term NARRATION. I'm talking it popped up everywhere. If one was attempting to avoid the 'school-at-home' scenario, meaning no textbooks and fill-in-the-blank schoolwork, narration was described as a way to 'test' your child's comprehension of something they'd read or heard read to them without the busywork or sometimes difficult physical task of writing. (By the way, I'm not a hater of all things text-book-y, but that will be another post.)
The term is attributed to Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-19th-century school marm in Britain, whose teaching methods were considered quite liberal by the cultural standards at the time. Children were considered little persons, to be respected and honored (imagine that), and were given short lessons, much play and discovery time, appreciation for the arts and nature, and practiced narration within every lesson. Narration in Miss Mason's school, in it's simplest form, was a re-telling in one's own words what was just heard or read. When little, these were done orally, gradually working up to written narrations on whole chapters of books or lessons.
When Susan Wise Bauer, of The Well Trained Mind fame, began adding her voice to the chorus of 'experts' in homeschooling, she also promoted narration as a fabulous way for children to learn. Because it requires them to focus in order to remember, and it trains their little brains to hold a thought then articulate it first orally, then in written form, it fits like a glove into her neo-classical methodolgy. SWB takes narration, and hones it to a more narrow focus....using it as a necessary tool in the process of learning how to write, not just as a way to test a child's memory and comprehension.
I'm using her grammar stage Writing with Ease text with my boys, in hopes of cementing the art of narration (as well as dictation, which I'll discuss later). Eventually the series will contain a text for the logic stage then the rhetoric stage. I purchased the workbook to make my job easier. Not only do I not have to find my own appropriate passages, but it's all scripted. It holds my hand when I need to ask questions that will help lead my boys to discovering the main point.....in other words, summarizing....NARRATING. Here is a screen shot of the PDF download I purchased. I printed off one copy of the student pages for Sam, but Benj does his work on regular notebook paper.
I store the printed copies in hanging file folders....
While I'm at it, I also HIGHLY recommend purchasing her el cheapo Mp3's from Peace Hill Press about writing. It details exactly what to do when as you teach your children how to write, and will give you the 'big picture goal' of writing thru 12th grade. She gives you examples of what a beginning session of narration might look like, which is extremely helpful (and hilarious). There is an essay in the Writing with Ease text right at the beginning that says the samething, but the audios go into more detail....and Susan's a crack-up. Also, Peace Hill Press's youtube channel offers videos of Susan answering specific questions about not only writing, but all manner of questions about her methodology. Oh, and there's a bazillion articles on her blog too....click 'site resources' at the top of the page.
So, today I began our WWE workbooks with the boys. I'm adding a subject per week over the summer. Last week was 30 minutes of reading and daily chores. This week it's writing/narration/dictation. Next week is cursive copywork and typing.
I did this lesson with each boy separately, as in the other kid was off listening to Harry Potter on CD upstairs. I began letting them know I was going to read a passage, they needed to listen carefully and make a pictureor movie in their mind of what I was saying, then I would ask some questions which they needed to answer in complete sentences. (At this point, they're sighing and rolling their eyes, already thinking this is going to be 'so hard'. Like a steamroller, I move forward with nary a recognition of their complaints.) Here are screen shots of my teacher pages: (Remember you can click on these to enlarge them.)
Getting complete sentences and narrations from the boys is difficult. I have to ask leading questions, correct, and suggest. You'll notice in Sam's narration, I wrote exactly what he said....but there was an extra word (were). I had him read it back to me so he'd catch the mistake, and we erased the word. It's tedious, frustrating, and not easy to form a complete sentence in your head, then articulate it. But it is a foundational skill to getting thoughts organized in the brain, remembering those thoughts, and then writing them down. I love that Susan's method breaks this all down into tiny steps to be practiced. And practiced. AND PRACTICED. Thankfully the lessons don't take more than 10-15 minutes. Again, fudge comes in handy.