Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Narration- Getting Started

Children naturally narrate daily events to mom and dad and to each other. We all do this and so, at first, when attempting to apply narration to the schoolroom, the mother is often surprised to find that her child offers a brief sentence or two mixed with a lot of 'ums' and 'ers.' Don't let yourself get discouraged, because this is perfectly natural. Just as a beginner plunks out a few notes on a piano, your child is floundering in the initial stages of sifting, ordering and framing information in his mind. This is actually a very complex process and will take some time to master. Try it, yourself, and you will see just how difficult it is. No matter what age your student is, if narration is new to him, I recommend beginning with Aesop's Fables. They are short and easy to tell back, being just right for a six year old but not too childish for the older student. Begin by trying a fable a day for a few weeks and then slowly apply the technique to other short passages from their school books. (Textbooks will not work for narration, by the way) Choose books that teach history and nature narrative form.

Here are some 'do's and don'ts which may be helpful in planning a narration lesson:

Do always prepare the passage carefully beforehand, thus making sure that all the explanations and use of background material precede the reading and narration. The teacher should never have to stop in the middle of a paragraph to explain the meaning of a word. Make sure, before you start, that the meanings are known, and write all difficult proper names on the blackboard, leaving them there throughout the lesson. Similarly any map work which may be needed should be done before the reading starts.

Do regulate the length of the passage to be read before narration to the age of the children and the nature of the book. If you are reading a fairy story, you will find that the children will be able to remember a page or even two, if a single incident is described. With a more closely packed book, one or two paragraphs will be sufficient. Older children will, of course, be able to tackle longer passages before narrating, but here too, the same principles should be applied, that the length varies with the nature of the book.

Do let the narration follow directly after the reading...

Don't interrupt, even if the narrator makes a mistake or mispronounces a word...

Don't read a passage more than once, no matter how badly it has been narrated. It is permissible to ask, e.g., 'Don't you remember the bit about the horses?' If the children say 'No' the proper response is: 'What a pity! Now you will never know that bit. You must listen better next time.' The children will miss something, but they will have learnt a lesson in concentration.

Do always correct any mistakes after the narration, or better, get the other children to correct them.
E.K.Manders of Miss Mason's PNEU

If you have more questions about implementing narration, there is a wealth of information here:
(you will have to subscribe to this group)


  1. previous commentors3.1.07

    July 12, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by Rebeca

    I've been wondering at what age it's appropriate to start narration. My son is only 3 1/2: is it too early to ask him about what we've read? We read a lot and he has a great attention span.
    Would you recommend the Charlotte Mason Companion book?

    July 12, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by timbuck2mom

    The other day I was telling the children a story about my dad that I've heard a multitude of times. I was amazed in the telling how many little details I couldn't remember. I realized in 'narrating' the story to my children that there were a lot of holes in my memory.

    Narrating really does make you sort through things in your mind.

    I've also been trying to narrate to myself after I have read something. An excellent way to see if you just read words on a page or if it really sunk in.

    July 13, 2006 - love the way you write!

    Posted by teena6

    I have been blogging about different approaches and styles. I linked back to you and then I thought I would see if you blogged today and I came here and read what you blogged on narration~ That is what I blogged about. You are a wealth of information. I thank you. I will come back and added you to my friends list. I hope it is ok to send other bloggers to your blog.

    Have a wonderful day!

    July 13, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by lindafay

    Rebeca, CM recommended waiting until the child was six, but this certainly doesn't mean you can't do this now and then with a younger child if they are enjoying it.

    Andreola's CM companion is an excellent introduction and I recommend it to mothers who are curious about the CM method. That said, this book has been referred to before as "Charlotte Mason Light" and I must agree. It paints a picture of the CM method that is a bit too casual. I like to refer mothers to this book who are just starting out and then recommend that they read the modern version of the CM series available online, volume 1,3 and 6 (and the summaries). Charlotte Mason wrote these, herself. It's always best to learn straight from the horse's mouth.

    timbuck2mom, narrating to yourself while reading is a great idea. I have done this as well. It is difficult!

    Teena, thank you for the compliment. Of course you can refer to this blog. I think the more who hear about CM's ideas, the better.


    July 13, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by Rebeca

    Thanks so much!

    July 14, 2006 - Oh Thank you Lindafay!

    Posted by mamma1420

    I need this! It seems I must be more disciplined in my actions. I listed your blog as one my favorite free resources for homeschool.

    Blessings to you and your family

  2. Anonymous17.6.13

    I have just found this website and these articles after trying to piece together these bits of wisdom from various sources. I'm so grateful that you've made these articles available, and I'm reading through them with a great sense of relief that my questions are being answered and we will be able to achieve this dream of revolutionising our home and home school with CM 's methods and with God's help. Thankyou so much, every blessing, Sarah