Saturday, July 08, 2006

Narration vs.Questioning

Do you spend time on the internet searching for readymade quizzes and tests to help evaluate your child’s progress? Or perhaps you make them yourself? Do you rely on a curriculum that has done the work for you?

Here is an excerpt from a resource magazine that Charlotte Mason schools published for parents and teachers implementing her methods. This particular quote concerns Narration vs. Questioning.

“Teachers pulse with joy when they find a nice sequence of facts for their scholars to negotiate. I recently witnessed a particularly vigorous display of rapid questioning. Each scholar was on tenterhooks, alert for the moment when the volley of questions might be directed at him. The questioner enjoyed himself and felt his power. With a glance in my direction the glance was a challenge to narration he said: "That's stirred them up a bit: that's made them think!"

But had it made them think? It is quite easy, after a little practice, to question children along a line of thought or through a chain of reasoning and to get them to utter thoughts in expressly the phrases required: but the real thinking is done by the questioner. The questions that are of value are informative, they focus attention on a succession of details one by one. When the questions are recapitulatory they are merely mental jabs.

If the answer pre-determined by the teacher is not forthcoming the pupil is declared to be dull!

We of the P.U.S. say: Let the child himself do that which the teacher usually does for him. Let the child by narration supply both question and answer.”
G.F. Husband

NARRATION is the very heart of Charlotte Mason's philosophy. It is more important than nature, art and music study because it is a powerful way of learning. Mason learned it from the great classical educators such as Quintillian and Erasmus, who lived before her time. Realizing that this proven method had died out in British schools, she set about to revive it.

Quite simply, it is the art of ‘telling back’ what you just read or heard from a book. It seems simple--almost too simple to be of great value in the schoolroom, but don't judge too quickly. Karen Glass aptly explains the benefits of narration:

“Do not be deceived by the superficial simplicity of this method! When you read a story, paragraph, or chapter to a child and ask him to narrate what he has heard, powerful mental "wheels" must spring into motion. The knowledge that he has passively gathered must now be sifted and sorted. His mind must recall the beginning, and then "what comes next," event by event. He must be sure the order of his knowledge is correct, and that nothing important is omitted. Then, he must find words to give shape to his knowledge. It is not uncommon for children to imitate the vocabulary and style of the author himself. Nevertheless, by using the words to tell "his" version of the story, he makes them his own.”

Personally, I've done the research and have tested it extensively on my own children and I stand amazed at the results. I contemplated titling this post NARRATION CHANGED MY LIFE! It's kind of humorous, but it really is true. It has not only greatly simplified my planning and lightened my workload, but it has enabled my children to really learn their subject matter. Whenever I evaluate my children, I notice that their greatest knowledge and amount of love for a subject always comes from the passages they narrated aloud earlier in the year. Usually, if they didn't narrate to me, then later, they couldn't recall what they read very well. Not only that, but frequent narration has caused their verbal skills to surge remarkably and this has naturally transferred over into their writing. Narration has taught them to organize their thoughts and speak with clarity and style. I challenge those who have never tried this method to look into it.

I’ll offer some tips on how to get started in my next post.

Suggested links for further study:


  1. previous commentors3.1.07

    July 8, 2006 - Thank you so much!

    Posted by soaringwings

    Thank you for taking the time to share this information with us! I just love hearing things from another perspective. I tend to find myself questioning my methods at times and I love to read something that just makes me say, "YES!" I look forward to reading your upcoming entries.


    July 8, 2006 - It Does Work ! I know and have seen it.

    Posted by Canadagirl

    There was a couple of years we were in a Distance Learning Program and I used Narration the whole time. The certified teacher was amazed at how much detail my kids were able to comunicate in such a orderly fashion. On all of their subjects too. Thanks for stopping by and your sweet words.
    In Him,

    July 8, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by Dawn

    That was a great post. I always enjoy coming here and reading the wisdom you impart. I've been reading alot about Charlotte Mason's method on AO since finding your blog. I'm excited about starting to implement the Narration method in the fall with my children.

    July 8, 2006 - Cool!

    Posted by ThreeLittleLadies

    Good quotes and great reminders.

    July 9, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by AussieinAmerica

    Hi Linda,
    I loved this post as usual! I wanted to let you know that I have figured out much of this years curriculum with your help and also Ambleside online. I have posted it on my blog.

    July 10, 2006 - I need this! I just got the Charlotte Mason Companion...

    Posted by mamma1420

    But I haven't had time to read it yet. I'm so excited to start but I feel narration is where I've failed my child. I ask her questions after we're completely done with the chapter and sometimes that's too long for her. The more information I can have about narrations, the better I'll feel about implementing them. Thank you, as always Lindafay you are a Charlotte Mason beacon!


    July 12, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by teena6

    you have a beautiful blog~ congrats on the award!

    also, I have blogged about homeschooling approaches... and today I blogged about unschooling. Next I want to blog about CM and I think that is what I am more. Thanks for the reminder of narration.... old school keeps me from doing it that way~ UGH. I want to link to you in my next blog ~


  2. I so appreciate your blog! It seems to be just what I need to read each time I come back to it. Thank you for sharing your experiences and information. God Bless!