Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Creative Narration

Another form of narration that we enjoy is what I call the Creative Narration. I usually reserve Creative Narrations for classic literature selections because they don't always have as much content or take as much mental effort as a detailed narration or a summary. Oliver Twist, Hittite Warrior, and Ivanhoe are a few examples. My children usually do one creative narration during the week and I provide suggestions, allowing them to choose what they would like to do. They always look forward to this special assignment.

When a 'creative narration' is assigned to my older students, they choose a creative way to present the passage in written form. For example, instead of writing a summary or detailed narration, they may write a letter from a particular character to another character discussing the events from the passage read. Here is a creative narration that my daughter wrote when 12 years old:

My dear friend Strabo,
Upon receiving your last letter I was duly astonished, having heard in the past of your intention to become an established historian. I could not help but wonder why you now turn your face toward writing a geography. Have not others performed that task in years gone by? Why should you?

Best regards,

Marcellus, best of cousins and well wishers,
I pardon your astonishment at my decision. I make such a choice realizing that no man certainly has seen so much of the world as I have and I think I may add some small amount of knowledge to that already collected by the ancients. Marcellus, have you ever seen it; the lighthouse disappear over the curve of the earth as your ship speeds on to Asia? If so, you will understand me.

I remain your loyal friend,

Another creative narration idea is to write the narration in the form of a newspaper article. My girls like to make a thrilling headline and divide the paper into columns. Sometimes they draw a little box with a quick illustration before writing the newspaper account of the event they read about.

Sometimes, they make a one act play or skit in written form with a title, cast of characters, scene/setting and the actual lines that each character must say. They don't actually act this skit out. They just write the play on a single page.

Another idea is to suggest they write an obituary for the person they are studying. ( I often use this as an exam question at the end of a term when my child has finished reading a biography.

I save book teasers for creative narrations during exam time. The idea here is that the student writes an exciting teaser about the story like those found on the back of book jackets.

Let them write a journal entry from one of the character's viewpoints or a travel brochure describing a place they read about.
Updated: Another great idea is to have your child write a narration to the tune of the current folksong you are working on together or retell the passage to a younger sibling in a way that she will understand and enjoy it.

Some creative narrations are what I consider time-wasters. Try to avoid those that do not require adequate feedback from the day's reading passage. For example, an obituary should include a tribute to the person, not just a few facts- date of birth, death and parent's names, etc…

Young children can also do creative narrations, but in oral form. I use the "Narration Jar" that is popular among CM enthusiasts. A different child each time gets to pick from the folded pieces of paper that I have placed in a large jar decorated with colored glue. (I usually let them pick from two choices.) Each folded paper has a creative narration on it such as:

-make a Playmobil scene
-paper dolls production
-puppet show
-make six questions (not yes or no) about the passage and siblings answer)
-do a skit
-draw a filmstrip (on the dry erase board with stick figures and describe each scene)

Make sure that the children narrate aloud while they play. I set a timer and only allow 5 or10 minutes prep time.

I think it is important to remember that our children's time is limited. A true CM education is based mostly upon living books with few curriculum additives. The bulk of a child's morning should be spent listening and reading rich literature. If my children are spending more time giving feedback from the books they are reading than actually reading the living books, I feel my schedule is out of whack and I have to adjust. Creative narrations should be timed and kept short if you want to achieve this goal. My older kids shoot for 20 minutes and 30 minutes is the absolute maximum allowed for a written narration. They are not writing projects requiring much time and thought, but rather an enjoyable means of giving immediate, brief feedback about a passage recently read.

one step at a time...


  1. Dear Lynda,
    Thank you for being such a wonderful mentor!
    I was looking through your archives on habit training.
    Such inspiration!

  2. Betty28.3.07

    Hi Linda,

    This is great! I think my oldest daughter, especially will enjoy narrating in this way more often.

    I have a question! My dd is reading through George Washington's world and really struggling with her narrating. I usually have her read about 13 pages which can include up to 4 different people in history. She feels there is too much information to narrate. What I had her do today is to stop after each chapter, write the name of the historical character and 1-2 sentences about him/her. She is to have her book closed and do this from memory, ideally, but I think she has opened her book back up and then it becomes almost a list of dates and facts. Any ideas?

    THanks again!!

  3. I just stumbled upon your website -- fantastic! You have just given me some great ideas for narrations with my kids. Thanks!

  4. lindafay,

    Thanks for sharing your creative narration ideas. There are some ideas that I haven't used before and I will make a note to give them a try.

    Great entry as usual.
    Harmony Art Mom

  5. Victoria6.3.12

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you for this post! You need to put all this into an ebook. I've bought many Charlotte Mason books but your sites have brought it altogether for me. You truely have a gift for conveying the lofty ideas of Miss Mason!