So far, we’ve talked about accomplishing goals from Charlotte’s Formidable List of Attainments within the context of Circle Time as well as prioritizing reading lessons. Today, I’m going to talk about something that I have done with all of my children before starting AmblesideOnline, and that is preparing for narration.
What is Narration?
Narration is a skill that is imperative for a true Charlotte Mason-style of education. Narration takes the place of composition in the early years. It is simply having the child retell what he has heard or read. In Charlotte’s Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six, there is mention of the child being able to describe three walks he has taken, or tell stories about his pets. I would consider this an early form of narration, where the child is retelling an experience in real life.
Preparing to Narrate
In Year One, I required my oldest to narrate every assigned reading. This was fairly easy for him because he has a naturally great memory. Narration enhanced his strength. With my second child, who is more forgetful, narration will be bolstering a weakness. This is great — I think that a CM education does its biggest favors to weaknesses. But I must admit that I have been nervous off and on about beginning Year One next year. I have wondered if she’d be capable of the narration required.
Now, I think she will be!
At the beginning of the year, I began preparing her for narration during our daily Scripture reading. We read one story from the Old Testament each day, and E. is required to narrate it in its entirety. I decided that, since our Scripture reading is the most important reading of our day, that is where I’d start with A., who was age five at the time. So, I told her that she must remember one thing from the reading each day.
For a long time, remembering one thing was really quite difficult for her. But slowly she trained herself to pay better attention, and was even able to remember more than one thing on occasion. When we started back to lessons after the New Year, I told her that I now wanted her to try and narrate the whole story, as best she could. I had caught her narrating detailed experiences to people repeatedly, so my hunch was that she was ready.
I also told Q. I wanted her to remember two things from the story. She has a memory like her big brother, and so for a while she has also been remembering one thing. But lately she has started just repeating my last sentence, so I now require two things to really get her to flex her mental muscles.
So currently I have Q.-Age-Four remembering two things from the story, and A.-Age-Almost-Six attempting a full narration. Some readings go more smoothly than others for A. Yesterday, for instance, we read about God giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, which is essentially a list, and was much harder for her to remember because there was no plot. But when the stories have a good plot, she is doing almost as well as my seasoned narrator!
I have enjoyed training the girls in narration in this small way, and I think it will pay huge dividends when A. begins Year One next year. With that said, I think I’d be very careful about pushing any part of narration on a child who is simply not ready. Even though this series might sound very academic, it is a very small part of our day (it is not every day, actually), and our main focus around here is play. I am working with the girls on narration at the level that fits them, but if it didn’t fit them at all, I wouldn’t worry about it.
To be honest, when I thought it was going to be too much for A., I considered waiting another year before commencing with Year One. It has only been recently that I’ve decided she’s going to do just fine. I made this my “301” level post because it is a great idea, but not a good fit for all preschoolers.
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