Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    On Group Narration

    August 13, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    Even though I have my children in separate years of Ambleside Online {next Monday we’ll begin Year Six, Year Three, and Year One}, they still have opportunities to narrate as a group. For example, there are many narrations taking place during our morning Circle Time. They narrate their Bible readings and the various books that we read during that time. In addition, at our CM Co-op, my older son participates in Plutarch lessons {the other children aren’t yet enough for them}, and that is a group narration context as well.

    I have come to think that group narration is an important component of a good education. I’m not saying that you’re not giving your child a good education if you can’t or don’t do this, only that I’ve seen a lot of benefits from it.

    Let me explain.

    Do you remember what Miss Mason said about atmosphere?

    We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby’s needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges.

    Group narration has some atmospheric benefits. The child who doesn’t want to speak in front of others? He has to learn to speak in front of others. If this takes place in a co-op setting, he might have to speak in front of children he hardly knows {at least at the beginning of the year}. The child who doesn’t want to stop talking, who dominates conversations? He has to learn to wait his turn and let others speak instead. Both are being stretched and formed by the process.

    Last year, I taught Plutarch for our co-op, and during that time I had to learn how to efficiently manage group narration for nine boys between the ages of 9 and 12.



    After playing around with a lot of ideas that I won’t go into here, I settled on dice. A normal die works well for groups of six children or less, but there are ways to do it with more. Or one could purchase a die with more faces. I’ve considered doing just that!

    During our morning Circle Time, I only have three narrators. O-Age-Four has not yet reached the narration age of six. So each child is assigned two numbers on the die.

    If a child gets stuck, I roll the die again and a new person begins where that child left off. Sometimes I tell a child to “stop!” and then I quickly roll and have someone else start, just to keep them on their toes. I generally have a no-repeat rule, meaning that if a child narrated the last reading, he doesn’t narrate the next reading as well, but that is an unspoken rule, and I break it just often enough to make sure that no once becomes lazy on attention right after they narrate.

    Do I ever ask for volunteers instead? Well, yes, especially when we are starting off the year. In my Plutarch class, I will also ask those who I know are experienced at narrating something so difficult when we begin the year. No sense in embarrassing someone on the first day.

    Another thing I’ve learned is that it is okay to roll the die and get an “Uh, I don’t know!” response. That boy who wasn’t paying attention? Being called on and found unable to give an answer? Having his friend answer in his place? This sort of natural consequence motivates a boy, I’ve found.

    I haven’t taught Plutarch to girls yet, so I can’t speak to that, but when boys start telling each other to pay attention, that’s possibly more important than their Plutarch.

    So all of this to say, if you have the opportunity for group narration, I think you should do it. I think it is a great benefit. And if you are the teacher, by all means use dice.

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Helping Your Children Become More Independent: Start from the Very Beginning | Afterthoughts November 7, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    […] So. What does a Year One student get out, on an average day? A pencil, an eraser, a clipboard (with spreadsheet and copywork and math sheets all attached behind), wrap-ups for math memory practice, and two or three books. One of the girls is also responsible to bring a die for group narration. […]

  • Reply Emily September 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    I found this article while looking for information on how to begin teaching narration skills to kids in a group setting and I’m glad to have read this. Thank you!!

  • Reply Queen of Carrots August 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I have always done group narration, because of having two in one year, but I have always feared I am not doing it “right.” I tried the dice, but found our narrations were dissolving into arguments over whether one person was getting an unfair proportion. (Deux, especially, is obsessed with equity. I have tried to explain to him that the entire universe is not equations, but he keeps hoping. Algebra is going to be like manna from heaven to him.)

    So we went to turns, with some variations. (They still seemed to be giving attention and able to fill in for the other.) Still, I feel like I could improve. Now this year they will be doing much more of their reading independently and I am not sure if I should try to still do group narrations or what. I do love the way it leads in naturally to more discussion.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Your description of your son made me laugh. 🙂

      Yes to what you said about discussion! One of my struggles with having such an age gap between my oldest and second child (3 years) was that group narration just couldn’t happen for YEARS. Co-op was like a dream!

      Getting on to independent work is important, I know, but keeping at least *some* things for group narration is priceless, in my opinion. 🙂

    Leave a Reply