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    CM-ing the Progym: Examples of Daily Student Work

    March 31, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

    Today is the final installment of this series. I want to show you what a delight the variations can be for the purposes of daily narration. Once a child is expert at narrating, it can get a little dull to just retell the story, as is. But to do a variation of it? There is quite a bit of fun in that!

    I’m not going to quote the whole thing, but today’s narration from my son {age 11} was from The Story of the Romans. It says, “write it from the perspective of Romulus,” and after that it says, “Day 1 in Hades.” The narration begins, “Today was a bad day.”

    Oh, how I laughed.

    This is so much more fun than regular narration, even though we still do plenty of that, of course.

    The “perspective of” variation provides the most entertainment mileage, I think. I remember the day he wrote a variation from the perspective of Churchill’s favorite goldfish {Churchill really did have an affection for a fish}. He narrated a reading from Augustus Caesar’s World from the perspective of…a door!

    Here. I’ll show you that one:

    I hear two people coming up the twisty dusty stair.

    Finally I caught a glimpse of them. One was tall and brown, and strong the other had a thoughtfull look upon his face and was slender and white.

    I guess they wanted to see their future but then why would the latter be so thoughtfull. Mabey he thought it would not be wise to do so because it might be discouraging, but he came right up to me with his friend and turned my nose {which already hurt dreadfully; he gave no thought to my feelings}, and went inside.

    I mean, yes, apparently my child cannot spell the word thoughtful {to say nothing of maybe}, but still…he really got inside that door’s head, you know?

    He he.

    And yes, the narrations usually have more detail than that one, which was really all about getting inside the complex thinking a door may or may not have.

    I’m flipping through his notebook now.

    I see a diary entry from Archimedes explaining why he became a mathematician. I see the theory of evolution, written backwards, from present day to its supposed beginning. I see a newspaper article reporting on the arrival of the Magi to Bethlehem {in Ben-Hur}. Marie Curie made a surprise appearance, and we’re not sure why she was there, but the reporter did ask her opinion on what had taken place. A lengthy chapter from The White Company was reduced to two simple paragraphs. A dialog from Ben-Hur was changed into a narrative. Five questions were asked about a chapter in The Sea Around Us…and then he added six “bonus” questions!

    I could go on and on — he has filled many pages with variations. And you know what? Every. single. day. his writing is a little better. As the weeks go by, it gets more interesting to read. It gets a little more creative, and a little more thoughtful.

    I look back on the beginning, when he couldn’t wrap his mind around the tone of a newspaper article, or when he couldn’t figure out how to really get inside the head of a character so that he could write from its perspective and have it be believable — and now he’s really getting it.

    He is learning to take delight in writing, and to enjoy having others taking delight in his writing.

    We could have gone on to further stages of the progym — and I believe we will eventually. But there has been great value in spending a year perfecting these variations in daily writing, using regular lessons as the source material. I highly suggest it!

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  • Reply Fiona September 23, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Hi Brandy. I’ve just read through this series of posts. Thank you. It reminds me of a grid of tasks that my children sometimes enjoy choosing writing tasks from – it’s for book reviews for mainstream school, but could be used differently – combines multiple intelligences with Bloom’s taxonomy.

    But I am really commenting because I have a more practical question for you. You said above that you are flipping through your child’s notebook and reading his work. Do you have your child write drafts on paper and just copy a chosen final draft into a notebook? Or does he have one notebook for drafts, final copy and all? Or perhaps by notebook you are referring to what I would call a folder or a binder?

  • Reply Patty July 20, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    How much time does your child spend on writing on a daily basis. Also do some of the variations take more than one day?

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