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    CM-ing the Progym: Teaching the Narrative Stage

    March 3, 2014 by Brandy Vencel
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    Today, we’re going to talk about how I used the Narrative Stage curriculum that I purchased. Just as I did in the Fable Stage, I did not follow the curriculum exactly, but rather used what it taught me and then adjusted it to fit more of a CM approach.

    We spent one 12-week term on the Fable Stage. I cannot say whether that would be enough, or even too much, for another student. Each student is different. My goal for both stages was for my student to “get” the variations. Not to master them or perfect them, but to add them to the list of writing assignments that he understood and could do. I knew he’d get plenty of practice on them later.

    So, as I was saying, after a single term, we moved on to Narrative Stage.

    I approached this in a manner very similar to before. Here is my five-day plan:

    • Day One: Read aloud, followed by oral narration and grand conversation.
    • Day Two: Write it shorter. If you recall, this is the variation in which he works with the original, crossing out all unnecessary words, and then copies what is left into his notebook. Selby sometimes calls this reductio.
    • Day Three: Outline the reading. I had previously introduced the concept of boxing his outline, and that is how he did it.
    • Day Four: Choose a variation.
      • Variation 1: Write it longer. This is done in the same way it was done with fable stage, but with a narrative selection.
      • Variation 2: Change the point of view. Write it from the perspective of a character in the story.
      • Variation 3: Invert the sequence. I allowed the events to be written in any order, and not just end to beginning, as long as it made logical sense.
      • Variation 4: Write it as a poem. I added this because CM’s students often wrote their narrations as poetry. I never required this variation. I simply told him that it was available to him, if he felt like writing his narration in verse.
    • Day Five: Edit and final draft.
    One thing that stuck out to me about narrative stage is that students do not do the variation where they rewrite the basic plot, but with different characters and setting. I assume this is because narrative stage tends to deal with real, historical events.

    My Regrets: What I’d do Differently

    I already mentioned in my Fable Stage post that I would cut the outlining. I still stand by that.
    In the curriculum, there is a list of nine component questions that should be asked of a narrative. I chose to completely ignore these questions. While I think that doing it each time would have been overkill, I wish I would have tried bringing some of the questions into our grand conversation time on the first day, to see how he would answer them. If you were to ask me if these questions were necessary or helpful, I couldn’t answer the question because I never tried them.
    It is true it is not consistent with CM to pepper our students with questions, but I wish I would have tried a couple times, even if it was just as an experiment.

    Did I Use Selby’s Reading Assignments?

    Because I knew I was likely not going to make it through the entire curriculum, I skipped around a lot. The assignments do not really seem to build upon each other. They all ask the student to do basically the same thing, just using a different story. So I decided to pick stories that I really wanted my student to know. This meant I chose a lot of the Bible passages.
    I will be honest and say that the number one reason I am glad I bought the curriculum {when it comes to Narrative Stage} is that I would have had no clue what selections to use for these assignments.

    Possibly, This Could be Done In Two or Three Days

    If, for example, you did not have a variation that you wanted your student to work on each week, the way I needed my long-winded child to work on writing it shorter, and if you dropped outlining…then you could possibly cram each lesson into two or three days instead of five.
    I don’t know if that would be better or worse, and it likely depends upon the student, but it is something that struck me as I’ve been looking back.
    Theoretically, a two-day lesson might consist of a day of reading followed by a variation and then a day of editing and writing a final draft, while a three day lesson might split that first day up and make sure that the initial reading is followed by oral narration and grand conversion, with a second day of writing a variation, and a third day of working on the final draft.
    Either way, I’m not sure that five days is necessary, even though that is what I did at the time.

    Coming Soon

    Next week, I’ll post some examples of early narrative variations. I can’t remember if he ever did poetry, but I’ll post it if he did.
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