Friday, April 23, 2010

The Art of Narration

"One of the reasons Charlotte Mason's work is enjoying a renaissance among modern home educators is that she made children's desire to tell what they know one of the building blocks of her philosophy of education. Unlike other educators of her day, Charlotte believed strongly that this "amazing gift with which children are born should not lie fallow in their education." Recognising that narration (retelling what has just been read) is the best and most natural way for a young child to organize and demonstrate the knowledge he gains from books, she incorporated this natural gift into her school lessons and correspondence courses.
..... Since knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, she felt children should tell back, after a single reading, what they had just heard. She called this process narration.
...... When children relate back a literary passage of a living book in their own words, they follow a train of thought. They pick up the "whys and hows" within the stories in science, history, and other studies. In their knowledge of it they find delight." A Charlotte Mason Companion.

I re-read this passage recently and thought "Yes! I need to do more of this." So, we have.

Saraya does so much writing as part of her literacy lessons, handwriting pages, science, and her own creative work. Rather than giving her more written work on top of all this, we are leaning towards narration, particularly for her history studies. It is wonderful. I mean, I cannot stress highly enough how much a child can share verbally - when they are not inhibited by thinking about the processes of writing, spelling and punctuation as they think, and so much more information comes forth!

Here is an example. Yesterday we learnt about William Dampier, one of the early English explorers who voyaged to Australia (then New Holland) before Captain Cook's arrival. We could have done a question / answer type worksheet, a fill in the blanks or a multiple choice. That would have shown me some of what Saraya had learnt from our reading. Instead, she narrated - told me back in her own words - what she had taken in. I am amazed at her comprehension and ability to express her understanding. I write as she narrates. This is what she came out with yesterday:

"William Dampier came from England and sailed around the western coast
of New Holland. he thought the land was dull and dry and uesless.
He made two voyages to New Holland from England.
His ships were the Cygnet and the Roebuck. (she did glance at the book for these names :))
He saw some strange flowers and now they are called Dampiera flowers.

Several of his men got a disease called scurvy.
Then WIlliam Dampier set sail for Timor to see if he could find any water.
On the way back to England, the boat started to leak really badly.
He was rescued by a passing ship and he and all his men were taken to England.
He told the king and all the people in England that it was useless and not a good country."

Wow! If I had passed her a notebook and pencil and asked her to write what she remembered, I think she would have produced a quarter of what she narrated to me. Verbal language flows much more quickly for early writers than written language, and I think it's important to give young children the opportunity to do this often. It helps cement knowledge for them, and of course shows us as educators what they understood of our teaching!

You could do this in any subject area - science, history, even chapters from read-aloud time. We are really enjoying adding the art of narration to our homeschool.


Laura said...

Oh, Saminda! I love it!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! This was one of my favourite things growing up- and I didn't even think of it as "learning". I loved telling my mother what she'd read, or what I'd heard, or read.... I'm so happy that you're doing this!
Trust me, the kids will love this, and when they're all grown, it will be lovely memories, as well as something that helps them. (The more we practice telling things we've heard/read, the better we are at remembering accurately!)
Yay for you and the kids!!!!!

Sandra said...

Awesome! Rowan is learning about Australian exploration as well and all the things he told me about William Dampier last night were very interesting. Much more detailed and extensive than I would have thought for his age. It's wonderful to see.

...they call me mommy... said...

That is so neat, Saminda!!! WOW! :) Annie is beginning to really get into narration...she gets easily frustrated at questions like, "So, what happened?" so I usually have her draw what happened or ask her "Tell me 4 interesting things" This seems to work for now. She isn't fully reading so we don't do written narrations yet.

Great job! :)

Saminda said...

Laura, I so appreciate your feedback as a homeschool graduate - your encouragement is so appreciated!!!!


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