{Tutorial #2} The Glue that Makes it All Stick Together ... Narrations | NotebookingPages.com
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{Tutorial #2} The Glue that Makes it All Stick Together … Narrations

I am thrilled you are investing time in these tutorials! I know how overwhelming it can be to even THINK about trying one more thing wondering if it’s going to work. Not everything works for everybody. I get that. However, with almost a decade of notebooking under my belt (and umpteen years homeschooling in all), I can tell you that narrations and notebooking have been easy to implement and worth every bit of my time and effort. I pray you find the same is true for you and your family.

Educational Magnifying Glass

Curriculum, Method, or Tool?

Notebooking and narrations can be used with or without curriculum and they are not limited to any particular homeschool or educational method.

Notebooking and narration are your educational tools.

Yes, there are some methods and curricula that specifically make use of these two tools. However, in most cases, narration and notebooking can be used with your current curricula and methodology.

The focus of this tutorial is NARRATION.

Let’s start with a definition.

Definition of Narration

Narration is …
Narration is very simply the telling back of what was just read.

Scenario 1: You read aloud to your children and they tell back what they heard.
Scenario 2: Your children read to themselves and they come tell you what they read.

Narration is as simple as that. However, having tried this skill myself, it is not something most of us would say is so “simply” done (at least with much accuracy and detail and at my age). It is a skill that requires consistent practice. We have been very successful with our narrations and I think it is because we started gently.


Benefit of Narration

Regardless of what we are studying, narrations are a top priority for me. If we do not have time for anything else, we at least do oral narrations from our studies. Narration paves a natural path for kids to become effective oral communicators and writers. After consistent practice, the words (both oral and written) flow for my kids. And no, I do not have any “natural” writers or kids who just liked to write for fun. Narration built these skills within them.

How often do you ask your children to recall a sermon or Sunday School lesson only to get an “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” answer? Due to daily narration practice, my children come away knowing and remembering more from sermons and Sunday School than most adults.

Practiced narration has trained my children …

  • to diligently listen
  • to keep their minds attentive and focused
  • to absorb, digest, and effectively share what they have heard.

Narration is SO worth your investment of time! It takes diligence on your part to consistently lead your children in building these skills. However, if you lead gently and take consistent small steps, you will see your children make great strides in their ability to listen, their ability to communicate verbally, and their ability to write effectively. Be ready to be amazed!

We are trading out our busywork for tools that TRULY build skills and long-term results.


A Peek into Our Family Narration Sessions

Below is a peek into how we have incorporated narrations in our studies.

Bible narration by my daughter Allison, age 7

Pharaoh’s Dream from Genesis 41
(age 7)


Each week, I assign three to five chapters from the Bible for my children to read on their own. They use their own Bibles for this reading. I do the same. Then a few days a week, we come together to do the same reading aloud as a family. Before I read, I ask the children to recount the previous reading just to set the stage and get their mind focused. Then we begin the day’s passage.

My daughter's narration of Golden Calf story.  (Allison, age 12)

The Golden Calf
(age 12)

After reading aloud several paragraphs, I ask the children to do oral narrations. They take turns at each pause to tell back what I just read. We continue in this manner, reading and orally narrating, until we complete the day’s reading. If the reading is particularly full of details, dates, or unfamiliar names, we may jot down some key words, notes, or even an informal outline.

We will also do one or two formal written narrations of the Bible passage(s) each week. (If we are specifically studying Ancient Times for history, we may do more.) I keep the read aloud time short, reading 1-2 chapters in one sitting. Following this pace allows us to give full attention and delight to each reading. In addition to the written narration(s), the children may add other elements to their notebooks … like maps, drawings, timelines, coloring pages, Bible copywork, etc.


Joan of Arc(age12)

Joan of Arc
created with The Notebooking Publisher web-app

For History, we are usually reading from 1-2 books aloud as a family and at least one independent literature book for each child. We use the same process as outlined above with Bible study – orally narrating after small sections of our read aloud books. We may or may not write the same day that we read.

Alex narration discovery America

My son Alex’s narration (age 8) about what European discovered America. In his opinion, it was Leif Ericson, not Columbus.

If the kids do not do a written narration on a day of reading, we might write a short outline or at least some basic notes on the white board. Then, on the day they do write, we review the notes, do some short oral narrations, and then they do their writing (usually without notes). If only writing one narration for the week, I typically let the kids pick a person, event, place, or major theme (or combination of these) for them to focus on for their written narration.

As with Bible, we also add other elements to the notebooks.As mentioned, each child is also independently reading one or more books on his own. For these, I take regular oral narrations. Typically, we do not notebook their independent literature books, except for biographies, unless they are inclined to do so. Several times a year, we may do a mini-notebook literature analysis in lieu of a typical literature study.

Eagles (age 11)

Gavials(age 11)

Gavials (age 11)

Cells notebooking page

Cells (age 15)


Once my children are capable readers, they do most of their science readings on their own. I have a variety of books and curricula available to them … 106 Days of Creation, Considering God’s Creation, the Elementary Apologia series, Elemental Science studies, Jay Wile’s elementary “Science in the …” series, some Answers in Genesis studies, as well as many Usborne, DK, and library books.

We also have nature guides, experiment books/kits, and science videos. Sometimes I guide them through a particular topic or theme and sometimes I read aloud. Mostly, however, I allow them to pick their own topics to study until they reach the 8th/9th grades when we do science more formally with a curriculum like Jay Wile’s high school science books.The kids come to me regularly to share what they are learning (oral narrations) and then add their written narrations, biographical sketches, observations, and other elements (photographs, sketches, vocabulary, lab reports, etc.) to their notebooks at least once a week.


Some Final Thoughts…

I have found oral narrations SO KEY and foundational to the gentle development of writing skills in my children. I am not saying it is necessary to orally narrate every topic your child studies, but I am encouraging you to not neglect it or underestimate its value.

I have found that oral narrations prepare my children for deeper discussions about the topics they study. With my older children, we often have Socratic discussions in lieu of formal oral narrations. These discussions engage them in thinking beyond the facts, so they can express what they think about the study, why they think the way they do, and how the information applies to their worldview.

I have LOTS more to say about narrations, discussions, and writing in later tutorials.
For now, especially if narrations and notebooking are new to your family, I encourage you to take time for oral narrations.


Today’s Homework {Oral Narration Practice}

Before we put anything down on paper, I want you to try oral narration with your children.

Prep Work:

Choose a passage or lesson to read aloud from Bible, history, science, or other subject.

Step-by-Step Narration Practice:

  1. Tell your children to pay close attention because you will be asking them to tell back what you read aloud.
  2. Read aloud 1–2 paragraphs at a time.
  3. Ask a child to tell back what you just read.
    Be encouraging. Refrain from nit-picking their narrations. This is an acquired skill and worth developing at a snail’s pace!
  4. Once he has finished, allow other children to add any quick missed details.
  5. Without hesitation or trying to recap in your own words, move on and read aloud another 1–2 paragraphs.
  6. Ask a different child to make the initial narration and allow other children to add details when he’s finished.
    Keep the atmosphere upbeat and encouraging! They will improve with consistent practice.
  7. Continue this back-n-forth process until the day’s reading for that subject is finished.

After the Narration:

  • Put that subject away and move on to your next activity. Yes, I’m serious. No worksheet, no quiz, no study guide questions.
    We will save our written narration for the next tutorial.
  • Tell your kids how AWESOME they did and let them know you’ll be asking them to recall their narrations again later today.
  • Later, maybe during dinner, ask them to tell back for Dad (or other family members) what they learned today in [the subject you narrated].

Please let me know how it went in the comment box at the bottom of this page!


More Information

Narration Helps

If the idea of narration is new to you, I encourage you to check out the links below. They will give you even deeper insight than what I have provided in this tutorial.

Living Books Resource Lists
I encourage you to choose the very best books for your children — books that draw you in, paint a vivid picture of the history, the story, and/or capture the author’s excitement for the topic he presents. In other words, I recommend choosing living books when possible.


Coming Up in the Next Tutorial

It’s time to get your feet wet with NOTEBOOKING!

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 33 comments
Rose Wright - April 30, 2015

Does your notebooking program work for the younger children who are just learning to read? Notebooking seems to be great for the older kids but my children aren’t writing on their own much yet. I am considering purchasing a lifetime membership but I’m wondering if I should wait a couple years. My children are in 1st grade and preschool. Thank you for the help!

    Robin Lewis - August 10, 2015

    I think you are absolutely right about the oral narration requiring them to pay more attention and it “sticking” better long term when they have to think about it enough to put it into their own words!

      Robin Lewis - August 10, 2015

      sorry- that was supposed to be a new comment!

Debra Reed - April 30, 2015

Hi Rose :)

For the younger kids, I would recommend our Alphabet Copywork Pages, A-Z Topical Pages, and our Basic Lined Pages (or just using regular paper/notebooks). Focus on oral narrations and letting them create (draw or color) a page about what they’ve learned. Occasionally, I would write down their narrations for them to add to their notebooks and to read back to them later. You could also have them copy parts of the written narration for handwriting practice. My preschooler’s notebook consists of coloring pages, pages with stickers of his favorite dinosaurs, pages with cut/paste pictures from various images pulled off the internet/magazines and HE LOVES IT. Typically, we’ll sit down to read or look through a book together (he loves the animal pictures in our Elementary Apologia Books) and then we’ll find a coloring page or pictures to print off of the internet to add to a page. He loves to share his “book” with everyone and tell his own stories about what the pictures mean.

Jinky Goodpaster - May 5, 2015

Thank you for your wonderful insights.We started narrating at the start of our homeschooling (2013).We pulled our 2 children from public school when they were 4th and 5th graders.We loved the idea of narrating and we are enjoying it.I just wish I saw this notebooking pages earlier too. I am thinking of purchasing your lifetime membership but we need to save up for it. Thank you. Keep those tips and tutorials coming please.We are learning a lot.

amvallejo - June 19, 2015

I am relieved after reading this … We have been doing narration all along! Mostly I would quiz my son after reading “free time” books, just to help him with reading comprehension. Now I will incorporate in all subjects!

    Debra Reed - July 31, 2015

    I’m always amazed at just how much narrations help with long term retention and comprehension!

      Candice Porter - August 26, 2015

      Hi, I’m a newbie Homeschooler working with a 6th grader and 5th grader this year. I’m using AIG science this year. We will cover Anatomy, plants, and animals . Would your pages work well with this? In our AIG books (textbook) , but small lessonsike a CM approach, we would have plenty of time to do notebooking. I’m interested in knowing how to work the pages along side our AIG.

RachelNC - July 30, 2015

We got away from narration for awhile, and it really showed in my daughter’s work. Not only did she remember less, she also was less interested in continuing with the books. We started narration again last week when we started our new school year, and I am so thankful we did. She’s not quite as good at it as she had been, but she did know what I was looking for from her, and did a fairly decent job. The best part was that she actually wanted to learn more about what we had read about in our book. (We were reading about The Trail of Tears)
Thank you for all you do to enable us to help our children reach their full potential!

    Debra Reed - July 31, 2015

    Thanks for sharing Rachel! Glad to hear you’ve added this back to your schooling. The key is to stay consistent and disciplined with the narrations. When I get lazy about requiring even an oral narration, that laziness seems to pass right on to the kids.

mardakota - July 31, 2015

I needed this! This is how we’re going to simplify and ENJOY our subjects! Without these tutorials, I would not feel I was doing this “correctly.” Yay for your tutorials!

    Debra Reed - July 31, 2015

    Awesome! Yes, give yourself permission to simplify and enjoy … and in the long run to learn more and remember more!

flwrlady - September 16, 2015

I just started narration with my kids 2 days ago due to this encouraging article. My kids are begging me every day since to play “the listening game”!! I am beyond thrilled! Thank you!

RUBY2 - May 5, 2016

Well, today is our first day of narration and it went well. Yesterday my 11 yr. old daughter looked a lot like the pictures of the children in tutorial one. Today it was a look of are you really asking me to do this? I said it will get better the more we practice. She said ok, I did my best to not to go into #5. She was so relived not to have to do the science work sheets. We had some laughs and good conversations. Thank you for opening this door for us.

fourbygrace - May 30, 2016

I love the Charlotte Mason method and have been incorporating it as much as possible over the 15 years we have been home educating (all boys). Our youngest two are going into the 8th and 10th grades now and I WANT to use this notebooking method of narration in their history lessons at least. They are fine with oral narrations and writing narrations on a laptop but hate to physically write. I make handwriting pages a for them still, just to reassure myself that they CAN write and keep them practicing! If I required them to do written narrations I think I would be dragging them along all year and I don’t know if I have it in me to go through that. They read anything I give them and enjoy even doing extra research on their own when they have questions about what we’re learning. They just do not like to pick up a pen and write. What do you, or others, suggest?

haroula - June 27, 2016

This weeks tutorial is a God send. My child has difficulty retelling a story or give the main idea of a movie or show she saw. I didn’t know how to go about teaching her this skill until now. She going to be in grade 2 in September and i am scared that I kept her behind because I didn’t know how to teach this.

Thank you.

    Abbie - June 30, 2016

    It’s amazing how quickly kids will catch up once we find a great teaching tool! Good luck! ?

Abbie - June 30, 2016

I am so excited to start this! I have six children that I teach and two of them have recently come out of public school with very low comprehension skills. Last year was a struggle! I think narration will be a game changer! Thank you.

rebrich - August 2, 2016

We are new homeschoolers with soon to be 8th grade, 5th grade, and 2nd graders. We use a particular curriculum that is supposed to be done as a one room school house with mom leading the discussion. We tried that last year and it didn’t go very well. This year, I am pairing my 8th grader with my 2nd grader to go through the lessons together. My 10 yo wants to do them on her own. The lessons are all online. I have been searching for a way to hold my 10 yo accountable to what she reads in the lesson, to make sure she’s actually read the whole lesson, and to help her retain more of the lesson. I do not have time or the inclination to create worksheets or quizzes or anything of the sort for the lessons. I’m excited to learn about narration. I think it may be what I have been praying for. But I’m a little confused about how it would actually work with our lessons. The lessons generally take between 30-60 minutes to read through. And then they have assignments of activities and such they need to do to work with or apply the information. How would I incorporate narration and notebooking with this? The tutorial says you stop after every 2-3 paragraphs for narration. How would that work when my daughter is going through a full 30-60 minute lesson? Also, I’m excited to learn more about how to use notebooking. I love the idea, but again, am not sure how to use it with our curriculum. I’m afraid my kids will look at the pages and say “I don’t know what to write!” Thank you for your help. Without these tutorials, I would have just passed this whole thing by because I’m unsure how to do it.

sisterpastor - February 4, 2017

I have 2 older college students, but I have a younger child who is very different from them. I am thinking about doing this with her. But with only one child, what do you do about filling in the blanks of narration details that she missed?

    Debra Reed - February 17, 2017

    It really depends on the situation and what the topic/subject is for the narration. Is it a story? Is it a science concept? Is it an historical event? Set up your expectations before you begin and share these with the child. If reading a story … maybe you’ll want a narration of the overall storyline or maybe details about a particular character, the plot, the climax, the moral, or just their favorite part. If it is a science concept, you might want him to draw a picture/diagram of the concept and tell you 2-3 important facts learned (and perhaps use a certain number of new vocab words). For an historical event, you may want a list of prominent figures, a mini-timeline, and/or what he found most important/interesting about this event. If the child is consistently missing details you deem “important”, I would shorten the amount of material covered and gradually build back up. You could take turn narrating as well if doing this with one child (model what you expect). When reading longer sections of a book together, I sometimes write key names/dates/events/vocab on a whiteboard or have the child write these down and then allow him to use these notes during the narration time. There are no “rules” (at least in my humble opinion) about how to do this right/wrong. If the narrations seem weak to you, you could certainly ask for a specific narration about topics/events they left out or ask leading (Socratic) type questions appropriate for his age. I wouldn’t expect every detail, every topic, etc. with narrations. Start small, make expectations known, set the child up for success. Hope that helps! :)

Natalie Arigo - March 24, 2017

Hi Debra thank you for your tutorials. They have been very helpful as I continue to learn about this learning approach. I was really intrigued by 2 science curriculums you suggested. One was 106 days of creation and the other Considering God’s Creation. My oldest is in 1st grade. Which of the 2 do you recommend more? I was able to look at 106 days of creation and it looked awesome but Considering God’s Creation wouldn’t allow me to get a glimpse of the content. Would I be able to use one year and the other the following year? I think it would be a great resource to use as we begin our note booking journal in science. Thank you!

Bonnie Carroll - April 27, 2017

I just bought your lifetime membership on the sale the other day and I am so thankful for the tutorials, you are a huge blessing!

Kjmorris2 - May 1, 2017

Great blog!! Love this! We use Charlotte Mason and I just recently started narrations.

AmelinaM - May 3, 2017

Even though the kids are in different grades you’ll use the same readings for them to do their narration?

Mindy Waugh - May 4, 2017

I just got your lifetime membership recently. I am intrigued with what not only my sons will learn but myself as well. I wish I had know about your notebooking pages 5 years ago for my daughter. This is exactly what she would have LOVED to do; she is so artistic and creative. She paints all over her walls. Hopefully this new system will encourage the boys to “let go” of their “public school methodology.” They both wanted me to take them out of public school after constant complaining that they couldn’t speak their minds while at school. The teachers punished them when they questioned anything. Why keep a child in a jar?? Let them spread their wings and fly to new heights and soak up all the knowledge out there!!!

Thanks again. Looking forward to the new school year in the fall!

ldunaway16 - May 16, 2017

Hi Debra! I’m new to all of this but I can certainly relate. I’m just like you were….searching and spending looking for the ‘just right’ curriculum or method to make our home schooling better. Phew! I’m exhausted! I am curious about your typical day. What does a typical school day look like for you? Do you notebook in every subject every day? That’s a lot of writing! Also, I wonder if it might lose some effectiveness if it’s overused. I would get bored knowing that every time I read something I’m going to have to narrate and record what I learned. It seems like that routine … reading, oral narration, and notebooking/recording information would get a little monotonous day after day. How do you keep the energy and excitement for learning when using the same method over and over again? How many subjects each day do you notebook? Can you give a snapshot of how you use noteboking in a typical day?

Emily - May 22, 2017

I have a 2d grader and I have a preschooler. I do not know if this will be right for my children. Tell me if this helps your children with writing. I also have a kid with autism will this help him with writing?

Kellie gregorzek - June 27, 2017

Good Morning !! I am a parent of a child with Trisomy 21 and she is a non reader and I would appreciate anything you could recommend. Thank you

swampler - September 29, 2017

Hi. As a lover of Charlotte Mason and someone who enjoys practical things, this is appealing to me. It seems like a nice way to remember and collect narration. I have question though for implementation. In your examples above, the seven year old and eight year old have a lot of writing on the papers. Did they narrate to you orally, then you wrote it and they copied, or, is this their own spelling/grammar, etc.. or is it a mix? I am really wanting to use something like this for my 2nd graders copywork. Any help is appreciated.


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