CURRICULUM, METHOD, OR TOOL?
Narration and notebooking can be used with or without a curriculum.
They are not limited to a particular homeschool or educational method.
I like to think of them as my educational tools.
This part of the series is focused on the tool called NARRATIONS.
What is Narration?
Narration = the telling back (oral or written) of something read or experienced.
Narration Scenario 1:
You read aloud to your children and they tell back what they heard.
Narration Scenario 2:
Your children read to themselves and they come to tell you what they read.
Narration Scenario 3:
After a field trip, your children tell what they experienced and learned.
Narration is really just as simple as that.
However, narration is not so simply performed. Give it a try.
Narration is a skill that requires consistent practice, but a gentle approach:
slow and steady (with a measure of grace) wins the race.
Benefit of Narration
Regardless of the subject, topic, or type of activity, narration is my primary teaching tool. If we do not have time to do anything else, we at least do oral narrations.
Narration paves a natural path for kids to become effective oral communicators and writers. After consistent practice, both oral and written words flow for my kids. And no, I do not have any natural writers or kids who were born loving to write for fun.
Narration helped build these skills.
If the most common response to questions like “What did you learn?” or “What did you read?” are “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember”, then narration will be a great help to your homeschool.
With daily narration practice, my children came away remembering more from Sunday sermons than most adults because they developed the habit of active listening.
Practiced narration trains the student …
- to diligently, actively listen.
- to keep their mind alert, attentive, focused.
- to absorb, digest, and effectively share what they heard or learned.
Narration is SO worth your investment of time! Yes, it takes diligence on your part to build an opportunity for these skills to grow.
- Lead gently.
- Lead slowly.
- Lead consistently.
Do this and your children will make great strides in their abilities
- to listen.
- to communicate verbally.
- to write effectively.
Be ready to be amazed!
We’re trading busywork for tools that build skills and long-term results.
A Peek into Our Family’s Narration Sessions
Below are examples of how I’ve successfully incorporated narration into our week.
I may or may not be following the details below. It depends on how many kids I’m currently schooling, their ages, abilities, family dynamics, etc. This is NOT a prescribed plan for how to lay out your studies or your week. You are the PRO when it comes to your kids. Do what works best for your family.
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.
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 minds focused. Then we begin the day’s passage.
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 keywords, notes, or even an informal outline.
We may do one or two formal written narrations of the Bible passage(s) each week especially if we are studying Ancient Times for history.
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), they add other elements to their notebooks… like maps, drawings, timelines, coloring pages, Bible copywork, etc.
For History, we usually read 1-2 books aloud as a family and one independent literature book for each child (maybe, maybe not).
We use the same process as outlined above with Bible study – orally narrating after sections of our read-aloud books. We may or may not write the same day that we read.
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 whiteboard. 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.
If they are reading a book independently, I will ask for oral narrations a couple of times a week. Typically, we do not notebook their independent literature books unless they are inclined to do so.
I have collected (ahem) a variety of science curricula over the years, but for the most part, they sit on the shelf for reference. I’ve found we prefer to study science and nature-based on our own interests and the season. We make good use of our growing collection of nature guides, experiment books/kits, and Usborne and DK style books.
Sometimes I guide the kids through a particular topic or theme. Sometimes they pick their own topics to study. Regularly throughout the week, they share what they are learning (oral narrations) and then add their written narrations, observations, and other elements (photographs, sketches, vocabulary, lab reports, etc.) to their notebooks.
I like to get outside for a planned nature walk or observation at least once a week. By “planned”, I mean we find something new to add to our nature notebook.
Around the high school years, we might study science more formally with a curriculum like Jay Wile’s high school science books. We incorporate narrations and notebooking with his books as well.
Several of our kids finished their last 2-4 years at the public school or community college, so our experiences at this level are varied.
Oral narration is my favorite, most effective tool for developing thinking and writing skills in my children. It is not necessary to expect oral narrations with every topic your child studies, but I encourage you not to neglect it or underestimate its value.
Consistent use of oral narrations prepares older students for deeper discussions. As children become adept with narratives, add variety and more challenging styles of narration (expository, descriptive, persuasive) and as they transition to high school introduce Socratic discussions. Socratic 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.
It’s a process. Start at the beginning.
No matter what the age, if narration is a new concept for your family… start slowly, start gently, be consistent.
Quick Start Homework
Choose a passage or lesson to read from Bible, history, science, or another subject.
STEP-BY-STEP NARRATION PRACTICE
- Tell your children to pay close attention because you will be asking them to tell back what you read aloud.
- Read aloud 1–2 paragraphs at a time. If starting with young children or a child who lacks the ability to focus, you may need to start with just a sentence or two. Start where they are and build from there.
- 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!
- Once he has finished, allow other children to add any quick missed details. (Or if you have an only child, YOU take turns narrating with him. Let him add details to what you missed.)
- Without hesitation or trying to recap in your own words, move on and read aloud another similarly sized section.
- 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.
- 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 Dad (or other family members) what they learned today in [the subject you narrated].