Tips for Narration with Multiple Children

Often when we think about narration, we envision sitting down face to face with one student; and that’s a valid picture, of course. But if you have several students of varying ages, how do you do narration then? Let me give you some ideas.

There are many ways that you can do narration with multiple children. In fact, narration was used in classrooms in many Charlotte Mason schools around the world. That tells us that the method is definitely doable with multiple students. Here are five ideas that you can use in a classroom or in your home. 

Start with the youngest

One idea is to start with the youngest—at least six years old; we don’t require narrations from children younger than six. So start with the youngest and say, “Tell me everything you remember from the reading.” Then work your way down the line, asking, “Do you have anything to add?” “Do you have anything to add?” until you get to the oldest. I don’t recommend you use this one very often. The older ones catch on very quickly: “No, nothing to add. He did a great job!”

So you can do a little tweak on that by starting with the youngest and saying, “Tell me what you remember,” then go down the line and each one needs to tell you something that has not already been said. This requires them to listen to what was already said and think about other details. Now, if you have a lot of students, when you get up to the upper-grade end of the line, everything might have already been told about the story. There might be no other parts to tell. But that’s good, because it encourages the older ones to do more critical thinking. They might tell you how the decision this character made reminds them of one in a different book that they read. Or they might tell you where they think this decision might lead. Or they might tell you a character trait that they noticed in the lead character from a decision he made.

The Popcorn Method

Another way you can go about narration with multiple students is by using what I called The Popcorn Method. Start with one student, let’s say Joey, and have him begin to tell you the story. After Joey has told a portion, stop him and ask, “Who do you want to pick it up from here?” He might select Suzy. “OK, Suzy pick up the story and tell the next part.” After Suzy has told a bit, stop her and ask, “Who do you want to pick it up from here? Oh, it’s going back to Joey. He didn’t see that one coming! Joey pick up the story from there.” And so the narration bounces around like popcorn, and they are never sure who is going to be called on to tell which part of the story.

Split into groups

Another thing you can do is keep the younger ones with you in this room to narrate orally and send the older ones into a different room to write their narrations. Or you can send somebody into another room with an audio recorder to record an oral narration for you to listen to later.

Act it out

And, of course, if the passage lends itself to acting it out, having multiple students can be a great benefit! Let them choose roles and present the story in a short, impromptu play, if they would like to.

For more great ideas and practical answers to questions you might have about narration with several students, check out the books Know and Tell and Your Questions Answered: Narration.