The past few weeks we’ve been discussing Charlotte Mason methods for assessing what our children remember. Last time we looked briefly at narration.

Now, those of you who have already read it, no peeking. What do you recall about narration? No, you don’t have to remember word-for-word each point that was presented. Just try to draw that memory from last time back out of your mind for a moment. What can you remember? (By the way, I hope you are getting in the habit of mentally narrating what you read.)

You already know that requiring an immediate narration after one reading of a passage will help you assess your child’s attention and short-term memory. But what about after that? How do you know whether she still remembers?

Intermediate Memory

The Charlotte Mason method for evaluating intermediate memory is a pre-reading review. “Before the reading for the day begins, the teacher should talk a little (and get the children to talk) about the last lesson . . . ” (Vol. 1, p. 232).

Again, don’t make this review a guessing game or a pop quiz on facts. Keep your questions open-ended, and invite your child to tell what she recalls about last time’s story. (Yes, those of you who are awake, we did a pre-reading review at the beginning of this post.)

Don’t be afraid to state the story’s subject or to share something that you recall first. This pre-reading review should be an enjoyable interchange. True, you are assessing what your child remembers, but you should also be building expectation for today’s story.

For Charlotte also explained that the teacher should close the short review “. . . with a few words about what is to be read, in order that the children may be animated by expectation” (Vol. 1, pp. 232, 233).

Another Benefit of Pre-reading Review

You see, another benefit of pre-reading review is helping our children make connections. As we read consecutively through a good book, we want to help our children form those mental connections that make long-term memory possible.

Charlotte said, “Let every lesson gain the child’s entire attention, and let each new lesson be so interlaced with the last that the one must recall the other; that again, recalls the one before it, and so on to the beginning” (Vol. 1, p. 158).

For example, if you were reading through Famous Men of Greece and had read the chapter about Philip of Macedonia last time, you might ask the children what they remember about Philip. After hearing their comments and sharing any recollections of your own, you could make a short introduction something like this: “Today we’re going to read about Philip’s son who became a very famous person in history.”

It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Simply show how today’s reading can be connected to last time’s reading (Philip’s son) and give a little incentive to listen carefully as today’s reading begins (“I wonder what he became famous for?”).

Keys to Pre-reading Review

Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of Charlotte’s pre-reading review method. Here are some key points to remember. (Of course, if you were here, I would ask you to narrate instead.)

  1. Before continuing a story, invite your child to talk a little about what happened in last time’s reading.
  2. Add your own recollections and keep this interchange enjoyable.
  3. Share a few words about what is to be read today to build expectation and to help form mental connections for long-term memory.
  4. Keep this pre-reading review short. Notice that Charlotte said “talk a little” and “a few words.”
  5. One more thing: Reviews are to help the child form mental connections within the same book. Don’t try to force a connection between two unrelated books.

Now you know how to assess what your child remembers in the short term and the intermediate stage. Next time we’ll look at the Charlotte Mason method for assessing long-term memory.