As we have worked our way through the Narration Q & A series over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to group the questions by topic. We have a couple more big topics left to cover, but today I want to touch on two great questions that didn’t quite fit into those larger topics.
Narration Question #56: Is it acceptable for the child to have the book close by as they are writing? My 11-year-old son is always wanting the book beside him, saying that he wants to make sure he spells the names of characters correctly, or to check other spellings. He is a pretty honest child and I have seen no evidence of him copying passages from the book; I just fear the skill/act of narration is not at the same level if he is in any way re-reading passages alongside writing the narration. I have tried writing key character names, places, and such on a whiteboard for him, but he still prefers the book to be at his side.
This situation does present a bit of a conundrum, doesn’t it? On the one hand, we don’t want to put before him any temptation to reread the passage. On the other hand, we want to encourage correct spelling.
What you might do is continue writing key character names and places on the whiteboard for him to refer to and give him a dictionary to look up any other words’ spellings as needed. You might even allow him to create a master list of words that he has looked up throughout the readings in that book and to keep that list handy for reference too. Between the list, the dictionary, and the whiteboard, there would be little need to look back in the book.
You might also keep the balance leaning toward oral narrations. Since he is 11 years old, most of his narrations can still be done orally, with only one or two written per week. An added benefit to oral narrations is that they would eliminate any need for looking in the book for correct spellings, and you would get an idea of what he knows after a single attentive reading.
You can also make sure the pre-reading reviews and end-of-term exams are being done without the book. The pre-reading review is usually oral, and with the end-of-term exams being a review of material he has already covered, he would already have had the opportunity to learn most of those spellings previously.
Narration Question #57: With narration, is there a place for note-taking?
Yes, I think there is a place for note-taking. We want to be very careful that it does not become a crutch to shore up a lack of full attention. Whenever possible, narration after a single attentive reading (or hearing) should be the rule. But some sources of material do not lend themselves well to narration, and our students may encounter those alternate sources more and more as they progress through the upper grades.
Some lectures or textbooks may present information in a way that requires note-taking. For example, if a lecturer compiles a chart on the blackboard, the student will most likely need to copy it in his notes. A chapter in chemistry that presents math equations will probably require some close work with those equations and practice for fluency, not just a one-time narration of the concept. Detailed definitions and other information-packed material may need to be copied and memorized as part of the learning process. So don’t rule out note-taking as a valuable skill, but be careful that it is used only as needed and in addition to narration, not as a substitute.