The Simplest Way (Narration Q & A, part 4)

I like simple.

Well, let me amend that statement.

I like simple as long as it’s effective.

As we continue our series on narration questions and answers, let’s look at a simple description Charlotte gave for using narration effectively. This one statement can answer several of your questions.

Here’s her statement:

“The simplest way of dealing with a paragraph or a chapter is to require the child to narrate its contents after a single attentive reading” (Vol. 3, p. 179).

A Paragraph or a Chapter

First, we should require the child to narrate “a paragraph or a chapter.” Well, which is it?

Narration Question #4: Should we require narration of the entire passage/chapter/story read? Or, should we break it down into pieces if it’s longer?

The answer is one that we all know and love: it depends. (Isn’t that your favorite answer?) It depends on how experienced the student is at narrating. With beginners, you will need to start short and ask for a narration after a single paragraph.

As the student gains confidence and proficiency, you can gradually nudge out the length of the reading before asking for a narration. If your student is doing well, try reading two or three paragraphs at a time and see how he does.

Be content to move slowly, securing the ground underneath your feet. Eventually you will be able to read an entire chapter before the narration is given, but don’t sacrifice true knowledge on the altar of speed.

And a related question:

Narration Question #5: If we have a child who is supposed to be reading 10 pages but can’t keep up with that much information to narrate, how do we handle narration?

You might want to check the book to make sure it is one that can be narrated easily. Some books just don’t lend themselves well to narrating and should be culled from the reading list. If you are confident that the book is not the issue, try breaking the passage into shorter sections and working through it that way. You may not keep up with your originally-intended schedule, but which is more important: that you check off the book on a specific date or that your child really knows the ideas in that book and still enjoys learning? Keep your eyes on the real goal and teach the child.

After a Single Attentive Reading

The rest of Charlotte’s simple statement addresses this question:

Narration Question #6: My question is that even though we have been doing narration for years, some of my kids will consistently automatically stop listening when I read to them and have no idea what the reading, book, story, etc was even about. Lately I have been using audiobooks and even though they do the same thing, I replay them. I know this goes against CM habit training but we’ve tried the other way for years. I guess I’m asking if there’s a reason I should NOT do this?

You’re right, it’s a habit issue. Habits are formed by repetition. The more often the children pay attention the first time the passage is read, the more that will become a habit. The more they don’t listen until the second or third time the passage is read, the more that action will become a habit. It’s all about which habit you want to cultivate. Your choice.

Now, there are some tips and techniques you can use to encourage them to listen the first time, to help them be better prepared to narrate after a single attentive reading—in other words, to set them up for success. We’ll share some of those ideas next week.