The time has come for your child to perform the Act of Knowing. We’ve discussed the first three steps to a successful narration lesson: pick a good living book, look ahead and behind, and read the passage. Those steps are foundational. Your narration lesson will be less than successful if you skimp on any of them.
But now it is time for the heart of the learning process: your child should retell the passage in his or her own words. Charlotte called this process the Act of Knowing, because you don’t really know something until you actively ponder it and form mental connections with it and make it your own possession. In addition, telling someone what you now know cements it in your mind.
So narration provides a way to encourage the student to dig for his own knowledge, hold him accountable for doing so, plus secure that knowledge in his mind. It’s quite the powerful method!
A few practical tips can make this retelling step flow smoothly. If you have several children together, let them take turns narrating portions of the passage. Make sure no one (not even you) interrupts the person who is narrating. If corrections or clarifications need to be made, wait until that person has finished his narration.
Older children who are experienced at narrating orally can write their narrations. Usually this gradual transition starts around fourth grade or so. Oral narration is a great way to practice organizing and communicating your thoughts. So make sure your children have plenty of practice doing that mental process before you add the extra challenge of putting it on paper.
Sometimes use a different approach to narration in order to keep things fresh. You might have the children draw their favorite scene or act out the story. Those who are writing their narrations could compose a diary entry from one character’s point of view or take the challenge to write the narration in poetry form. There are all kinds of possibilities!
If the passage lends itself to a short discussion, invite comments by posing an open-ended question after the narrations are done. Did you catch that? After the narrations have been given. You want to first give the children an opportunity to share what they noticed. If someone mentions the point you were going to bring up for discussion, all the better!
Encourage the children to talk about their opinions, to explain whether they would have chosen to do the same thing the main character did, to speculate what might happen as a result, to draw character traits from the attitudes and actions they read about. Don’t feel like you must give three points and a poem or preach a sermon after every reading. Simply take advantage of the living ideas that will come naturally in a good book and draw attention to them with tact and kindness.
But watch yourself carefully. Yes, yourself. It will be all too easy to revert to the way you were probably taught by asking direct questions on the content. Don’t do it. Asking direct questions on the content is the best way to squelch your child’s natural curiosity for knowledge. The focus will quickly shift from learning for the joy of learning to Will this be on the test? Don’t let that happen.
By providing your children with successful narration lessons, you will be equipping them to educate themselves for the rest of their lives. They will know how to perform the Act of Knowing and will be able to use that method for their own personal growth into adulthood.
Set your children up for success.
- Pick a good living book.
- Look ahead and behind.
- Read the passage.
- Retell the passage.
- Discuss ideas.
If you would like to read more about the Act of Knowing and the art of narration, these articles may be helpful.
- A series on Assessing What Your Child Learned
- A past CM blog carnival on the Art of Narrating. Lots of links to lots of ideas!
- Using Living Books Effectively
- Charlotte Mason Answers Your Questions about Narration
- Do Not Bury Yourself in the Book