As I look at the sample of the “Typical Schedule” here on SCM, I see that copy work is for grades 1-3 and then grades 4 and up include dictation. Is this right? I’m wondering where written narration is suppose to come in to play. The reason I ask this is because unfortunatly I have not done much of this with my (almost) 7th grader. He loves to do Spelling Wisdom for dictation and copywork out of his readers – but really struggles with written narration. He can go on and on when giving me an oral narration – details and all but when it comes to writing it down – he freezes. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.
Also, on a previous post Sonya mentioned not doing any formal writing program until our dc have been doing written narration for some time. Do you suggest that I hold off on doing any other writing program with my son until he can confidently write out his narrations? He is going on 13 – so I feel like he’s late in the game with this.
I hope this all makes sense and again I do appreciate you answering my 101 questions in a month. 🙂
Lots of Thanks!
Heather, I suspect that a lot of us have had this problem! Those boys and writing <sigh> LOL
OK. It’s very possible that my particular reluctant writer is not necessarily typical. But I do know that with him (he’s 14 1/2 now, and we’ve been working on this forever!) nothing at all would work until he gained some ability with written narration. I would panic every second year or so, sure I’d ruined him by not doing (or at least not SUCCESSFULLY doing) a writing program, so we’d try a new one—he’d hate it—I’d finally give up and promise to stick with CM methods—another year would go by and I’d STILL be getting four-word written narrations, so I’d panic, pick another program, repeat above . . . LOL
I could give you quite a list of things we’ve tried. 🙂
But we got nowhere until I took the time to really nurture written narration. Now, written narration is going to be much shorter, and it is going to take time to develop–but then, in my experience, things began happening quickly. My son’s ability has really improved over the last two years.
Some things to think about—can he type? My son does MUCH BETTER and much longer narrations when he types them.
Try having him write at first only a PART and then orally narrate a part
Try giving him some direction to begin a written narration with–instead of “Narrate” ask “What happened to “X” in this chapter?” or “What was your favorite part of this chapter” or some other question that gives him a place to begin–my son often “froze” just because he did not know where to start, but if he had a starting place, he could write the rest.
Try initially choosing a book that he really likes to work on the written narrations with–you can extend to his other books later, once you’ve broken the ice. The ice broke for me when I gave my son Fabre’s Storybook of Science, and a boy who would give me two sentence fragments of 9 total words in a written narration on his literature book, would suddenly give me two PAGES of narration on the habits of ants (Really–I still have that ant narration, it was the longest thing he’d ever written at that point!) Choose something he really enjoys.
Also, when we began written narration, I would allow my son to use “notes” of a sort to help him–he could write down a name, or a place, or a couple of words to help him remember something and to help him spell something so he didn’t keep writing “This guy did this” because he couldn’t remember how to spell the name.
I myself would hold off on a program until you get over this “narration hump” When he can do a couple written narrations a week of at least a paragraph or two, then is a good time to decide if you would like to add to his “skill set” and then you, too, can have sons who email you long essays on why they ought to have a cell phone. 🙂
I’ll try and see if any other tidbits surface, but these were all things we tried and found effective with Pencil-Allergic Boy. 🙂 (Odd, my third son writes BOOKS–on his OWN–at age 8. I wonder sometimes if they are really related, lol)
Try not to worry about the age, but just concentrate on helping him do THIS one thing. My son was 12 before we really felt he had written narrations down. He chose a program to try this past year himself, then, and has really thrived on it. (If you are curious, it is Apologia’s Jump In, and he loves it) But he wouldn’t have been successful with it, I don’t think, until he got the narration thing down.
One of these days I’m going to write a book on trying to persuade boys to write. Not on how TO do it, but on how NOT to do it, because I’ve covered that area so much better. 🙂 The kids tease me about needing therapy in future years to recover from the Duckling Story Incident and other writing missteps. 🙂
My biggest thing is not that my oldest doesn’t want to write. It is that his writing is so off grammatically that it is hard to read.
I have tried to talk to him about reading it out loud to himself so he can hear what he writes but obviously when he does that he reads it as if he were telling me the narration rather than reading word for word what he wrote. Then when I read it back to him he of course sees the errors.
Is this just a matter of not taking his time or do we need to really buckle down on a grammar program?
Thank you so much for your reply. Its good to know that my ds is not the only boy who is Pencil-Allergic. 🙂 I like your suggestions and will most definatly implement them inorder to help him along with writing (or typing) his narrations. Do you recommend starting out with 2 written narrations a week then? How about dictation or copywork? Should he just stop doing copywork inplace of the written narrations? Also, should he do dictation as well as written narration? If so, should he do them the same day or alternate days? What would you say would be a typical CM day/week for writing in the life of a 13 year old (7th grade) boy? I know…so many questions. I do appreciate your wisdom and experience in all of this.
With a reluctant writer, I’d just do one writing-intensive thing a day. So, for example, I might have a written narration on Monday, do a dictation on Tuesday, maybe a copywork or another written narration on Wednesday, dictation on Thursday, copywork on Friday. I’d start with one narration and once I was getting at least a reasonable paragraph, I’d add in a second one. That seemed to work fairly well. I always worry because many moms seem to continue copywork longer than we do, but it seems to me that a time comes when dictation and narration are just more valuable, and there is only so much time. So that is how we have done it. My oldest really doesn’t do copywork anymore, and he’s convinced me to cut down to one dictation, and then he does a written narration a day; the next son, who is 12, is still doing copywork once or twice a week, dictation twice, narrations once or twice. That seems to work for us until the written narrations are coming easier.
Shanna, how old is your son? Has he had any grammar instruction at all? One thing that seems to take a while at first is actually APPLYING the grammar–it can be very hard to remember to do the “right stuff” when you are struggling a little with the writing. A couple of things that MIGHT help: Try having him type his narrations after he writes them. The errors may “jump out” at him then. OR if that doesn’t help, take a narration and tuck it away for a week or two. THEN pull it out and go over it, using a few basic writing principles. Don’t work on all of them at once! Perhaps just work on one or two things–eliminating sentence fragments, for instance, and subject/verb agreement. When he is doing better at those things, add a couple more–use fewer passive verbs, for instance, and vary sentence lengths. Just a thing or two at a time–and then that is all you really change on the narrations when you “doctor” them up. You can return to them later once the first few principles have been internalized, and address a few more issues if you want. If, however, he is younger than 10 and still struggling to write, just maybe help him by reading them back and letting him fix things then. Keep it low-key.
Does that help?
He is 13 and has had very little grammar instruction. I am wanting to get AG for him this year. I do not have enough grammar knowledge to be able to walk him through all the things he needs to make his narrations better. I loathed grammar as a child even though now I actually enjoy it and look forward to learning more about it and how it all comes together.
Thank for the help.Betty DickersonParticipant
just wanted to say that this discussion was so helpful to me. The simpler we keep things, the better. The simplest things, like written narration, are so rich and bear fruit that writing programs can’t or won’t. This is exciting. My 10yr old boys do not enjoy writing. I’m going to try to work on starting written narrations and typing with them this year. Thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks for this discussion. My 10yr old ds hated to write until this year. I would ask him to write a narration of the story or just something that interested him in the story and he had no idea where to start…kind of like Michelle said above. However, when I watched the Institute for Excellence in Writing videos my whole world started to make more sense. He [the guy who teaches us how to teach our kiddos] actually does a whole lot of talking about why boys hate writing and how to help them. My favorite part is that my ds reads a paragraph and has to take “notes” or three words from each sentence. Then, he stands up in front of me or the whole family and gives a “speech” or a narration of each sentence in the paragraph, reframing it in his own words. Then I have him sit down and write the sentences he just stated. He loves this because now he knows exactly what he wants to write and where to start. I don’t know if anyone else out there has had success with this method, but it has been a fabulous experience for us. And the best part… he’s writing things that astound me, instead of three word sentences. And he doesn’t get upset about writing anymore.
Thank you for writing this. I have IEW and have considered watching it and using it to help out with my children’s writing efforts. My understanding is that it is a fun way to work on writing. I would only be using it with my older two who are 13 and 10. My younger ones are not ready and are still working on perfecting their oral narrations.
We have contemplated using IEW for our oldest son. We have some of the DVDs and did a bit of it a couple of years ago. It seemed to work well but that is when I started getting into CM and was afraid that it didn’t follow suit.
I have been thinking about getting the DVD’s back off the shelf. I’m just not sure if I should start using it “before” he has mastered written narrations. What do you (or anyone else here) think? Will IEW help him master his written narrations? Thanks for sharing any experience you have with this.
You mentioned that you tried many different writing programs with your son. Did you try IEW? Just curious if you did, how it worked for him.
Oh Michelle I’m so sorry! I got your name mixed up with Cindy. 🙂 Please forgive me, dear friend. Did you try IEW with your son?
LOL, you can confuse me with Cindy any time you like, she is terrific company to get “mixed up with” 🙂 My next-youngest sister’s name is Cindy, and my mom mixed the two of us up a lot, so I’ve been called “Cindy” before, even! LOL
No, I’ve never tried IEW itself. I looked into it several times but couldn’t shake a feeling that it was really a curriculum to train one to write exactly like Andrew Pudewa, and he seems like a nice enough guy, but something in me rebelled at the formulaic-type tone of it. Also the expense was a deterrent for me. I know a lot of people who are very, very happy with it, however. And I have a good friend encouraging me to try the “Teaching the Classics” seminars at IEW. But I never did dive in and try it. Sorry!
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