Getting myself comfortable with leading CM-style lessons


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  • kernat

    I have 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th graders this year.  I am combining literature, science/nature, American History, and Canadian History.  I am not sure that is wise, but I really need to streamline.  We started school today, and I feel so shaky without a curriculum to guide me.  My kids are also not used to narrating, nor am I used to asking for narrations.  We read a grand total of 9 pages from two books today on top of a few other things, so we still need to figure out our day. Should we just feel uncomfortable and unnatural, or should we just get used to reading these living books first and then transition into narrations?  My main goal was just to read good books this year.  *Yes, I have read SCM books and other CM books on this, lol.


    We started school today as well.  I have two 8th grade and two 10th grade.  I think we read a grand total of 3 pages today! LOL I didn’t even get to history or family read aloud because I spent time explaining new things for the year and we got hyper focused on their independent work.

    Don’t sweat it. Give yourself grace and time to find your rhythm especially if this is all new to you.  It’s ok to feel shaky and yes, you will feel uncomfortable and natural at first because if it’s new it is not natural yet. Also, if your kids are new to narration, take what they can give for now.  It’s a skill they need to develop.  Focus on what you said you wanted to focus on – reading good books. Practice narrating slowly, as you would learning to ride a bike – go a little at time until you get the hang of it.  Ask for a narration after reading just a few paragraphs. Keep it simple with a prompt of “Tell me anything you remember from what I read.” Start with your youngest or least skilled to enable to contribute and feel successful before your more skilled or older students narrate. Again, take whatever they give for now.  You’ll know when you can probe for more.

    We’re not new to SCM but we’re coming back to it after 4 years in a very structured classical co-op. At the end of day today, after not getting to half of what I had planned for family subjects, I knew it would take a few weeks to find our rhythm with SCM again.  And that’s ok.  We’re all learning together and that makes the journey even sweeter.

    Enjoy spreading the feast and allow them to take in the feast as they can until it all clicks. It will.  You just need time.

    I hope that helps a little. 😊


    I would read a short bit, then say, “Tell me back what I just read,” then read the next short bit, then say, “What happened next?” and so on.  I would start with just a paragraph at a time, maybe an entire page at the most, not a whole chapter.  This does two things: your children only need to pay focused attention for very short periods of time (this may be a new skill for them), and your children only need to tell back a short bit at a time (this is certainly a new skill for them).  Keep your questions simple, especially at first.  And realize their narrations may only be 1 sentence long at first (especially if you are narrating between paragraphs).  When you are done with the reading, you can have more of a “conversation” about the reading – what the children thought/liked/disliked, NOT what you are itching to say 🙂  But I wouldn’t even do that until well into the school year when narration is normal.  To start, I would only read/narrate 10 minutes from any one book at a time, even if that means stopping in the middle of a chapter or an exciting part of the story.  Just make sure you always begin every day’s lesson with a “where did we leave off” type of question.  As the months go by, you can increase slowly up to 20 minutes of reading/narrating at a time.

    Narration will become as easy as breathing – they probably do it already with certain aspects of their life (exciting stories they are reading, exciting things they are doing or saw someone else do), so I would incorporate it right from the start, but keep your expectation low at the beginning (for yourself as well as for them).  If I remember correctly, it only took maybe 1-2 weeks for us to feel comfortable with the whole thing (narrating from maybe 2 books a day).

    That said, I would NOT require narration from literature books – read a full chapter aloud unless it is a long one, then read a half chapter.  We usually read literature books during lunch or dinner time.  But I still always ask “what was the last thing we read” before starting in on a new chapter.  Keep it simple!!!  It will feel normal soon enough, but only if you do the hard thing of being uncomfortable for a short while.  That’s my 2 cents 🙂


    I would just keep going with the narrations, awkward as it may be at first. Keep it light and easy, dont expect too much at first. Just let your kids talk about the reading. Sometimes I start it by doing a narration myself and letting them fill in the gaps and add their own thoughts and ideas. I admit I ask questions as well, but not “detail” questions. Thinking questions like “should he/she have done that,”  “would you have done that” or “how else could that have been handled” or “does this remind you of anything else we have read/watched.” The narration notecards are very helpful if you are reading one of titles that they are available for. I think the main point of narration is to get the thinking juices going, which helps retain information and promote good habits of mind. It doesn’t have to be stiff and formal. You talk to your kids all the time, your current book is just another thing to talk about.


    Thank you all so much!  I tried some of your suggestions today and found them helpful for me.

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