Topic | Narration and Paying Attention

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  • Ashley

    Hello all.

    I have a narration question for you guys.

    What do I do when my almost 10 year old can’t seem to pay attention or stay focused on paying attention to any readings and is continually unable to remember any important information about what was read?

    Whenever I ask him to narrate the story back to me, he can’t remember anyone’s names or the names of places.

    What am I supposed to do to fix this?

    Am I supposed to reread everything anytime he can’t successfully narrate things back to me? I feel like that would eat up a lot of time.

    Thoughts? Advice?

    Thanks all!!!


    From my understanding Charlotte would not advocate re-reading any material as that would just further encourage the habit of NOT paying attention. It would simply be information the child missed out in.

    One thing to ask yourself would be is the child missing the information that is important to them, or you? Names and dates are less important than ideas and connections.

    some ideas to encourage better narrations:

    – stop more frequently and do a few narrations per lesson

    -scaffold the lesson by doing a short review of what was read last time and what things to look for in this lesson

    – talk with child about the habit of attention… encourage them to give full attention to habit at hand

    -try some other narration methods… draw a picture, act out, follow on map etc.

    -break up readings more through day or week

    -watch child and stop reading before child looses attention

    – evaluate the level of the book for your child


    hope this helps!



    Thank you you so much for you advice and help. I really appreciate it.

    I agree that names and dates are not necessarily important things to drill or focus on. But I guess what frustrates me is that he can’t even tell me who the story is about.

    So he might be able to tell me some information about the story but he doesn’t even know who or what he is actually talking about.

    I typically stick to short stories for the most part and if they do happen to be longer I will stop at certain parts and ask for narrations up to that point.

    He just seems to have an apathetic attitude lately and it’s so frustrating. I don’t know what to implement when he isn’t paying attention.

    I know he needs to work on paying attention, I just don’t know how to go about getting him to do that. He doesn’t seem to care that he isn’t paying attention. And I don’t know what to do to instill that care into him.

    Karen Smith

    Another tip is to write on a piece of paper or a white board a few key words from that day’s reading before you read. Tell your child those words will be in the reading and he is to listen carefully for them. The words will help him focus on the main ideas of the reading and help him when he gives his narration as he now has some “hooks” to “hang” his narration on.

    You may be able to glean some other ideas to help your son with his narrations from our  multi-part article series on narration in our Learning Library.


    For us, it seems that writing key words/names/dates on a whiteboard really helps. And when I ask my girls to narrate more frequently, that really helps, too. Last term we studied The Taming of the Shrew and I used the Lamb retelling. I read just a bit (2 paragraphs, maybe 3) and had them narrate. (Sometimes just one girl, sometimes two, depending on how much action there was). And I repeated that until we were done the section for that day (week – I read it once a week).  So, all totalled, we only read about a page and a half or two pages each week. But the results!!! My girls still remember the characters and the storyline.

    I wish I could discipline myself to do all our together subjects like that!!!


    I think you’ve gotten great advice so far.

    When my kids were younger, one of them just had a hard time listening and knowing anything about what we read. I think it just isn’t her style of learning. She’s better now at 15 yrs old, but it’s still hard for her.

    And one of my other kids needs to be doing something with his hands or even drawing while I read. I’m amazed that he can remember so much when he’s kept his hands busy while listening.

    I was also wondering if your son is just bored with what you’re reading. I hope that doesn’t sound rude, but you mentioned that he doesn’t care that he’s not paying attention. If I’m totally not interested in something someone’s reading to me, it’s really hard to listen. When he gets to pick what you read, is it easier for him to remember? Does he have something he loves and gets to spend time on? That can increase mental energy for other things.

    One more thing I like to do is just have conversation about what we read. Sometimes when we just talk about it, I can tell they did understand. But if I ask for a narration, they have a hard time thinking of what to say–like writer’s block.

    I hope it gets better!

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