Topic | Narration question


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  • MamaWebb

    Hi all!  I have a question about narration.

    I am wondering how to help my older two students move toward a narration that includes some of their own thoughts, opinions, analysis?  The ages of the kids I am speaking of are: DS 14 (entering 9th grade) and DD 11.75 (entering 6th).

    They can both do a good job with the retelling part, especially my son.  However, I haven’t required a lot of written narration from them, and I really want to develop that in this upcoming school year.  These two kids won’t really offer up more than the retelling, even orally, so can anyone suggest some ways to word my narration prompts?  Or written narration prompts?  How do we scaffold them into really thinking about what they think of a certain book, passage, character, etc?  I get this, “Can we just be done already?” vibe from them.  I’d like to slow down, discuss a bit.  Get them to start telling what they think, what their thoughts are.  I’d like to see them making those connections that CM spoke about. I’m fairly sure I’m using living books and that I’m reading passages of appropriate length. I use a mini white board with words to hook into frequently. I know we do need to practice this skill more, however.

    I’m hoping to buy Sonya’s book on narration with my curriculum this year, but it’s not guaranteed that I can just yet!

    Thanks all!

    Alicia Hart

    That is a good question!  Have you researched in the Learning Library?  I think that there is a set of questions for a narration cube that I have heard of before.  There is some more wonderful info on narration at this site:

    I would love to hear others thoughts on this as well!


    Hover over the Learn and Discuss tab at the top of this page, choose Learning Library. Once there choose By Series.  There are 2 that come to mind on narration.  One is 5 posts, the other is a Narration FAQ and has something like 18 posts.

    Now, my thought is that how you frame your prompt can help here.  For example, ask specifically for a comparison.  “Compare George Washington’s role as president to King George’s role as king.”  “Compare the downfall of the Greeks with the downfall of the Romans.”

    Ask specifically for their opinions.  “Explain what you think about _____’s choice in this chapter.”  “What would you have done in _____’s place?”

    Give them a quote from a book to discuss, asking what they think of that quote, or how they could apply it today, or if it applies today.

    Ask about an author’s worldview/position on a topic based on their writing.  Ex: What do you believe were Charles Dickens’ views on ______ after having read his book _____? Do you agree with him?”

    Ask about a character’s beliefs and if they agree or disagree with them. “What does Marianne (in Sense and Sensibility) believe to be true about love? Do you agree with her?”  Or how does a character change over the course of the novel?

    Hope those help a bit!



    Thanks for your replies! I have read the free 5 steps to Narration. I will look further into the Learning Library!

    Thanks, Tristan, for some ideas for prompts. I want to be careful not to “lead” them or influence them; I want them to pick up great ideas from “the feast,” yet I want them to learn to think and compare and examine and analyze and form supportable opinions. I think I’ve shied away from questions like you gave as examples bc I was too nervous that they were not open enough, or too pointed, perhaps? So your ideas are very helpful. It’s good to know that I can use discussion questions like that to expand their analysis and thinking.

    alicia, I have read about the narration cube before, and I think I’ll use that this year. Or maybe a jar, or something similar. When my son was about 8 or 9, he really resisted narration. But he was a huge Lego fan and loved to draw. So I used those as methods “in!”  I’d ask him to go build me a Lego scene from whatever I was asking for narration. Or he’d draw me his favorite scene. It did the trick. By the end of that school year, he was finally narrating well. I feel like my almost 12 year old daughter is FINALLY doing really well with her narrations. She doesn’t love to draw or do Legos, so we just had to plug along, practicing.


    I’d love to hear any other ideas, too! I love this forum so much!


    I hear you about being too pointed!  I have found that for my elementary kids I’m totally open ended – “So, what was your reading about today?” “What’s going on in your history story?”  “How are you liking ____ (book, character, etc)?”  “Tell me what you found interesting, weird, funny, important in our reading today.”

    As they get to middle school I start getting a bit more pointed, and by high school they get a mix of open to specific narration prompts/essay prompts.


    I try to come up with more creative questions when it’s time for highschool essays but pretty much stick with straight up narration until point.

    After my kids narrate, I usually have follow up questions to encourage deeper thinking like: Do you like such and such character? Do you think so and so did the right thing? How would you have handled that situation? Does this remind you of anything? etc.

    Now that my daughter is in high school, I ask her to compare/contrast two historical figures or to develop a thesis based on something from a reading and defend it in persuasive essay.

    I never felt the need to go much beyond the basic narration until high school.


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