When Kids Ask Questions During Narration


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  • erikacartner

    I’ve been loosely implementing CM principles in our homeschool for a couple of years, but we are just now seriously attempting to do proper narration. My kids (9 and 7) understand what is expected of them and are doing their best to give full attention to our readings, but I’m having trouble in a few areas:

    1. Sometimes, when they narrate, they ask for clarification of some detail they’ve forgotten. Or, if they’re doing a notebooking page right after a reading, they sometimes want to refer back to the text to verify facts. Since narration is supposed to be based on only one reading of the text, I don’t think I should answer their questions when they ask for details during narration – but it feels wrong to just withhold the information. How am I supposed to handle this? And is it okay for them to look back in the book to verify facts when they’re doing a notebooking page? I don’t want them to record incorrect information.

    2. We are reading through the Bible. We use selected readings from the ESV. As we are reading, even I sometimes have trouble following the characters, places and action. I often need to look back over the text after reading it and take a few minutes to frame it all in my mind. Sometimes my kids follow it better than I do, but not always. I write key words, names, etc. on a whiteboard, but they are sometimes still confused. Sometimes they have trouble with the details, sometimes the meaning. I’ve read the narration section in Hearing and Reading, Telling and Writing, and it mentions selecting books that children CAN narrate. I wonder if the Bible is a book they can’t really narrate at this age (particularly my 7-year-old). Should we keep reading the Bible but omit the narration for now? Before I started trying to correctly implement narration, we would read the Bible, I would ask a few questions, and when I felt they didn’t understand something I would work through it with them until they did. Is it OK for me to work through things with them until they understand? I read so much from CM about allowing children to interact directly with the text, and not interpreting it for them. But if they can’t understand parts of it on their own, I’m not sure what to do.

    3. My 7-year-old has a lot of difficulty with his memory. He’s usually able to narrate, albeit without much detail, but if I stop to write words on the whiteboard first, or have to stop and help my preschooler with something between reading and narration, he forgets everything. It makes me wonder if he retains any of it even after he narrates. Does narration work even for children with memory issues?


    Anyone? I’ve been scouring all the resources I can find on narration, but am stumped.

    Sonya Shafer

    Hi, erikacartner. I’m happy to toss a few ideas into the discussion.

    1. I’m glad you said that the children need clarification of a detail “sometimes.” That leads me to believe that they are not just being inattentive; they are probably just finding their feet with doing narrations. As you mentioned, the method is a newer practice for them, and it takes some time to get fluent. My first thought is that if the detail is not critical to the narrative, it can be left out or perhaps described. For example, if they can’t recall the exact name of a person or group, they could describe who that person or group was and the part they played in the reading — even without the name.

    I can’t really give advice on the notebooking page issue since I don’t know what kind of page they are doing. If the page is requiring them to fill in blanks and answer questions other than what they already narrated, it wouldn’t really be necessary. You are correct that they should not be looking back at the text when narrating.

    2. I would encourage you to continue reading the Bible and having them narrate it. Two suggestions come to mind, though. First, perhaps you could read shorter passages before asking for a narration. Second, it can sometimes be helpful to have a visual to help keep names, places, and events straight. Feel free to use objects with labels to represent the different people (stick a self-stick note that says “David” on the salt shaker and one that says “Goliath” on the pepper shaker, for example). Then you can lay labeled papers flat on the table for the locations and have the children move the “people” to the different places as you read about the events that happen there. You could even allow the children to use the “props” while they narrate.

    3. A couple of questions for this one: Does your 7yo have memory issues in other aspects of life too? and How long of a passage are you usually reading?


    “I read so much from CM about allowing children to interact directly with the text, and not interpreting it for them.”

    Thanks for this reminder.  I found myself doing this a few times lately and found that they tune me out right away when I do.  In fact, I wondered if I just ruined the whole purpose of the story when I did that.  Children are smarter than we give them credit for.  I need to go back to asking them what their thoughts are!

    Great ideas from Sonya!


    I agree to shorten the readings-this may mean not following what your curriculum suggests!  Horrors!  It’s a tough thing to not follow plans you bought.  Well, you can, you just have to slow down your pace of paragraphs and pages and ignore the author’s suggested pace.

    How much of a narration do you require?  Try being okay with less.

    Also, you thinking it’s wrong to withhold info is probably a good thing-you’re their teacher!  I think we get so caught up in legalism of CM principles we forget that’s it’s okay to discuss things with our kids.  Why not let them look at the book for spellings or facts for their notebooking pages?  Or a sketch to copy down? If they are showing an interest and care about learning correct information, I would nurture that for all it’s worth.  If their hearts are in it and you feel like they’re learning, then they are.  No need to worry yourself with “doing it right” if there’s learning going on.  There are plenty of other opportunities throughout the day to focus on the habits of attention and telling back. 😉

    Take heart! They will get a year older every year! Conversations will grow, narrations will too, and readings will get longer and more enjoyable each year.

    Enjoy the journey!


    Oh, my goodness! I thought no one ever responded to this, because I didn’t get any email notifications. Thank you so much for your suggestions, Sonya Shafer. Yes, my 7-year-old struggles with his memory in general. We usually read a chapter a day of the Old Testament. I sometimes stop a third or halfway through and allow him to narrate that part before I read the rest, but he still struggles. I have seen improvement, though.

    Our notebooking pages aren’t open-ended, narrative style. For example, they may draw picture and write something about it to communicate something they’ve learned, but they forget some detail and want to look it up so they’re not drawing or writing something incorrect.

    Amy Harter, thank you for the encouragement and perspective. I agree with capitalizing on their desire to communicate the correct information! I want them to pursue excellence in everything they do.


    Oops, I meant to say the notebooking pages *are* open-ended, narrative style.

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