Tuesday, July 29, 2008


If I had to summarize the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, I would say that children crave living ideas, which they get from good books, and they make those ideas their own through retelling. I am trying to learn how to use this process. The best recommendations I have found are to start with short passages the child can easily understand, maybe material like Aesop's fables or fairytales. Tell the child beforehand that you are going to read the selection once, then ask them to tell you about it. After reading (maybe just a few sentences, or a paragraph or two), ask the child "what can you tell me about this story?". Another prompt might be "tell me what (character's name) did", or "tell me one (or two) things you remember". Try not to lead the child with questions, and not interrupt.
Well, that is the theory. So far when I try with Lily I can't get an answer unless I ask her specific questions--especially yes/no questions--precisely what I am trying not to do. It might be that she is just too young. Charlotte Mason does not recommend requiring narration (her term for retelling) of anyone younger than 6. But I actually think Lily can do it, once this perfectionist child understands there is not a right or wrong answer! She is very verbal and has an excellent memory. In fact, when my mom was here helping me move, Lily shared a room with her. I was surprised one night to hear Lily telling Grandma a story--one I had made up for her at least a week before, and she had only heard once. She told it with amazing recall of details. Now if I can just teach her to do that with her school readings... I have heard that consistency is key, although narrations don't always have to be verbal--an older child might do a written narration, a younger one might draw a picture. Or a child could act out a scene in person or with puppets or paper dolls or something. I really think we will enjoy this technique once we get the hang of it. We've always known that one of the best ways to really learn something is to teach it to someone else, and I believe that is essentially what narration is.


Kelley said...

What an excellent idea. I intend to start using it immediately with my boys.

Jimmie said...

Yep, I agree with your assessment of narration. It's so simple, but easy to forget to do!