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Monday, October 1, 2012

Narration: And then, like, well... and other narration woes. {pt.1}

"To begin with, there is nothing mysterious or magical about narration. We all do it. When we have had a pleasant outing or listened to a beautiful concert or seen an exciting play, our first impulse is to tell our friends about it, and how frustrating it is if, when we get home the friends are out or watching a television programme which must not be interrupted. We tell them about it later on, but our account will not have the same vividness and spontaneity as it would have had if we had told it when it was fresh in our minds. This is an important point to remember when we come to consider the method of a narration lesson."   E.K. Manders, PR Article

During the course of the day, I talk. I tell my kids stuff. They hear me say 'so' a lot. I also connect my thoughts with 'and then', a lot. Sometimes, I use 'like' mid-sentence (I know, it's so west-coast. I am hopeful in my belief that I am overcoming this, however). I ramble and fail to connect my thoughts sometimes. All of this has shown itself clearly, in...  well, the way my kids tell stories. Oh yes. It also sometimes comes out when my kids narrate the stories I read to them.

Have you ever had this problem?

I know that at least some of you have. I am actually quite confident I am not alone in this. I am equally sure that there is hope. It is not the end of the world! With a little guidance, practice and time our kids' will improve in speech and narration... and so will we!

"Given absolute attention, and we can do much with four hundred hours a year (1,600 hours in our four years' course) but only if we go to work with a certainty that the young students crave knowledge of what we call the 'humanities,' that they read with absolute attention and that, having read, they know. They will welcome the preparation for public speaking, an effort for which everyone must qualify in these days, which the act of narration offers."  Charlotte Mason, v6p124

It is important to remember some key points about narration.

Narrating is natural. We want to tell what we think about the things we know. The kids will hear a story, and remember *some* things that stand out to them. That's what we want! We want them to remember *some* details, *some* ideas... the ones that start the wheels a turnin'! The ideas that form thoughts that become not just a name, but a picture, a person, a living idea. It will most certainly differ from child to child. And this may very well happen internally, and you may not be aware of its happening.

Let's help them (by example and other means) to tell their stories well. Over the years, I have seen some marked improvement with my kiddos by using some of the following ideas.

Helpful Hints:

Type out their narration verbatim. You could voice record it on the computer, so as not to interrupt or frustrate them by having to ask them to slow down or repeat something.

Have them listen to it, read it over, or read it aloud to them. If it's obvious, this will be enough! :)

You might ask them to count their 'and thens' (or whatever trouble word), or when typing, ask them where you should put the periods, or some such gentle way of pointing out the error.

If they don't notice their extreme run-on sentence structure, you might explain to them what a sentence is, and give examples of different ways of starting one out. Often, I remind them to start the sentence with the person or thing it is about. That makes it kinda easy. I tell them, "Instead of saying, '...and then after that, Napoleon marched his army to...', skip the 'and then and after that' and just start out with the interesting part, 'Napoleon'!"

Gentle ways of making them hear themselves are best. I'm sure you can come up with many of your own that will fit your context best. I tend to think that we probably should draw their attention to it, but not DURING the narration. Let them finish, and then correct if needed.

More things to remember:
  • We teach by example. Even though it may not have occurred to us that we could be part of our children's narration problem, I think a look at some of our own habits of modeling speech would be worth our attention. Enough said. :)
  • Thankfully, many problems tend to fix themselves when written narrations and grammar lessons come into play (usually around y4).
  • Prepping them for narrations will help (I will talk about this in the next post).
  • We correct, by helping them correct themselves (stay tuned for an upcoming post). 
  • Relax, enjoy the stories, and practice.
  • Take your time. For beginners, don't expect too much too soon. Narrating is a complicated skill!
    (see quote below)
"How injurious then is our habit of depreciating children; we water their books down and drain them of literary flavour, because we wrongly suppose that children cannot understand what we understand ourselves; what is worse, we explain and we question. A few pedagogic maxims should help us, such as, "Do not explain." "Do not question," "Let one reading of a passage suffice," "Require the pupil to relate the passage he has read." The child must read to know; his teacher's business is to see that he knows. All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing. If we doubt this, we have only to try the effect of putting ourselves to sleep by relating silently and carefully, say, a chapter of Jane Austen or a chapter of the Bible, read once before going to bed. The degree of insight, the visualization, that comes with this sort of mental exercise is surprising."  Charlotte Mason v6, p 304
I'll be posting more of my thoughts on narration over the next week or two. So, stay tuned!  

Sometimes, we have fun. Just sometimes. ;)

Upcoming posts:
And then, like, well... and other narration woes. {pt.1}  
Narration: A little prep goes a long way {pt.2}
Narration: Correcting sloppy speech {pt.3}

1 comment:

HC said...

Ah, thanks Amy, I love narration posts, looking forward to the next posts too.


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