Monday, April 07, 2008

Learning more about narration

Narration sounds like a simple thing, doesn't it? A child reads something to themselves (or you read it aloud to them), and then they tell it back to you. Not a problem!

Have you tried it yourself? I did. I was wondering why my children were having such trouble with narration. I was also wondering separately why I was having such trouble remembering the things I've been reading. I decided to follow Charlotte Mason's advice of "When you retell it, you know" (paraphrased by me), and I found that it wasn't nearly as easy as I assumed it was. There is much brainwork involved in narration!

My initial goals were just to get my children to narrate. This specifically was a goal for Austin, because he was terrified to narrate. I can't say I blame him. We've been trying narration since he was 6 and it was our first year of homeschooling. I was so frustrated that he couldn't narrate what I had just read to him! He couldn't remember any of the details! Unfortunately, I let my frustration and disappointment show, and he became afraid to even try. Yeah, there's just a little bit of guilt there. :) So when we started CM, my only goal was to leave everything open and just encourage narration.

It did work! Now I would like to begin to refine them. Austin's narrations are sparse. They are usually one or two sentences at the most. Riley's narrations are much longer for the most part, but lack organization and sequence. And they usually trail off into tangents. Riley is also starting to dread narrations, which is strange because she is a natural at it. She told me today that it ruins everything about reading. I will venture to guess it goes back to the brainpower thing I mentioned earlier... narration is hard work, and Riley is not one to really want to put her brain into things. The majority of her school work comes easy and she avoids things that don't come easy. It's like looking at myself when I was her age and that continued through college (which was not challenging at all). I'm hoping to nip that in the bud. Reece, being new to this whole thing, loves to narrate just because her older siblings do and everything they do must be cool! I don't require any narrations of her yet, and probably won't for awhile, though I will of course accept any narrating offered freely!

OK, on to the point of my post... I'm trying to learn more about the process of narration, how CM intended us to expand upon these moments, and how to make the transition into written narration. Tammy led me to a wonderful resource on the Childlight USA website: it's an audio seminar from last year's CM conference in North Carolina and it's about the developmentally appropriate use of narration.

I listened to it last night and took about 6 pages of notes. Over and over I kept wondering WHY I wasn't taught this in college. This is not specific to homeschoolers... in fact the lady who is giving the lecture is a classroom teacher in a private school! I will try to organize my notes, though I should try to narrate it first from the first listening, shouldn't I? LOL I am so excited about the way this information will change how I approach narration. If you would like a sneak peak while I try to figure it out, Tammy has posted about it on her blog.

The things that I'm most excited about are the ways that she uses graphic organizers as a tool for narration. I have been following Tammy's blog while she uses them and the GO chart with her daughter, but I have to admit I didn't really get the 'why' of this until I heard the lecture. I also like how she (Jennifer Spencer, the lecturer) emphasizes that this is a developmental process. At one point in the lecture, someone asks her what grade to start using the GO chart. She said she wouldn't put a grade level on it because it is a developmental thing. I've heard people say that sort of thing before, but they usually end it with, "But I'd say about 4th grade." She didn't do that, she really wants folks to focus on where their child is developmentally in this process. I need to hear that over and over again!

One of the most fascinating parts of the entire lecture, for me, was discussing the purpose of narration. I really thought the purpose of narration for for me to evaluate what the child has learned. If they didn't get the rote facts, then it's a bad narration. That is a total misconception. Ok, I dug out the notes at this point because this is really important: We can learn so much from child from their retelling, and from that, we can USE narration as part of instruction! We can learn how much a child remembers, what they consider important, how they sequence information, their ability to infer, and so on! It's awesome!

I will make sure to blog more about our adventures in narration as I get a better handle on it! Again, I still can't believe that I went through 4 years of college with a major in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Psychology (NOT including student teaching, that was extra in my program!), and I don't know this stuff already. It frustrates me to no end!


Lisa Quing said...

That information is really motivating! It's simple, yet complex too.

poohder said...

Jennifer, so are you going to use the stories you are already reading and just break them up into smaller readings OR are you going to use smaller books and read the whole book? I think we are going to use
smaller books first. ANOTHER reason to slow down our lives ala RDI lol!
As for your dd who is beginning to hate narration, I suggest you just let her read some books and do not require narration for those,ya know? I think we all want to be able to read for fun too. This is so hard! I think it is good you are causing her to stretch her brain so to speak.
BTW, I learned this stuff somewhat in some classes,but it was all rote knowledge and not very useful to me until now when I am truly STARTING to understand it and are having to apply it.

Chef Penny said...

Thanks for the great post, Jen! I am learning so much through your posts that I am using with Logan. Just a note that I only have Logan read one chapter for narration. The other books he is allowed to free read. He is really liking it!

Niffercoo said...

Poohder, I will probably use the books we're already reading. It might be more productive to use picture books, but we have the whole "I'm too grown up for those little books" thing going on here. ;) I did check out The Enormous Potato from the library today for Reece (for anyone who hasn't listened to the lecture,this book was used as an example).

My education classes were quite poor. I don't recommend the University of SC- Columbia! LOL Our 'Teaching Reading' class consisted of going to the library and looking up 10 children's books per week, and writing a one sentence synopsis.

And thanks poohder and chef penny: I definitely don't require narrations from all books every day, but I will be more aware from now on how much I'm requiring exactly. It may not seem like much to me, but it may be to her. Or she may just be lazy! ;)

The Glasers said...

Narration is an art and science and very difficult to learn! :-)

David enjoys talking about books, so many narrations end up in rabbit trails. Would that bring back more joy for Riley? Riley and David sound similar in learning style.

Jennifer, here is my theory. Our schools are based on behaviorism and standardization. Behaviorism assumes that, if you put the same information into kids, you should get the same output. It is assumes that children lack a soul and spirit and every child's narration is going to be very different. Behaviorism needs a measurable product--how do you measure a narration? A rubric would work, but how do you standardize it? Standardization requires that the child remember very specific facts deemed important by the system. The other stuff and the unique things a child remembers and connects is not important. Only the facts you want to shove down their throats.

Niffercoo said...

Tammy, I feel like I'm trying to do that with her narrating, and encouraging her to simply share what she's read. But like her mother, she is resistant when it comes to she is required to read. She would talk all day long about her favorite books (Harry Potter, etc.) but to talk about a book that is part of school is something different altogether. :)

Everyone is just anxious to get their school work done and go play outside! Maybe it's part of spring fever, or maybe the honeymoon period is over and they realize that oral narration is work, too?! Or maybe I'm requiring too much oral narration? I just remember a quote that says something about a reading not being complete unless it is narrated. I've started talking to the kids about narrating in their heads as they read, to make sure they understand what they are reading. That narration doesn't always mean, "Go tell mom about what you read."