Thursday, February 23, 2012

Narration vs. Summary

Today, during Reece's writing lesson, she said something that reminded me of a blog post I wanted to write!

"Mama, is this a summary or a narration?"

You may be wondering, "What's the difference?" Well, you're in luck - I'm going to tell you! At least, I'm going to tell you the difference as we use those words at the Black Pearl Academy! :)

The confusion came when we began to meld the classical approaches from Well-Trained Mind (Susan Wise Bauer or SWB) with Charlotte Mason's (CM) approach. Each approach uses the term "narration" but they use it to mean quite different things, at least in my understanding.

When CM says "narration" she means the child telling back everything he or she can remember about a passage without interruption. After the narration is over, then the teacher can work to pinpoint areas where the child may have misunderstood or simply overlooked the information. The use of questions is strongly discouraged.

When SWB says "narration" she means the child giving back an overview of the most important information in the passage. You teach the child how to do this by first asking comprehension questions, and then guiding them to begin to recognize the most important information. In other words, a summary.

This drove me absolutely crazy when we began to implement CM. I would ask for a written narration and get 3 sentences. I asked over and over on CM groups how long a written narration should be, but never got any clear guidelines.

Since I believe that both narrations and summaries are important skills, I decided to approach it a bit differently with Reece. I really like the Writing With Ease series written by SWB. It contains oral narrations (summaries), copywork, dictation, and transitions the child to written narrations (summaries) over the course of 4 levels. All of the selections are from classic literature and it's scripted exactly what to say. So it blends the CM way of teaching writing with the WTM way and it's all laid out for me. This wasn't available when the big kids were younger, so I wasn't able to have that sort of hand-holding.

So when Reece asked me if I wanted a narration or a summary, basically what she was saying was, "Do you want me to tell you the most important stuff, or do you want everything I can remember?"

And she's good at both! :)

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