This is the second post in the Narration Basics series. View the first post at Narration Basics: Expecations.
Sherry, a blog reader, emailed me to say, “I can’t seem to make heads or tails of notebooking. I don’t know how to begin with ‘prompting’ the writing part. Do you ask questions? Do you tell her what to write?”
Although Sherry didn’t use the word narration, this is essentially a question about written narrations. Let’s assume that your child has read a chapter from a book or that maybe you’ve read it out loud to him. This child is at least third grade, the time when you begin to introduce written narrations, and may be as old as an eighth grader. This child is also accustomed to oral narrations. But now you are trying to make the shift into written narrations.
The shift is a slow transition that requires some intermediate steps. Don’t rush the processs. You have many years to move to and then to hone written narrations.
Yes, you can ask prompting questions to get the narration flowing. (Actually you can use those same questions for oral narrations.)
I have designed a free printable with narration starters. And I have an article at The Heart of the Matter that gives you more options for narration prompts. Print some prompt lists and put those in your Mom Notebook. Or you may want to give your child his own list for his notebook or minioffice.
Before writing anything, choose a question or two and let your child narrate orally. Discuss as necessary to perfect the narration if certain facts are omitted. Then tell your child to write down what he just told you orally.
That sounds easy enough, but most children making this transition are going to need more help than the command to “write down what you said.”
Other Helps for Written Narration
To smooth the transition to written narrations, there are a few “crutches” you can implement. Don’t think that crutches are bad. We use crutches when we have an injury that is healing. No one would criticize you for using crutches when you’ve sprained your ankle. In the same way, if a child needs a “crutch” as he develops a skill, then feel no shame in offering it. No one stays on crutches forever. (They hurt your armpits!) Eventually your child will move past these helps into full compositions.
- During the oral narration stage, jot down a brief outline of what your child says. Or you can work together to create a brief outline or list of key ideas. Let your child compose the written narration with the help of those notes.
- Give your child word banks with vocabulary essential to the narration.
- You can offer your child a notebooking page with two or three divisions on it and ask her to answer one question per division. Use sticky notes to attach the question right where the answer goes so she can’t forget.
- Use a timeline for narration. The structure of chronological order can help some children know what to write next.
- Record your child’s oral narration and let him play it back as he dictates what he said.
I’d love to hear what types of “crutches” you’ve used to help your children make the shift from oral to written narrations in your Charlotte Mason homeschool.
Read part 3 in the Narration Series: Dealing with Narration Problems