Tell Me Again! The Role of Narration
© Beverley Paine, 2004
Narration is the art of retelling. My husband narrates stories he's heard from customers at work when he comes home. My daughter narrates stories she's heard from friends. We all retell the plot from books and movies we loved or hated or that moved us in some way. Retelling our experiences is another way to prepare children for reading readiness, but the ability to narrate is a skill that will serve your child throughout life. Over time, learning to retell, in their own words, what they have read cements into a practical and effective study habit.
Most three-year-olds child can "tell back" a recent experience or their favourite stories read over and over by parents. Our daughter, April, "read" her favourite book, turning the pages lovingly, repeating the story she'd learned off by heart, to her teddy and younger brother. Through the process of repetition, which led to memorisation, in no time at all she was reading this book for real, and quickly moved on to other stories! Unprompted narration is natural for children and we can celebrate it for what it is - learning to read. Using narration as a tool to educate our children is simply a progression of this natural act. Our son, Roger, loved to retell stories using the pictures as prompts. If he faltered, I'd point out different elements in the picture and we'd work out why they were there. Picture book artists don't just illustrate the text - their art complements and adds to the text: often there are elements of the plot that are told only through the picture.
Begin with short or favourite story or poem, song or rhyme. The aim isn't to memorise the passage completely, but to retell, in their words what the passage says. When we make meaning from what we read or hear we will remember the content for a long time. The closer our retelling is to the original text the better our memory of that text becomes. As the child ability to retell improves move onto a single page, and gradually build his memory and language skills. Through narration, a child learns to think, to sift information and to choose what is important to remember and what is not. Gains are also made, in a natural way, in the areas of composition, reading comprehension, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and expressive language skills.
If you encourage narration in short bursts throughout the day it won't seem like 'school work' or a chore. Charlotte Mason developed a complete educational philosophy based on narration skills. There are dozens of books written by homeschooling parents on the Charlotte Mason approach, including whole curricula. A quick search on the Internet will result in hundreds of excellent how to articles and support forums. Lauri offers these tips on the website www.home.att.net/~bandcparker
Introduce a new passage or selection, define new words, or review as necessary.
Remind your child that they will are going to retell the selection at the end.
Read the passage or selection once.
Have your child tell all he or she remembers about the passage.
Write down the narration as your child dictates it, for later copying and/or his portfolio.
Don't correct your child while he is narrating. Make a note of weaknesses to review at a later date.
Sometimes narration can take a different form and incorporate a variety of skills and interests, in much the same fashion as a unit-study:
Create a mural
Record on cassette tape
Draw sequence pictures (Sequencing)
Dramatize the selection
Draw a picture about selection
Use a map to chart routes
Tell the story on a flannel board to siblings
Study any animals mentioned
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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