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A Charlotte Mason Narration

From the Parents' Review article "We Narrate and Then We Know"

Do always prepare the passage carefully beforehand, thus making sure that all the explanations and use of background material precede the reading and narration. The teacher should never have to stop in the middle of a paragraph to explain the meaning of a word. Make sure, before you start, that the meanings are known, and write all difficult proper names on the blackboard, leaving them there throughout the lesson. Similarly, any map work which may be needed should be done before the reading starts.

This was always of great interest to me. I've been creating teaching guides for the books selected for this curriculum and in each guide I've included a list of the proper nouns covered in that reading. The separate category for proper nouns of place makes completing any map work easier. The student can refer to the page with this chart as he/she narrates. If the response is a written narration, the chart can be used to ensure correct spelling.

I've always been very curious as to why I don't see this as part of the approach with other curricula designed to be CM in style. From what I've seen of other types of CM educators, the trend seems to be to warn against this for fear of it coming between the reader and the book, but since the purpose is to prepare the reading, I'm not sure how that would hinder the reader. Besides, it states quite clearly that this is to be done. It does require some teacher preparation, but I think this ties in well with the quoted section below on teacher preparation.

Do regulate the length of the passage to be read before narration to the age of the children and the nature of the book. If you are reading a fairy story, you will find that the children will be able to remember a page or even two, if a single incident is described. With a more closely packed book, one or two paragraphs will be sufficient. Older children will, of course, be able to tackle longer passages before narrating, but here too, the same principles should be applied, that the length varies with the nature of the book.

This is important too. A young student attempting to narrate after reading a complete chapter filled with multiple events and ideas will not be able to give the same quality of narration as one who narrates after several pages. Dividing a chapter into halves or thirds, preferably at a scene change, gives the child a better opportunity to narrate more completely. As a student's reading selections become longer and more complex, the need to break the readings into manageable sections grows. Length is not only the consideration when regulating sections, a densely written book may also need to be broken into smaller sections.

Do let the narration follow directly after the reading. Otherwise, the children will be in the same difficulty as we were in when our friends were watching the television and couldn't listen to our adventures.

Try to have the narration follow directly and try to strive for a narration after every reading. Sometimes life happens and listening to a narration later in the day or not hearing a narration at all happens. Completing 2-3 narrations per day per child is a solid objective.

Don't interrupt, even if the narrator makes a mistake or mispronounces a word. I once asked a small boy what happened if you interrupted people. I hoped he would say: 'They forget what they were going to say next'; instead, he said: 'You get put in the corner.'

It is okay to clear up any significant mistakes after the narration is complete. Allowing your student to clarify their meaning and make their own corrections, if possible, would be most beneficial.

A Single Careful Reading. ––There is much difference between intelligent reading, which the pupil should do in silence, and a mere parrot-like cramming up of contents; and it is not a bad test of education to be able to give the points of a description, the sequence of a series of incidents, the links in a chain of argument, correctly, after a single careful reading. This is a power which a barrister, a publisher, a scholar, labours to acquire; and it is a power which children can acquire with great ease, and once acquired, the gulf is bridged which divides the reading from the non-reading community.

The emphasis in a single careful reading is placed on developing the habit of attention in the student. One opportunity to read or listen trains the mind to attend to it carefully and diligently. Notice the reference to a single careful reading as an "intelligent reading".

Other Ways of using Books.––But this is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyze a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.

This quote has some hidden gems inside of it as it gives some ideas as to how to be more creative with written narrations and reinforces the idea that narrations are not meant to be retellings only.

The Teacher's Part. ––The teacher's part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils' mental activity. Let marginal notes be freely made, as neatly and beautifully as may be, for books should be handled with reverence. Let numbers, letters, underlining be used to help the eye and to save the needless fag of writing abstracts. Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself.

-Vol 3 p. 181

The section above underlined lends itself well to the blog entry titled "Preparing Lessons and the Role of the Teacher", since preparing narrations is a part of the teacher's work.


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