Recently I posted our geography minibooks and notebook pages and wrote a brief description on how I act as a scribe for my youngest child’s narration.
One reader, on writing out her son’s narration, asked,
“How do you address grammatical or other errors? (For example, my son loves to use “And then” at the beginning of every sentence or he’s used verb tense incorrectly.)”
Narrations are not grammar lessons. I use copywork for grammar, spelling and language studies. We analyze extracts from current readers or quotes from famous people. This is not threatening to the child. We are not picking out their mistakes, but we point out all grammar rules, punctuation, vocabulary in context. Children enjoy pulling apart someone’s writing!
It is amazing to see how much they learn from copywork and grammar studies. My 8-year-old noticed every compound word in her reader after we studied compound words in our language arts. My 10-year-old used new words in her creative writing after we did some vocabulary studies in her weekly copywork.
Let me describe the narration process in a bit more detail:
Narration is the art of “telling back” It will start orally. They tell and you listen.
- The young child will retell you the story or details of the story in their own words.
- They must listen carefully and remember sequence (what happened first, second and so on.)
- They should include as many original words as possible; give vivid and exact details.
- The listeners should be active and positive ~ smile, nod, pay attention as the narration unfolds.
- Some moms tape or video record their child’s narrations. (This may produce performance stress for some children, but other children thrive on hearing their narrations!)
- The aim of the narration is to hear (and eventually read) how well the child listened to and understood the story.
- I find that if my children know that they must tell or write their narrations after the reading, they pay extra attention.
To start the written process, the parent acts as the scribe. Mom will write out or type exactly what the child narrates on the computer:
- without interruptions
- without corrections
- with as few hints and suggestions as possible
- Include all the “And then …” sentence starters.
- Some moms even write the “Um … Err …” ! When mom reads these sounds back, the children often find it amusing! But they become more aware of repeating unnecessary words.
- If a child is really stuck, use a narration starter like, “Who is this story about?” or “How did this story begin?”
- When they have completed the narration, read it back to the child. Let them suggest any changes.
- If they suggest that sentences should not all start with “And then” and ask them how they could change it.
At about 10 years the child should write their own narrations.
Writing is a very complex process. The physical act of writing is stressful and exhausting. They must learn letter formation, spacing and style. Written work requires an extensive spelling and vocabulary. Grammar rules are difficult to apply when all the other skills are applied.
These are the basic steps we take when my child starts to write their own narrations:
- First they dictate their narration while I write it on the whiteboard. (It is easy for us to rub out any changes.)
- Use Word Banks
- I write out exactly what they say, all their own words, word order and ideas.
- I resist the temptation to suggest, hint, add, change anything! Seriously, this is the hardest part!
- I read back what they dictated.
- If they are happy with it, they copy the sentences in their notebooks.
- If they get tired while copying, I offer to help them, or suggest they complete it later. This is weaning process.
- Eventually they should cope writing several sentences and then paragraphs.
- It may take a year to learn all the skills to write narrations on their own!
- They will write narrations on their own with some help; asking for spelling help or checking facts.
- I accept all narrations without undue concern for punctuation, capitalization or spelling.
How do parents help when guiding their child in writing?
- A negative, impatient, or critical tone can make even the most minor critique seem overwhelming to a sensitive child.
- Be sensitive to each student’s abilities and don’t overwhelm a struggling student with too much negative feedback at once. Focus on the most important thing for the moment. There will be other days to fix other things.
- If you and your student have difficulty communicating on a subject, it may be a good idea to enlist someone else to help the student in that subject. Preserving the relationship is more important than doing everything yourself.
Narrations can take on several forms. Here are just some ideas …
- Describe what will happen next and why
- Describe your favourite scene
- “If I were the main character I would … “
- Tell this story in modern times (if the story is about ancient times)
- Describe the moral of this story
- What are the golden rules learnt in this story?
- “If I could travel to this place, these are the things I would love to see/ do … “
- write a dialogue
- write a comic strip
- write a letter
- make a newspaper report
- create an act of a play
- write a journal entry
- create the narration as a story for a young sibling
- write in a minibook
- create a poem
- write it as a song
- write an obituary
- Draw a map of the places in the story
- Draw the story as a comic strip
- Make a bird’s-eye view of the events
- Draw any machine/ vehicle/ mechanical details in the story
- Draw step-by-step instructions on how to do what was made in the story
- Create a mural of the story
- Act out the scene
- Pretend you are the character interviewed on TV/ radio
- Describe how you would adapt the story for drama
- Make a model of the scene
- Create a diorama (the scene inside a box)
- Make a mobile
- Create the machines
- Use Lego to build the scene
- Use clay to create the scene
- Make a lapbook of the story
- Fabric paint the story on a T-shirt/ table mats
- Make a Power Point show on the story
- Video record and play the story
- Make a puppet show of the characters and events
- Make finger puppets for a simple puppet show
Give your children many options and different methods to narrate.
This way they will discover their learning styles and strengths.