Mom ~ The Narration Scribe

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.

Reader's Question logoOne 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?

Janice Campbell asks in her article Are you helpful or nitpicking?

  • 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 capture and make the child’s own the best of the rich literature we read to our children.  Let narrations be short, accurate, detailed, joyful, and  original.

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.

Blessings, Nadene

35 thoughts on “Mom ~ The Narration Scribe

  1. Pingback: Stop Interrupting! | Practical Pages

  2. Pingback: Narration ~ A Natural Art | Practical Pages

  3. Pingback: Find Your Fit | Practical Pages

  4. Pingback: Places I want to spend more time at - A Net in Time

  5. Pingback: Narration shows what your child knows | Practical Pages

  6. Pingback: Oral narrations when a child hates writing | Practical Pages

  7. Pingback: Combine Art & Read Alouds | Practical Pages

  8. Pingback: Natural Language Arts | Practical Pages

  9. Pingback: CM Remedial Course for older child | Practical Pages

  10. Pingback: Child-led Science Experiments | Practical Pages

  11. Pingback: Charlotte Mason for a struggling child? | Practical Pages

  12. Pingback: Charlotte Mason-Style Composition | Kernels of Wheat

  13. Pingback: Teach Creative Writing without Lessons | Practical Pages

  14. Pingback: Highlight Main Ideas | Practical Pages

  15. Pingback: Narrations 102 Type & Print | Practical Pages

  16. Pingback: Narrations 101 Jot & Draw | Practical Pages

  17. Pingback: A Little House Notebook | Practical Pages

  18. Pingback: Narration ~ A Natural Art « Practical Pages

  19. What a great post. I really appreciate how you laid out the process of going from oral narrations to written.

    My question for you is – do you write, in YOUR handwriting, on notebook pages for your younger children who are not writing well enough on their own?

    I have a 7.5 yr old very reluctant writer. He is also not a big fan of doing oral narrations. We do some more active-type narrations, but I do have him do simple oral narrations too. If I write them down, I usually do it on plain lined paper. Not very exciting. I’ve thought about using cool notebook pages, but hesitate when I think about the fact that I’m writing it all down for him still.

    Just curious what you do.


    • @Diana, yes, I write on my child’s notebook pages.
      My child loves to chose the colour pen and tells me to write in print or cursive handwriting.
      I sometimes write shorter pieces in pencil and she writes over it in pen.
      Finally I write it on a white board as she narrates, and then she writes it on her own notebook page. On some notebook pages we have a combination of all three types of writing!

      Let your child arrange and paste all the minibooks and clipart to make their notebook page unique.
      Maybe let your child write in a small minibook, while you write the rest on the notebook page. Remember that Charlotte Mason suggests that children only write their own narrations from about 10 years of age, so you have plenty time to help and develop all your child’s skills.


  20. Pingback: American History Notebook Pages leading up to Independence « Practical Pages

  21. Great post! We are just preparing to begin our first year of CM-style homeschooling and you answered all the questions I had about my role as “scribe”! And the list of narration ideas is great, think I will print it out for future reference!


  22. Pingback: More History Notebook Pages « Practical Pages

  23. Thanks so much for this! This will really help me. I need to start transitioning my 10 yo dd (who really has trouble writing) to doing more written narration. She’s pretty good at oral, but I’ve never written it down for her. I’ve bookmarked this to refer back to often.


  24. This is an AWESOME post!! I’m totally bookmarking it!!
    I need to remind my kids again to use more detail and to take note of using some of the same words that they heard in the story.

    It is interesting that narration is a learned skill (though it comes easier to some than others). My second and third are really super! My first and fourth have to work at it harder…

    Thank you for this post.

    amy in peru


  25. Lovely job on giving an overview of narration. The patience to allow a creative narration without all the correcting is so important for the parent to learn! You hit the nail on the head with this post. Plus, you mention that narration should be “joyful”! I couldn’t agree more…


  26. Thank you so much. This is a wonderful post. Our speech therapist was just talking to me about how our son is struggling so much with narration and I was thinking about how to refocus it within our homeschool.


  27. This is GREAT! Just what I needed to know this week. Was trying to figure out how to improve my son’s handwriting but he was getting frustrated with working on handwriting and written narration at the same time. He’s too young to tackle both at the same time. At this point, his mind is racing ahead and his hand can’t keep up (legibly). So I will use your technique of being his scribe then he can copy it down more slowly. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


  28. What a thorough post, Nadene. It’s important to realize that narration can take several forms. You can choose quicker methods when pressed for time, for example. But you’re still narrating.

    Thanks for the Janice Campbell link. She’s new to me. Looks like a valuable blog.


  29. Narration is something that is lacking in our homeschool. Last year we started out GREAT with it, but somehow it became low on the priority list by the end of the year. I plan to incorporate it again this year and I found this post to be very encouraging. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas!



I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.