After reaching the goal of homeschooling until high school graduation, I wanted to share some of the things that really worked in our homeschool journey:
Narrations ~ the natural method to teach creative writing
I have never used a formal writing program or curriculum in all my homeschooling journey, and yet my children can write amazingly detailed, creative essays, narrations and stories.
Read living books and follow the passage or story with a narration!
Great literature is the food for all creative writing. It feeds the mind with a rich vocabulary, and inspires the child with new thoughts and ideas. A child draws from the quality writing of an accomplished author and learns to use a similar style and tone. And the act of telling a narration makes this the child’s own.
My earliest epiphany of this remarkable natural development was when my second child, just a cute-as-a-button pre-schooler narrated an Aesop’s Fable “The Lion and the Mouse“. She sat on my lap and told me the story in her “own words” and she described how the mouse “skittered” past the lion.
“Skittered” … a completely new and ‘borrowed’ word from the story!
I then KNEW that narrations are an incredibly powerful method to develop successful writing.
If a child has paid close attention, they can narrate amazing details and content of the reading. From the pre-schooler and junior student narrations develop from oral and illustrated narrations to dictated narrations, and, as they mature, adapt written narrations in different writing formats.
For example I would ask my children to ~
- write a letter to a friend or family describing the situation as if they were in the story
- write a formal letter to thank, congratulate, complain or request something
- write a catchy title and opening sentence
- write an attention-grabbing introductory paragraph
- write their own ending for the story
- write the story as a play with dialogue = an opportunity to use direct speech.
- list/ explain/ describe all the facts
- sequence the events in the story
- find the main ideas and give a suitable title
- more complex writing activity would be to write from a point of view; say as a police report or a newspaper report.
Here’s my 6-year-old’s narration where she writes from different points of view:
“If I was a Khoi and I was watching the Dutch sailors, and it was my land and they were taking my food and water I would get very angry! They are stealing my land! Why don’t they barter with us?
If I was the Dutch I would think that the land isn’t the Khoi’s because they keep moving. I would build my fort right there. We could barter with the Khoi for cows and sheep.”
Here’s a narration with direct speech that my eldest daughter wrote when she was 12-years old:
“You little brat!”
I heard voices from behind the wall.
“You’re not supposed to talk to the Commander! Stupid boy, don’t you know that it might put me in danger? I am in charge of you!”
I couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation because my uncle, Jan van Riebeeck, was calling me. I stood beside him for the rest of the service wondering who could have said such horrible things, and I kept my eyes on the wall, waiting for the strangers to come out from behind it.”
(We looked at the technical aspects and the grammar rules for direct speech in the story. She then applied this to her writing.)
Simple, effective, and natural.
Even my most reluctant writer recently wrote an essay that blew me away! Under exam conditions, which are often not conducive to creative writing, my 14-year-old wrote:
“I awoke late in the night from a strange sound. I slowly lowered my bare feet to the wooden floor, and removed my sleepy body from the security of my bed sheets.
Timidly I turned the cold brass door handle, when the noise came again, a slow, eerie, haunting scream coming from the kitchen.
Doesn’t this just draw you into her story? I sat stunned!
And here is an extract from a mid-year exam essay my eldest daughter, now nearly 19 years old, wrote:
“It was upon a late Friday afternoon. I had been vacuuming my somewhat dishevelled tea-stained carpet, when above the piercing hum of the cleaning machine, I heard a jingle as something shifted below my bed.
Filled with incredulous wonder, and rather hoping for a distraction to the mundane task at hand, I ceased the vacuum’s roar and hunkered down to take a peak. Knees creaking in complaint and hands gripping tentatively at the bed, I tweaked my head around trying to adjust to the gloom of my bed’s darkened cave …”
Again, I thank the Lord for simplicity.
Here are some of my other narration posts:
Charlotte Mason’s approach works … all the way to graduation!
Join me next week for another “What Works!” post.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions in the comments below.