Narration Notecards & Word Banks

Narrations are a wonderful way for a child to retell or write what they have learnt from their reading, but it requires a complex combination of skills and many children need a little practical help to learn how to write their narrations accurately and in detail.  Using Charlotte’s methods, children should not look back at the chapter, so how can we help them remember the important facts and write with correct spelling?

Sonya of Simply Charlotte Mason describes how to use Narration Notecards  on an index card and some key words from the chapter jotted under four headings: People, Places, Dates, Vocabulary

Sonya describes how to use these notecards:

  1. Pre-read the assigned chapter and jots down key words in those four categories.
  2. Includes some difficult words to spell.
  3. Label the card with the chapter number and pop it into the book as a bookmark for her student.
  4. Use those index cards to jot down ideas for narration prompts (beginner to advanced) for each chapter.

The child uses the card as either a preview and scans the words before he reads (if reading independently) or refers to the listed words as needed after he reads. Those word lists will give him the correct spellings without his looking back through the chapter.  If he thinks of another word from the chapter that he wants to use in his narration, he/she simply adds it to the notecard.

Sonya includes some additional activities using the Narration  Notecards ~

  • Choose a few of the key words from the notecard to highlight before you read. Write those words in a visible location and instruct your student to listen/read attentively for them.
  • Define the chosen words if necessary in a personal dictionary.
  • Use a map to look up any of the places listed.
  • Use the dates to prompt Book of Centuries entries.
  • For an extra challenge, and only every once in a while, you might see if your older student can include every word on the card in his narration.
  • Reuse the notecards whenever you revisit those books as your children grow.
  • You can store your Narration Notecards in an index card box and use the handy title cards as dividers between the sets.

I used a similar method with Word Banks where I describe how I teach my child to find and jot  key words  using a white tile instead of notecards.

  1. We work together and write key words after we finished the reading.
  2. First I demonstrate how to find key words in the first sentence, then the first paragraph.
  3. Then she told me what key words to write in the next paragraph.
  4. After some practice, she wrote her own words.
  5. Next, she used these key words to write her own sentences.  I explained how she can rearrange the word order to write her own original sentences.
  6. Before long, she notes the key words and then writes with greater ease and confidence.

Here some narration posts I have written over the years ~

I hope these posts and ideas help you and your children produce excellent and interesting narrations with greater joy and less stress.

Blessings, Nadene

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Practical Tip Word Banks

Here’s this week’s practical tip for emerging writers ~


In my past post Word Banks I shared how, by jotting down a list of thematic words from the topic we had just read, my young middle schooler confidently wrote her narrations. These word banks assisted her memory, helped with spelling and enabled her to write detailed, accurate sentences.

How and when do you make a word bank?

  1. Sometimes it helps to read and discuss important new words before reading a chapter/ topic/ theme.  Look up or talk about the meanings of these words.  Find a synonym (words with similar meanings) for each word and then use the new word in a sentence.  After this activity and before you read aloud, ask your child to listen carefully for the word bank words when your read.  Some kids become really excited when they hear “their” words!  In this way you are preparing the child to learn new information.
  2. My youngest child wrote out her own list of important thematic words or concepts she wanted to remember during the read aloud.  She felt more secure when she had main facts on her little white board.  Although Charlotte Mason encourages simple focussed listening, I found my child was less stressed about her narrations if she had her own word bank ready.
  3. With emerging writers, oral narrations precede written narrations.  While my child orally narrated her summary to me, I wrote out the main points/ phrases/ important words on her white board and created a word bank during her oral narration.  She then used these words to write out her narration.  This helped her remember the sequence of ideas and helped her with her spelling.

How does a child use the word bank words?

  • Start simply saying each word.   Read each word aloud and pronounce them correctly.
  • Add to their meanings. All new information needs to be attached to previous knowledge.  Try find root meanings in a word.
  • Use each new word in a sentence.  Vocabulary should always be learnt in context.
  • A Charlotte Mason narration aims to be as precise and as close to the original text as possible.  By copying an author’s style and language use, your child will develop their own creative writing skills!
  • Place word bank words in sequence.  Ordering thoughts is a very important skill.
  • Keep sentences short and simple.
  • Once an emerging writer manages to write the word bank words in simple sentences, encourage them to add descriptive words and details. This is how each child’s work is unique and original, even if they all use the same word bank words.
  • Finally, indicate new thoughts with paragraphs (skipping a line and starting on a new line).

Hope these tips help you assist your young emerging writer!

Blessings, Nadene




Word Banks

Emerging writers need a little help.

My 10-year-old gives wonderful, descriptive oral narrations, but usually blanches when faced with a written assignment.

She often grabs a paper and pencil to scribble important key words down while I read to her.

(Not exactly a Charlotte Mason technique.  Ms. Mason recommended the child learn to listen attentively during the reading to gain a thorough knowledge of the story.)

But those key words give my child some reassurance.

She wants to remember all those facts!

And she battles with spelling.

So we use word banks.

Our nifty white tile, whiteboard marker and sponge makes for quick and easy writing.

We worked together.  This time she told me what to write.  Next time, she will write her own words.

With a quick check of the spelling, she is armed with her facts — and the words are correct!

Now she writes sentences using her key words.

This is still tedious work for her, but I am sure that, before long, she will write with greater ease and confidence.

This assignment was simple ~

  • step-by-step instructions
  • one sentence per instruction
  • space to illustrate the instruction

And, with the help of the word bank, she wrote this all by herself.

(Note: I did not focus on her handwriting, grammar, tenses or word choices.  She would be overwhelmed at this stage.  I just wanted her to capture her thoughts and ideas and put them logically on paper. 🙂 )

She was happy.

And I was delighted.

Other similar easy written assignments could be ~

  • start with just words and add adjectives/ synonyms/ antonyms
  • give clues to find/ do something
  • tell me what happened and what will happen next
  • compare 2 things – use columns
  • write the main ideas of story in 4 story blocks
  • make lists of items
  • write a letter – thank you/ tell someone about an outing
  • write a journal entry
  • create a recipe
  • make up a story – write just the beginning opening paragraph
  • give someone directions
  • describe an object and its uses
  • write someone’s opinion/ thoughts about something
  • fill in comic strip blocks and add the dialogue
  • write a short play with 2 characters

Start simply with words.  Add to their meanings.  Use them in sentences. Place thoughts in sequence. Add descriptive words and details.  Keep sentences short and simple.  Indicate new thoughts with paragraphs.

Written work follows oral work.

Talk about the concepts.  Enjoy yourselves together.


Have fun.

Keep the writing to a manageable length.

If your child looses her joy, if tears threaten, ease the pressure and limit the amount expected.  Gently encourage your child to finish a bit more the next session.

Encourage them with specific recognition – “Look at all these wonderfully descriptive words!” or “Wow, that is an excellent way to start your story!”  or “You have explained these ideas so clearly!”

What tips and advice so you have that helps your emerging writer?  Please share in the comments.