Find Your Fit

Recently I shared some ideas on how to Tailor-make your curriculum.  Just as when you buy your children’s clothes, you may sometime need to try a size smaller or larger to get the best fit, so, too, it is with finding the right fit for your child’s homeschool curriculum.

Your child’s age is often a starting point, however your child may need to begin at an earlier grade, or stay on a level longer than the professional calculated for the average child. Your child may need to skip over a grade where he finds work too easy in order that he finds the level that stimulates and challenges him.

This individualization should be the practice in every classroom, but the school system usually focuses on the average child and so the more gifted or special-needs child often fall through the cracks.  Because homeschooling is a one-on-one education, it is far easier for a parent to find the perfect fit for their child.

You are tailor-making your child’s learning experience – read more Tailor made and Offer a learning buffet  and Tailor-make your curriculum.

I urge you to customize your curriculum and subjects for each child.

Some of the most challenging subjects that require individualization are
Reading, Writing and Maths.  This post has quite a few links to my archives.  Please bookmark them to read later if you don’t have time today.)

Reading

  • Teach your child their phonics so that they know how to sound out every letter in the alphabet and then combination letters called blends.
  • Use flashcards, charts and picture games to practice and master phonics.
  • Find a series of early readers that are both entertaining and interesting and which contain almost all the words your child can sound out and read.
  • Use partnered reading where your child sits on your lap are next to you, and you whisper in their ear as they read and sound out their words.  You can see that we use a ruler or pointer to help with tracking along the sentence.
  • Read more about partnered reading technique I used with my youngest child — Partnered Reading Helps Improve Reading and Partnered Reading ~ moments I treasure and Slow learner Joys discovered.

Writing 

  • Don’t fret/ push/ demand/ panic if your child isn’t ready to write out his own narrations / or write neatly.
  • Keep on assisting him and encourage oral dictations, recorded narrations or dictated narrations, or traced over or printed dictated narrations. The vital skill of narration is being practiced and the writing will come later.  Read about being your child’s Narration Scribe
  • Gently encourage your child to write an opening sentence and then the concluding sentence. Work on developing 3 sentences that form a paragraph.  Before long he will be doing more and more of his own written narrations.
  • Use a word bank  or textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.
  • Find an alternative activity that your child enjoys instead of the prescribed narration – there are so many options and alternatives!  Purchase my Narration Ideas booklet with over 100 ideas and options instead of just writing!
  • Writing is such an important skill that you should find a way for your child to present his thoughts and understanding with narrations because Narrations show you what he knows.

Mathematics

  • Mathematics is a very important subject and it is vital to find the right level and pace and approach for each child.
  • Swap or add another Maths book if the course your child uses progresses too quickly.  Look for an exercise or book that offers more practice lessons, or one that provides more visual or practical work.
  • Use concrete apparatus for as long as is needed.  Work with beads, blocks, number lines, counting fingers or whatever helps your child.  It really doesn’t actually matter how long your child needs these “props”.  If it helps, then use them!  Don’t shame your child or let him believe that he is immature.  Make physical apparatus options available.
  • Gently encourage your child to do the same activity again without the physical apparatus and teach him how to picture the blocks or bead in his head.  It may just suddenly ‘click’ and he will be able to continue his work without the objects.
  • Maths butterfliesEncourage Maths drills with games and mental Maths worksheets.
  •  Use different approaches as and when needed, for example, use blocks, flashcards, use number lines, and or computer games to teach, practice and master a concept.
  • Work for mastery — you want your child to feel a sense of confidence.  Maths is a very emotionally charged subject for some children.  Don’t give up at a point of anxiety or stress.  Look for creative ways of doing the work so that your child feels good about themselves.

Time

  • Start by stretching out a one-year curriculum over 18 months to provide a wide margin of time to enjoy themes and topics that your children enjoy, time to take detours or take longer scenic stops.
  • Continue working longer on any concepts to practice and fully master a skill.
  • Read about my experiences extending time on a curriculum — Re-using Sonlight and doing it differently and Best Homeschooling Decision-More Time .

In every subject, in every grade, adjust your course to suit your child’s interests, ability and pace.  Try find the balance between challenging and mastery, gently increasing the work load and difficulty, but allowing for their sense of “I can do it!”

Blessings as you find your fit, Nadene

 

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Narration shows what your child knows

A new homeschool parent recently asked on Facebook,

How do you know what your child knows?

Charlotte Mason has a very simple method  that reveals what a child knows = narrations.

So how do you start with narrations?

Toddlers naturally retell their stories and nursery rhymes with accurate details.  Think of how they easily tell dad about their latest story or what they saw on their nature walk.  This is a narration.  Oral narrations are natural and, when practiced, form the basis for written narrations.
How then do you develop oral telling-back to written narrations?

Most young children find writing challenging and difficult.  Transition to dictated narrations where Mom writes or types out word-for-word what the child tells.  You act as their scribe.  Young children can illustrate a narration instead of “telling back”.   By and by, your preschooler will have a wonderful collection of dictated narrations in their own notebook.

Develop dictated narrations by writing out their narration using a light pencil, and ask your child to carefully trace over their narration.  Copywork is slow and difficult for children new to writing. Often they will grow weary after tracing over a few lines.  But, gradually, they can neatly copy their narration.

Older children enjoy typing on the computer as the spell check can highlight errors and they can type quicker than handwriting with a neat printout.

Use notebook pages ~

Little House Booklet notebook pages

These are printed pages with lines to assist young children space their handwriting.  Some notebook pages are decorated with borders, clip-art, headings and place for illustrations.  These pages give an incentive to write as the page provides some inspiration.  Young children find that the few sentences they write will quickly ‘fill up’ the lined area and they are less daunted by this than a large blank page.  Studies show that color and illustrations help with memory recall and the clip-art and photos or other visual layout on notebook pages assist them in remembering the information.

Pop over to download my free notebook and copywork pages.

Narrations inspire and expand a child’s vocabulary and instill good grammar without formal lessons. Narrations are far easier activities than fill-in-blanks lessons in workbooks, or memorizing facts from textbooks, or writing out tedious, long notes.  No more boring lessons!

Narrations are unique to each child.  Narrations reveal what each child personally connected with and remembered, and then expressed in their own style and individual character, while still remaining true to the original.

So using Charlotte Mason’s approach, your children will soon deliver the most accurate, detailed oral narrations.  Young children will tell back their story with interesting detail and imitation.  Their vocabulary and writing skills will naturally develop, and as they mature, your children will eventually fill their notebook pages revealing their amazing knowledge, writing skill and creativity.  Just take it slowly, encouraging your child to grow their skills.

With narrations you will easily know what your child knows!

Blessings, Nadene

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Oral narrations when a child hates writing

A reader wrote and asked me ~

“How can I help my son?  He absolutely hates writing narrations!  He sulks, delays, refuses and sometimes has a complete meltdown.  I know that he knows the work, but he just hates putting pen to paper.  What can I do?”

Here are some more “What Works” suggestions ~ 

Firstly, ask yourself why he is reacting so strongly.  Stress, immaturity and lack of readiness and writing skills can result in negative emotional reactions.  Take the pressure off and back up and away from any writing.  Go back to oral narrations.   Remember that oral skills develop long before written skills.

Some young children even battle at this stage. They freeze when they have to formulate their own version of the story or theme they have listened to.  My youngest couldn’t figure out how to start.  Or there were chapters which she found difficult to order (sequence) correctly.  My one child didn’t know how to keep to the point and rambled with long, draw-out sentences.  p1150685

Narrations require powerful mental strength! While the child actively listens, he  connects to the story, visualizing, comprehending, synthesizing and then remembering and articulating his thoughts.  He must take all the new information and sort, arrange, select, reject, classify and relate all the intricate details of the selection he heard.

Here are some tips on how to break down oral narrations ~

  • Prepare your child before you read.  Tell them, “I want you to listen carefully to the read aloud and after I have finished reading, I want you to tell me back what I have read to you.”
  • Paragraphs ~ Only narrate short stories or selections about one paragraph long.  Read a simple story such as a nursery rhyme or an Aesop’s fable.  By eight or nine years of age, a child should be able to narrate several paragraphs, and only at about 10 years should a child be able to narrate a chapter.  This would apply to all subjects.  Until your child manages to convey detailed, accurate oral narrations at this stage, he is not going to manage any written narration.
  • Prompts ~ Instead of telling back the story, use questions to focus on a specific aspect of the story such as:
    • What is the main event?
    • What did the main character do/ say/ or discover?
    • Why do you think the main character did ….?
    • Can you think of your own ending to this chapter?
    • Can you list at least 5 main points in this reading?
    • Can you sequence (put into order) the events that happened?
    • Give a very detailed description of the place/ season/ weather/ surroundings in this reading.
    • What action or character’s reaction impressed you?
  • Pictures ~ many young children find looking back at the illustrations in the story very helpful.  As they mature, they will learn to form and remember  their own metal image of the reading.  Looking at a timeline,  a natural science life cycle or illustration is absolutely fine.  Gently encourage your child to develop this mental process and ask them to look and then tell without looking.

Don’t worry if your older child spends longer developing these oral narration skills.  Keep working on his mental processes and articulating his thoughts clearly before moving towards capturing written narrations.

Some children may have the necessary verbal skills, but have writing issues.  It may be the stress of physical mastery in actually writing print or cursive, or fear of spelling errors or fatigue when trying to capture everything on paper.  Again, break down the problem and use alternatives.

Here are some creative variations ~ 

  • Record the oral narrations – on a smart phone/ on the computer/on a tape recorder/ use a dictaphone/ use a video recorder.  Play it back and let him edit or re-do it if he is not satisfied.
  • Be his scribe and write out/ type his narrations for him word-for-word as he speaks.
  • Dramatize the narration if it is possible.  Some children lacking verbal skills may more effectively mime and dramatize their thoughts.  Act out a scene from the story/ create the introduction or ending of the chapter.

I wrote “What Works ~ Teach Creative Writing Without Lessons” post after my eldest graduated from homeschool and I can absolutely guarantee that narrations, first oral, then dictated, and written, have given my children all the writing skills they have ever needed for high school.  Not only that, but they are exceptional writers!  (Pop over to this post to read examples of their essays and narrations!)  They are eloquent, creative and highly skilled writers … without ever teaching them creative writing!

Narrations are the foundation for all learning!

Hope that these suggestions help you bring the relief and joy back to your narration sessions.

Blessings, Nadene

 

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Print Handwriting Tip #1

At the end of 2013 my top 5 Practical Pages posts for the year were:

It seems that most readers search for handwriting tips and Google leads them here!  With this in mind, I thought I would share some practical handwriting tips.

Some important free handwriting downloads:

Tip #1

Teach Large Letters Before Small

Handwriting is a fine motor activity.  Young children need to be able to control large movements before they can control fine movements. Start your lessons with really big shapes before taking up a pencil and writing on paper.

Some simple physical pre-writing activities: Make sure you have a clear, large handwriting chart available ~ download your free charts: Print Handwriting Charts:

  • Ask your child to form letter shapes using ropes, hula hoops and rods on the ground.
  • Let your children form the letter shape while lying on the ground using a hula hoop or skipping rope.
  • Get 2 or more children to form letter shapes while standing up or lying down.  This is a fun, physical exercise!
  • Draw letters and shapes large in the air.  Kids love to use pool noodles and make the letters huge!
  • Draw letters in sand with a stick – outside in the sandbox, or inside on a sand table, or on a baking tray with sand/ flour/ rice and a stick or drinking straw.
  • Draw letters on glass windows in shaving cream. This is FUN!  Let them first cover the window and smear the shaving cream, then do the writing activity, then wipe it off with a towel.
  • Draw white board markers on a big white board.  Use thick markers on a large board before using a thinner marker on a smaller board.

Use clear, descriptive auditory commands for these exercises:

  • Use the words up, down, left, right
  • Make sure the shapes just touch, cross through, reach down, curl around, curl under
  • Use words such as first …, then …, now …
  • Use descriptive comparisons such as as round as a ball, as tall as 2 balls stacked on top, curled like an umbrella handle, hanging like a happy monkey on a branch, like a top hat on a head
  • Make very WIDE lines on blank paper. Divide a jotter page into half lengthways and divide into 3rds across.  Now use each block to draw the letter/ shape so it touches top, sides and bottom of each block.
  • Fold blank paper into quarters and mark the lines. Teach patterns on these wide lines.
  • Next use 17mm lined books (order yours at your local stationery shop)

 

Use a picture reminder in the margin:

  • Use 3 lines for each letter –draw a “man” or a cat in the margin with a circle touching the top and bottom of the head lines, the body in the body line and legs or a tail in the tail line.  In all your lessons refer to where each shape or letter starts, touches, and ends.
  • After sufficient practice and mastery, your child can graduate to ordinary feint and margin lined pages, still using 3 lines for each letter. Draw a man/ cat in the margin as above.
  • Finally, towards 3rd grade, you can use Irish lined paper (these are the narrow lined pages) for written work, still using 3 lines for each letter. To save time, teach your child to draw a dot for the head (●) and a dash (/) for the body and blank for the legs in the margin.

Hope these tips help!

Blessings as you teach your children to write! Please share or ask questions in the comments below.

Much grace,

What Works! Learning Language Arts

What Works! 

Once again I want to share what works when you use Charlotte Mason’s principles. In the more than 14 years of homeschooling until graduation my children have learnt the nuts and bolts of English grammar and language with copywork and dictations.

Dictations and copywork  = effective Language Arts lessons

Ruth Beechick’s “A Strong Start in Language” is perhaps the best book on how to teach language!

She explains the powerful and natural method of how to use reading and writing to teach a child language and grammar.

I highly recommend her book because she gives loads of basic examples, lays out all the suggested grade levels and makes simple and easy-to-apply suggestions.  With this book in hand, you can create all your children’s language arts lessons!

In essence, you will use these skills to teach writing, from forming a child’s name to writing an essay ~

copy, dictate, compare and repeat

Children are tutored through a natural writing process to learn language in the same way that Benjamin Franklin’s taught himself.  Instead of using textbooks and exercises with isolated parts of language and innumerable technical aspects, copywork and dictation leads from the whole-to-the-part.

What is the whole?

It is any meaningful piece of language or passage of writing. 

Writing in its natural setting.

From the passage, language is learnt in context.  They learn to identify the grammar basics and learn the mechanics just by reading and copying the extract.

Even if your child just copies a sentence or paragraph, and spends some time examining and identifying its nuts and bolts such as punctuation, capitalization, parts of speech, they will naturally learn language arts.

What is more fascinating is that they will naturally find these same mechanics during their read alouds.  As I read aloud my young kids call out, “There’s a compound word!” or “That’s a simile!”  Almost every week my kids would eagerly wait for “their” dictation paragraph to be read aloud in our chapter readings.

And may I share a secret?

I haven’t even done the “proper” Charlotte Mason dictations … the ones where the child writes the passage from memory, without copying.  Nope. Not once.  Not even my high schoolers.  We have tried it, but somehow we never arrived at that level.  Instead of feeling defeated, I simply carried on with what we found worked and we all coped with, and it was enough!

Also, even as an English teacher, I worked with a year plan, but never “did it all“.  Homeschool moms, you will have gaps.  Just breathe and let it go.  You will not cover everything.  Not even if you use textbooks and brilliant bells-and-whistles programs.  Use the grade levels as a guide line and trust that you cover most of the aspects as you go along.

But daily dictation lessons on their own will give your child a strong foundation to language arts and creative writing!

Here’s an example  of dictation lessons for a third grade child up ~

  1. Select a passage from a “real/ living” book, a verse from the Bible, a well-known nursery rhyme.
  2. Let your child copy it carefully.  Very young kids start by tracing over the neat, large print.
  3. Next lesson, ask your child to print it out as you read or spell the words for him.
  4. Lastly, he should print the passage without looking at the selection.

For Language Arts ask questions from the same dictation passage ~

  • ask your child to find the full stops
  • find the capital letters, why are they there?
  • which word rhymes with …?
  • circle all the quotation marks
  • tick all the commas
  • why are the exclamation mark used?
  • who is the first sentence about? (this is called the subject)
  • underline the action words or verbs (what the subject is doing is called the predicate)
  • can you find a compound word (a word made up of 2 words)
  • draw a squiggly line under the shortest/ longest sentence
  • draw slashes through the word with 4 syllables (sound parts a word can be broken into)
  • draw a box around all the question words and draw an arrow from this word to the question mark at the end of the sentence

So, here’s an example from an easy Bible verse:

I love the Lord. (Psalm 116:1)

A young child can first trace, then copy, then write out this verse.  Each day he writes the same verse, finally writing it out on his own from slow, assisted dictation.  At the end of the week, ask the child to study it and write it from memory. Encourage him to compare and correct his own work  This will help him learn from any mistakes.   For Language Arts, simply reinforce the grammar rule: Every sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.  Can you find another capital letter?  This is a name.  All names are written with a capital letter and we call these words “proper nouns“.  And there you have it ~ 10 minute Dictation and Language Art lessons ~ short, simple and effective!

Let’s look at a nursery rhyme:

Lucy Locket 

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,

Kitty Fisher found it;

Nothing in it, nothing in it,

But the binding round it.

(from Mother Goose)

I look for the obvious grammar lessons in this rhyme, for example:

  • Circle all the capital letters.
  • Tick those capital letters that are people’s names.  These are proper nouns. A simple lesson.
  • Which 2 words rhyme in the first sentence?
  • Draw a box around a word that ends 3 sentences.  Can you find the 4th one?
  • Can you find all the commas?  There is a special comma with a dot above it.  Circle this punctuation mark.  It is called a semi-colon.  Why do you think it is used?  Look for examples in other nursery rhymes and try deduce the reason for a semi-colon.  Suggest that the child looks for this punctuation mark in the week’s readings.

Our weekly Dictation and Language Arts Lessons:

  • Monday = copy passage (10 minutes max)
  • Tuesday = copy passage & do language arts questions (10 – 15 minutes)
  • Wednesday = copy passage as assisted dictation (10 minutes)
  • Thursday = write out memorized dictation and do language arts questions (10 – 15 minutes)
  • Friday = free day (we normally only do our spelling test, but if needs be, we add the dictation)

P1070277

Often I use the copywork lesson to teach and practice handwriting.  Because the child must write slowly and clearly, this is the one lesson where I emphasize and encourage neat handwriting.

My young kids do their copywork with their laminated handwriting chart propped up in front of them.

I sneak mistakes that I notice in my children’s narrations into my language arts lessons.  This way they learn the mechanics from an “expert” author and apply it to their own written work.  I almost NEVER mention grammar when I mark my children’s narrations, because I want to encourage them to capture their thoughts and ideas.  But, here, analysing someone else’s work, we can tear it apart and pull it back together in a very objective way.

Finally, let me emphasize – keep it short & sweet!  Do language arts as fun and discovery!  My kids called our LA lessons “squiggles and circles” because I asked them to underline with a wiggly line and draw circles.  This kept the lessons short. Most the LA lesson is oral; with simple discussions.  There is very little writing and no tedious exercises.  Note, discuss and move on.

Here are some other copywork & dictation posts:

Once again, I encourage moms to share and ask their questions in the comments below as we discuss “What Works!”

Edited notes: In the years where I used Sonlight, I have bought Sonlight’s Language Arts programs which accompany their reading programs in which Ruth Beechick’s approach and principles are very effectively used.

Blessings,

Ruth Beechick’s books:

  • An Easy Start In Reading  ISBN 0-940319-00-4
  • An Easy Start In Language  ISBN 0-940319-02-0
  • An Easy Start In Arithmetic  ISBN 0-940319-01-2

Textmapping

I came across Textmapping several times this year

Home

and decided to try it out as another part of teaching my middle-schooler’s how to

highlight keywords and use word banks and write her own notes from a text.

Text-mapping is an excellent technique that gives the child an overview of all the text, introduces pre-reading skills, and helps the child differentiate the text.

Basically, your child marks the textbook chapter or relevant pages which have been stuck together to form one long scroll, using highlighters to mark the scroll; they circle, underline or draw boxes around sections, headings, text, illustrations, dates and important vocabulary.

Drawing of a scroll that has been marked with highlighters and colored markers. Shows margin notes and certain key features circled, colored and otherwise marked.
  • The complete layout of a scroll gives the child an immediate overview ~ great for global learners.
  • Because of its length, the child must move along it, zoom in or out, to interact with the text ~ excellent for kinesthetic learners.
  • Marking is very physical and hands-on ~ wonderful for the tactile learner.
  • The colored markings  are very clear and everything can be seen at a glance ~ fabulous for the visual learner.
  • Scrolls and text mapping provide a better fit with the learning strengths of LD and ADD individuals ~ helps children who have learning disabilities or attention deficits.

So how did we do it?

Although I worried about the cost, I color-copied the relevant pages from our textbook and we taped them together.  I wasn’t sorry.  The colored pictures helped Miss.L “read” much of the information.  (And we used some of these illustrations in her notebook pages.)

Miss.L10 started out with a general overview and pointed out all the illustrations, pictures and main headings.

With that done, she took her highlighters and started marking out the text.

Working on the floor, which she enjoyed much more than sitting at the table, she circled the main headings in green.

Then she outlined the illustrations, photos and drawings with grey.

Next she marked the sub-headings and supporting texts with blue.

Then she  used pink and highlighted all the dates.

Finally highlighted some important key words with yellow.

It took just a few minutes.

She hopped up to get a “bird’s-eye view”.

(The book we used here is called “All About South Africa“.  It is a comprehensive reference book with loads of pictures, photographs and pages filled with interesting text. It is an excellent ‘go-to’ book for our South African curriculum “Footprints On Our Land” and the reference book covers history, geography, natural sciences, famous people, important places, trade, industries … the works!)

Did it work?

Yes!

  • She could quickly find the section “Difficulties of Pioneering
  • She was able to focus on the marked area and was not distracted by anything outside the blue circled area.
  • Using a yellow highlighter she underlined the important facts in each sentence.
  • We folded up the scroll so that just her relevant page faced out and went to the table to write her notes.
  • With no fuss, she used the highlighted words, changing the word order and wrote out lovely, clear sentences!
  • She cut out and pasted the illustration on her notebooking page and was done!

I was stunned. The results were impressive!

It was fun, different, easy, simple, relevant and enjoyable!

I will definitely use this technique for the remaining section of history.

Here are my notes from the official Textmapping.org site.~ Text Mapping (my notes focus on the benefits of textmapping, and the colors used for marking non-fiction as well as fiction texts)

(As you can see in this post, this method is not the same as Mind mapping.)

Have you used Textmapping?  Please share your experiences with the readers in the comments.

Blessings,

Highlight Main Ideas

My middle-schooler is learning to write her own notes.

From simple oral narrations, where she “retells” the details of something I read to her,

she now must read her own notes

highlight the main ideas

use those key words or phrases

in her own sentences.

Tough stuff for a 10-year-old!

So we start with baby steps:

I break it down into skills she can manage and build it from there. 🙂

Using the Table of Contents to find the relevant information

  1. Read the notes together.  I sometimes just whisper the words near her ear as I do in partnered reading.
    (Some children need to “see the big picture” first, so a good read through helps them understand the basic flow of ideas.  But if your child is chomping at the bit, and raring to get to work, start straight away with the next point.)
  2. Highlight the main ideas in each sentence.  It may be just 1 word, or a phrase, or a word here and there.
    Again, help your child with this vital skill.  Do it together.  Sometimes I try “trick” my child with a silly concept and say, “Do your think this … is important?”  She’ll giggle, look carefully and chose a more important word.
  3. Use these key words in their own sentences.  Start this skill orally.  Encourage your child to read the highlighted words from 1 sentence aloud and then put them together into a new, simple sentence, similar to the original sentence.  Perhaps change the word order around.  Start with a highlighted word and let your child finish the sentence.  This way, they learn how convey the original concepts, but use their own words.  A vital skill!  Instruct them at the very beginning that they should not copy the original text.

    Write simple sentences using the highlighted words

  4. Write down the ideas.  Again, I encourage you to “help” your emerging writer.  Perhaps you could write the first sentence down as your child dictates to you.  Make them feel important and say, “Tell me what you want to say.”  You could write it directly on their page and then work is done.  Then, the next time, write their dictated sentence out on a white board and ask you child to neatly copy it in their notebook or lapbook page.  Finally, ask  them to write the sentences on their own after an oral practice.

Writing sentences in a minibook

It takes a few stages, but soon your child will master several important skills!

It will happen.

Your child will learn to write their own notes.

How have you helped your child find key words, identify important facts or re-write these facts on their own? Please share with us in the comments.

For your information: In these photos, my child is completing a Footprints in our Land “The Dutch at the Cape” lapbook – of part a wonderful South African literature-based history curriculum.

Blessings,

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.

Laugh.

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.

Blessings,

Narrations 103 Puppets

This is number 3 in my series of Narration posts. (Read the previous posts Jot & Draw and Type & Print)

Many young children love to tell their narrations!

What better way to dynamically retell the story than with

Puppets!

Some of our best puppet shows were spontaneous –

Finger Puppets

The children simply drew outline pictures of the characters from the story.

They stuck a strip of paper to the back of the picture,

wound the paper strip around the finger and taped it closed,

and narrated the story.

Children with a flair for the dramatic include accents and actions.

They swap finger puppets to narrate different characters.

Folded flat, the children pasted their finger puppets on their notebook pages.

Paper Puppets

Our free Aesop lapbook came with paper puppets.

My youngest enjoyed hours of free play with her puppets.

P1070759

Paper Doll/ Men Puppets

During our Sonlight World History studies we created our paper doll series.

These paper dolls were fun to use in narrations.

Laminated and stiff, the children played out their narrations and stories.

But you could paste the paper doll on a wooden stick and make “proper” puppets!

They provide hours of creativity – coloring in,cutting out, pasting clothing and narrating.

We store ours in clear plastic zipper bags.

Hand Puppets

Our hand puppets have been enormously popular

and have lasted for years!

We made our fist puppet show

Esther Play for Purim

with puppets, backdrops,
props and a full script.

A few years later we updated our puppets,

made new backdrops,

added some animal puppets on sticks

for our new play ~

Nativity Puppet Play

Whether simple and quick,

planned and prepared,

practised or spontaneous,

puppets take centre stage.

They divert attention away from the child

and give the child something to “do” while narrating.

Allow your child the freedom to express their narration in a way that is not always dictated or written.

Try puppets!

Blessings,

Narrations 102 Type & Print

In my previous post I shared some practical ways to be your child’s narration scribe.

In this post I would like to give some tips on typing and printing out your child’s narrations.

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Just Type it ~

  • Sit at the computer, open a new Word page and start to type as they narrate.
  • As. Is.
  • Your aim to capture your child’s flow of thought.
  • Don’t worry about any technicalities … yet.
  • Resist the temptation to correct/ prompt/ re-word anything.
  • Don’t worry about mistakes. (I almost never talk about grammar or language use while doing narrations.)
  • If the child stalls or is taking too long to start, you could ask a simple question, “What is the most exciting part?” or “How did …?” or “If you look at the illustration tell me about the story …”
  • Paragraph where necessary.
  • When they have finished, add their story title, and under that, their name and the date.
  • Read it back.  If you read it as they dictated.  If there is some issue such as each. and. every sentence starting, “And then …” “And then …” they will pick up the repetition and you can encourage them to leave out the “And then …” and start the sentence directly.
  • Ask them if they would like to add, or change, or remove anything.
  • If they are happy, save it.
  • Done.

Now for some computer stuff ~

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  • Once the narration is ‘captured’ save it.  Create a folder for each child with their name.  Add sub-folders for specific subjects in their folder, (e.g.: Nadene — History)
  • Select the page layout ~ Portrait (standing up tall and narrow) or landscape (lying wide and flat)
  • Enlarge the title and underline or bold it.
  • Let them choose an interesting or suitable font and font color.
  • Enlarge the font to about 26 (large) so that they can “read” their own narration once it is printed.  Most young children merely ‘retell’ their original story, but this becomes an excellent early reading exercise!
  • Insert photos, clipart or images into the narration where necessary.
  • If the story is long enough, add page numbers.
  • Print out the page.  Punch holes and put it in a binder or cut it out and paste it in their jotter, or on the notebook page, or above or below their illustration.

Print the story out as a A5 booklet~

  • Save the story.
  • Now you will need to make a few layout changes to create a booklet:
    • Select suitable sections (usually after each paragraph) and click ‘insert’ – select ‘page breaks‘ to separate the writing on to a new page. Now there will be a large blank space under the sentence/ paragraph for the child’s illustrations. I try to have an even number of pages, but this is not necessary.
    • ‘Insert -page number’ – select ‘page number‘ and choose if you want the number at the top or bottom of the page, left, right or in the middle of each page.
    • Select all and change to a large font size (about 22 – 26) because you will print 2 pages on a page and it will ‘shrink’ the writing
    • Save the new layout.

Now to print ~

  • Select ‘print’ and on the print page menu look for ‘print 1 page per sheet’ and change it to ‘print 2 pages per sheet‘.
  • See how it looks on the ‘print preview’.
  • Make sure that the font is large enough.  If it is too small, cancel the print job and go back and select all and increase the font size.
  • If you are satisfied – print it out.
  • Fold the pages in half or cut them out to make a booklet. Staple.
  • Let the child illustrate on the blank pages/ spaces.
  • Ask the child to make and/or decorate a cover.

My children loved their own story books and proudly showed and ‘read’ their stories to family and friends!

How have you printed and saved your children’s narrations? Share with us in the comments.

Blessings,