How to Teach Homeschool Writing: Narration

Narration is another useful tool to have in your home school writing tool box.  I have already talked about copywork as a first step in teaching your child to write, and narration can be used in conjunction with this.

What is Narration?

Narration is the telling back of something the child knows.  It is the very basis of story telling.  My children knew how to narrate well before they could write.  And best of all, it can be used from as soon as a child can talk all the way up to high school.

What are the Benefits of Narration?

For me, the main benefit is that it encourages a child to listen intently.  This is particularly helpful when you have a child who has the attention span of a gnat.  If they know they will need to narrate something back to you, you can bet they will pay more attention!  The very process of telling back increases attention skills, as well as triggering the memory.  It helps the child remember what they are being taught.  And, as their teacher, you can check they understand whatever it is they are supposed to have learnt.  The act of narrating increases retention of information for a time they may need to recall it in the future.

Narration also helps a child to order and then articulate their thoughts clearly and (hopefully) concisely.  A young child learns the skills of ordering, placing the events quite naturally into the order in which they had happened.  Narrating something back to the parent helps with sentence formation, expressive language and eventually with essay writing skills.  Verbal narration can help a child become comfortable with their own voice and speaking in public.

The Different Types of Narration

There are many ways to use narration.  This post will cover all the ones I have used over the past sixteen years.

  • Verbal Narration of a Short Book

I begin fun school with my children when they are just toddlers, when I use the excellent ‘Five in a Row’ literary curriculum based on the most wonderful read alouds:

Narration

I (or one of the older children) would read the current FIAR book out to the littles and they would tell us all about it afterwards.  At this age the children are eager to share, so make the most of it!  If they need prompting, I might ask a few leading questions, but apart from that anything goes.  At this age there is no right or wrong.  Participation is enough!

  • Verbal Narration of a longer book with Picture Prompts

I wrote a post all about narrating when I was using the Mr Men books.  These are the perfect books to use because there is a picture on one page and the writing on the opposite page.  I managed to get lots of doubles from local charity shops so I was able to cut up one or two of the books so that the pictures could be placed in order to aid narration:

I'm not at all sure why she looks so worried, she did a great job!

ACE Bible PACES are useful for narrations as they contain the story separate to the pictures.  I read out the story and then the girls use the pictures to tell it back to me.  These can then be written down for them to use as copy work:

  • Verbal Narration Turned into a Note Page for their Files

I do this a lot with their history.  I read out the information from a non fiction book.  They then narrate it back to me whilst I type it into a word document.  This can then be cut out and added to their history notebooks.  This is an example from my older children when they were little (about 7):

This allows non writers to create beautiful note pages to be proud of, entirely made up of their own work, and allows writers a break from writing without a break from learning 🙂

This type of narration is perfect for stretching the child’s retelling ability, which they may wish to hide due to not wanting to physically write long written narrations.  Charlotte has always been an incredibly story teller, but her ability to tell a good yarn far surpassed her writing ability when she was little.  The following narration was done when she was only seven:

  • Using a Child’s Narration as a Basis for their own Copy Work

I briefly mentioned this above, but using a child’s verbal narration as copy-work is  the next step towards developing excellent writing skills.  The main advantage here is that the child does not need to think, write and punctuate all at the same time.  Some of mine have found the whole writing thing easy-peasy (Charlotte and Lillie) but others (Thomas and A9) have really struggled.  Having them compose a verbal narration and then at another time use that verbal narration as copy-work has separated the skills of composition from the skills of physically writing.  This was particularly helpful for Thomas as he could take his time to do the copy-work and break when his hand cramped, but still create good work (click to read):

  • Narration of a Book or Story they Read Themselves

Narrating back a book they have read independently is a fantastic way to firstly check the child actually read the book (!) and secondly to check they have understood it.  These narrations can be a simple conversation between parent and child.  They don’t need to be recorded (although they could be if you so wished).  The fact that these are laid back chats mean the child often feels free to share opinions and form the beginnings of their thoughts about the world around them and their place in it.  If you wanted to record these chats then probably some sort of recording devise would be preferable to you typing whilst they are chatting.

  • Moving Slowly onto a Written Narration

The children’s first written narrations were of Aesop’s fables.  These were perfect short stories.  They could learn the skills of combining the physicality of writing with composition skills required to write a short story:

These were the perfect length to narrate and had an obvious beginning, middle and end.

  • Narrating a Story back as a Play

Well known stories such as Aesop’s tales, Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are perfect to be simplified and rewritten (narrated) into a play.

The older ones’ narration of the Hare and the Tortoise:

And below are the little ones playing with the older ones production of Chaucer (I couldn’t find a copy of the play to share!):

DSC_0536ch

  • Picture Study Narration

This is a great fun method of learning about well known artists and their work.  The child is able to dig a bit deeper to find enough to say about a picture.  You’ll be surprised by all they come up with!  The most memorable picture study I did was on an ancient China brush painting:

han menAfter they had narrated it (you can find the whole narration here) they attempted to replicate it.  And I think it turned out so well because they had studied it so thoroughly:

Our final replication of the original tomb painting. Not bad T11, L10 and C10!

  • Narrating in Pictures

We also use dress up and create scenes which then narrate a story.  Here the children are narrating the life of a Spartan:

These are a uniquely simple (and different, thus keeping the all important variety in your homeschool) way of narration, which are continually building skill upon skill in your children.

  • Re-enactment as a form of Narration

Using Maps to Narrate Complicated Historical Battles is a great method for making something tricky easy.  I’ve done this a few times, memorably with the Battle of Hastings (I’ve shared one of the shots below but you can pop over here to see the whole lesson):

A few viking ships are allowed to return home. Harold then hears of the Normans landing on the South coast, so he gathers his army and wearily marches back to London. He collects extra soldiers on his march back

A few viking ships are allowed to return home. Harold then hears of the Normans landing on the South coast.  He gathers his army and wearily marches back to London. He collects extra soldiers on his march back

The children then created note pages out of all the re-enactment maps and narrations:

DSC_1091

Okay, I’m going to stop here as this post has become waaaay longer than I had wanted.  If you managed to make it this far you need a medal of achievement!

Feel free to leave any further ideas for using narration in the comments below.

3 comments

  1. Aww. Such sweet faces.:) Excellent post on narration. It is the one thing that makes the biggest difference.

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