Monday, March 7, 2016

Getting Started with AO Year One: Understanding Narration

Welcome back for another coffee chat, friends.
I hope that our last installment left you feeling encouraged that you CAN do this.  It's okay if you haven't read everything and don't know it all, and it's even okay if you don't do everything perfectly because none of us do.
That said…you do need to start somewhere.  Once you've gained a general overview of CM's ideas, you need to begin to deepening your understanding a little bit at a time.  In the next couple of posts in this series I'd like to suggest a couple of principles that would be good starting places for your further study.  Today let's talk about narration.
Very simply put, narration is the act of telling back (orally or, in the case of older students, in writing) what you have heard or read or experienced.  Sounds simple, right?  It is simple, but it is also profound.  In order to narrate, the child must attend to the reading, organize it in his own mind, and reformulate it in his own words.   I have reflected before that narration is akin to translation – translating the ideas of the author into one's own language.  It's harder work than you might think!  Some children take to it like ducks to water, and others really struggle with developing this skill.  Narration is frequently misunderstood and its power underestimated.   It is also absolutely essential to putting Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education into place in your homeschool.  This is why I'd like to suggest to you that deepening your understanding of what narration is, why it is important, and how to help your student develop narration skills is a foundational starting place for further study.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, I am going to leave you today with a collection of links that will send you well on your way to a deeper understanding of narration.  Take some time over the next few weeks to read and take notes and ponder.  Feel free to come back and leave your questions in the comments, or hop on over to the Ambleside Online Forum and join the conversation there.
Narration Helps from the Ambleside Online Advisory Board with LOTS of links for further study
Karen Glass on Narration
More from Karen Glass on "What's the Point of Narration"
Troubleshooting and Narration from Fisher Academy Part 1 and Part 2
The Mason Jar Podcast Interview with Karen Glass (not solely about narration, but she does make some good points with regard to narration to keep in mind)
Brandy Vencel on Narration vs. Discussion
Also, if you haven't already subscribed to Brandy's Newbie Tuesday newsletter, go do that now.  The first issue is all about narration, and I believe you get that immediately when you sign up.
Happy Reading, Friends!
PS – For those of you who may be looking for an online discussion group to go deeper with CM's principles, it looks like there is a group forming over on the AO Forum to go through Brandy's 20 Principles study beginning in April.  I did this study myself with a group of Forum ladies several years ago and I would say that that was the thing that really cemented my understanding of what CM is all about. I highly recommend this study to you, especially if you don't have access to a local CM study group.  Click here to get more information (you need to be registered on the Forum to access this link).


  1. I do have a question about this...I've done bunches of reading about the importance of it, but not much to help me out. I just have a reluctant narrator. He just doesn't want to do it, so I have to drag him through every narration with questions, "what-happened-next"s, reminders, etc. Even super short stuff, he just seems to give up on. I do warn him ahead of time that I'd like him to tell me what happened when we're done (and sometimes we do as little as a few sentences at a time), so he knows what's coming. Any tips?

  2. The Your Morning Basket podcast listed above had great suggestions -- one was to write out a word list before reading to help your child know what to mention in the narration.

  3. Yes, I was going to suggest checking out the Morning Basket Podcast on narration - there were good troubleshooting tips in that one.

    How old is your reluctant narrator, and how long has he been narrating? If this is a young and fairly new narrator, it just may take some time to develop the skill. My oldest dd (now age 10 and narrates beautifully) was VERY reluctant as a 6-year-old new narrator, in part I think because I expected too much and that put pressure on her - and with her perfectionistic tendencies, she would shut down. I started backing off a bit and for awhile, only asked her to tell me one thing about the section we had just read, and that helped her gain some confidence. Over time I started gradually expecting more until we got to that point that I could just ask her to tell me about what we'd read and she'd give me a pretty good recap. It was a little hard for *me* in the beginning to let my expectations go, but that was what gave her the freedom to grow into it. It's really OK if they don't remember every single detail or if the narration is very short. Karen Glass touches on this in the Mason Jar podcast I linked up there. I'd try to keep it as low-key as possible and accept whatever effort he gives you without prodding for me until he feels more comfortable with the idea of narration.

    I'd also suggest joining the AO Forum if you haven't already and do a search over there on tips for reluctant narrators - this is a topic that pops up over there pretty often. At least you'll know you're not alone. :)

    Hope that helps some!

    1. without prodding for *more* is what I meant to say up there at the end of the second paragraph. :)