Narration is a much-touted practice in the homeschool community, but I’ve found it can seem stuffy and stifling at times. As a result, I’ve looked for ways to incorporate narration into our daily lives so that it can be a natural extension of our life of learning.
If traditional narration is working for your family, great! Don’t stop. But if you have a child or two like me who balk at the whole idea, think about your purpose in requiring narration. What are you hoping it will achieve?
This post may contain affiliate links; you can find my disclosure policy here.
What is Narration?
Narration, in the traditional Charlotte Mason sense of the word, is a retelling of all one knows about a subject. Typically, a child reads or is read to and tells back what the know or remember about the passage. For older kids, this could be a whole book, and for younger children, it might only be a short paragraph.
However, some children are very resistant to this type of narration. They feel put on the spot and judged, so that doesn’t make for the most pleasant experience. Some of my children were fine with the traditional type of narration, though I have others that didn’t do well with it at all. So eventually, we dropped the customary form of narration and instead try to find ways of incorporating it into our everyday lives.
And if we see narration as an element of a language-rich homeschool atmosphere, it becomes less about the recollection of information and more about developing the skills needed to become proficient communicators.
Give your kids a language-rich environment where reading, literature, poetry, and the newspaper is an ordinary occurrence, where movie viewing includes discussion, where read-alouds are opportunities not just to follow the hungry plot line but a chance to notice the skill and craft of a master writer.
Jule Bogart | The Writer's Jungle
I prefer to see narration as an essential skill that will eventually translate into better and more coherent writing. There are many ways to determine who much a child know about a subject; you aren’t limited only to narration.
If you desire to cultivate the skill of giving a quality, logical retelling, the only requirement is that they convey information to me. Any information will work.
Storytelling as Narration
Many people would argue that storytelling isn’t narration. They believe narration is only used to “retell” what a child has read or been read.
But have you ever noticed how some children aren’t very good at retelling because they don’t seem to follow a logical, coherent path? We all know the child that leaves out important details or throws them in places where they don’t fit.
How do you work on that? You practice storytelling.
Storytelling is something all my children have loved, and since my husband would prefer to make up a story than read a book, it works well. It begins with him telling stories, usually about his adventures with the kids while in a forest. They may meet dragons or fairies, but it’s usually a short tale about their adventure.
Before you know it, the child want’s to tell their own story. My oldest would always begin her story with “Once upon a time, daddy and I, went walking through the woods.” I can still hear her voice saying these words even though she is now 16.
My now 4-year-old always includes me, and we’re usually in the “deep, dark woods.”
How does this help with narration? They learn the flow of telling a story. They learn that they need an introduction, action, and conclusion. Not in those words, but they learn what makes up a good story.
This isn’t limited to young children. We also have games that the older kids love to play that are centered around storytelling. Games such as Nanofictionary and Once Upon a Time build the creative and sequential skills needed to communicate a story.
Family Memories and Narration
This is similar to storytelling, but here I’m speaking of all those times you retell actual stories and events from your family history. They can be recent events or family history, but they usually involve multiple perspectives
To be honest, it can drive me a little crazy when they all start arguing about how something “really” happened.
But isn’t this “retelling” of actual events very similar to the more traditional idea of narration? Perhaps we talk about the time we visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum, Meteor Crater, or the Native American mounds near our home. Isn’t this like narrating back a passage we read, but instead, we were there?
These are all those opportunities for narration that we may not even realize are happening.
One of most frequent in our house is to fill someone in on where we were in a read-aloud. I pick up a book we haven’t read over the weekend, and someone will need a reminder about where we left off. The child that summarizes is practicing a fairly traditional form of narration.
This also happens when someone wants to tell me all about a movie they saw and explain the differences between Marvel and DC Comics. These can be difficult to listen to at times, but when I don’t understand, I can stop them and have them try again to convey a more precise meaning.
Real life narration also happens when we fill dad in on the events of the day, bring a sibling up to speed on what they missed in guitar class, or tell grandparents about our visit to the U.S. Capitol.
Occasions for Unusual Narration
Here’s a little list I came up with of all the unusual times we practiced some form of narration without even realizing:
- Trivia games – We love to ask the questions and see who can get them right. It leads to me explaining things such as East and West Germany or one of the kids telling us all about star-nosed moles.
- The Would You Rather Game – This can lead to a lot of discussion and arguments. People feel the need to explain and defend their choice. My friend Mary, at Not Before 7, also has a conversation starter set that includes a “would you rather” bonus.
- Have a Big Juicy Conversation – We can look at them with pleading eyes waiting for them to retell everything they just heard, or we can ask a question. What was your favorite part? Can you believe that happened? How do you think it’s going to end?
All these activities give us the opportunity to practice the skill of narration.
Our children need opportunities to teach back to us what they learn, observe, discover, and experience and they need lots of access to us in all kinds of setting to do it.
Julie Bogart | The Writer's Jungle
Don’t Restrict Narration
If our homeschool goal is to develop effective communicators and writers, then we shouldn’t restrict our understanding of narration to only the retelling of books read and facts remembered.
Yes, traditional narration may have a place in your homeschool, but it doesn’t mean these other forms of narration are less valuable. They’re simply different.
What other ways do you utilize narration in your homeschool?
Join the discussion in my Facebook group, Homeschool Mindset | Creating a Life of Learning.
Check out these other fantastic resources about Narration, Copywork, Dictation, and Read-Alouds below:
- How To Know If You Are Using Copywork And Dictation The Right Way To Teach Language Arts by Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate
- How My Dyslexic Son Became A Writer by Shawna at Not The Former Things
- How to Incorporate Narration into Everyday Life by Bethany at Homeschool Mindset with Bethany Ishee
- How to Create an Enchanting Experience with Copywork by Erin at Nourishing My Scholar
- How I Teach Language Arts Using Literature by Michelle at Homeschooling in the Pines