Narration - Tips (author response)

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)
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Narration - Tips (author response)

Unread post by Rebecca »

Jennifer H- wrote:I am using ECC with my 8yob and 7yog and will begin MFWK with my almost 5yo soon. I am really enjoying MFW!!! However, I have encountered some problems with my 7yog. She seems to be uninterested in anything to do with school. She does not seem to enjoy when I read aloud to her at all.

When I ask her to narrate, she does a very poor job and sometimes just plain says she does not remember!! This is really driving me crazy. When I have her read to herself, she IS able to narrate it back to me. I am having her read the Pathway readers, she is on the 2nd book of the 2nd grader series. I am wondering if this is a developmental thing or a discipline issue. I would love to hear some opinions about this. Now, my 8yo son could sit and listen to me read for hours and hours and he is able to give detailed narrations. He just loves to be read too. My 4yo loves to be read to as well:) SIGH.... Thanks for any advice!!
Author: Rebecca
Date: 2/7/2004


Bless you heart, I can hear your frustration. Could it be possible that she is a more visual learner? I have one at my house and he learns so differently than I do, he has to see it before it makes sense to him. There are some great books on the subject. Cynthia Tobias wrote: The Way They Learn. I can't say that I have read it cover to cover but it did help me understand my little darlings a bit better.

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Unread post by Marie »

Author: Marie Hazell
Date: 2/7/2004

Great advice, Rebecca. All kids do NOT learn the same way.

You might experiment a bit and see if any of these things help:
--Read aloud just one or two sentences, and ask your daughter to narrate. This may be the right length for her right now. Don't be in a hurry to increase the length, but you can probably increse it gradually.

--Do you think she is easily understanding all of the information or the story line? If not, you might try rewording the text or story in your own words and make it more "kid friendly." Does this help her narration?

--Don't expect kids to narrate back everything. Especially when this is difficult for a child, you can try other things. Does she like to draw a picture of what she heard? Can she tell you about her picture--which is a round-about way of getting her to narrate. :)

--Some kids actually listen much better if you let them color pictures or draw while you are reading. We use this technique often in our family. When possible I provide pictures that match the topic I am reading about, but that's not always necessary. Some kids even listen better if you let them squeeze and mold clay while you read aloud.

1st grader

Unread post by cbollin »

Eve wrote:I have never had a problem with getting my children to narrate for me in the past. However, I have a first grader who seems to struggle with telling me back the Bible stories. I keep getting met with many tears and feel unsure of what to do.

This is what I HAVE tried: reading smaller sections and paragraphs and having him re-tell instead of trying the whole section. This still doesn't work, claiming he just can't remember what I tell him.

In fact, we have been having crying and fussiness a lot lately. It carries into other subjects as well. I give him lots of time to play outdoors..etc, and can't figure out what could be wrong. My dh and I even spent lots of time with him this weekend, trying to make sure his love tank is full. Any suggestions?
Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 4:43 pm
My 2nd dd had a lot of trouble with this due to her special needs. Here are things that her speech/language therapist and I did to help along the way. Maybe some of it will help you even though he doesn’t have the same issues. He may just be younger and not as ready as the other children.

*Read the story all the way through one time. Then read it again, but have him act out the story with puppets, or stuffed animals while you play the role of “stage prompter”. A Stage prompter is the person in the wings who calls out prompts to help when you are stuck. Then ask him: who is doing what; What comes next; And then…. And finally.

* put the book in front of him while you read and point out key things along the way to listen for.

*Keep a list in front of both of you with the basics WH questions

What ?

Point to the questions as you ask them. Give prompts if you need to (i.e. turn it into a multiple choice, let him tell the answer and then ask it again a few moments later without the choices as a review)

Just a few ideas to start.... looking forward to many other ideas
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Unread post by kellybell »

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2007 4:49 pm

Oh Eve, it's so tough when a kid struggles to do what he is "supposed" to do. It sounds like he is not ready for narration, and that is just fine. If he were 16 and not 6, then you'd have a real issue.

My kids sometimes do fine narrating, and sometimes they struggle. It's natural.

Here are some ideas:

1. Read Bible stories (whether from MFW1 or from your own family devotdions) and have the older two kids narrate. This will be a demonstration of what narration looks like. Don't yet ask your little guy to narrate. And, don't tell him, "pay attention, your turn is coming." Just let him observe for a while.

2. After a few weeks, still have the big kids narrate and have your little guy answer a question or two at the same time. You could make this a game. Have the older kid "forget" the names of the characters and have the youngest one fill in the blank. So, Sammy might say, "And God created uh... uh... " And Tommy says, "ADAM!" and "EVE." Give him stories he knows at first so you can guarantee success. Then, try less familiar stories. Take it slow. Also, during the reading of the story, you can ask all three of your kiddos "What do you think will happen next?" or "What would you do if you were Jacob?" It's not narration, but it's thinking and that's a good start.

3. As for the frustration at the other subjects, make sure you are giving lots of praise and lots of help (though I'm sure you are!). Model what he is to do, because maybe he is confused over the instructions.

If he still is whiny and crying, then give it a break and take a few field trips and build things and cook things. Maybe it's just spring fever. And, speaking of spring, keep in mind seasonal things like allergies that can make a kid feel less than best.

Oh, I like to save the best for last. Pray. And, we'll pray for you too! We're all in this together, Eve.
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Unread post by Heidi »

Posted: Fri May 04, 2007 7:04 pm

My middle child, dd, struggles with narrating and with telling us what she is thinking. I must confess, I thought she was being stubborn for awhile - I had been spoiled by her brother being able to basically narrate word for word after one reading. Her younger brother hears it once and can repeat it.

Only because God is good, I happened to be reading How to Tell Why Your Child is Struggling, by Diane Craft, available from HSLDA website, special needs section, for my sons. I realized - she needed to be tested for Auditory Processing Issues. Guess what - she is now in speech-language therapy! I am still learning how to help her and to understand this - she needs picture clues and writing clues and learns kinetically. She is working at grade level or above so far.
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What is narration?

Unread post by Lainie »

Cyndi (WA) wrote:What is narration? I might ask this question after I read a page or a chapter or a children's book -- or after she reads it aloud to me -- "what do you think that means?" If I get a blank stare, then I break it down to something like, "How do you think that person felt?," "Did they have a good idea or a bad idea?" etc. If she's still not really responsive, I'll come up with multiple choice ideas and have her pick. Then she can tell me what she really thought about the story. She may flip back through the book to get an idea of what to say. Sometimes, she even likes to sit at her desk and just write out (very messily) her version of the story -- they are hilarious to find later.

Is THAT narration? At least from a 5-year old? Honestly, I got those ideas from teaching Sunday School years ago, and that's just what I naturally do after reading, but I don't know if that's what "narration" is to a homeschooler. I never did anything like that in school - I was a workbook kid.
Posted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 2:26 am

Like you, I naturally tried to engage my children in discussion after reading books. I experienced a similar process of trying to "help" my kids "get it."

How I use narration now is very different. Everything I know about narration has been gleaned from Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion (Chpt 14: Narration: The Art of Knowing). I highly recommend it. She is able to express Charlotte Mason ideas in a clear and practical way.

At least as I understand it, narration is a tool to help a child think through ideas and make connections with the ideas in a story to her actual surroundings and her life in it. CM did not expect formal narrations from a 5 yo. She encouraged the grown-up to be available and willing to listen to spontaneous narrations. The writing out of your dd version of the story is fabulous and should be encouraged. Drawing a picture of the story is also a legitimate narration of a story by a 5yo.

At age 6, she recommends explaining to the child what will be expected and then having her narrate only a paragraph at a time. The idea being that once they get accustomed to listening carefully, thinking and arranging the story mentally so it can be retold, the child will then learn to organize and think through larger and richer amounts of literature so that when formal writing excercises are required they are able to organize the information in a logical fashion instead of staring wide eyed at a outline wondering how on earth to fill it in (like I used to when I was in school).

Whew, I don't know if that helped or not. I really think Karen A does a wonderful job of explaining.

One more thing, I find with all three of my children, when it's anything longer than a page or two of text, if I tell them in advanced they will narrate and then give them time to think (anywhere from a few minutes to the rest of the day-depending on what we've read), they come back excited and eager to narrate because they had time to get to know the story and characters. Then it's a joy for them "to tell" and it's insightful to listen to. It is no longer me trying to guide them to reach my conclusions. They've come to their own and honestly they amaze me.

Edited to add:
I have a 5th grader who really struggled with the writing. Until last year, I had him tell me almost everything because a pencil discouraged him so much. Now, his writing (and typing) skills are catching up with his thoughts and he can really write a lot of interesting and complex sentences. I really needed people to encourage me to be patient because it took many years of oral narration to get here.
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Unread post by jangreer »

Posted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:36 am

If you do break things down and ask questions, try to encourage your child to answer questions in complete sentences. This helps later in writing complete sentences.

Rather than:
Mom: What is the story about?
Child: A boy and a cat.

Correct Answer: The story is about a boy and a cat.
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Unread post by Lucy »

Posted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:35 am

I think that the confusion that many people make is that they require each narration to be written out. Narration is very beneficial in the writing process but it is an oral activity to help a child do what many children like doing naturally - telling.

Usually I know that links are not posted to the board but I think that this link gives such a great description (much of which Lanie has already shared) and will help to expand your understanding and being able to use narration more easily. ... ation.html

You will find other articles too if you search Charlotte Mason Narration.

I hope this helps you to grasp its use even better.


Edited to add: By definition narration is "telling what has happen in speech or written form." Charlotte Mason style is an oral narrative. What follows is what MFW calls a summary or written narration. With MFW the older they get the more written summaries they do AFTER the oral narration has occurred. Even last year with my 6th and 8th graders, I always had them orally tell what happened before having them fill in the outline or write the summary from the outline. Oral narration is an important part of the writing process, since once we have talked it out is is much easier to write it out. It is making sure they have the right ideas and the main ideas before writing about them.
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Narration - Ideas for kids who struggle with it

Unread post by lisa062797 »

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:29 pm

I just wanted to encourage those of you who are having a hard time with narration to keep on keeping on and give it time! Ds struggled with it all through 1st last year. I was shortening up the reading thinking that if I didn't read too much at once, he would remember. But, he still would just say "I don't know." I finally figured it was okay to ask questions to prompt his memory. That worked much better. Now this year, he's doing awesome! He still sometimes forgets a key point or two, but asking prompting questions helps with that, and he's even remembering details I don't! LOL!

Today we were reading about Columbus, and when I had him narrate back to me, he said that Columbus brought 6 Indians back to Spain with him. As he went on, I had to peek back at that page, because I was thinking Wasn't it 8? He was right! Not to mention, it seemed like such a small detail to me, I never thought he'd include it. It still amazes me what they pick up when you think they're not really listening that well.
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Unread post by lyntley »

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 2:22 pm

Thanks for the encouraging testimony Lisa.

Here's something we did last year with or maybe even the year before. DD was reading well and all the time but couldn't narrate to me after reading. Same as Lisa I would get, "I don't know."

She decided to read The Sugar Creek Gang series so, seeing they were somewhat short chapters, I printed out one of the book list forms for chapter books from Donna Youngs printables. It has a place to put the chapter and a very small space where she would write very briefly a main point of that chapter. I would have her write one or 2 sentences after reading each chapter of the book. She went through the whole series this way and I think for her it was just what she needed to organize her thought process for narration.

This year she does beautifully with it. Of course this idea wouldn't be for those who loath to write but it worked for us. Like Lisa said keep giving it time. It's a skill that will develop.

By the way The Sugar Creek Gang stories are wonderful Christ-Centered lesson learning adventures. DD ate them up even though the characters are boys. And we found them at the library!!!

Narration vs. notebook page

Unread post by cbollin »

ShanMom wrote:This week we finished our first week of Adventures. My 8 year old did a wonderful first narration on our reading from Lief Ericson. In the past narrations didn't go so well when I tried to record her words as she spoke. So, this time I just let her speak freely and didn't worry about capturing it for her notebook page. When I just let her talk freely, she remembers practically all of it! So, I think this would work best. But then when it came time for me to write a sentence or two onto her notebook page, I had a hard time remembering how she had put it, so I just wrote a brief summary myself for her to copy. She was happy with the sentences I had composed...I just wanted to make sure this sounded about right. I figure the important part is that she narrates freely and the sentence is secondary.
Those written summaries aren't really supposed to be a copying down verbatim of an entire narration that your child did. Just 2 or 3 sentences on their own to bring out 1 or 2 things learned. Some children in the earliest weeks need more help to know what to write. You'll want to try to wean them from writing your words sooner rather than later. But, that doesn’t mean that you write down their narrations and have them copy it either. Instead you might want to just have them answer in writing: What are 2 things you learned in today’s reading about so-and-so?
They can answer that question out loud and then write down their own words from the words they remember saying.

Now to narrations. What neat timing on your questions. I was at a missions workshop yesterday that was all about oral story telling in terms of missions work. It changed my outlook on narrations to see ways that it is needed for the kingdom.

Don’t try to record her words as she narrates (but you know that already) Just listen as she talks. As you narrate a story, you’ll want to ask:
Who was in this story?
What did they do? (What happened, and then what happened?)
What did you like about this story?
What didn’t you like about it?
What there anything about the story that was hard to understand or was confusing?

Much of what we learned yesterday in the missions workshop with narrations (i.e. story telling) was to be able to be the person who could retell the story and just to ask basic questions of our listeners. I had told the presenters the one big thing I learned yesterday was how this applied to something we do in our homeschool curriculum with something called narrations during the elementary years of teaching. So they were encouraged to see that beginning techniques of being a story runner some day were being planted in kids who do those narrations. So, I wanted to share that information. They saw the connections with all of it too. It's just like when they were on the mission field. The more comfortable our children are at listening to a history story about people and places and events and the more comfortable they become just being able to talk about a story (without talking about plot, setting, climax, resolutions, etc.), then maybe the more comfortable they will be to be able to tell HIS story later on.

Hope something in there helped.
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Unread post by ShanMom »

Thanks! This is helpful. And I agree, I love the idea that the children will become familiar with communicating orally...and what better purpose than to share the gospel with the world around us? It seems this skill will be even more needed as we continue to use email and computers more and more for communication.
Pastor's wife and mom to three (Girl 8, Boy 6, and Girl 2 ... using Adventures and 1st Grade)
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Unread post by Lucy »

Just adding to Crystals great suggestions.

I did want to clarify that narration is just an oral retelling not dictation which would be you writing it all down. So you have gotten the idea of it all. Another reason behind narration is that it is part of the writing process. If we can talk about it then it makes it much easier to write about it. I wanted to 2nd Crystal's thought also to let your kids write their own summaries. It is o.k. if they are not long to start with. They will grow in this area. I would expect to good sentences about the reading. If your child is not there yet then possibly just start with a title and move into one sentences and then 2 and so on. Like Crystal said you can guide them in this task by asking them a question or two.

Crystal thanks for sharing about the story telling. I went to a seminar on this last spring and I was amazed at how something so simple could be so effective.
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Narration needs something fresh

Unread post by TriciaMR »

Michele in WA wrote:I need some updating on our narration. We've been doing it since K, so I think we know "what" to do, just need some fresh ideas on the "how" part. I ask the kids to tell me what they remember from the lesson (and there are 3 of them listening, sometimes a 4th if my not-quite-2nd-grader joins us), and they all have a different perspective, but what can I do to make it a little different, fun, something????
Oh, I saw something once - a "Narration Cube" - it had a different aspect of the narration on each side. Something like "Key Events," "Main Characters/People," "location(s)," - stuff like that. Anyway, you roll the cube and if your side came up "People" then you just narrated back about the people. Then the next person rolled, and they got "Events" so they just retold the main events. I suspect a google search would find it.

Trish - Wife to Phil, Mom to Toni(18), Charlie(14), and Trent(14)
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Jenn in NC
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Re: Narration needs something new....

Unread post by Jenn in NC »

TriciaMR wrote:Oh, I saw something once - a "Narration Cube" -
We have been using this and I really like it! The kids think of it as a sort of game, and I take a turn too. That helps them have someone to model after, and it is just always more fun when mom joins in. We did ours as cards I made up on the computer instead of the cube, but it works the same way. When the kids are ready to move beyond a simple telling of "what happened" this concept is very helpful.
mommy to four boys & two girls... and another boy on the way :)
completed K, 1st, ADV, ECC, CTG and RTR
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MJ in IL
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Re: Narration needs something new....

Unread post by MJ in IL »

I am think more of the literature type readings... Along the same lines, you could also ask general questions relating to other story elements like the problem and solution of the problem, if applicable. Write them on strips of paper and draw from a bowl.

Have you ever experienced something like....? Would you have solved this in the same way? How does this (or not) represent Christ's love, teachings...? It is not exactly narration, but I love to see the kids make those personal connections with their own lives.

dd14 enjoying AHL; ds12 & ds10 in RtR & dd5 working through K!
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Re: Narration needs something new....

Unread post by henryteachers »

Here's a link I know about that uses the narration cube:

Also, I like this site for other narration ideas.

Hope some of these help break it up for you!
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Re: Narration needs something new....

Unread post by kellybell »

I love all the ideas above and think I'll make a narration cube out of a sheet of paper and I printed off the link with the other ideas.

Here are some things that we've done in the past to liven up narration and note taking (sometimes we take notes and then talk from those especially when there is a lot of material):

1. List the name of the person or event down the left side of a lined sheet of paper and after reading, try to write a fact for each letter of the name. This is hard to do if names are long or have weird letters but siblings can help each other.

2. Play two facts and a lie. I don't like the word "lie" in the name so help me rename this. In this game, each student goes around the circle saying two true things and a nearly-true thing, in any order. Perhaps something like: "The first plague was the river turning to blood. Abraham was chosen to confront Pharaoh. God hardened Pharoah's heart." The "lie" is the second statement because it was Moses and not Abraham. Of course, kids need a good poker face for this.

3. Fold a sheet of plain paper in to eigths (or more or less) and draw stick figures to illustrate the story in the "cells" to make a cartoon. I folded one sheet like this, drew the lines with a thick black marker and made copies and we often use that.

4. Require each child to write down half-his-age facts. A 10 year old would need to write down 5 facts, a 14 year old writes 7 (and since I am a nice mom, we round down!).

5. Pass around a baton (stuffed animal works fine). Each child tells a sentence or two of the story and then passes the baton around the circle to the next person who continues the story.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).
Michele in WA
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Re: Narration needs something new....

Unread post by Michele in WA »

Thanks again to everyone!! This is really helping already with some of the little changes we are making. Ahhh, makes it all so much more enjoyable, instead of drudgery.

Kelly....hmm.... two facts and a pretend?? Two non-fictions and a fiction? Two truths and a false? I know, I'm not very creative!! :-) That's why I come here, to use everyone else's creativity!!

Thanks again to all who shared. I'm blessed by so many great ideas!!
Married to my best friend, Mom to 7 great kids
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2010/2011~ 1st grade and ECC

Resource for teaching oral and written narration?

Unread post by cbollin »

TammyB wrote:I'm looking for a resource that will help me use narration more effectively. I'd like something that teaches ME, the teacher, how to teach my kids the skills of both oral and written narration. I'm wondering about Bauer's new book, Writing With Ease.
I tend to think of narration as only oral retelling and comprehension assessment. For writing, that's different stuff with outlines and all of that? right? I get all confused with that stuff. I just know it was covered in various Lang arts that I used.

for oral retelling and learning some basics that will take you a long way....
You could start with reading about Narration Cubes
Here's one link to help.

Narration can be as simple as asking the key Wh questions (who, what, where, when, why,). Then talk about favorite parts of the story together. Talk about anything else it reminds you of.

For informational readings (text style of stuff): make sure they can answer WH question. Who was this about? What happened first, next, and then what? How this affect others.....

Posted Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:17 pm by cbollin
I wanted to share a place with some neat ideas/how to's for narration in general.

you certainly wouldn't use all of those questions in each narration or anything. But it might give some variety to work on lots of stuff.

Wendy B.
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Re: Resource for teaching oral and written narration?

Unread post by Wendy B. »

WWE has only a couple paragraphs on how to do narration. For example. Year 1 weeks 29-35 you are to follow the example of week 28 (which gives you examples of length of copywork sentences and narration examples) and specifics for elements to include in your copywork and narration for the week.

I'm assuming that you are using or planning on using MFW since you're posting on the MFW board. Your best bet for a resource for how to use narration effectively is doing a Google search for "Charlotte Mason Narration". You will find lots and lots of information. I have many CM books and you can find the same info on the web. has CM's series so you can read about narration in her own words.

Wendy B.
Graduated ds '08 & dd '09
Homeschooling ds 11 & dd 8 using RtR
completed: MFW 1, ADV, ECC & CtG.
Julie in MN
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Re: Resource for teaching oral and written narration?

Unread post by Julie in MN »

To me, narration is simply a method for my son to "own" the information that I have presented to him. I don't want the information to go in one ear & out the other, so I need him to do some thinking. A side benefit for me is pre-writing skills, but really just keeping him alert is my personal goal.

I do "narration" in different ways -
- conversation about what we just learned
- asking him to narrate back all that I read
- asking him to condense or summarize the main points
- asking him what he thought was most interesting & why
- assign a notebook page on the topic

P.S. A couple more links on narration ideas here:
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
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narration tip

Unread post by cbollin »

Ok, I'm reading this article on "the number one way to improve your memory" (for older adults)-- not special foods, not special drinks, or special games, but good and regular cardio (aerobic) exercise. That's the number one proven way. Can you tell, I'm a group exercise instructor now? ;) I know... I wasn't able to do that regularly in certain stages of my life either. I know.....

But this part made me giggle a bit and think of all of us on this forum who use Narration techniques in our schooling. Narration helps with memory retrieval. yes!
  • quoting from the article: "when it comes to memory retrieval, self testing can be beneficial. In other words, pausing between paragraphs of an article and asking yourself to paraphrase the information or repeat a fact."
So, there's one other way to help with retention of material in our daily school with the "text" style books we use (Properties of Ecosystem, Stream of Civ. SOTW, etc.): read a paragraph or two and have the child narrate in his own words, or at least repeat one fact. Continue to next reading.

and find a way to get some exercise with the kids too :) walk together, etc.....

just wanted to encourage everyone that Narration has benefits.
Lucy Robertson wrote:Very Cool Crystal! I would be interested in reading the article.
It was one of those pop up articles when I logged out of yahoo mail on "shine yahoo" "number one way to improve your memory". I'll pm it.

It was just a sentence near the end of it and in the context of memory work. They didn't call it narration, but I saw the connection.
Cyndi (AZ)
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Re: narration tip

Unread post by Cyndi (AZ) »

great info ---

and if you have my dd, you can get narration AND exercise at the same time!!!
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Hot diggity dog!!! My DS just gave the best narration

Unread post by G'smom »

Hot diggity dog!!! My DS just gave the best narration...
he's ever given. It was so good I had to give him a treat afterward. :-)
Jamie wrote:That's awesome! I've been thinking about narration lately, and know that it's not a part of our day like it should be. Do you use it for every history, science, and language lesson? What exactly are you looking/listening for during their narration? Thanks for the help!
No, I only use it when i've read something aloud to him, he doesn't narrate on things he's read to himself.

I'm looking/listening to make sure he has grasped the main points of the story, if he hasn't, I ask him some leading questions. More often, than not he doesn't remember much of the story so I have to prompt him, but yesterday he remembered most of it and was able to tell it back in his own words.
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