Narration is a technique which at its simplest means “telling back”. Though in its fullest educational benefit there is more happening than simply comprehension. When we retell, we not only remember, but we start to connect new information with old information and as we meld the two together we establish what we truly know.
Developmental stages with narrations
- Initially children will just give you the facts – just as they heard it.
- Then they will start to make connections – as they give you a narration on the fresh information they have just heard/read they will add to it background information that they have gleaned from elsewhere, at a previous time.
- They will start to make opinions, express opinions and support their opinions while giving you the information.
- Then they will be able to see analogies (hidden meanings, wisdom connections) and draw life lessons from what they are reading.
This is what we want our children’s learning to be aiming for – Wisdom – not a head full of knowledge but to see principles, especially God’s principles in life and to discern when to apply them.
This progression does have an academic angle as well. Initially we talk to our children about everything – call it narrations, or call it talking – but doing work orally is vital to our children developing a love of learning. Talking about things has a two fold benefit:
- Clarifies their thinking
- Opens doors for a teaching moment
Talking about the world around them is the first thing that a toddler does when they learn to speak – the world is so new, so full of discovery, as they share it with you orally they are learning more and more. They learn to label things, they learn to pronounce their words, and even to form sentences. It is these very same skills, albeit at a different level, that narrations bring to our older children.
When do we Narrate?
We find that the children are telling us things that they have discovered from really young – we just encouraged this to continue. When they tell us about what they saw, what they did, what they heard they are beginning the skills of narrations. They will still be sorting out sequence of events, they may not start with a topic sentence so it takes a while to know what they are talking about, they may give you all the unimportant information first – this is a learning curve – the more they talk the more these things get sorted out.
When you read a book to your children, ask them to tell you the story, ask them to tell you what they learnt, or what they heard. Once again at the beginning, the order of their retelling may be all over the place, but they are learning and you will see change as they grow older.
You can get your children to narrate
- When they read a book
- When they see a movie
- When they watch a documentary
- When they visit a museum or art gallery
- When they spend the day with friends
- When they learn a new skills
Narration without books will show you another aspect of your life where narration can be used.
Benefits of Narration
So much of our focus is on writing that we forget to look at the foundation of Writing. I believe it is more important to have something to say than it is to write it properly. I want my children to be thinkers and to be able to communicate that thinking to others.
We presume that that means they need writing skills, and they do, but writing is putting our thoughts on paper – so first they need to be able to have the thoughts. I find that talking through issues, being widely read, and being encouraged to ask questions, and answer other people’s questions will give our children something of substance to write when it comes time to communicate in the written form.
The very skills that are necessary for a clear oral presentation of a thought are the same skills necessary in the written form:
- topic sentence, setting etc
- key information
These are all vital skills to have before we to put pen to paper. So I encourage you before you start a writing programme establish oral work in your family. The benefits will be there when it is time to do written work.