Our Reading Journals are a place for us to write our responses to the things that we read. We can read in one of two modes

  1. Read for recreation, pleasure, entertainment
  2. Read for knowledge, wisdom, inspiration

In order for us to learn from our reading we need to have our brains turned on and think while we read.

One of the first learning tools that we used in our family is oral narrations – the idea that the children hears something and then retells it back to you. This confirms their paying attention and their comprehension. As the child gets older they start to integrate into their retelling their previous knowledge, their opinions and feelings on the subject. They sift through what they’ve heard and will tell you back, not word for word verbatim like it was when they were little, but they will instead give you back what they found interesting and what has built on their knowledge. This is thinking listening.

Reading Journals is the tool that we use to help them transition from

  • thinking listening  to  thinking reading,
  • thinking speaking  to  thinking writing

As you can see the key here is Thinking!

Here are a few phrases that I have used to help my children move from verbatim retells to thinking narrations:

  1. Tell me in your own words
  2. Just tell me the sequence of events first, and then tell me anything else
  3. Answer Who, When, Where, Why, How questions
  4. Did you know anything about this before? Tell me that as well.
  5. What have you learnt today?
  6. What was the main idea, important facts, and supporting details
  7. What happened and why? What can you learn from that?
  8. Can you introduce me to the main character as if he/she was your friend?
  9. Does this remind you of anything?
  10. What do you think God would have to say about this?

These types of questions will get the children used to thinking about what they have read, interpreting it themselves, and then giving interesting and relevant summaries (spoken or written).

Here are some of the skills I want to see happening in my children’s oral language – that is I want to see that they can do this while talking before I ask them to do it in the written language:

  • Understand the difference between imagination and truth
  • Recreate a sequence
  • Use descriptive language – see images when others use descriptive language, understand and begin to use colloquial language, similes, metaphors and increase their vocabulary in general.
  • Ask questions for themselves to think about – both for knowledge and wisdom
  • Summarize – Find the main point, the important facts and supporting information (be able to express these quickly)
  • Come to a conclusion (know when to stop!)
  • Compare and contrast (locations, actions, words, attitudes, reputations, build-up to a situation/scenario, character traits,)
  • Make connections with experiences and knowledge already gained
  • Understand inferences – things that are meant but not said

When I see these things happening in my children orally I can transfer them to written responses. I generally do this by us having an oral session first (this helps them organise their thoughts) and then I get them to go and write what they have said. Eventually they are able to organise their thoughts and write them without talking it through first.

But, I find when something gets a bit tricky, and they need to process the knowledge a bit more they need to talk it out first (oral narration). I find this to be true in my own learning – if I was to read something new and tricky I find it a bit hard to immediately write down a summary – but if I can talk it over with someone – it transfers from being head knowledge of something that I have read to something that I have internalised and tussled about in my head, found my words for it – then I can write about it. Speaking helps clarify our thinking, writing helps to fine tune our communication (because we can think, edit, and rewrite our words!)

But I find that there are times when processing information becomes a bit tricky and the best way to help my child is to get them to talk about it (oral narration). When they talk about newly received information it takes it from being head knowledge of something that has been read, to something that has been internalised, thought about, tussled in their head, added to, taken away from, and found their own words for – then they are prepared to write about it.

Oral Narrations is a tool far more wide-reaching than merely comprehension. It is the basis for a life time of learning.

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