Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Narration

Most of us know that narration is the bedrock of learning in a CM education. It is the 'main thing', the tool within her method most often associated with a CM education. And so we ask our children to narrate, each in our own way, but how much do we really know about this process?

Is it just a replacement for what is required in schools to make sure they comprehend the material? Is it to cement learning? To train the habit of attention? To hone their memory and 'telling' skills?

To read what CM says about narration for yourself click here.

Luckily for us, Carroll Smith of Childlight wrote an article a few years back discussing this very topic.

Here is a quote from this article (which I wanted to quote in it's entirety because it's really good.):

Too often in the teaching/learning context when we think of language, we think of the parts of language--the sound-symbol relationships, grammar, syntax, sentence
structure, etc. and we can forget the greater importance of language, that is, meaning making. The whole purpose of learning to read, reading a book, completing a Bible study is to make meaning and learn from the language provided in such an activity. In fact language is so important and provides our means for meaning making or truth finding that Jesus is referred to as the Logos.

As a side note, I'd like to point out here that one of CM's guiding thoughts was always to preserve the child's natural appetite for learning, she was ever against hindering it or getting in the way of it. I personally love this about her thinking and her method. One of her best known quotes is, “The question is not—how much does the youth know when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care?"

Back to the article, here are the Six Steps of the Narration Sequence suggested by Smith (I'm assuming in accord with CM's methods) with a brief explanation of each:

1. Teacher introduces the new text
Teachers who have a relationship with their students, know the words and concepts
that their students will not understand. These teachers introduce new vocabulary or explain concepts because they have a sense of what needs to be explained about a
text before it is read.

2. Student recreation of old text
After introducing the new text the teacher or parent asks a child to describe the
scene in the history or literature book that was last read and narrated. Everyone’s mind is brought back to the story and the students can see the characters, the scene,
remember the plot of the story thus far—all in their minds’ eye.

3. Reading of living book text
In the new lesson the teacher or students then proceed to read the next selection.
Having been reminded of what occurred earlier in the selection and having been prepared by reviewing new vocabulary and concepts, student are ready to receive the
current reading selection. Because of the integration of subjects, students are making connections to other content areas as they read. The sequence and integration of the living book with other subjects promotes a natural frame for scaffolding and connecting.

(The 'integration of subjects' he talks of here is not the same as Unit Studies - he explains in more detail in the article if you're interested.)

4. Narration of living book text
Following the reading by the teacher or students then without any other thoughts, ideas or questions intervening, the children are asked to narrate. (Mason (1954) says, “ if it is desireable to ask questions in order to emphasize certain points,
these should be asked after and not before, or during, the act of narration” (p. 17). Think about the use of language that is occurring through the thinking about what was read, sequencing it and then narrating it back (speech). But we are not finished. If we stop here, we often set up the situation of mechanical narrating that can become monotonous and dry.

5. Grand conversation (What a great term!)
following the narration children need to be able to share their reactions and ask questions — their reactions and questions. Following the conversation they have had with the author through reading and narrating, the children now need to be able to have a conversation with the teacher and their fellow students about what the author said in the text. Here, the teacher talks with the students and not at the students.

(now this is key anxious mommys wanting perfect narrations (speaking to myself in particular)) ...It takes practice, time and an accepting, non-competitive environment where ideas, thoughts and reactions could be expressed freely. In other words, it requires a relationship between students, teacher and text. It is during this conversation that the teacher gleans what needs to be done to assist the student in closing the gap between the children’s developmental level of understanding, the text and the level of understanding that can be gained between the student and the text with the teacher’s assistance.

6. Closing
This frequently overlooked closing is not a comprehension check (that is checked during narration) nor a summary or a wrap up. A question may need to be put forth by the teacher, a comment or a thought; or it may be only a closing sentence needed to be made to bring closure to the lesson. If during the grand conversation after the narrating, the teacher sees that the children have not grasped a major point, she then facilitates their learning process by providing adequate scaffolding through using a question, comment or idea.

Did you learn anything new here? I know I did!

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