Retaining knowledge by “telling again”

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“Education which demands a ‘conscious mental effort’, from the scholar, the mental effort of telling again that which has been read or heard. That is how we all learn, we tell again, to ourselves if need be, the matter we wish to retain, the sermon, the lecture, the conversation. The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Vol. 6, p. 159-160)

Tried and True Tips for Independent Readers to Improve Their Narrations

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Tips to Encourage Independent Readers to Improve Their Oral Narrations 

We all know oral narrations are an important part of a Charlotte Mason education. However, most of us didn’t grow up giving oral narrations ourselves. Instead, we grew up with fill-in-the blank, true/false, and multiple-choice quizzes and tests. As we more than likely promptly forgot everything we ‘learned’ after we took the quiz or test, we know this assessment method is often not very successful (not to mention not very enjoyable). So, while on one hand we may know oral narrations make great sense to do, on the other hand we may feel we don’t quite know how to help our children improve their narrating. Well, that is the topic of this blog post! Today, I’ll be sharing tried and true tips you can use to encourage your independent readers to improve their oral narrations!

Tips for Setting Children Up for Success

These tips help us set our children up for success in narrating before they even begin! First, before they begin reading, we can give a very brief overview of what happened last time in the book. This jogs their memory and takes them back to where they left off in their reading. Second, we can simply tell them they will be giving an oral narration when they are done reading. It seems like a little thing, but children read more carefully knowing they will be narrating when they are done. Third, right before they are going to narrate, we can help by skimming the book ourselves. Let me stress the ‘skimming’ part of this tip. Rather than reading the entire book, we can instead skim the small section our children will be narrating upon right before they narrate. This helps us make sure they are on topic when giving their narration.

Tips for Encouraging Our Children While They Are Narrating

These tips are going to seem simple, but they are actually quite hard to remember to do. After our children have finished reading, the first thing we can do to help is just to remind them what an oral narration actually is. We can do this by simply saying, Okay! Remember, an oral narration is telling me in your own words all you can about what you just read. Second, we need to be holding the book in our hands, open to the first page that they read; children should not be holding the book and looking at it themselves unless assigned to do so (i.e. like in high school highlighted oral narrations).  Third, and this is sometimes the hard part, we should listen animatedly without interrupting. I find I listen most animatedly when I am sitting down, near my children, making eye contact and smiling encouragingly.

Tips for Encouraging Our Children After They Are Done Narrating

Once our children finish narrating, the first tip I have is simply to say something positive. I might compliment my children for sticking to the topic, for sharing a neat quote, for narrating in a good order, for using proper names of people/events/places, for using good expression, for starting strong with a good beginning, for ending well with a good concluding sentence, for sharing a really interesting or important part of the reading well, for sounding like the author, for being excited as they narrated, for ‘becoming’ the person in the story, for finding their own ‘style’ in narrating, etc. Being genuinely positive about narrating helps our children feel more positive about narrating.

Tips for Improvements

Next, I share a few things my children can improve on. For example, it’s important to get numbers right (i.e. millions – not thousands – died in the Holocaust), or names right (i.e. King Louis the 14th – not the 16th), or places right (i.e. New England – not England). Or, I might ask them to try to start their sentences with something other than “And then.” I might ask them to omit a word they are overusing or a poor word (i.e. ‘basically,’ or ‘stuff’, or ‘ummmm’). If the order was off, I might suggest they try to tell something from the beginning, middle, and end next time. Or, if they narrated in a monotone voice, I might narrate a few sentences myself in a monotone voice and then in an animated voice to show the difference. If they were off topic, I might have them read the key idea for help next time.

In Closing

In closing, even though we may not have grown up orally narrating, we can still help our children learn to narrate well. These tried and true tips help children gain confidence and gradually improve their narrating. Often times, when we choose to be positive, our children respond positively in return. We set the tone, and it is important to share more positives than negatives, especially at the start. These tips help set the stage for a positive narrating experience.  Try some of them, and see how they go! Happy narrating!

In Christ,
Julie

 

The “act of knowing”

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the ‘act of knowing’. We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous ‘act of knowing,’ as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. The reward is two-fold: no intellectual habit is so valuable as that of attention; it is a mere habit but it is also the hallmark of an educated person.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Vol. 6, p. 99)

Practical Ideas to Help an 8 Year-Old Focus Better

Dear Carrie

How can I help my son maintain better focus during history and science readings?

We just finished our first week of Heart of Dakota. I have a son who is eight using Bigger Hearts. He’s really enjoying the curriculum and doing well. However, he is having a hard time getting the science and history readings to sink in. Do you have suggestions on how to help him keep his focus/attention? Especially while I read to him? He has a tough time trying to narrate back to me. Someone suggested letting him move about the room while I read, or buy some special wiggly seat for him to sit on. I tried having him move around the room. It was a disaster. The readings are so interesting! I’M totally into them. I just can’t figure out how to get HIM to focus. Do you have some practical ideas to help him, that don’t involve buying a special cushion?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help with Practical Ideas for My 8 Year-Old to Focus Better”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Practical Ideas for My 8 Year-Old to Focus Better,”

One thing to keep in mind is that the readings that are within Bigger Hearts are definitely challenging and include a very high-level vocabulary. This makes them a step up from the readings within Beyond. It takes time to grow into the skills required to listen to, process, and narrate upon more difficult readings. So, time spent reading more difficult material will definitely help a child grow into these skills. It is a process that takes time.

Have your child sit next to you and follow along as you read.

Next, it is usually true that seeing and hearing what is read will result in better retention than simply hearing what is read. So, it is a good idea to have your child sit next to you and follow along with the text while you read. I keep my wiggly boys close to me on the couch and keep my arm around them, having them help me hold the book as I read. This keeps them anchored next to me and keeps their minds focused on the words on the page.

Having your son narrate on shorter segments will help, but be careful not to stop to explain, summarize, or reread the text.

Stopping after several paragraphs to have your child give a brief narration, and then continuing right on, is another strategy that will help. Also, be sure that you are not stopping to explain difficult words, summarize the reading, or reread the text, as this actually interrupts the flow of the story in a child’s mind. Instead, we want to work toward training your child in the habit of listening and retelling from a single reading.

For many children, movement during reading interferes with the habit of retention.

While it is true that kiddos with certain disabilities listen and retain better when they are in motion, this is not true for most children. For many children, movement during reading interferes with the habit of attention and instead focuses and practices the habit of multi-tasking. Kids today often multi-task very well, but multi-tasking often means not giving your full attention to a single task but rather giving partial attention to a variety of tasks at once.

We are looking to form the habit of giving full attention to a single task, within the process of listening and narrating.

With narration and listening, we are looking to form the habit of giving a child’s full attention to a single task. To do this, the child often needs to be still, focusing all his/her attention on the reading and subsequent retelling. This is why it is so important to keep the readings short and the follow-up short too. This allows the child to give his/her full concentration to the task at hand, without requiring an unreasonable amount of time to be spent in this focused concentration.

You will see this skill slowly develop as time passes.

As time passes, I think you will be surprised at the progress your child will make in this area if you simply do the plans as written, requiring the child to focus/concentrate from a single reading. The skill will slowly develop through the years.

Blessings,

Carrie