Composition in the Form of Written Narration Begins by Age 10

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

According to Charlotte Mason, composition in the form of written narration should begin by age 10.

When children narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. Charlotte Mason considered oral narration as the earliest form of composition. She used the words “narration” and “composition” interchangeably. Charlotte Mason had children under age 9 take care of their composition instruction by orally narrating. She had them intertwine these narrations with history, science, reading, and the like. By age 10, children were ready to begin composition in the form of written narration. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

According to Charlotte Mason, in written narrations, the child and the author should be trusted to be left alone together.

According to Charlotte Mason, composition in the form of written narration is “as natural as running and jumping to children who have been allowed to read lots of books.” If they orally narrate first of all, they will compose sooner or later, but they should not be taught “composition” as a separate body of information to be learned. Instead, it is important that the child and the author be trusted to be left alone together. There should be no middle-man such as a teacher telling the child what the book said, or about what to think. According to Charlotte Mason, our business as teachers is to “provide children the material for their lessons, while leaving the handling of that material to themselves.” In short, we are not to hamper them by too many instructions. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

According to Charlotte Mason, reading living books and narrating from them helps children develop their own individual style.

Children who have gotten into the habit of reading good literature absorb what they will from it themselves, in their own way, whether it’s a lot or a little. Reading living books and narrating from them helps children to begin to form their own literary style. Because they have been in the company of great minds, their style will not be an exact copy of any one in particular, but will instead be shaped as an individual style from the wealth of materials they possess to create a natural style of their own. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

According to Charlotte Mason, written narration done properly develops self-expression and individual literary style.

Narration done properly develops the power of self-expression and invites a child’s personality to become part of the learning process. A child should choose vocabulary he finds appealing, make it his own, and then give it forth again with that own unique touch that comes from his own mind. This is why no two narrations should be exactly alike. It is also why teachers should not expect their children to give the same narration they would have given. At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

Written narration requires higher level thinking than fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions.

Narrating requires a higher level of thinking. Consider the skill it takes to fill in blanks or choose from multiple-choice answers. Now, consider the skills it takes to retell a story you have just heard or read! Clearly the latter proves to require higher-level thinking. In order to demonstrate the complex skill of narrating, try your hand at it yourself. Now that you’ve read much of this blog post, try this! Walk away and get a sheet of paper to write down all that you can remember. Or, would you find it easier if you were now given multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, or true/false questions instead?

Oral and written narrations improve children’s composing abilities and public speaking skills.

Narration provides far more information about children’s comprehension because they must answer without the support clues provided by questions. Charlotte Mason replaced the quiz, test, chapter review, and book report by something far more effective. Why? She found what children take time to put into their own words is retained because it has become their own. With narration, you’ve just found the key to really knowing what your children know! This is why, even after children have become skilled at writing narrations, oral narrations are continued. Maintaining oral narrations keeps improving both a child’s composing ability and his public speaking skills. There is simply not a better way to “test” a child’s comprehension and retention than oral and written narration!

Heart of Dakota’s guides include step-by-step tips on how to teach, practice, and edit written narrations.

Once written narrations are assigned, each Heart of Dakota guide includes clear, step-by-step tips on how to teach and practice the skill of written narration. We provide both teacher and student tips for written narrations before, during, and after the narration process. Furthermore, we provide a Written Narration Skills List to guide students through the process of incrementally working toward editing their written narrations, which is different than revising, mastering one small step at a time.

We begin formal written narration instruction in Preparing Hearts for His Glory once weekly. We continue composition in the form of written narration through 12th grade, incrementally progressing this Charlotte Mason inspired skill in length, complexity, and depth. Our final U.S. History II high school guide includes eight types of written narration: detailed, recorded, summary, key word, highlighted, topic, opinion, and persuasive. We based these types of written narrations upon the composition assignments Charlotte Mason assigned herself, according to her own detailed descriptions.

In Closing…

In closing, here are a few inspiring quotes from Charlotte Mason in regard to composition in the form of written narrations…

Children in this Form (Ages 9-12) have a wider range of reading, a more fertile field of thought, and more delightful subjects for composition. They write their little essays themselves (referring to written narration), and for the accuracy of their knowledge and justice of their expression, why ‘still the wonder grows’. They’ll describe their favorite scene from “The Tempest” or “Woodstock”. They write to ‘tell’ stories from work set in Plutarch or Shakespeare or tell of the events of the day. They narrate from English, French, and General History, from the Old and New Testament, from “Stories from the History of Rome”, from Bullfinch’s “Age of Fable”, from, for example, Goldsmith’s or Wordsworth’s poems, from “The Heroe’s of Asgard”: in fact, Composition is not an adjunct but an integral part of their education in every subject. (Vol. 6, p. 192)

Having been brought up so far upon stylists the pupils are almost certain to have formed a good style: because they have been thrown into the society of many great minds, they will not make a servile copy of any one but will shape an individual style out of the wealth of material they possess; and because they have matter in abundance and of the best they will not write mere verbiage. (Vol 6, p. 194)

At Heart of Dakota, we agree!

In Christ,

Julie