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Because I aim to please…

September 12, 2009

and welcome a given blog post, the following is written for Lora Lynn of Vitafamiliae. She’s my only MIRL blogger friend so I’ll do anything to capitalize on the relationship.

What Charlotte Mason said about writing:

Composition is written narration. See, short and sweet.

Therefore, you have to get the oral narration part first. Narration is the practice of the teacher, this case Mom, reading a passage to her child and then giving him the opportunity to tell it back to her plus his opinions and personal thoughts about what he heard, learned, and understood. Narration is the idea of an oral essay.

In my understanding, the majority of the Charlotte Mason (CM) method is built on the practice of oral narration. Reading aloud of original sourced (when possible), vibrant, living books stimulates the hearer to be embraced by the words, to have a mental response to those words, and then to orally respond to those words.

It is not a direct question method which leads to a fill-in-the-blank response, but a telling of all you learned about what was said, like an oral paraphrase. It requires higher thinking skills because the hearer is digesting the information and then saying it back with understanding instead of only parroting or regurgitation.

Charlotte believed in narration as one of the building blocks of learning and would not require her students to write down their narration until about the 4th grade after basic penmanship skills were cultivated. Otherwise the frustration of forming the letters would distract the student from his clarity of thought in the writing.

Originally I was skeptical about how this would work with the boys. My bookshelves are filled with writing prompts, creative journaling ideas and the like. I constantly ask them direct questions and constantly receive fill-in-the-blank answers. But what I was missing was the synthesis of ideas from their minds to a piece of paper.

I have begun my own CM experiment. I have stopped requiring the writing and instead am doing more reading aloud of short passages and requiring their narration. It is almost like a game to them because at the start I tell them that I am going to only read the passage one time and at the end they will have to tell me everything they learned. This way they give greater focus and attention to what I’m saying and the result is a willingness to show me what they heard. Each boy adds to another’s statement and between the three they are able to see a full picture.

The next part is translating their listening to their writing. Same practice. I read a short passage and then have them narrate on paper. Obviously editing  has to take place, but writing is also occurring. To get the “essay” into a particular format takes a bit more direct instruction. For example, if I’m reading a passage from Robert E. Lee’s biography, I can phrase the question as, “What Christian character traits did Lee demonstrate in his leadership?” It is very similar to what they will later see on tests that require an essay of synthesized information.

To teach the specific forms of writing like expository, persuasive, descriptive and biographical essays, I am still quite happy with the Jump In! book from Apologia that breaks these skills down into steps and only requires the student to take one step at a time.

So, that’s it in almost 600 words, LL. Hope it helps.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2009 1:07 pm

    Oh, perfection! Just the sort of synthesis I needed. I suspect this will come in handy with my brothers who HATE to pick up a pencil but love to listen to stories. Thank you thank you! And it will help with my own kids, who tend to answer the direct questions, but we will start practicing some regurgitation with our FIAR books. Because my ultimate goal, you know, is to raise an army of little bloggers. 🙂

  2. September 14, 2009 4:56 am

    I stumbled on your blog. I enjoyed your posts and writing style.

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