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How can I help my son write better narrations?

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Dear Carrie

How can I help my son write better written narrations?

Dear Carrie,

We’re in Unit 12 of Heart of Dakota’s Resurrection to Reformation. My son is 13, new to written narrations, and not a writer. He just doesn’t seem to “get” it. Today he was writing conversations and all kinds of things that were in the chapter. I think he was copying them word for word. He also kept saying he didn’t know how to get enough sentences. I know I need to figure out how to tell him to be more “concise” and how to narrow it all down. For today, I’m going to read it myself and write my own narration the way *I* would do it. Maybe that will help him. He really dislikes to write and is just not good at it. So, I guess my question is, how can I help my son write better narrations? I think I just need tips on how a written narration should be.


“Ms. Please Help My Son Write Better Written Narrations”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Write Better Written Narrations,”

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Narration is a personal thing and is meant to be a reflection of what the child drew out from the reading. So, while you may be wanting a summary of the reading (unless it is specifically assigned as a summary narration), there are many different types of narrations, and all are acceptable.

Written narrations don’t need to be done in a certain way.

One thing that you do not want to do is to give him the impression that a written narration must be done a certain way. It will leave him even more uncertain and keep him trying to write the way you perceive that a narration should be done. This is no different than writing responses to please the teacher in the classroom and is something we definitely want to get away from doing in the home setting (especially when doing written narrations)!

Reading the “Written Narration Tips” and “A Few Notes on the Transition to Written Narrations” in RTR’s Appendix will help.

So, my first caution to you is to not make your son feel like he is doing it wrong! Accept his written responses. Be sure to go over the Written Narration Tips (Teacher’s List) in the Appendix. Then, go over his list right behind that. These really help in doing written narrations and will give him that sense of purpose you feel he is missing. Make sure to also read “A Few Notes on the Transition to Written Narrations” in the Appendix as well.

Written narrations may vary quite a bit from week to week.

Next, understand that his written narrations may vary quite a bit from week to week. For example, one week he may summarize more, the next week he may go into detail relating just one event that really struck him from the reading, the next week he may give you a detailed description of a person from the reading including dialogue, and the next week he may interject some opinion within the narration. All of these are acceptable!

Your son can think of narrating as telling back a movie he has seen to someone who has never seen it.

You can help him a bit by telling him to think about narrating as telling back a movie that he has seen to someone who has never seen it. Think how he would go about doing that and then apply that same strategy to narrating. Honestly, the more he orally narrates, the more shape his written narrations will take. It isn’t unusual when being new to written narrations to “try on” various styles and ways of doing it. This is what writers do, and it is how they eventually find their own style.

You can demonstrate the written narration process by having your son tell you what he remembers and writing the sentences as he says them.

To demonstrate the written narration process, you could have him tell you what he remembered right after reading and write the sentences as he says them (so he can see them appearing on paper coming right from his mind). This will help him see that it is truly just a retelling of what he is thinking, except on paper. Try not to have him look back so much at the text after reading, as this may jumble up what he recalls in his mind. Just go with what he can remember right away, so he doesn’t get bogged down including all of the facts and details. Later, he can move toward looking back over the text and including important things. This is a later narration stage. Just have him refer to the text for names and places or spellings for now.

Since your son is new to written narrations, he can just try to write a paragraph at first.

For now, since your son is new to written narrations, don’t worry about hitting the exact number of sentences. Just try to have him write a paragraph at first. Just keep encouraging your son that he needs to retell in his own words as much as possible what he remembered from the story. It’s alright if the sentences seem a bit disjointed for now as far as how they go together. Try to withhold judgment as to the narration’s content, but do follow the Written Narration Skills list in the Appendix to help him edit the narration.

As time passes, you will see improvement!

I want to encourage you that as time passes, you will see improvement. But, if you make this a teacher-pleaser assignment with one right way you are seeking, he will not come into his own as a narrator because you will have changed the assignment’s original intention. So, head to the Appendix right away for much needed help! It is there to encourage you in this endeavor! It’s good to know that we all go through this stage as we try to figure out what written narration looks like! You are not alone!


P.S. If you are new to Heart of Dakota, click here to find out more about it!


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