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, 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!