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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Narration Solution for My Narration Phobic Kid?

039Do narrations lead to freak outs in your homeschool?

For some reason I hear Psycho music in my head when I see this picture. Smile

David has an issue with narrations. He’d rather not do them at all. Or just draw them rather than write out his thoughts.

But at nearly 12, he needs to work on sharing what’s going on in his noggin. Fiction he has no trouble writing, but reporting on what he’s read…oh, dear.

David has memory issues and difficulties putting together what is in his head and talking about it.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it), I have similar learning issues, so I have a pretty good understanding of what he’s going through.

It’s funny how we get to know ourselves better by helping our kids with their problems, isn’t it?

One of David’s independent studies this year is Mapping the World with Art. He loves the mapping part of it, but the readings have been an unpleasant chore.

It seemed simple. Read a 2 page reading on Monday and write a one-paragraph narration…how hard could that be?

But consider…what if at the end of your reading all you had was a dim impression of what you had read. And the details seemed to be on the tip of your brain, but every time you tried to call them to mind or speak the words it just all got confused?

You might end up writing a paragraph along the lines of…

Vasco da Gama was evil. He solved problems with guns and swords. He robbed tons of Arab ships. He sailed around Africa. The end.

I knew he was capable of a more complete understanding than this and that his true writing ability was not showing through.

So, I tried discussing the reading with him. And it didn’t really help.

You see, it was simply too much for him digest and process. He can read a Harry Potter book in a couple of days, but synthesizing a dozen paragraphs on a topic that may or may not interest him (and that happened hundreds of years ago)…well, it was too much.

To be fair, he would probably have similar issues writing a book report on Harry Potter. The information is locked in there, but getting it out and doing something with it, ah that is the challenge.

The solution: Instead of reading the entire reading for that lesson in one day and summarizing or narrating it, we divide the reading up into shorter passages. On each day, Monday thru Thursday, he reads a short passage (about 2-3 longish paragraphs) and writes a one sentence narration of that passage. At the end of the week, he has a good paragraph for a summary. He also adds important dates to his Book of Centuries. For review, he draws a picture that covers the entire reading. Last week was his first week trying this method, and I had him reread about da Gama. Here is his new paragraph:

Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa to help Portugal win the spice trade. Upon getting to India, he found that the sultan wanted more than glass beads, so he decided to give him bloody cannon balls instead. And so the Portuguese explorer turned pirate, looting and burning Arab ships. Finally, da Gama caught Malaria off the coast of India and died on Christmas Eve.

Notice the complexity of the sentences and the linking of ideas? Not just a vague impression, but an understanding that he can convey. He was also able to talk about what he had read, whereas before, he was kinda stumped.

This is a beginning and it’s a step in the right direction. The key, I think, is to remember that quality is more important than quantity. What’s the point of reading hundreds of pages if you can’t synthesize what you read? But as he learns to narrate as he goes, he should be able to work up to outlining whole books, and he’ll definitely have a leg up on students who are relying on their memory of what they read.

And what does David think? He says he loves it. Getting him to do the short readings and write was not a battle at all. Definitely a win-win solution.

You might also enjoy:

Committing Words to Memory

When Mama Has a Learning Disability, Too

On Learning to Spell


  1. I found your site through VoiceBoks. I'm a fellow homeschooling mom and I have the same problem with my 10 year old. That's a really great idea--gonna try it out. Glad you found something that works.


  2. Laughed at the pic of David...LOL...glad you've found a solution~THANKS! hugs, c

  3. Hi Christy,
    Thank you for coming to visit, it's good to meet you! And I hope it works for you, too. ;0)

  4. SisterT-
    I can always rely on David to give me a winning mug shot. ;0)

  5. What an impressive narration! Thanks for sharing the process.


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