Narration – The Cornerstone of Notebooking

One of the most common questions for those who are new to notebooking is about narration. The questions most asked vary from what is narration?when should I start?, how can I use narration with a young child?, and how can I get my child to focus? All of these are good questions and I will explain to you how I’ve used narration with my children to answer these questions.  First, I want to say that narration is literally the cornerstone of notebooking.


What is narration? 
Narration is the telling back of information from a piece of literature, a non-fiction book, or any form of media.  Depending on your child’s age, you would read aloud or have them read and tell back what they learned from what was being taught or the events that took place. This ‘telling back’ can be written or spoken aloud.
An important thing to remember as you read to your child is to only read the passage once. This will teach your child to pay very close attention to what is being read.

When should I start narration with my child?
As long as your child is old enough to tell back what you’ve read to them, they are ready for narration. My youngest was about 3 years old. She was not able to write yet, so I did the writing for her and we would put her words into her notebook.

How can I use narration with my young children?

When my children were young, I would read stories, passages or a paragraph or two and ask them to tell me what we read. As they were explaining to me what we read, I’d write or type out their narration. We would then add their narration to their notebook, as I mentioned above. As they got older and were beginner writers, I would still write or type it out for them however, at this point, I would have them choose the main idea or most important parts of their narration. This was a good exercise for them to begin finding the main idea of the story as well. I would then write that portion on primary-lines with a highlighter for them to trace over. This allowed them to practice handwriting skills using their own words from their narrations. We kept these short so they wouldn’t tire too quickly or become frustrated. 

How do I get my child to listen closely?

As your child is listening to you read aloud or is reading quietly to himself, he knows he will be required to narrate, so he is paying close attention to what is being read – most of the time. Not all children are going to pick up on this method quickly, in fact, some of my children took some time to work it out, but in time, they all did. Concentration is really the key. Some children have a difficult time focusing, so reducing the amount of distractions for some children is important. My boys had the hardest time with narration. When they were young, I found allowing them to use their hands allowed them to hear what was being read more easily.  In other words, legos, drawing, tracing and those sorts of activities may help some children be still and pay closer attention. Also, I only allowed that one thing they were doing to be out. I found that too many things laying around the desk or tabletop made for more distractions.  Honestly, it took me a while to get used to allowing my kids to do these things while I was reading, feeling that they weren’t paying attention to me. However, when their narrations became much better, I realized they needed something to do with their hands in order to be able to focus better on the words I was reading aloud to them.

Now that all my children read well on their own and have been narrating for many years, it really does come very natural for them. They are all very articulate both in writing and speaking. I believe much of this has to do with the skills they’ve learned using narration.

Articles and Blog Posts You May Find Useful
The Charlotte Mason Method of Narration from Simply Charlotte Mason
Narration – Tapping into the “Talking Resource” by Karen Andreola 
Narration and Notebooking Part 1 from Our Busy Homeschool
Narration Ideas from Simply Charlotte Mason
Narration from Jimmie’s Collage

Programs that Teach Narration Skills

Here are a couple writing programs that I have looked at closely and would recommend to help you with teaching your child to narrate if you are feeling unsure about how to approach this method.

For Younger Students
Writing with Ease by Peace Hill Press

For Middle School
Writing with Skill by Peace Hill Press

Please leave a comment with things that have worked for you or any other suggestions that may help new notebooking parents. Thanks!

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