Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Raising the Bar :: Year 4 Narrations

As my children get older and mature in their lessons and abilities to narrate, I've got to keep up too! I found that by Year 3's end, my oldest was quite capable (and good!) at giving oral narrations of his readings. At the beginning of Year 4 (we are in our First Term now), I realized the necessity to push his narration capacities a bit ... to stretch his compositions. 

This last year I attended a homeschool conference where Sonya Shafer was one of the speakers. She gave a talk on narration, along with a handout of narration ideas. A nice list of ideas she presented is here.

She asked the question, "Is narration enough for high school?"

Answer: "Yes, IF you continue to raise the bar."

So here is a general guideline for narration "bar-raising" she gave:

Years 1-3 :: narrative
Years 4-6 :: narrative PLUS expository
Years 7-9 :: narrative, expository PLUS descriptive
Years 10+:: narrative, expository, descriptive PLUS persuasive

You can find a more in-depth explanation of the above in this article.


...it is not a bad test of education to be able to give the points of a description,
the sequence of a series of incidents, the links in a chain of argument...

...to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause;
to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact...

-Vol 3, p180


What is expository writing? (It is called writing, although at this point ... Year 4 ... the majority of the "writing" is still oral). I viewed a helpful YouTube video here to outline the basics for me. The following are my notes:

Expository writing's purpose is to inform or describe. This is in contrast to just re-telling the plot in the early elementary years.

The 5 techniques are:
1) descriptive (use of the five senses; location, etc.)
2) process/sequence (how-to; order of events)
3) comparison (2 or more ideas)
4) cause & effect (seek to answer "why" and "what"; this technique is useful for science and anything occurring in nature or with inanimate objects)
5) problem & solution (seek to answer "what was the problem" and "what did people do to solve it"; is used only when people are involved)


I have this list of techniques posted near my desk where I plan lessons for quick reference as I pre-read Royal's upcoming chapters. After reading the assigned pages, I grab a Post-It, jot down one or two narration prompts, then stick it at the end of Royal's reading for him to ponder until I can hear his oral composition. (Alternatively, SimplyCharlotteMason also offers some free narration bookmarks with general narration prompts printed on them).

The teacher's part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the work of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils' mental activity.

-Vol 3, p180

The following are a few questions I have posed for him:

Trial & Triumph : The Two Margarets
     * According to King Charles II, what was the "problem" with the Covenanters?
     * What did they do to solve their "problem"?
     * How did the two Margarets handle the situation?

Madam How & Lady Why: The Glen (reading pages 14-18)
     * Why does the water run along the top of the clay near the New Forest? What is the resulting effect in nature?

Fun to find our own little "wash-out" due to water running atop layers of clay.

Storybook of Science : 
"The Age of Trees" (Ch 9)
     * Describe one of the oldest trees. Where is it? What is special about it? Did anything interesting or unique happen to it?

"The Length of Animal Life" (Ch 10)
     * Explain how the length of animal life differs from that of human life.
     * How do you think the jobs of each animal affect how long they live?

"The Kettle" (Ch 11)
     * Describe the process of mining copper.
     * How is copper fashioned (or made) into useful tools or kitchen items?

This Country of Ours : 
"The Witches of Salem" (Ch 34)
     * Pretend you are a reporter on the news. Report the story of the witches of Salem.

"How New Amsterdam became New York" (Ch 36)
     *How were the Dutch patroons like the feudal lords of old time?


"...'In all labour there is profit,' ... and the labour of thought is what his book must induce in the child.
He must generalise, classify, infer, judge, visualise, discriminate, labour in one way or another,
with that capable mind of his..."

-Vol 3, p179


  1. Circe's Andrew Kern also did a brief video on many of these types of questions. I though it was very helpful and now I cannot find the link. Argh. But I wrote down his examples and refer to those as I'm pre reading. Some of his ideas I liked that I do not think SCM has are: "Who would criticize it?" "Who would think it was a good idea?" "Is it the honorable thing to do?" "Is it moral, pleasing to God? Why or Why not?" (verses are great answers here) He put these under another category entitled Honor.

    Under Cause and Effect he also used, "What were the effects of _______ welcoming _______?" Which would be great for TCOO, Trial and Triumph.

    We've also done under Cause and Effect: "What was the effect of God allowing Bunyan to be put in prison?" (He was tempted, but learned to trust God. He had his love of God ordered above his love of his family, He wrote Pilgrim's Progress which... and all of this is of course expanded on during conversation)

    And then of course my very favorite question for Comparison that Wendi C from AO suggested: "Does this make you think of anything else you've read?"

    I was also thinking Cause and Effect is great for things like: "What caused so many people to come to (fill in a colony)?" "What effect did this have on how (colony) was shaped?" (things like government, laws, interactions with the indians...) Obviously this question can be tweaked depending on which colony you chose.

    I like your Problem/Solution question. I think I've mainly covered this under the Narrative style. It just naturally gets discussed because my children have such a sense of right and wrong and justice needing to be served. =) But I need to phrase it like you have done and see how that is taken. I had not thought of that.

    Thanks for this post! It's great!

    1. Thanks, Virginia! You have a lot of good, additional information here. I am glad for some more guidance and suggestions :-)
      I am glad to have another 3-ish years to work through this expository stuff. Right now with Royal is like stuttering a little (kinda like regular narratives were back in Year 1), so this will be fun/interesting/educational to see how his mind continues to grow as the stakes are raised.

  2. As always, very helpful, Kristyn!

  3. This is really helpful, thank you!