Narration Tips

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Since people ask frequently me how to deal with children narrating the same passage at the same time when reading to the kids all together, I’ll give a brief answer about how we’ve dealt with this issue in our home.

After each reading selection, I call on one of the children to narrate — they don’t know who it will be from one time to the next. Sometimes if I feel the first narration was sketchy, I’ll call on the other to narrate any additional information he or she would like to add to the earlier narration.

We do brief oral narrations after every subject each day — whether the subject was covered together orally or studied independently. We only do written narrations a couple of times a week for just a few carefully chosen subjects.

Many times people starting narration for the first time discover that their children are hesitant to narrate. When asked to tell about the story, the child responds, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”

If you’re hearing “I don’t know” constantly, one of several things could be happening. Perhaps the material is too difficult for the child, or the passage could be too long. For beginners, have them do a narration after reading only a short paragraph or two. Possibly the child just isn’t experienced enough with narration yet to attempt anything long or complex.

When we were first starting to use oral narrations, I found that Aesop’s Fables and the Beattrix Potter books contained just about the right amount of material for my beginning narrators. These books contained short stories that could be read completely in one easy sitting.

One trick I’ve learned to help the reluctant narrator is this: when I hear the “I don’t know/I don’t remember” response, I’ll say something goofy that has absolutely nothing to do with the story in question (with a smiling glint in my eye), such as: “So, the little red wagon turned into a purple frog. Is that what happened?”

Then my reluctant little narrator says, “NO, Mommy! That’s not what happened — you’re funny!” And then with a giggle and a huge smile, they’re off and running giving me a detailed description of the story they “didn’t remember” moments before.

Works everytime.

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