Children naturally narrate daily events to mom and dad and to each other. We all do this and so, at first, when attempting to apply narration to the schoolroom, the mother is often surprised to find that her child offers a brief sentence or two mixed with a lot of 'ums' and 'ers.' Don't let yourself get discouraged, because this is perfectly natural. Just as a beginner plunks out a few notes on a piano, your child is floundering in the initial stages of sifting, ordering and framing information in his mind. This is actually a very complex process and will take some time to master. Try it, yourself, and you will see just how difficult it is. No matter what age your student is, if narration is new to him, I recommend beginning with Aesop's Fables. They are short and easy to tell back, being just right for a six year old but not too childish for the older student. Begin by trying a fable a day for a few weeks and then slowly apply the technique to other short passages from their school books. (Textbooks will not work for narration, by the way) Choose books that teach history and nature etc...in narrative form.
Here are some 'do's and don'ts which may be helpful in planning a narration lesson:
Do always prepare the passage carefully beforehand, thus making sure that all the explanations and use of background material precede the reading and narration. The teacher should never have to stop in the middle of a paragraph to explain the meaning of a word. Make sure, before you start, that the meanings are known, and write all difficult proper names on the blackboard, leaving them there throughout the lesson. Similarly any map work which may be needed should be done before the reading starts.
Do regulate the length of the passage to be read before narration to the age of the children and the nature of the book. If you are reading a fairy story, you will find that the children will be able to remember a page or even two, if a single incident is described. With a more closely packed book, one or two paragraphs will be sufficient. Older children will, of course, be able to tackle longer passages before narrating, but here too, the same principles should be applied, that the length varies with the nature of the book.
Do let the narration follow directly after the reading...
Don't interrupt, even if the narrator makes a mistake or mispronounces a word...
Don't read a passage more than once, no matter how badly it has been narrated. It is permissible to ask, e.g., 'Don't you remember the bit about the horses?' If the children say 'No' the proper response is: 'What a pity! Now you will never know that bit. You must listen better next time.' The children will miss something, but they will have learnt a lesson in concentration.
Do always correct any mistakes after the narration, or better, get the other children to correct them.
E.K.Manders of Miss Mason's PNEU
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