Nuggets from the Armitt #5

This particular nugget will be especially valuable to parents of older children. If you have been using Charlotte Mason’s methods for a good while, you have probably found that, at approximately age 12 or so, children can become rather bored of simply “telling back” all their reading by way of straightforward narration. This is still the “best means to adopt” up to that point, as these notes suggest, but—“with older children, other means of recapturing may be adopted.” Now that is very interesting! Here is the whole summary of the topic:

At a Criticism Lesson given this term, Miss Mason called attention to the importance of ascertaining by means of a summary whether the lesson has been assimilated by the children. With younger children narration of a whole or part of the lesson is the best means to adopt, because it is not only a training in accurate and coherent thought, and an exercise in correctness of expression, but also the very fact of narrating causes the children to make a vivid mental picture of what they describe. It is important not to interrupt the narration by questions; but if one child hesitate, to allow another to take up the thread of the story. With older children other means of recapturing may be adopted, and it is well to vary them as much as possible. One good way is to allow the children to write down two or three questions such as would contain the most important points of the lesson ; answers in this case are unnecessary. There are of course many other methods of summarizing, e.g., writing a short report on questions set previously by the teacher, and carefully chosen, so that the answers may not be vague or rambling. Another good way is to use a map if the subject permit, or to sum up by a few oral questions on a part or the whole of the lesson. If the children know a part, they will probably have grasped the whole equally well.

Now here are some interesting thoughts about narration for older children, and I suspect there are a few reasons for these alternative ideas. First, of course, is boredom with plain narration, as I mentioned earlier. But also, these older students were reading quite a bit more material, and time for all of them to narrate all of the material wasn’t available in the schedule. One key, I think, is permission to narrate only part of the material. But the idea of writing a short report as a written narration in response to a question, rather than writing out a narration of the whole, is a very interesting idea. To keep the question from provoking a “vague or rambling” response, it would have to be quite definite. For example:

What are some ways that seeds are dispersed? Use specific plants as examples.

What hardships did young Jane Eyre face at Lowood School? What helped her to deal with them?

What changes did the Industrial Revolution make in the cloth-making industry? Who benefited from the changes, and who was harmed?

“Many other methods” invites a teacher to be creative, and I think what I call “creative narration” belongs here as well. Children can write from the first-person perspective of a character or historical figure, or an animal! They can write in the form of poetry, a newspaper article, a screenplay, or even a graphic novel. They can summarize with a list of questions, in an imaginary letter, or in the “voice” of Shakespearean English.

I think it’s very helpful to know that Charlotte Mason’s primary method of narration can be expanded to include a wide variety of activities, and even that “it is well to vary them as much as possible.” If your narrators are getting a little tired of merely “telling back,” put some interest back into the process by trying something different.