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Narration in Our High School Plans

Just tell me about something you found interesting, either orally or in writing.

Some things never change and narration in our family is pretty much the same today as it was when the boys were in middle school or even before. Some narration is spontaneous and some is prompted, but in the end it is all good.

I think in our family narration comes very naturally, spending so much time together and being involved in each other’s lives makes talking about what we are learning much like breathing in and out…it just happens and we don’t think much about it.

Sitting here this evening, trying to come up with this post that answers the question about narration in high school, I realized how much I build into our daily plans a rhythm for narration.

Examples of How Narration Looks in Our High School Day

Bible Study:
We start our day off with Bible reading, each of us shares in reading aloud the verses we are covering. After the reading is over, we go around the table and answer one of these questions:

  • What do these scriptures teach us about God’s qualities?
  • How does this relate to the overall theme of the Bible?
  • How does this affect my life?
  • How can I share this with others?

We take turns answering orally in a minute or two each. Once a week we take time to choose a scripture to write about in our Bible notebooks. This is a short paragraph with our own thoughts and perhaps a plan for applying the counsel in our own lives.

Literature and History/Geography:
Narration in the high school years for these subjects is a little trickier than in the past. I often don’t read their books so our discussions are slightly different than when I would either read aloud the assignments or I could keep up with all their literature and history reading. Now in high school they work independently and I have to rely on the teacher’s notes from TOG or Cliffs Notes to give me the high points and some direction. Thankfully TOG does a great job of providing information for me to use when it comes time for discussions or assigning written narrations.

  • Monday morning meetings gives me a time to introduce some topics we will discuss on Friday at our meeting. This few minutes on Mondays makes a big difference in the quality of the narration on Friday. Topics may include literature terms, some sort of question for them to answer, or it can be just some ideas for them to look for as they read. High school level reading needs a little more introduction than previous reading. I try to include a brief overview of each book, some points about the time period it was written, or something about the author. (Ideas gleaned from The Well-Trained Mind and How to Read a Book) I try to be specific and clear so they have a good idea of what is expected besides reading. Some books they just read and enjoy with no narration expectations.
  • There is lots of informal oral narration every day as they complete assignments. I try to remain available to them at least during the morning hours.
  • Wednesday in our formal writing time, I introduce a writing topic and we brainstorm ideas before they independently write a response. This is not exactly CM narration but it does the trick in our family.
  • Daily Commonplace Book writing helps them gather thoughts to include in their writing response or for Friday’s discussion.
  • Sometimeswe use notebook pages as a way to gather thoughts and ideas about a topic we cover in our history and literature. I consider these a form of narration.
  • Friday meetings are all about sharing what we worked on over the past week. This is done both with written and oral narration. There is no need for quizzes or tests this way since I can directly see from their words and actions how much they gleaned from our weekly studies. It also gives me a chance to hear from them how their studies are going and I can add or subtract from my future plans if I see a need.

Our Monday meetings are rarely more than thirty minutes long and our Friday meetings can be as long as forty-five minutes depending on how in depth we go over our literature, history, geography, poetry, etc. The formal writing time on Wednesday with me is usually about thirty minutes long and then they are off on their own to start or continue a writing project.

Can you see how you build narration into your high school week? The basics are the same and the idea is to get them to tell back in some way what they read about and learned during their independent study time. I don’t see it as a time to quiz or nag. It is a time for them to share and express their thoughts and believe me, in high school they begin to have a lot of their own thoughts.

If you are interested in how our narration has developed over the years, here is an entry: A System of Narration.

Also here is another entry I wrote about how to include CM style narrations along with Tapestry of Grace: CM and TOG Narrations.

My best advice for developing good narration skills in high school is to work on those skills as you grow them up through the younger grades. You also need to be available for all those informal narration times that pop up during the day. I will even sit down next to one of my sons as they read and ask them to read aloud a section from where they are in the book. This always prompts some sort of discussion when they are done. Try this with any subject they are working on and see what happens….informal narration.

This completes another post in my series answering questions from readers. I still have quite a few to go so if you are waiting on a response….please be patient. I am in the midst of planning next year’s school design and it is taking a lot of brain power. 🙂

Literature Terms-My Little Reminders

As we go through our literature readings each week, I want to have a way to remember the terms and concepts that are on our “to do” list for the year. I came up with a method a few years back and it is still a great way to review and cement ideas as we go through our weekly literature assignments. I also love that it is relatively painless and inexpensive, as well as quick and easy.

I take a set of 3″ by 5″ cards and write down the literary terms that I would like to cover for the year. I keep the cards in a box or you can hole punch and put them on a ring. I like to move the completed cards to a separate section and only use them for review. Some cards stay in the current section for the complete school year. We are working on finding the theme in our literature this year so the “theme” card will stay in the front.

As we go through the week’s reading, I pull out several of the cards and keep them in mind when we have our literature discussions. Tapestry of Grace uses “story analysis” and weaves it into their plans, but I want to review more often than it comes up in the TOG plans.

Here are some of the cards we have used over the years.

Beginning Cards:
Main Idea
Legend/Myth/Folk Tale/Fable/Tall tale
Figure of speech

Next step:
Point of view (first person, third person, etc)

Our new high school level cards:
Short Story
Poetry/free verse/limerick
Tragedy/Comedy/Historical play

How do we use the cards? After pulling a few cards each week to keep in mind, I ask the boys to watch out for examples of the concepts in their reading. For instance, if we were working on metaphors, they might keep track of a few that they come across in their weekly work. If the book we are reading is a biography, we might talk about point of view, setting, dialogue , or mood. Shakespearean plays give us the opportunity to discuss which category of play we are reading, rhyme, characters, dialect, or irony.

Another way I weave the literature terms into our work is to have the boys include examples in their own writing. I might ask them to include a metaphor in their writing or to write from a certain point of view. This way they are not only able to find examples in their literature but also cement the idea by incorporating the concepts into their own writing. I love that.

If you have younger children, you can use the cards as a reminder to yourself and as you cover each idea, make a little pencil check in the corner to keep track of which cards you have shared so far. It is a visual reminder as you work through your school year.

We start each year with a quick review of the terms we know and I add in a few new ones to work on, keeping track as we work through the weeks.

If you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, you can intertwine these literary terms into your narration assignments. An example might be for your student to narrate some dialogue for the current literature book or to narrate the setting of the book with a drawing. You can be as creative as you would like using the cards and terms.

Hope this helps someone or sparks an idea of your own. You can actually use this idea for other subjects as well and I found it a lifesaver when I had three homeschoolers working on different grade levels.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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