Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Narration at Our House

In honor of the next CM Blog Carnival, I'm putting together this post.
First I'll copy and paste a couple of things from some of my former posts
regarding Pooh's narrations. Then, I'll provide more info at the

For those new to this blog, please keep in mind that Pooh has autism and some of what we do won't be 'strict' CM.

"I'm learning that the key with Pooh is to make sure and do shorter readings. Even the OIS chapter is too long right now for him to listen and narrate. So I take it in paragraphs. Same thing with 50 Famous Stories. I believe that Narration has to be our focus for Year 1. He's going to need to practice and we'll try to use different types of narration in the process. Oral, drawings and even figurines to act it out."

"I'm adjusting expectations that I had as regards some of our readings and narration. I've learned that Pooh needs me to stop every couple of paragraphs for a narration so that he can stay focused. If I try to do a whole chapter or too large of a section, his mind wanders to other things and then we both get frustrated that 'he's not listening'. I also see where sometimes the language used in the reading confuses him or just causes a general misunderstanding of the storyline. It takes us discussing it together to make sure he can follow along. For instance, from Our Island Story, we read A Laconic Answer. He was able to narrate the end of the story in regards to the one guy (can't remember his name LOL) wanting to make war with the Lacons (or Spartans) but didn't get all the part where it explains what the Lacons were known for and why the end had 'a laconic answer'. Which to me is the whole point of reading this story. So we had to discuss it. Basically, I have to narrate. I have found myself asking questions about the readings, which I'm trying to limit or eliminate. I even found myself interrupting to correct something. Horrors!!!! I stopped myself and said, "whoops I'm interrupting" and put my hand over my mouth. Pooh thought this was funny and smiled as he finished his narration."

As you can see from the above clips, the history narration of AO requires extra work on our part. I think we did well choosing Year 1. It's just about right for him. He loves the history stories, even though he doesn't necessarily follow them as well as he could. These are some common mistakes he makes:

  1. Forgetting names. He doesn't seem able to remember them. He will even ask the same person's name several times throughout his narration. I frequently hear "What was the leader of the Romans name again?" I'm need to work on writing out the names for him ahead of time so that he can get into the habit of looking at them for reference during narration.

  2. Leaping ahead. Pooh really loves the stories. He is always excited to listen to them. I think he has a great imagination in that he is really thinking about the stories, but in the sense of how he would like them to end. Yesterday we read about How Caligula conquered Britain from OIS. At the point where Caligula rows out into the English Channel and then comes back to make his speech, I stopped for narration. Pooh's narration had him on a ship back to Italy. Then at the end of the story, he told me he preferred the story of Julius Caesar because he took ships instead of walking all the way. LOL Have I mentioned before how much Pooh loves ships!?!

  3. Getting mixed up. He can tend to get mixed up as to who is doing what. He knows what events are taking place but will sometimes not know which side is doing a particular thing. Today, from 50 Famous Stories, we read about Horatius at the Bridge. I stopped for narration after Horatius sent his friends across the bridge and the bridge fell. Pooh narrated that all the Etruscans crossed the bridge and died. That's the combination of his getting a little mixed up and leaping ahead in his mind to imagine what is going to happen.

Sometimes these mistakes he makes cause me to have to correct something so as not to have a complete misunderstanding of what's going on. I will also ask questions, though I do try to make declarative statements instead. How he answers the questions will many times reassure me that he's getting it, that he understood the main point of the event/motive, etc. One thing in particular I do is listen to his narration and just wait. (the RDI 45 second rule) This allows him to continue thinking about the reading and often he'll tell me more details, things I was waiting to see if he got. This would be especially helpful for any students with processing issues.

Despite these errors, I believe that overall he does pretty well. Many times he is spot on with his narrations and will even connect it with other things he's learning. Yesterday we started Aesop's fable of The Shepard Boy and the Wolf. I made the comment "I wonder what this story is going to be about." He replied, "Maybe it's like The Boy Who Cried Wolf." And he also did really well with noticing that the whole problem was that the boy was a liar. He also connected with some of our bible reading by saying that it was showing compassion--something he had seen defined on TV.

Some other info is that we do narrate from each of the reading selections and as mentioned before that may mean after each paragraph or several paragraphs depending on what I'm seeing. We did Shakespeare for the first time this week and it was a little rough. I let him draw a picture but even from that I could tell he just hadn't gotten the whole story line. Today we actually went over the book I am using for Tigger that has more pictures in it and I think that may have helped. So I will be looking into some other books recommended by some to help younger kids understand Shakespeare. Drawing has been a good way for him to narrate in the past and I will continue to use it on occasion. You can see examples of his narration of Wind in the Willows in February '08 posts.

All in all I have been extremely impressed with the value of AO's book selections and narration. I see connections being made, I see wonderment in learning and I KNOW that this method is much less stressful that other things we have used in the past. Children who struggle due to whatever kind of disability will benefit from CM's gentle learning style--narration being a major part of that.

Another tip for those working with more than one child. My boys were fighting over narrations--who went first, "he took my answer", etc. This was happening even though, Tigger, age 5, is not expected to narrate. He just wants to be part of everything and is constantly listening in. What I've worked out, that has helped tremendously, is for them to have their 'own' books. Pooh narrates as usual from his Year 1 books. Now Tigger has his own schedule of books that I read to him. These books come from the Year 0 list provided by AO. Neither one is allowed to narrate on the others books. It's worked like a charm. Now they can even take turns without fighting when we have our bible reading. They've automatically starting taking turns on who goes first without me even prompting for it. LOL I think each of them having their own thing that belongs to them, takes away the competition and allows the other stuff we do all together to run more smoothly.

As I'm typing this, my boys are in their bedroom and Pooh is regaling Tigger with narrations of the OIS stories about Julius Caesar and 'the other Romans' and their different approaches to invading Britain. How cool is that?!? History bedtime stories from one brother to the other. Pooh is even making up his own dialogue of what the soldiers were saying to each other and to Julius. Homeschooling is amazing!

I wonder if they know I'm typing about them. ;D


live4evermom said...

Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job. I loved reading it all. Keep it up!

The Glasers said...

I love how you are blending RDI and CM!!!! It sure makes sense to me! You are blessed because you can start them off with Charlotte Mason. Pamela was ten-years old when I read "A Charlotte Mason Companion."

Susan said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog! This is my first visit to yours and I haven't been able to stop reading for at least half an hour!

I will definitely be back. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi! Enjoyed your post via the CM Carnival.

If you are interested, a friend of mine has seen REMARKABLE results with her borderline autistic son by removing gluten/casien from his diet, along with some nutritional substitutes. He was diagnosed at 2, and she found this treatment at 4. Now, at 5 he is a 'normal' boy. It is said that certain proteins in these foods cross the intestinal lining and enter the blood stream. From there, when they arrive in the brain, they have an opiod-like effect on the brain, resulting in the autism symptoms. Try some searches on "autism diet" or DAN! doctors. (DAN!= Defeat Autism Now!) She can't say enough about the changes in her son, so I wanted to just pass this on to you if you haven't heard of it yet.

lindafay said...

You may already know this, but just in case... Miss Mason recommended preparing the passage to be read aloud ahead of time so that children didn't struggle with proper names. Maybe you could skim the passage ahead of time and write down a few of the new names of people and places on a dry erase board and tell your son to 'watch out' for those words. It may help him remember them. It always works for my kids.