Monday, April 19, 2010

The Art of Retelling

This wonderful article on narration came from the 4/19/10 e-newsletter from God's World News.

The age-old communicative tool of retelling has been used at least since the days when Moses was commanded to repeat the works of God to the children of Israel. It continues until today when parents tell their histories to their own children. I was reminded of this methodology--known as narration-several years ago when I read Charlotte Mason's series on education.

The methodology of narration is important to learning. But so is the material that the child is called upon to narrate. This material is referred to as "mind food." The mind rejects dull, dry, tasteless information. So the analogy of nourishment can be used to describe the process of a mind at work--a responsive mind that does thinking, sorting, arranging, selecting, connecting, rejecting, and classifying challenging material, not an endless round of worksheets.

It often is evident in our classrooms that this world of thought remains neglected. When students are called upon to retell something that was heard or read just moments before and are unable to do so, frustration mounts.

However, though the practice of narration (suggestions will follow), the student is able to supply both the question and the answer. He learns to visualize the scene he's heard or read about, to assemble what he knows, to inquire, criticize, organize, select, and even express himself through speaking and writing. The narrator becomes actively engaged in the learning process, for "between attention and expression lies a whole world of thought."

Begin to hold your students accountable for what they are hearing, reading, observing in your classroom. Ask them to retell parts of the lessons. Do this after readings in Bible, history, science, and literature. Do it as they solve problems in math and as they observe art and nature.

Several powers of the mind will be activated as the student begins "to know" what he is reading and observing. The student will be able to develop a clear understanding of the material and will be able to participate in a broad variety of discussions with a certain degree of knowledge. He will learn to reflect, ruminate, remember, and participate in thoughtful discussion, for he has gained "nourishment" from this mental feasting.

Here are some practical ways to use the process of narration with your students:

· Begin a new lesson or selection from a book with a review of what the students previously learned.

· Introduce new vocabulary, background, and facts such as dates and geography before you begin the lesson or reading.

· Read slowly and carefully though the material once. The students are to read or listen with the understanding that they will narrate or retell what they are hearing. Students are inclined to pay close attention if they know they will be accountable for the information. In turn, their listening and attentiveness skills will be strengthened.

· Then have students narrate orally the portion read or heard, or the lesson observed. Students can be called upon in turns to narrate the passages or chapters until the whole is told back. Narrate less before you narrate more.

· Narrate point by point, episode by episode, not word for word.

· Do not talk too much, interrupt, or prompt a person narrating.

· Assign written narration only after a student is fluent in oral narration. The older student may write his own. A parent or teacher may act as scribe for the younger student.

· Keep a record of written narrations as evaluations of the student's progress. Evaluations should be according to sequence, details, and word choice.

· Follow up written narrations with the student reading aloud his work. For younger students, the teacher should read back what the student has been told.

· Take time to narrate daily. A calm, unhurried few minutes is leisure to the student who is facing a world of clamor.

As I pass through the halls in our school, I hear students retell what they have learned of medieval manuscripts, willow trees, the words of Homer, matter and energy, King Nebuchadnezzar, or Treasure Island. The art of retelling--narration--demonstrates to students and teachers alike the God-given affinity "to know."
-- Maryellen Marschke

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