Oct 1, 2015

A Few Reflections on Narration, Part 2

Last time I shared the humorous story of my grandson's narration. As I said, my oldest daughter is pleased with single word narrations from him. I've encouraged her that things will improve over time. She knows she just needs to keep at it, one foot in front of the other and eventually she will see the fruit of her labors.

I am looking at this from the other side now. Both of my younger daughters have graduated and no more am I asking for narrations. I don't have to either, because now they come spontaneously as I mentioned before.

Recently my daughter Molly was discussing with me a connection she made regarding narration. I just love when connections are made and this was no exception.

She had just received her score from the first major test she took in the Western Civilizations course she is taking, a four credit hour humanities course. And she scored an A ... of course! I knew she would. Nobody can talk about the subject as much as she does without knowing the material well.

But what I found to be the most interesting was that she understood that it was the process of narration that had clinched it for her, that had contributed to her ability to retain the material she had either read previously, or had listened to in class lectures.

Her professor encourages the students to participate in a study group. During the first week of school he polls the students who are interested to determine when would be the best time for the majority of them to meet. Former students act as leaders of the study groups. Open ended questions, and not fill in the blanks, true or false, or multiple choice questions are discussed. Her professor pointed out to the class that most students who participate in these study groups do very well throughout the course, and most earn A's.

And Molly told me why that's the case. Narration. The students are narrating.

They are answering open ended questions in detail, discussing the material with their fellow classmates. The professor is not present during these group meetings but he does supply the pages of open ended questions for them to consider and discuss.

Some examples are below:

What was the importance of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey to the Greeks? Why was it called their "national bible"? What did Homer reveal about Greek religion? What is the "heroic outlook"? What are the two questions that scholars continually debated concerning Homer and his works?


What were the characteristics of Athenian democracy (length of it and extent of democratic participation)? What body made the final decisions and who sat in this body? What were the "positives" and the "negatives" of Athenian democracy? What were the characteristics of the "Golden Age of Athens"? What statesmen symbolized this age? What is meant by the statement that Athens was the "School of Hellas"?

What I found most encouraging in all this was that Molly understands how important narration is. She grew up narrating. She has known first hand from all her years of Ambleside Online and Charlotte Mason that to narrate is to know. How many times over the years did I mention that little fact outright? And how often did she discover it for herself?

When both of my daughters began college I reminded them again that if narration helped them learn and retain when they were reading An Island Story, This Country of Ours, Churchill, Dickens, or Plutarch, it would also help them with their college courses. Whether they narrated verbally to someone else or silently to themselves, narration could be depended upon as a most useful tool for learning.

Does Molly's history professor understand narration in the context of Charlotte Mason? It matters little. What does matter is that he understands how important it is for the students to get together and tell each other what they know. He has observed first hand that those students who do ALWAYS do well in his courses.

Narration is such an important part of learning. Charlotte Mason knew it. And we know it too, those of us who follow her principles. It's so simple. Read and recount. Read and put everything in chronological order. Read, tell about what you read, and remember.

Narration is not only indispensable for a 7 year old. It's indispensable for a college student too.


  1. Another great post! And it's so awesome to see that your daughters, that are both in college now, recognize just how important narration is in helping them know. "To narrate is to know. Narration is not only indispensable for a 7 year old. It's indispensable for a college student too." So true!

  2. Yes, they've experienced narration from the git-go and know from personal experience that it is the key. It's very gratifying to watch this play out in their lives.


Follow by email, RSS, Google...

Archive/ Archivo

Search This Blog

Popular Posts

Total Pageviews