Know and Tell, Part One

I’ve started reading a book called Know and Tell:  The Art of Narration, by Karen Glass.  It’s a book primarily written for homeschool parents and classroom teachers.  I became interested in narration as a teaching tool as a result of developing a relationship with a school that uses narration as a primary technique in the instruction of elementary and middle-school children.  Having mostly narrated with younger children and dispensed with narration once our children were able to begin written composition, I was intrigued.

In my teaching, I’ve often used the Socratic method.  However, I’ve really wanted to gain the benefits of Socratic teaching apart from mining the depths of a student’s ignorance in front of her classmates.  Narration seems to fit the bill for this.

Briefly described, the technique of narration is this.  One reads a portion of a text, and asks the student to tell him what happened.  Endless possibilities follow from this.  One can ask other students for contributions.  One may define or emphasize key words or concepts.  But the idea is for the student to be able to express in his own words his understanding of the material and grasp of key elements apart from a formal assessment.

I’m going to do a few posts on this book because narration has a wide range of applications, both for students and adults.

If you decide to get the book, make sure that you get the paper edition rather than the e-book.  Unbeknownst to me, the e-book is not Kindle formatted, but is a PDF of the hard copy.  The e-book has the added disadvantage of not being able to easily flip through to find the charts, which are incredibly helpful.

Here are some benefits of having students narrate:

Narration is an excellent way to gauge reading comprehension.  Narration has much richer benefits than checking comprehension, but in many cases, narration is both quicker and superior to a formal written assessment.

Narration is an excellent way to develop oral fluency.  How often have you engaged in conversation with another adult who lacked oral fluency?  Conversational ability and expression is on the decline in Western culture.  Talk about a skill that is universally applicable and has lifelong benefits!  Narration develops oral fluency.

Narration is an excellent foundation for learning to write.  Once one knows how to capture something verbally, making the transition to writing is a natural change.

Narration is an excellent tool for integrating knowledge.  When students approach a text, they bring prior knowledge to that text.  While narration is generally used to bring out what is in the text before the student,  the process of verbalization enables the student to integrate prior knowledge with the text before him.

Narration is an excellent tool for seeing relationships of events and characters within a text.  Again, the process of verbally expressing what one finds in a text enables the student to see how characters and events relate in the text.

In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the spiritual benefits of narration.

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