In this post, the fifth in the series, I'm sharing Charlotte Mason's recommendations for narration and recitation (that was a mouthful!) for children ages 6-9.
Recitation is not something that will be entirely new this year for us. Miss H has been memorizing scripture for several years. But memorizing poems will be a new thing this year, one that I'm looking forward to.
We've held off on narration until this point, but now that Miss H is six, I sometimes ask her to tell back what we've read. Recently, I asked her to narrate something, and when she was finished, she stood up and took a bow. This is the perfect method for a natural born performer.
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These two areas will help children become better communicators, practice articulating words, and will help them better understand and connect with what they've read. For these reasons, I believe that these areas are essential! The recommendations I wrote about below are only from Home Education, as I'm trying to simplify our first year of homeschooling.
"The child must not try to recollect or to say the verse over to himself, but, as far as may be, present an open mind to receive an impression of interest. Half a dozen repetitions should give children possession of such poems as 'Dolly and Dick,' 'Do you ask what the birds say?' 'Little lamb, who made thee?' and the like. The gains of such a method of learning are, that the edge of the child's enjoyment is not taking off by weariful verse by verse repetitions, and, also, that the habit of making mental images is unconsciously formed." Home Education, page 225
In this volume, recitation is described as a natural process that occurs after repeated readings. Reading a poem several times aloud to a child should be enough to help them capture it in their hearts and minds forever. At this stage, a "repeat after me" approach is not recommended. Therefore, a child might participate in recitation without really knowing that memorizing is the goal!
Throughout the process, a child picks up their own meaning from the passage, and it is reflected in his or her voice. Children should be encouraged to speak each word clearly and accurately, which is so important and so helpful when our children are very young!
Charlotte Mason listed several poem possibilities for recitation, but she also said that children should store their hearts with Bible verses as well:
"The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven, is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up grow, and bear fruit..." Home Education, page 253
Home Education Curriculum: Recitation
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Charlotte Mason recommended these poems for recitation during the first years of school:
*She also recommended Dolly and Dick, which I believe is this poem, Epitath, by Jonathan Swift. But this is not a poem that I would want my young child to ruminate on!
Since we are using this poetry book for our reading lessons this year, I've decided that we will use it for recitation as well. Some of the above mentioned poems are in the volume, which we will seek out and memorize.
"...she may read two or three pages, enough to include an episode; after that, let her call upon the children to narrate- in turns, if there be several of them. They not only narrate with spirit and accuracy, but succeed in catching the style of their author. It is not wise to tease them with corrections; they may begin with an endless chain of 'ands,' but they soon leave this off, and their narrations become good enough in style and composition to be put in a 'print book'!" Home Education, page 233
Narration is a super-hero of sorts. It single-handedly replaces comprehension questions, vocabulary quizzes, book reports, and oral presentations. In it, a child reads a few paragraphs, or as they progress, a few pages, and tells what they have read, assimilating the knowledge as their own. Assimilation has two definitions:
- to take in and fully understand information and ideas
- the process of absorbing and digesting digest food and nutrients in the body
The second definition is more relevant than it might seem at first glance. Charlotte Mason likens ideas and living books as food for the mind, so by narrating, a child is properly taking in his or her food for the mind.
Charlotte Mason recommended calling forth this act of narration when a child is six. They are capable of narrating before that, and most likely do narrate what they experience throughout the day.
These recommendations stood out to me regarding beginning narration with a young child:
- When the child is six, not earlier, let him narrate the fairy-tale which has been read to him, episode by episode, upon one hearing of each; the Bible tale read to him in the words of the Bible; the well-written animal story; or all about other lands from some such volumes as the World at Home." Home Education, page 232
- "The seven-years-old boy will have begun to read for himself, but must get most of his intellectual nutriment, by ear, certainly, but read to him out of books." Home Education, page 232 (This seems a little bit of a contradiction, as she also says that once a child learns to read, he or she should read to himself, and that being read to will make him become lazy.)
Home Education Curriculum: Narration
Charlotte Mason specifically recommended books that a child can narrate, a few pages at a time, from the ages of 6-8:
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne (contains magic)
We will narrate our geography, reading, and Bible selections, although I haven't planned to read any of the above books yet.
My Charlotte Mason book group is currently reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass, the most complete resource I've ever found on narration. It has been so helpful, and I'm thankful to have found it before beginning narration.