Learning to write

This is how we teach writing, by which I mean composition (not handwriting).
First the children learn to read, and I work hard to find books that will interest them, books they will love to read.  The more a child struggles to read, the harder I work to make reading fun and less labor-intensive for them.  After reading is estabished, I encourage the children to do what children do naturally —- tell the story, share what they have read.  Charlotte Mason calls this a narration.
Narration achieves a couple of things.  It lets me know what the children are reading and what their comprehension skills are.  The act of summarizing a book in their own words cements the knowledge they have learned, so they own it.  It is tucked away in their memory, likely forever. 
Occasionally, not every time, when a child narrates to me, I will sit at the computer and type their narration as they tell it to me.  Below are two narrations, Lincoln gave me.
8/5/2008
Lincoln’s narration of how a toilet works
(I don’t know which book he read this info in)

You know the handle that you push down and flushes and when you push it down, it pulls up a bar inside the tank. On the other end of the bar, a chain is attached to the bar. And then on the other end of the chain that is not hooked to the bar is attached to something. . . . .there is a hole in the bottom of the tank and something is blocking the hole that is called a rubber stopper. And the other end of the chain that is not attached to the bar is attached to a rubber stopper.

So when you push down the handle, it pulls the bar and it pulls up the chain which pulls up the rubber stopper. So all the water in the tank flows out of the tank and when the dirty water has gone into the waste pipe, the clean water from the tank comes up the hole into the potty where you poopoo and pee.

And then the tank fills up with clean water again, and then it is ready to flush again.

 

8/5/2008
Lincoln’s narration of The Matchlock Gun 

It is about the Indians who came. Edward killed 4 of them at the same time. Well, it might not have been at the same time, but he killed 4 of them.

Edward was a 10-year-old boy. And his great-grandfather brought the matchlock gun to where Edward lived. When the Indians came and Edward’s mother shouted a word that I can’t remember what it was. One of the Indians threw a tomahawk and it got in her shoulder. Then one started running back and 4 of them fell on the ground in cloud of smoke. Dead. Do you know what that cloud was? It was from the matchlock gun. His mother had shouted the word and Edward heard her and shot the gun. And the Indians had caught the house on fire and Edward and Trudy had to get their mother out.  Edward sent Trudy in to get the blankets and Trudy got the tomahawk out BEFORE Edward sent her to get the blankets. And Trudy came back with the blankets and Edward had forgotten the matchlock gun and he went in to get and he brought it out.

 

Lincoln’s understanding of how a toilet works is spot on.  His understanding of The Matchlock Gun is a little more fuzzy, which is actually understandable.  That book is an older book and the language is a bit difficult.  There is a subtlety to the story that definitely requires a mature mind to grasp.  It will be interesting to have him re-read it in 6 months or so and do another narration.  I expect there will be a dramatic difference in his understanding and that it will show in his narration.

Once a child is comfortable enough with narrations and is either handwriting well or typing with ease, I casually say one day “I don’t have time to listen to your narration right now.  Why don’t you write (or type) it up for me to look at later?”

I don’t worry about pefection, sentence structure, run on sentences, capital letters or any of that stuff right now.  We casually address these issues at other times.  But when I am teaching a child write, my goal is not proper grammar or perfect spelling, it is that they learn fluency and how to communicate their thoughts. 

That is it.  This is how we do it here.  Of course, my oldest child is 9 years old, so come back in a few years and ask me if my method worked.

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