Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Day 7

I wanted to write down a few notes in a hurry before it leaves my mind.

I have been using Schuster’s Bible History and Guerber’s Story of the Romans with Kieron. Today we got to the second story. in the latter book.

I showed him a map of Italy in the big Historical Atlas. He thought that was neat.
I asked him if he remembered anything about the story from his informal reading. Yes, he knew the outlines of the Fall of Troy and mentioned some details.

I read him the story. His two little brothers danced around and interfered with his attention : ).

Then I asked him to narrate the story. This is not something we’ve done formally in the past, and I’ve hesitated to start it because my kids usually resist being called upon to perform. But the goal of narration isn’t performance or evaluation, at least not primarily. It’s about reviewing and fixing knowledge in mind and developing the habit of attention. I’ve noticed that when I ask the questions at the end of each short section of the Bible History, his retention level goes up considerably.

SO — he stalled a bit, and couldn’t get a handle on how to begin. I gave him several beginning points and finally there was one that clicked for him (about the actual escape from the burning city). Once he had started, he gave a remarkable narration for his first formal time. However, he has been informally narrating for EVER and in fact, with this particular just-11yo, he generally finds it difficult to find an auditor.

Quick Notes:

  • Just as Charlotte Mason claims, he brought out details that I had missed and used simple, vigorous, literary language.
  • I have noticed that he consistently is vaguer on the beginning of a story than the middle or the end. I am not sure why. Does he need to get a sense of the “big picture” of the story? I am reading this aloud to him and wonder if it would be different if he read them on his own. Is it an attention thing? ie is he slow to bring his focus to bear?
  • The idea of finding out what he already knows before I start the story is one I got when I was researching “active reading”. There is a basic graphic organizer called a KWL chart and its stated purpose is to “activate prior learning”. That educational jargon is sort of disheartening but the idea is that a competent reader learns to have a mental conversation with the book he is reading and one aspect of this is being somewhat conscious of what you already know. I think the graphic organizers themselves would be a bit unpleasant for my children, so I have never used them, but the principles are useful sometimes if you can think of the principles behind them.
  • In fact, I am thinking that reviewing, the reading, and the narration serve exactly the same purpose as the KWL in a literature/conversation based format.

I don’t have any more time — I said I’d go out with the kids before lunch so I am supervising verbally while writing — Paddy just picked up his math puzzle which was strewn everywhere and Kieron just got Aidan’s shoes on. Other than that our morning has gone pretty much like every other morning. I may write another log later today but I wanted to write out these thoughts while they were still in my mind.