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Q5: How do we narrate and what should I expect? {Season 5, Episode 78}

September 30, 2019 4 min read

If you are new to narration or if you struggle with knowing if you are doing it “right,” this episode is for you! In today's podcast, we are going to chat about what narration is, how you get your kids to narrate, and what to expect.

Welcome to season 5 of the Tips for Homeschool Science Show where we are breaking down the lofty ideals of teaching science into building blocks you can use in your homeschool. 

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Q5 Transcripts

Learn how to narrate for science and what to expect from your students | Elemental Science

Narration is one of those concepts that seems to be unique to the homeschooling world. In reality, it’s a relaxed, but more effective version of those reading comprehension worksheets.

If you are new to narration or if you struggle with knowing if you are doing it “right,” this episode is for you! We are going to chat about what narration is, how you get your kids to narrate, and what to expect.

Let’s dig into this week’s question…

What is narration?

Narration is simply an oral retelling. Narrating provides the opportunity for you and your child to discuss what you just read to them.

  • It is NOT simply repeating word for word what was read.
  • It IS a retelling in the individual's own words or a sharing of their "take" on the subject matter that was read.

Narrating gives the students an opportunity to share what they have learned. And it helps you, the educator, to see what they have picked up from a passage.

This style of oral retelling, and the discussion time that goes with it, gives us a chance to work on our students’ attention spans. It helps us to guide them to make connections between what they have just learned from a passage and what they already know.

And if that wasn't enough, narrating also helps the student to prepare for writing down their thoughts.

How do we narrate?

You begin by reading a passage to your students.

When you are done, you ask one or more of the following questions:

  • What did you learn about (the main topic)?
  • Can you tell me two things you just learned from what I just read to you?
  • What happened in the story we just read?
  • What did you find interesting from what I just read to you?

After you discuss the topic, you ask the students to tell you about what they learned. That's it.

Normally, I would also suggest that you write down or have the students write down their oral narration on a notebooking sheet or in a mini-book for a lapbook. But that's how simple the oral retelling part is.

Some science curriculum will come with questions for you to ask, but if yours doesn’t here is a link to a post with a few categories of questions you can ask:

The main point of your questions is to help the students think about what they read or about what was just read to them. Ideally, this will help them pull out the key facts and to put those into their own words so when you ask for a narration, they will be able to share.

In a nutshell, you narrate by reading, discussing, and then asking for an oral retelling.

What should I expect with narration?

Don't expect your student's answers to be complete and super-stellar at the beginning. In fact, you may be greeted with the lonely sound of crickets when you ask your students to narrate for the first few times. Often, children are afraid that they will get the answer wrong or they won't say what you want to hear.

But keep encouraging them, that there is no wrong answer to "What did you find interesting about what we just read?" As they become more comfortable with the skill of narrating over the months and years, their answers will become a more detailed retelling of the passage.

You may also find that your students have a hard time boiling down the passage to the essentials. If this is the case, give them a sentence or fact limit, such as, “Can you tell me three sentences (or five facts) about what we just read?”

In the beginning, you can read, have your discussion time, and then model a narration for your students. As they become more comfortable, you can switch to suggested things to add to their narration if you feel what they have shared is not complete enough. Just be gentle about those suggestions as we don’t want our students feeling like they go it “wrong.”

As your students become more familiar with the skill of narrating and as their intellect develops, their narrations will mature. These retellings will include more facts and better transitions.

Wrapping it Up

How do we narrate and what should I expect? Listen to episode 78 of the Tips for Homeschool Science Show for tips on narration in science.

Narration seems like a simple act, but really it is a skill that takes time and lots of practice to get good at. Don't get discouraged when your kids don't narrate like a pro from the very beginning. The time you spend discussing and asking for narrations will boost their reading comprehension skills and over time, your efforts will be rewarded.

So I trust that by now you understand a bit more about narration and how you can use this tool for homeschool science. Be sure to check out these articles about science discussion time and writing in science:

In two weeks, we’ll be sharing another season 5 question. In that episode, we will chat about whether you should read science out loud to your students.  Until then, I hope you have a great week playing with science!

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