In the summer of 2016, Karen Glass, author of Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, was researching her upcoming book on narration. On her way to a conference in Charleston, she stopped by Harvest to get insight from our teachers into how we have used narration in the classroom. She also interviewed Tammy Glaser about creating the right atmosphere for children with challenges that may get in the way of narration. Ms. Glass made audio recordings of what we had to share and extracted from those recordings block quotes found in Chapter 9 of her book.
Today Know and Tell is a #1 New Release in Language Arts Teaching Materials at Amazon!
Know and Tell: The Art of Narration is a handbook about narration -- "what it is, how to begin, and how to develop it across years of education." As we know from our personal experience of the power of narration, this book should be in the hands of anyone who teaches children in school, at church, at home, and almost anywhere. Why? Narration is a process that, when applied consistently, can empower students to think clearly and become excellent speakers and writers if they give it a chance. Her book helps readers understand four stages of narration and offers a wide variety of examples of narrations in each stage. She even interviewed adults who shared how the ability to narrate has helped them after graduation.
Narration is knowing and telling. Glass explains, "We tell because we want to relive an event or allow others to experience something with us.... At its heart, narration is a relationship-building exercise.... The child forms his own relationship with the material he is narrating, and as his relationships become broader and deeper, he begins to perceive the relationships that exist within knowledge itself.... Narration becomes the key that builds our relationship with knowledge, developing our thinking skills, and gives ups the power to collect our thoughts and relate them accurately and effectively, both in speech and in writing."
We just finished term finales (exams) and below are two examples of experienced narrators perceiving relationships within knowledge and expressing them in writing. Both illustrate the creative nature of narration because, according to Glass, "each child's mind, working on the material at hand, reproduces a version that is unique to that individual." The middle schooler on the left recalls a Shakespeare play studied three years ago and applies the style Franz Schubert used to vivify his lieder in notes and music to words. The high schooler on the right invents a scene from Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar in style of Shakespeare who had only addressed the last month of Caesar's life in his play. Both are done without notes.
In the final chapter of her book, Glass concludes that narration is a marketable skill. A person who can narrate well has learned to pay attention to what is heard and read. Last spring, we witnessed the power of narration at Camp Leopold. We had a group that followed instructions so well that they made it through the Team Challenge without error and finished the entire compass drill. During the debate, which our students had never participated in as a group, both sides listened to each other, collaborated, and came up with ideas agreeable to one another. A substitute instructor led the night walk and admitted to us that star-gazing was not his area of expertise. The elementary class showed him prominent constellations, stars, and planets and narrated the myths behind their names. Several of our 4H students won ribbons even though it was their first time in competition because of their ability to communicate knowledge. We often hear from families and people in the community of how well our students express themselves. Glass explains, "A person who can accurately describe what is wanted, give clear directions, or understand what she is told is a person with excellent communication skills.... She has the skills employers are looking for."
We hope that anyone interested in helping children develop strong oral and written communication skills will read this book. Narration, as outlined in Know and Tell, deserves a fair trail!