Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Narration for High School Students?

If you are homeschooling a high schooler [or two or three] this year I want to encourage you to use the time tested method that you may have used when you students were younger--narration. Many people who saw the value of this method when their kids were little forget all about it when their students are older.

Narration, as I am referring to it, is the practice of asking your child what they have read after they have read it. You can just ask for a summary of what they have read, or ask them their favorite story they read that day and why, or ask them to list the three most important points in today's reading, and so forth. I love using this with older students--and here is why...

When we did Sonlight Core 300 I had a hard time knowing what to discuss with my son. Sonlight provides tons of questions and answers, but there are so many that no one could possibly remember or understand all of them. When I asked my son the questions, many times he gave me a blank stare. [You know that deer-in-the-headlights look?]

So, I tried giving him the written questions [without the answers] and then asking him the answers later in the day. Well, being a smart student, he did what your student would probably do. He didn't read the book, just hunted for the answers-often without having much understanding of what it all meant. Not acceptable!

I tried just asking him to tell me what he had learned that day, and the blank stare again. Ugh!

Then I remembered narration. I asked him to take a highlighter and highlight the most important events/topics he read each day. He could not highlight whole paragraphs, just key words. Then, with my trusty Sonlight questions [with answer key] in my lap, I would say,

"So, what are the most important topics you read about today?"

Scotty would look at his highlighted key words [did I mention, this is a great skill to have in preparation for college] and tell me about that event. Then he would go to the next one. He would generally hit about 80% of the major topics and showed understanding of them. I would fill him in on anything he missed that was significant and tell him about topics that were in my study guide but may not have been in his book. This discussion/narration took about 15-30 minutes a day.

I think it accomplished many things:

  • It taught him to find major concepts and to weed out those that were not so important.
  • It taught him to make highlighted notes which most students don't learn to do until they are in college.
  • It gave him the opportunity to take what he had read and re-phrase it into his own words, giving his interpretation and opinion. I think this is a very important life skill.
  • It gave us a structured time to connect, review and talk about our core beliefs.
So, if you want to accomplish any of the above tasks, you may want to consider using narration with your high school student. I was amazed how much we both learned using this age-old technique.

Take care,

This worked great!

For More High School Helps


  1. Some of us in the public school forum even have used this! :-) Great idea Jill!

    Where have you been?

  2. This does sound really useful (especially in overcoming the "blank stare" [smile]). Thanks for sharing!