by Karen Glass
Anyone who wants to understand and follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy in education today, in a home or in a school, should read this book. I selected it for our book club a few months ago and read it over a few days myself. Three friends have already borrowed and read it as well.
It begins with an explanation of what narration is and how the practice integrates ideas and knowledge in a mind. She quotes Charlotte Mason extensively, but a reader would need no prior introduction to Ms. Mason to appreciate and understand the author's assertions.
To make an art of narration, we begin with children's natural interest and ability to tell about something. We accustom them to tell accurately, consecutively, and fully. In due time, we encourage them to write narrations. They begin by learning to write the same thing they would have said in an oral narration, and when that becomes natural, we teach them to take what they have written and shape it into familiar forms of writing, such as essay.Ms. Glass explains the difference between narration and the kind of assessment we find in many classrooms today.
The usual kind of test with predetermined right and wrong answers is essentially contrived to discover what children do not know, rather than what they do.Rather than asking children to figure out what someone else (a teacher or textbook publisher) thinks is important in a text, narration requires a student to read, comprehend, and incorporate knowledge into their own understanding of a book or text. It is deceptively simplistic to ask a child, "Tell me what you remember about this reading." In reality, it is incredibly challenging and rewarding.
I've been reading and living the Charlotte Mason philosophy, at least in part, for almost a decade. There was not very much in the early chapters that I had not already read or learned, but I have never had a source in my hands that outlined everything as clearly and thoroughly as this book. A newcomer to Mason's methods will glean from these chapters a rich understanding of narration in its ideal form.
In later chapters, Karen Glass provides examples and explanations of exactly how to implement the methods of narration from the youngest children to the most experienced in high school and college.
The examples are taken from real narrations by real children. Some of them are magnificent, but some of them are much less impressive. I have had children give what can only be described as "abysmal" narrations; including the struggling narrators in the examples is a great asset to teachers whose children are early in the journey or struggling narrators.
Consistently requiring narration is difficult, but essential. Reading or listening alone is only the beginning. The narration is the work of learning.
It may be difficult to accept at first, but what a child recalls in any single narration is of small importance in the greater scheme of nourishing the child's mind...What a child takes in and makes her own will be unique for each one.There's an excellent graphic on page 85 that shows a spectrum of the skills of oral and written narrations aligned with fourth through seventh grades, providing a clear picture of the expectations a teacher should have and the goals as children perfect their narration gradually over the years. Ms. Glass even provides word counts, which help immensely when trying to determine a long-term goal for a student in a years-long process.
There are also specific chapters in the book addressing beginning narration with older children, narration and special needs, and narration in a classroom.
After reading this book, I intend to adjust our homeschool narrations. First of all, we're going to add exams. (I actually added a few at the end of the year last year.) Ms. Glass explains that narrations are for the child, not the instructor, and therefore can be great advantage in learning.
[The] real value lies in the children's mental effort to think back and relate again the material they have learned. It is the process, not the product, that is most valuable, although the product--the collected narrations of a child who has attended to his work--can be impressive.There's also another wonderful resource in the book: a table a student can use to record briefly what happens in each chapter of a book as he or she reads in, providing the scaffolding for a longer narration at the end and guiding a thoughtful understanding of the basic events in the book. I intend to use this chart for the books I ask my children to read that are more challenging or thought-provoking but from which I don't require regular narrations.
On page 100, Ms. Glass has written a note to students, explaining narration and how integral it is. I intend to copy this and share it with all my students next year. There's another such explanation on page 127 on introductions and conclusions. My daughter may be ready for this page sometime in the coming year, but I intend to share it with my high schooler at the beginning of the year.
I have a commonplace book and my children receive two books at the beginning of sixth grade, one for copying poetry and one for prose. (They decide which book is which and whether a quote is poetry or prose.) I'm not sure I've every really explained the purpose of the books, though, other than to say it's for copying quotes of things they like, so we're going to talk about that as well.
Encourage your students to appreciate a well-written sentence as they would appreciate the brushwork of a fine painting or the enchanting flourish of a musical composition.Over the page few years, I've used a variety of writing and composition programs and resources. With this book in hand, I feel much more confident in my ability to guide my children as they read and narrate and write and I feel more confidence in their abilities as well. The chapter entitled "Becoming a Writer" is going to be the backbone of our writing curriculum from now on and will be mainly implemented in the high school years. I'm certain I'll struggle as we make this adjustment, but Karen Glass has outlined a simple but profound plan that covers everything we need.
I will be returning to the processes and strategies outlined in Know and Tell for years to come. I recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in Charlotte Mason's ideas and philosophy and I'm sure you'll see me repeatedly refer to it in the Mater Amabilis™ facebook discussions.
I purchased this book myself and have received nothing in exchange for this review. The link to Amazon is an affiliate link.