15 Jan 2012

Written narration

Okay, I'll admit it. I was a bit frightened of written narration. As you know, we have had a lot of trouble with Jemimah's spelling and willingness to write, and I was frankly terrified of what she would produce. She was doing really well with oral narration, and ... well, why change something that's working?

Ambleside Online's Scope and Sequence recommends commencing written narration about now, at 10 or 11 years of age, beginning with one written narration a week. The idea is to allow the child to create a composition on paper, to write an 'essay', as it were. It was the realisation that the process was not intended to teach spelling or handwriting that spurred me on, I guess. These scary subjects are covered in copywork and dictation, not narration.

I can't remember where I read that it was helpful if the child read her composition aloud rather than handing in a written paper to be marked, but it helped me a lot. I had had visions of red marks on every word. I knew I would focus on the bad bits rather than allowing Jemimah to show me what she could do. Allowing her to read her work would allow me to hear her words, and not her spelling. It would allow her to shine.

And so on Friday we gave it a whirl.

Here below, is 9, almost 10 year old Princess Jemimah's very first written narration. I am so incredibly excited. I think it is fantastic. She does too.

Now, before you read, the spelling and the grammar are all mine. I want you to focus on the story as well. I had only two rules, in fact, when she began. One, that she capitalise the beginning of sentences and proper nouns, and finish the sentence with a full stop or other punctuation mark. Two, I expected her to spell the proper nouns correctly, since she had them written in front of her. She did manage to do both of these, but these are about the only correctly spelled words in the whole essay. We have a l-o-n-g way to go with spelling.

Still, here we have a wonderful introduction to the life of Isaac Newton. It is a full page long. It is accurate. It is interesting. It flows.

I think my young lady had done particularly well, and I am really, really proud of her. I hope you enjoy her very first composition as much as her Daddy and I do.
Isaac Newton by Jemimah

The two set out for the long cold dangerous walk to the Baroness’s house to get the medicine for the newborn son of Hannah Newton. Isaac Newton they called him, after his father. He had died a few months before Isaac had been born.

The two reached the manor in just 35 minutes and woke not just the servants with their banging; but the whole house woke to the sound of the two midwives. The lady of the house opened the door and welcomed them in. The elder of the two said how there was a baby who was too sick even to cry. As the medicine was being made, the young one said, “I tell you that the babe will not be alive when we return.

They hurried home with the medicine to save the baby. When they got home, the door was opened by Hannah’s brother. They asked, “Is he still living?” He nodded. They hurried up stairs to give the baby they medicine. The girl helper stood in awe. “He could fit in a money* jar!” she said. They gave the boy the medicine.

By and by, the boy grew a bit stronger. Now he was three. One day, there was a knock on the door. Hannah opened the door to a strange man. He stuttered out the words, “T-t-the f-f-friar w-w-wants to marry you!” “But why did he not come and see me himself?” she said. “He is shy,” he said. “I will consider it,” she said. From now on, it was all for Isaac. In the end, she said yes.

At first Isaac did not understand. He cried and wept. It felt like ages before he could see his mum.

One day, his mum did not come to see him. “Why?” he asked. “She has had a baby,” she said.

At first, Isaac did not like his step-dad, but he grew to like him. Now he had a brother and a sister. He made toys for them. He was growing very smart. His uncle came to see his work and said it was marvellous. He said he should go to a school very far away. Hannah finally agreed to let him go.

For now, anyway.
*The text said that Isaac would fit into a quart jar. My metrically educated daughter thought this referred to a unit of American money, 'a quarter', not a unit of capacity. Cute, I think!


  1. Carter is 10 this year and we are going to start written narration this year. I also dread what will appear not because of content but just his mechanical trouble with writing and his frustration with himself doing so . I am starting gently and will not force it. Jemimah has done a wonderful job, you worry for naught lass! Blessings, Renelle

  2. Wonderfully well written! Kudos to Jemimah! And it seems your Newton bio is much better than the one we read (which I found on the AO website). We learned a lot about Newton, but the book we chose was dry, dry, dry. Miss Priss began writing one narration per week since the fall, but she chooses to use the computer. Her handwriting leaves much to be desired, and I want her to concentrate on her composition rather than her scrawl. :-)

  3. Great job! I too was intimidated by written narration when we started with my oldest child. My fears were not realized as the transition was much smoother than I anticipated. Years of oral narration really does work! (And, yes, we started with plenty of spelling and punctuation errors. You'll eventually see improvement, don't worry!)

  4. Jeanne
    Thanks for the reading aloud narration tip!!
    re spelling, we have huge remedial spelling happening here, (good readers do not automatically make good spellers). After a year of Spelling Wisdom seeing steady results, after a term of All About Spelling seeing big results:) must blog about it all I know.

  5. Fabulous Jemimah! Well done! (-:


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