Saturday, March 08, 2008

Asking Questions before a Reading

Pamela and I have worked years for her to be ready to write her own narrations. Thanks to the association method, she has stockpiled enough syntax to form simple sentences. Last summer, I began easing her into written narrations by making sentence strips based upon her oral narration. Now, as recommended by Jennifer Spencer in a presentation at last year's Charlotte Mason Conference, I am using graphic organizers to help her organize her ideas before she writes. In this post, I will cover one of several we review before a reading. I have three sources for graphic organizers: (1) I make my own in Word with the diagram feature, (2) I read through an e-book I purchased online, and (3) I print out free ones.

Charlotte Mason believed that my part, as an educator, is to look over the day's work in advance and "see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford" (page 180). Today, Pamela started Chapter 3 of Miracles on Maple Hill. At the beginning of every chapter, I try to find a graphic organizer to help her get back into the plot. In this case, I chose one in which the student writes what is known and asks questions about what is unknown. Charlotte believed that children ought to come up with their own questions when reading (page 181),
Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself.
In the story, the protagonist, Marly, is a little girl whose father is grieving his experience as a soldier and prisoner of war in World War II. The family decides to move to the country to farm and fix up her deceased great grandmother's old abandoned house in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. At the beginning of the chapter, Marly enters the neglected house for the first time. We left one column empty because we hope the book will answer these questions. Having previewed the chapter, I know she will be able to answer the third question after she finishes Chapter 3.

In the video clip, you can see us in action. I edited portions of the clip in which Pamela was writing and added titles to spotlight what we are doing. The first obvious thing is how much Pamela references me both verbally and nonverbally! Second, I try to rely on declarative language as much as possible, even when redirecting her when she misses the mark. One thing to keep in mind is that open-ended questions with no right or wrong answers are declarative if she willingly offers an answer. Third, she pays attention to nonverbal cues when I use my gasp and face to point out a missing question mark. I plan to follow-up with more posts and clips about how we blend graphic organizers, Charlotte Mason, the association method, and RDI to teach Pamela written narration.


Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

This video was very valuable for me in seeing how narration can occurr. THANKS!

walking said...

In this case, she is only narrating what she remembers from the previous two chapters that causes her to ask herself questions about what may come next. In my next post on this topic, I will show video of her narrating orally. She usually narrates two or three sentences after reading a couple of paragraphs and closing the book. Then, I ask her questions with the book open to practice syntax, not to test comprehension.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have been feeling so down about my homeschooling abilities. I am totally stressed about the standardized test I have to give my son. What does your son want to study in college? sorry, I can't remember and sometimes teenagers change their minds. Sincerely,diane G.

LAA and Family said...

Thanks for sharing your methods Tammy! I'm still at VERY BASIC question answering to get Samuel to narrate. I feel like I need to do more with him verbally but it is so hard to hold his attention right now. I find the GO Chart (in the sentence strip link) to be very fascinating. I'm off to check out graphic organizers! I wish Samuel had applied himself to his work today as well as Pamela did in this video. She seems to enjoy it, am I correct?

walking said...

Diane G., I am sure I will be sweating the SATs. He has never taken standardized tests, so it will be interesting. I do not believe standardized tests an accurate measure of knowledge, but a measure of how much you can study and forget in a week AND how well you take tests.

LAA, Pamela does enjoy it now, but she has come so far. When we first started narrate, she could only do a sentence at a time with the book OPEN! LOL! The real key for her was the association method. I think she knew what she wanted to say but could not string words together if her life depended on it.

I think children enjoy activities in which they feel competent. The key is to scaffold them so that they feel competent and slowly remove bits and pieces of the scaffolding as they improve and develop more confidence.