Monday, January 9, 2017

Narration and Dictation

I found two resources lately that have been a big help with our narration and dictation work. As many of you know copywork, narration and dictation are a part of the Montessori experience. One would find engaging things the children are reading in the natural course of their studies and choose excerpts to practice.  I have a tendency to forget to do this (I've never once remembered to do this).  I also wanted a little more guidance as to how long the excerpts should be at the start and how they should change as the child progresses.  For those reasons we have supplemented our Montessori work with Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer for the past few years.  This year we reached level three and the dictation got a little tough.  I would read the excerpt for dictation many times, many times more than implied in the book, and the boys still would not remember the whole thing in order to write it down.

I asked for help on the Well-Trained Mind forums and someone kindly pointed me to Susan's videos on YouTube.  I didn't even know that she had a series of videos on YouTube.  I have since watched them all and really enjoyed them.  I know many of you also use WWE and may not know about these videos.  In particular, I wondered if many of you were also getting stuck on dictation at level three.  You will see in the video that this takes a long time and many repetitions.  So long, that it takes two videos to show her son's work.

I now work with my sons in my own style, but structured the way Susan works with her son in the video and they now are able to do the dictations.  However, as you can see, this is no longer a five-minute endeavor (16 for her) and it has made it harder to do WWE every day.  I worried that this would be a problem because I already felt guilty that my fifth grader was only in WWE level three.  But then, I discovered a document that contained Susan's updated recommendations for the timeline of WWE and the following series, Writing with Skill.  It turns out I need not have worried.  There is a lot in this document, but these were the important points for me:

  • Fifth grade is probably too young for Writing With Skill
  • Many students are ready to move on to WWS/original writing after only three levels of WWE (not all four)

Also of note:
  • she points out that the dictations will take more than the three repetitions prescribed in the book and gives tips.
  • she points out that children finished with WWE 3 still need work on narration and dictation but, as in Montessori, these should be pulled from their other learning (science, history, literature, etc.,)

She gives four  possible progressions through WWE and WWS including some that put another series in-between.  One of these doesn't have them beginning WWS until eighth grade. I looked at her recommended bridge work and didn't particularly like the choices.  If I choose to put in a bridge I will use the Developing Writing Through Grammar series.  It looks fun and creative and certainly like the type of things my boys like.  I have decided that when we finish WWE level three I will not use level four as Kal-El's main writing curriculum.  He will either move on to WWS or DWTG (probably the latter).  Me Too is two school grades behind him so will probably do WWE level four and I can have Kal-El do only my favorite dictations as I discover them for additional practice. Because the boys want to read every book that is excerpted in WWE it helps us choose some of our literature for the year.  I like Susan's choices.

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