“Guess what happened at Julie’s house?”
“I had the strangest dream last night.”
“Daddy, you know what me and Mommy did today?”
If you’ve every heard your child talk about something that happened, and you’ve sat and listened and asked questions, then you can easily use narration as a teaching tool.
Narration is basically telling back what you have learned. This is one of the best ways to “test” your children. I like it because it’s very fast, it’s easy (no materials to prepare, no worksheets to write), and I am able to hear what part of the story “stuck” with my child. It’s interesting when different children “latch on” to a different part of the story. I get to see what was important to them in the story.
“God made Adam and Eve on the sixth day. Adam was made of dirt but Eve was made from Adam’s rib. They were husband and wife even though they didn’t have a wedding because there was nobody else around yet. They were the first man and woman and God loved them very much….”
With narration, the child is forced to use and develop skills in memory, comprehension, and communication. The child has to put all the ideas from the story together in her head and tell it back to you. This article gives some good information about what narration is and why it works so well.
But how do you do it? I love narration because there are so many ways you can do it! I’ve listed some basic pointers below.
Six years old and younger
I wouldn’t ask for narration from very young children. They do better with direct questions about the Bible passages/ lessons. I would ask Who, What, Where, When, and How about the story. I would also ask Yes/No questions. So for a story about Abraham, I might ask, “Who was Abraham? Did Abraham love God? Where did God send him?”
A great thing about this: the older kids can ask questions of the younger. This makes the older child responsible for remembering the story, and it tests the younger child at the same time!
Of course, young children may spontaneously narrate – usually when you least expect it. It’s so funny to have your little one suddenly playing out one of his Bible lessons with his dolls (excuse me, action figures). Be sure you take notice and praise them when these special things happen.
Young children also like to draw what they’ve learned. You could give them a special pad of paper just for their Bible study narrations. My kids really like making their own comic books for narration. Another option is to put the story and pictures on a storyboard.
Another method is to have them act out the story. This is really helpful, especially if the reading is long. You can use a few pieces of cloth, hats, etc. for “costuming” the children.
One method my children love is to ask me questions! They love playing the role of teacher, and of course, this forces them to remember the facts so that they can tell me if I’m right!
Six years old and older
There are simply too many ways you can narrate for me to list. This website gives many ideas for narration. Do an internet search for “Creative Writing tips” and you’ll come up with more ideas for narration prompts. My favorite: “Tell me what happened in the Bible story.”
If a child is used to narration or has had exposure to many Bible stories, she can start thinking of applying the story. Just ask her, “What can we learn from this story?” Variations include: “What made God happy/angry in the story? How did Abraham have faith?”, etc.
Narration can be oral or written. At this age, narration still doesn’t have to happen every day. In fact, for children less than 9 years old, I might only do it once a week. My rule of thumb: Keep it simple!
You might want more frequent and more in-depth narration from older children. Teens can do their narration independently by writing a short summary or journaling about their reaction to the study. You can look over it together at the end of the week.
Here are some sample narration prompts for Bible study:
1. What is the main lesson you learned from the reading? What do you think your parents and teachers would want you to learn from it?
2. How can today’s reading help you be a better servant of Christ? How can it help you love God better? How can it help you love others better?
3. Is there anything you agreed or disagreed with in today’s study? Why?
4. Can you think of other Bible verses and stories that tie into these lessons? What about people you know personally who exemplify the qualities you studied?
5. In what area of your life does this lesson help you the most ~ family, church, school, friendships, or something else?
If your children want to learn how to be Bible class teachers someday, let them do their own Bible study independently and then teach that study to the younger children the next day (oh, what a spoiled parent you’d be). Let them co-teach some of the family Bible lessons with Dad. Let them write their own studies and put up a blog (please link me!).
Have the youngest child narrate first, recalling everything they’re able (make it voluntary for children less than six years old), then the other children add on to the narration, going from youngest to eldest. Each child has to try to think of new information to add to the story. It would be fun to do this as a group drawing as well.
Notebooking and Lapbooking
In notebooking, the child writes down her narrations. She might also draw pictures. She can copy poems and hymns in here as well. It’s all kept in one notebook. This website has lots of information about notebooking.
Lapbooks (which are also sometimes called scrapbooks) are used by homeschoolers for many subjects, and they’re ideal for visual and kinesthetic learners (kids who respond better to information they can see and touch). A lapbook is basically a file folder with small “mini-books” of information contained inside.
Imagine opening a file folder on “Brotherly Love” and finding a dozen little books pasted within, all different shapes, each book containing a short summary of a Bible lesson on brotherly love. What a special record that would be!
I would use lapbooks sparingly. They take a lot of time and materials to make. Little kids need a lot of help with cutting and folding the books. And sometimes filling up a lapbook is just a regurgitation of facts. You end up with many little books with words in them, but the child still has to work to put all the information together into a cohesive whole in her mind. It’s easy to lose the forest for the trees.
This wouldn’t be an issue for very young children, but for older children I would still take the extra step and have them do longer narrations/summarizing once in a while. For our homeshool lapbooks, I attach several sheets of notebook paper on one side of the folder for long narrations/journaling.
In short, I don’t feel that lapbooking really promotes writing or storytelling skills, two of the best methods for students to really demonstrate their comprehension of what they’ve learned. But they can be a lot of fun, and a good way to have facts “at your fingertips.” I have more lapbooking ideas on my Activities page.
Again, even for older students, you don’t have to narrate every day. Please see my page on scheduling Bible studies for ideas on varying your lessons and activities in Bible class.