Narration is basically retelling what you’ve read or had read to you. I call it composition if it’s a written narration. If it’s some other form eg. a drawing, I  call it a creative narration but they are all forms of retelling and are all valid.
I thought I’d share some ideas I’ve used to help my children narrate/compose. I’ll add notes as I go to explain.

7 year old girl – after listening to a gospel account.



And after listening to Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare by E. Nesbit


I didn’t know she was doing this one but her brothers were doing their compositions so she decided to do one as well.


12 year old (just give me the facts) boy.

The idea for this narration came from Anne White’s Plutarch Study Guide when we were studying Poplicola.
 14 year old boy – an article for a magazine after we finished Longitude by 
 Dava Sobel as a read aloud and a retelling from a chapter in Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People.

A creative narration after spending time on Mozart in our composer studies.

 This was done by my son earlier this year when he was 16 years old. He is a maths man, a late reader and always struggled with writing – mentally & physically. I’ve spent the last few months honing his oral narration and have spent years doing dictation and tearing my hair out over his spelling.

 This is a narration he wrote in the form of a letter after reading a chapter from David Howarth’s The Voyage of the Armada.

Gradually, bit by bit his spelling has improved and now he knows a word ‘looks’ wrong even if he can’t work out how to spell it. His punctuation has improved also and I can see an improvement in his writing which I know is a direct result of regular oral narration ie. he comes to me after every reading & tells me about what he’s read.


I have to admit that it’s taken me some time to realise the value of oral narration. Maybe it sounded too simple – I don’t know why I thought that when I find it so difficult to intelligently retell anything I’ve read or heard – but I did. 
Maybe it was because my oldest 3 (girl, boy, girl) were natural writers and didn’t struggle in the process that I was led to believe that if my children were readers they would just automatically become writers. 
We’d always done some oral narration, my intent usually being to check if they’ve been paying attention while I’ve been reading aloud, or to check to see if they’d learned something I thought they should have; but I hadn’t used it as a means for them to tell what they knew or what they thought was interesting or important.
Today I asked my son to do a narration in verse form after we’d read from Plutarch. He’s just turned 17 years of age and I could tell he enjoyed doing this whereas 6 months ago he wouldn’t even have attempted it.


A couple of months ago I read Charlotte Mason’s A Philosophy of Education (Volume 6) for the first time and found it very valuable. On page 193 she writes, “Many children write verse as readily as prose, and the conciseness and power of bringing their subject matter to a point which this form of composition requires affords valuable mental training.”
She also mentions ‘exercises in scansion’ (had to look up this word – ie. checking the rhythm) and not long ago I discovered that the The Grammar of Poetry by Matt Whitling has lessons in scansion – I’d only just started this recently with my 15 & 17 year old boys so it will be interesting to see how these exercises will effect their verse writing down the track.
I’ve kept lists of different ideas for writing that I’ve gleaned from all sorts of places or thought of or which have been suggested by my children but there are a few that seem to work better than others and we tend to stick mainly to those, although I do try to get them to vary things somewhat.
 I also find that if they get too creative and use the computer for graphics and fancy stuff it becomes more of an exercise in using technology as opposed to writing but sometimes with very reluctant writers it helps them to ease into expressing themselves.

Pilgrim’s Progress (15 yr old boy)

Christian and Hopeful were walking along on the Way, after meeting Mr. Worldly Wise and his three friends, when they came to a beautiful river with hundreds of fruit trees along its banks. They decided to camp there overnight in a meadow next to the river where the lilies and the grass never died. The next morning they went and collected some fruit and water. Christian suggested that they stay there for a few days and so they did. Soon they were on their way again. That afternoon they came to a place where another road was alongside the Way and so they climbed over the fence and started to follow the other path. Soon, ahead of them they say a man. They called to him and he waited for them to come up to him. When they caught up to him they asked him if this path led to the Holy City and he told them it did, so they kept on. But soon it began to get dark, so dark that Christian and Hopeful lost sight of the man(whose name was Vainglorious). Then it began to rain and to thunder, and lightning lit up the sky. Christian and Hopeful were scared and they decided to turn back when they heard the moans of the man they had seen earlier coming from a deep pit in front of them. So they turned back, but as they neared the spot where they had come into this path they became very tired and stopping to have a rest, fell asleep. What they didn’t know was that the place where they were sleeping was in the dominions of a giant who’s name was Despair, and every morning this giant went across all his fields checking them. When the giant came to the field where Christian and Hopeful were sleeping he saw them and went and woke them up and asked them what they were doing in his dominions. Christian said they were lost pilgrims. The giant drove them back to his house, Doubting Castle, and threw them in one of his dungeons. Then the giant asked his wife what he should do with the pilgrims and she said he should beat them. So the next morning the giant went and did what his wife said and beat Christian and Hopeful. Then that night the giant again asked his wife what he should do to them and she said he should counsel them to take their lives. So in the morning the giant talked to the two pilgrims and tried to get them to take their lives. The giant went back that night to find that they hadn’t taken his, which made him furious. So he went to his wife again to get advice and she told him to show the pilgrims all the skulls and bones of pilgrims who had gone before them. So in the morning he did just that and then beat Christian and Hopeful all the way back to their dungeon. Then later that night Christian remembered that he had a key hidden in his bosom that could open any door, it was called the Promise Key. So with this key he opened all the doors and Hopeful and him got safely away from the castle. They then went back and climbed the fence again and continued on their way.


Temptation (Ourselves, Book 2, Ch XVIII) 16 year old girl

In her book ‘Ourselves’, Charlotte Mason talks about temptation. She says that the fact a man or a woman is tempted is not the problem; the problem starts when they entertain the temptation. Being tempted is part of human nature – Jesus was tempted too. When you’re tempted, the first thing to do is to immediately think about something else. When you fail to deliberately thrust the thought out of your mind, that’s when it becomes a problem. The most important thing is the continual repetition of a seemingly ordinary, everyday act, the act of rejecting certain thoughts as soon as they present themselves. This is why Jesus said to pray, every day,
‘Our Father, who art in heaven, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, amen.’














11 thoughts on “Narration/Composition

  1. Thanks Rosemary & Ellen, it's hard to be objective with your own children's work & sometimes I think it helps to see what others do especially if you have children that struggle with writing.


  2. Pingback: A 16 Year Old’s Written Narration Samples | journey & destination

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