Writing is a key component to learning. We often talk about learning to write, but today the focus is on writing to learn.
We’ll walk through what narrations are and how you can help your kids start writing them. We’ll share some free printable narration pages that you can use to write about anything you’re learning. Finally, we also have a printable list of Narration Writing Prompts that will get your kids’ brains in gear in creative ways.
Writing To Learn
Narration is a wonderful way to solidify knowledge. At its simplest, narration is just telling what you’ve learned. Written narration is writing down those ideas. It can be the most important step to real learning because it provides an opportunity for kids to pair their own ideas and experiences with the new information they have learned. Written ideas, articulated, can stay with us.
Written narration prompts kids to think deeply and then contribute their own ideas to the topic. It causes kids to explore ideas more deeply within their own minds. Writing should be a natural extension of learning rather than just an assignment during writing class, so here are some tips for getting your kids writing about all of the fun things they are learning about. Before we get started, take just a moment and read about how to use writing to learn thinking.
Write at the End of Each Unit
At the end of each Layers of Learning unit, decide on a way to show what you learned in writing. In schools, this is traditionally a test. In homeschool, you have the freedom to show what you learned in many, many ways. Choose from these ways:
- a test or quiz
- oral presentation (include a written component in oral presentations)
You don’t need to do all three. If you try to do everything all of the time you’ll get burned out. Instead, choose one written assignment at the end of your unit. The Writer’s Workshop sidebars within Layers of Learning can provide inspiration, or you can create your own writing assignment. Use a variety of kinds of writing to keep things fresh and fun. Then add your writing into a notebook that your kids keep so you will have a record of what you’ve learned together and can also go back over and review it.
Getting Past A Blank Page
Writing involves so many processes at once that it can be overwhelming for some kids, exhausting even. A new writer must be simultaneously concerned with thinking of ideas, spellings, grammar, mechanics, neatness, and the physical act of writing. If you can take the pressure off in a few of those areas it will help emergent writers to feel more confident in getting their ideas down on the page.
Focus on Ideas
First, take some pressure off by encouraging kids to focus first on ideas. The spelling and mechanics can be fixed later. In content writing, it is the ideas we are focused on!
In particular, if you can have kids write about the topics they are learning in history, geography, science, and art, they can use their new knowledge to generate ideas at the same time they master and commit to memory their exploration of those topics. As kids become engaged in the conversations and ideas of the world, they expand their own minds and experiences.
Be Their Publisher
I also ease the pressure on my new writers by offering to be their publisher. Sit by them and proofread, edit, and if needed, type for your kids. These are all roles they eventually grow into, but don’t let these overwhelming tasks get in the way of your kids sharing what they know.
Begin With A Picture
Many kids who are intimidated to write aren’t worried in the least about drawing. Drawing pictures helps generate ideas and starts their pencils moving. Rather than lined paper, kids often do better when they begin with plain white drawing paper or story paper. Here are some free printable Narration Sheets you can use. My kids also like to use plain white cardstock without any lines.
Get Them Talking
There’s nothing scarier than staring at a blank page. Before you set kids to the task of writing, get them talking. Ideas can be generated more freely if you take the big task of writing out of the equation. Ask questions like:
- What were the big ideas that you learned about ____________________?
- What was the most impressive thing to you?
- Were there any important people that stood out to you?
- Does anything about ___________________________ relate to you and your life?
- My favorite part about ______________________ was ___________________. What was yours?
- Was there anything that surprised you?
Once kids have said their ideas out loud, they can begin to write. Now, instead of a blank page, they have big ideas. It’s even better if they are convinced their ideas are worth writing down, so make sure to point out the impressive or insightful things they said. Help them organize their thoughts into a logical order. Talking through ideas helps kids feel more empowered to get their thoughts down on paper.
Writing Prompts for Narrations
Some kids will naturally write about all kinds of things they’ve learned after a simple conversation, but many kids prefer a writing prompt or a creative format to spark ideas for sharing what they’ve learned.
Creative Narration Prompts
If you’re tired of writing plain paragraphs, infuse a little life into the lesson with these creative narration prompts to use as you write history, geography, science, and art narrations. Here’s a printable version of this list so you can keep it handy.
- Write a journal entry about something that fascinated you. (The most interesting thing I learned…. I didn’t know that…. I wonder…. The thing that really surprised me…)
- Make an illustrated fact sheet.
- Create a quadrama with information on each of the sides.
- Write a top ten list of ten things you learned.
- Create a chart of things like tallest buildings, population changes, your favorite facts, neat places, or significant inventions. Include captions and labels.
- Make a fact wheel.
- Create a Venn diagram that compares two units, two sets of people, two paintings or schools of art, or two science topics, like mammals and birds.
- Keep a bullet journal learning log and record as many things as you can that you have learned.
- Make a “3 Things Page” by dividing a sheet of paper into thirds and drawing a picture and caption in each of the three sections about the three most important things you know about the topic.
- Create a quote log. Write down quotes from your reading in one column and your thoughts or ideas about them in the next.
- Make a shape book. Draw a simple shape and create an entire book in that shape.
- Write an acrostic poem about your topic. You can use single words, phrases, or full sentences on each letter of your acrostic.
- Write an “If I Had Been There…” narration, telling about some things you would have seen or done if you were there.
- Create a “Write All Around It.” You begin by making a simple outline drawing and then you write what you know about it all around the border.
- Create a poster. Include pictures, titles, captions, and informational boxes.
- Choose a real person you learned about. Make a character sketch about the person. Draw the person. Write words and phrases that include a physical description outside the person’s body and a description of their character traits inside the body.
- Make a PowerPoint presentation, Prezi, or another slideshow. Include graphics, transition, and accurate information.
- Answer all the question words – Who? What? Where? Why? How? Write down each question word and then fill in your answers as they apply to your topic.
- Make a storyboard.
- Compare the time period to your own modern life.
- Compare two leaders, one from your studies and one who leads your nation today. Which one would you rather live under and why?
- Choose an important person you learned about and write a series of interview questions you would ask if you could talk with him or her.
- Compare a real-life person you learned about to a character you’ve read about in a book. How are the two alike? How are they different?
- Make a list of three things a person you read about should be remembered for.
- Create a word cloud. Write your topic in the center then surround it with as many related words and phrases as you can come up with.
- Describe a problem and how it was solved or could have been solved.
- Show a picture or painting from the unit. Describe as many details as you can about the picture.
- Write five questions you didn’t know the answers to when you began to study this topic. Can you write each answer now?
- Does this topic remind you of another story or topic you have studied or read about?
- Write a quiz, complete with an answer key.
- What would you have done differently if you were there?
- What kind of worldview was presented? Contrast two ways to look at an issue within the topic.
- Who did you learn about that you wish you could be friends with or become acquainted with?
- Write a play or skit set in the time period or centered around the topic.
- Write a newspaper article about an event or important person. You can even create a whole paper with a variety of columns – weather, comics, and more.
- Make a news segment describing the highlights of your topic. Write out the parts each person will speak, as though you’re creating cue cards. (Get some people together and record a video of your news segment for extra fun!)
- Create a brochure about an important event, place, or discovery. You could also use your brochure to try to convince someone they should go visit a place or time period.
- Make a simulated journal entry in which you take on the character of someone you have learned about and write as though you are the person.
- Write a simulated letter as though you are a historical person; write to someone about your experiences. You can also write a real letter!
- Pen an obituary about an important person.
- Write a book review about one of the books you read on your topic. You can publish it on Amazon, Goodreads, or another book site.
- Draw a diagram and label or describe it.
- Sketch your own map with descriptions of important events written on it.
- Draw a picture of an event, person, or place and add a caption.
- Create a drawing and description of a theme park that is based on your topic.
- Make written tags or labels for a project you created during your unit study.
Narrations Should Be Shared
When you are done, take turns and share what you wrote. Celebrate the new knowledge! Applaud! Discuss! I rarely “grade” narrations. I do not treat them like spelling tests or point out mistakes. Instead, I also share what I learned. We all have a discussion and remember our favorite bits of knowledge and the projects we most enjoyed. It’s a time for celebrating all that we learned together. I hope you’ll make narrations a part of your homeschool!
More From Layers of Learning
Come check out our Writer’s Workshop Page for more fun writing ideas. See how we plan our Writer’s Workshop units here. You might also like United States Bingo and our review games for homeschoolers. Then learn more about Layers of Learning in our Curriculum Guide. All of our units are available in our catalog.