Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Value of Retelling, and a keyword map

But, it will be said, reading or hearing various books read, chapter by chapter, and then narrating or writing what has been read or some part of it,––all this is mere memory work. The value of this criticism may be readily tested; will the critic read before turning off his light a leading article from a newspaper, say, or a chapter from Boswell or Jane Austen, or one of Lamb's Essays; then, will he put himself to sleep by narrating silently what he has read. He will not be satisfied with the result but he will find that in the act of narrating every power of his mind comes into play, that points and bearings which he had not observed are brought out; that the whole is visualized and brought into relief in an extraordinary way; in fact, that scene or argument has become a part of his personal experience; he knows, he has assimilated what he has read. This is not memory work.

I just came across this again in Charlotte Mason's Philosophy of Education. I wanted to put it on here because it strikes me as quite true. I have been testing it out on different books the past few days -- among them, Sean's school books and CM's Parents and Children -- and I find that after doing this, I can not only remember the passage I read, but I can almost visualize the train of the argument as if it were in a book in front of me.

I was less successful in narrating and remembering in the past, though. When I narrated, it took a mighty effort and it was usually vaguer -- I had to check back again to verify various lines in the argument or information. But I recently read a few books on studying -- one of them was Super Reading Secrets and another was called, originally enough, Effective Study (and is OOP, but the way I understand it, the author invented the SQRRR method which is well known nowadays?).

Both recommended developing a habit of jotting down a key word or so per paragraph -- sort of like an IEW keyword outline but even more brief; then "retelling" from this skeleton. I think they both said it was better to write down the note AFTER you read because then the recall is more active -- you don't become dependent upon the notes.

I suppose that this could still be a sort of crutch; that children starting from Day One on CM methods would not need to do this; though I do remember Karen Andreola suggesting that the parent make a similar brief notes outline to help a child narrate, at least in the beginning.

I have been having my 14 year old try this too -- narrating without notes, and then with keyword notes, to see if there is any difference.

I find that for me at any rate, this acts as a sort of map -- I am a very visual-spatial thinker and so perhaps that is part of it. Once I've narrated, I don't even need the map anymore. It just helps me maneuver through the original retelling. This morning, I can still remember what I read yesterday; I'm going to experiment a bit more with longer-term recall. Anyway, I thought I'd mention it in case there are others out there who have been not entirely successful with CM's test quoted above.

1 comment:

Melanie B said...

Very interesting observations. I wonder if the key word thing would work for me. I also tend to be very visual/spatial.