Sunday, July 26, 2015

Charlotte Mason Composition: Writing a Resume

resume: a summary; in French, resumer means "to summarize"
Each week, in Form III (approximately 7th grade), a PNEU student was expected to write a resume (a summary) of something he or she had read in literature, the news, history, or "about an allegorical subject." Composition was once a week for 30 minutes.

I've been thinking about the summary...

When a child narrates, they tell back everything remembered. But when they summarize, they decide on a main idea, and ideas that support that idea. They decide that certain details are irrelevant, and they edit them out.

In public school, we teach children to do this right from the beginning. We want them to tell us what the story is about in one sentence. We don't allow children to go on and on retelling. We want them to get to the point.

In elementary school, I was very good at tests in which I had to read a passage and find the main idea. I was good at these tests because I didn't read the passages. I read the questions' multiple choices, I went back and scanned for key words, and I got right answers. I viewed a test as a game, and the test-makers as my opponent. Fortunately, my first experiences with books were not at school, but at home, in my mother's lap; I learned to love reading, not for main ideas, but for pleasure. This isn't true for a lot of children.

When we school a child to listen/read for a main idea before we train a child to listen/read for story, we do them a huge disservice. We teach them to ignore how the author told the story - word choice, sentence fluency, and voice. But when we train a child to listen/read for story, we are teaching a child to attend to everything. It is all important.

Charlotte Mason had children spend six years narrating (Forms I and II) before they began summarizing. Six years studying - unbeknownst to them - how to be effective writers.

In Form III, composition was once a week for 30 minutes. Only 30 minutes! For a student to be able to write a resume of something they had read in 30 minutes, they needed to know what they were going to write before they came to the table. (Contrast this with a creative writing approach, in which the student comes to the table not knowing what they will write, is given a prompt, freewrites for a bit, develops a piece from the freewrite, workshops the piece, revises and edits, and finally has a finished piece of writing. This approach takes much longer than 30 minutes.)

Writing a Resume

A resume should be written from memory. In a CM-style resume, the text was not used, so direct quotes would not have been used; contrast this with Common Core Standards in which 4th graders must correctly use direct quotes and cite sources. Sometimes student writers learn to rely too much on using direct quotes, instead of paraphrasing material. Writing from memory solves this problem, and it also means that plagiarism is not an issue.

The resume should:
  • be shorter than the original
  • accurately communicate the text's main idea and supporting points (or plot, if the text is a novel or play)
  • include the text's most important terms and concepts
  • follow the same sequence of ideas that the original author used
  • make sense (use complete sentences, use the best words to communicate clearly, etc.) 
  • exclude details that will confuse or distract a reader
  • exclude analysis, argument, or the reader's response
Your thoughts on this? :)

For my other posts on Charlotte Mason Composition,
check out:

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