Having a hard time understanding Spanish? Narration is a way to grow your ability to understand others and respond clearly. Use the narration prompts printable as a guide for your next read aloud time.
I got the phone call no mother ever wants. The paramedic said, "M'am your son has been hit by a car." Instant panic rushed through my body. My mind pictured him flying through the air. I just wanted to know - Is he okay... what happened?
I jumped in my car to handle the situation. Turning around the corner, the flashing lights from a fire truck and five police cars led me to him. He showed me his injuries and his cracked skateboard. Thank God, he was alive and conscious.
Still that one question again - what happened? I needed to know the story.
This is the essence of narration, asking questions to understand the facts. I needed to make sense of the accident to help him the best and make decisions. Later, this becomes a story to share over the years.
Spanish Reading Narration
My homeschooling journey began with lots of read aloud books and narration. Since my oldest was not ready to learn how to read, I read aloud a lot to him. The books gave him a great source of language and how it's used properly. Afterwards, I asked questions and we would retell the events and facts from the book.
It is such a natural way to learn language. A read aloud book is the source of vocabulary and language use. And narration is an opportunity to show reading comprehension and to practice speaking.
Narration in Life
Without realizing it, people narrate all the time. Every conversation is some form of a story or report. When someone asks "how was your day?", they are prompting you to narrate.
Some jobs are pure narration - journalism, analysts, brokers, bankers, social workers, secretaries, executives. At home, we talk about the latest events in our lives. Heck, look at this post, that's what I am doing right now. Narration is a part of daily life, not just an academic concept.
We all love a great story and to be well informed. Curiosity is a part of being human. We are all searching for answers in order to make sense of everything.
So, narration of your reading is a great way to practice for everyday conversations without having to invent the content. The book provides the words for you to use. You get to focus on speaking.
So what exactly is a narration as a reading activity?
Narration as a reading activity is storytelling or reporting. This means we repeat the events and facts from the read aloud book. The person who reads aloud asks the listeners a question about the reading. The listener, then becomes the speaker and tells the story or facts.
The center of narration is a read aloud book. Every book has a different format, genre, structure and style. They can be fact or fiction.
There are so many different types of narratives. Some are stories with background, characters and plot. Others are informational texts with facts and supporting details. I've listed some of their types:
account, biography, chronicle, chronology, commentary, history, narrative, record, report, story, epic, saga, tale, romance, recital, recitation, testimonial, journal, mystery, memoir, romance or case study.
Later on, I will detail the features of both narrative stories and informational texts.
Narration as a Read Aloud Activity
First, let's see exactly what narration is as a reading activity. The three benefits of narration are to test reading comprehension, to grow vocabulary and to practice speaking Spanish.
The purpose is to learn Spanish by retelling the story and facts from a read aloud book. That's right narration is to repeat what you read. That simple. This is great activity for a homeschool Spanish program and independent learners or groups.
On a practical level, I will show you exactly what a narration activity looks like.
Example of Narrating from Reading
To illustrate what narration is, I selected this short fable, Las moscas, as a read aloud source text. It is a perfect example, because the language is simple and it has an illustration. In two sentences and a final message, it tells a complete story with plot and setting.
First, read the text aloud. If you need a guide for pronunciation, look HERE:
Get the Spanish Sounds Bookmark, a handy tool to keep in your Spanish read aloud book.
excerpt from La fabula a traves del tiempo. p. 402, Editorial Sopena, 1978.
Next, give a narration prompt to the listeners (and you too). A couple basic ones to test reading comprehension are ---
¿Qué pasó? What happened?
Cuenta me sobre... las moscas... Tell me about... the flies...
Finally, each listener retells the story or information. Narrations are extremely adaptable for every skill level. As a group, each listener benefits from the same source. The easier the text the better. Here are some possible narrations based on listening and speaking skill level ---
repeats words or phrases
dos mil moscas, murieron, corazones, perecen, vicio, panal de miel
combines words into sentence
Las moscas murieron en la miel y pastel.
refines message with word choice, sentence structures and stylistic techniques
Las moscas tenían hambre. murieron. Todas quedaron atrapados en los dulces pegajosos y murieron. Nos dan un ejemplo del peligro del vicio.
What would you say? ¿Qué dirías? Post your narration in the comments section below.
Narration in Read Aloud Time
As you can see from the example, narration is a powerful language activity. It tests reading comprehension. I mean, you can only retell the details of the story, because you were listening and learning new words. The whole purpose is to develop listening and then speaking skills.
I say the more you read aloud the better. And the more you narrate, you will have plenty of speaking practice. Get all the details about how to read aloud and different reading activitiesyou can do in a short amount of time.
Asking questions adds to the effectiveness of the reading time. At pivotal moments, a well timed question will stir curiosity and engage the listeners. You can ask a question before, during or after reading.
Before - to remember previous events and predict future events
During - catch attention of important change in direction, example: cliffhanger
After - to sum up the story or information, give opinion or prediction
I have a helpful tool that takes all the guesswork out of what narration questions to ask. This FREE list of Narration Prompts is my gift for you to download and print HERE
The Narration Prompts are in both Spanish and English. Print both and keep them back to back in a sheet protector or laminate to use during your read aloud time.
As I said before, the most important part of the narration activity is to retell the story or information for comprehension and expression practice. The purpose is to be actively engaged in listening and speaking Spanish. The text is your source for words and language.
Now, let's look at the different structures of stories and informational texts.
Your read aloud book is a narrative (unless it is poetry, then it is something completely different called verse). Narrative unfolds a series of events or facts related to a specific topic. Stories have characters, settings and plot. Informational articles have different structures to arrange the main points and supporting details.
These are types of details to look for while reading stories and informational texts.
Every story has a unique setup of characters, location and time with some sort of problem that needs to be resolved. A series of events build up the conflict, and then the problem is solved bringing the story to an end. Some are tragic, others are comedies.
Even the three sentence fable "Las moscas" shown above has all of these elements:
- Setting - El escenario
Time and place
¿Cuándo? ¿Dónde? ¿A dónde? When? Where? At where?
- Characters - Los personajes
Person, animals, being or figure moving along the events
- Plot- La trama
Sequence of events in time
¿Qué paso? ¿Cómo? What happened? How?
- Conflict- El conflicto
The problem or challenge the characters face
- Resolution- La resolución
A series of events that resolve the problem
- Theme - La tema
The central message of the story
Use these structural elements, basic questions and the narration prompts as a guide for talking about a story.
Typically, informative texts use five different techniques to introduce the topic and supporting facts. Articles from newspapers, magazines, encyclopedia, dictionary entries are all examples of informational sources.
Description - La descripción
Information and details about a topic and subtopics
Sequence - La secuencia
Facts or steps in a chronological order
Cause and Effect - La causa y el efecto
Description of event and the effects afterward
Compare and Contrast - La comparación y el contraste
The similarities and differences between two or more topics.
Problem and Solution - El problema y la solución
Information about a conflict and ways to resolve it
Additionally, informative texts have visual features - titles, headings, charts and graphs, photos, maps and indexes. All these add detail to the main topic.
Spanish Verbs in Narration
In storytelling and reporting, verbs are the center of action and description. I warn you, getting them right is a bit tricky when retelling a story. Because, they change for many reasons. This is called in grammar terms, verb conjugation. I am going to focus on verb person and tense (in the indicative mood - to state facts).
Spanish Verbs - Person
Narration, the retelling a story or facts from a book, requires a shift in perspective. The original story may be told from perspective of the character (first person) or narrator (an outside voice - third person). Then, we are retelling from our perspective (first person) and talking about the character and events (third person). And talking to someone else (second person). It can get a bit complicated.
Learn this grammar fact with one of the learning style activities.
Cuenta me sobre LAS PERSONAS DEL VERBO-
Las personas del verbo son SINGULAR - primera persona, yo - segunda persona, tú/vos - tercera persona, él/ella/ello/usted - PLURAL - primera persona, nosotros/nosotras - segunda persona, vosotros/vosotras - tercera persona, ellos/ellas/ustedes
This is a basic fact to learn about verbs, a starting point. I want this activity to be the best verb conjugation practice, ever. Here are some practical tips for how to get the verb conjugation right with the right verb person:
Tips for Spanish Verbs - Person
- Beginners repeat the same verb exactly as written in the text (take the role of the speaker).
- To talk about the characters, setting, events use third person "él/ella/ello/usted"
- To share your opinion or prediction use first person "yo"
- There is no "it" in Spanish like English, an option to say It is .... Es... / Está..... (the subject is implied)
Spanish Verb Tenses
Another way verbs change is by time frame. When retelling, it is hard to get the right conjugation, especially talking about past events. Even, getting the present tense correct is a challenge (thinking about irregular verbs, ser/estar...).
So, I have a few tips to help you get some great conjugation practice:
Tips for Spanish Verb Tense
- Beginners stick to using the present tense. (Or repeat the verb as written in text)
- Only use future tense to predict or share opinion of what will happen in future
- In all other cases, for future use the form Going to... Ir a... (use correct voice in present tense for verb ir)
- For intermediate and advanced, to talk about past events, practice preterite and imperfect.
Preterite and Imperfect
The most challenging part is talking about the past, because there are two tenses - the preterite and imperfect. Each tense has it's specific purpose. Preterite is used for the action. And the imperfect
imperfect sets the background.
Las moscas murieron porque tenían hambre por golosina.
Check out this helpful explanation on the past tenses - https://itsnachotime.com/spanish-stories/
These tips will help you start basic. With consistent narration practice, you will grow into more advanced skills.
To sum it up, narration is a great way to practice speaking Spanish and prove that you really understand the reading. The source text gives you all the vocabulary, the story to retell and the facts to report on a specific topic. No need to invent, just listen and retell.
More than anything, I love narration because it is real, not an abstract grammar exercise. It is so natural for us to tell stories and share information. We do it all the time. Narration as a reading activity, with the questions to prompt, will develop your expression skills.
Of course, narration is challenging, but anything worthwhile is tough. Use the writing structures and tips on handling verbs to start easy and grow in skill over time. Make it a regular part of your Spanish Study Plan.
Be realistic and keep it simple. Grow with experience. Enjoy using Spanish in your real life.