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My son is 7 and is gifted in math and reading and a few other things but really struggles with reading comprehension in history.  I will read the story to him from SOTW 1, making it as interesting as possible, but he still can't remember ONE thing I read.  When my husband reads "fun" books to him, he remembers and when we do Bible, he sometimes remembers at least something.  However, he just can't get SOTW no matter how hard I try and even when I ask questions, he has no clue the answer - even when I tell him the answers and then ask him again - blank stare.   Seeing how he can't do a simple narration of one thing he can remember, I've held off on even starting WWE 1, since I know it has narration exercises.

Do I go with a different history or put history aside altogether?  Is it an interest problem or an actual reading comprehension problem?  How should I go about figuring this out?  Thanks in advance!

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Do you think he really doesn't understand, or do you think he's nervous about narration?

My son is 8 now; I started having him to regular narrations I think last year, when he was seven. At the beginning, he would OFTEN tell me that he couldn't remember anything. I knew he could understand the reading, because he  read much more difficult books on his own and talked about them a lot. So I figured it was something about narration that stressed him out. He's a perfectionist.

So I played around with different strategies. I gave him breaks from having to do any narration. I had him narrate shorter passages. I joked with him. I narrated myself, sometimes well, and sometimes really badly, just to try and take the pressure off. I praised him whenever he "narrated" anything in normal life. I just wanted to stop him from being freaked out by the whole thing.

Anyway, I'm not really sure which strategy worked. Maybe he just matured. Now, he does great narrations. He'll still grumble about them sometimes, but not at all in the same way. The other day I asked him why he dislikes it. He said it's because he knows he's going to narrate something, he has to listen in a different way, thinking the whole time about what's important and what's not, and keeping track of names and dates. Whereas when he reads for pleasure, he can just relax and enjoy himself. I totally get that.

So, sorry to go on and on! you know your son best -- do you think it's the history book, or do you think he's just nervous about the narration process?

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2 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

He said it's because he knows he's going to narrate something, he has to listen in a different way, thinking the whole time about what's important and what's not, and keeping track of names and dates. Whereas when he reads for pleasure, he can just relax and enjoy himself. I totally get that.

 

When I've tried to work with him and tell him before I read to listen because he has to tell me something he remembers, it is AGONIZING for him - just like you said!  He listens to remember something.  I remember recently, he stopped me and said, OK, I have my one thing, can I tell it now?  It was excruciating for him to listen to me finish and then finally tell me that one thing (from the beginning of the reading) that he held in his mind lol.

You may be right!  He is a perfectionist, especially with everything else - everything has to be done a certain way.

I'm not entirely sure however, that he "gets" the history stories because he can't tell me about what I read - so confusing.  He gets other things he finds interesting and can tell about them, so he can comprehend when he wants to.  He has no problem with science - he gets it and is excited about it.

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7 minutes ago, Classically Minded said:

 

When I've tried to work with him and tell him before I read to listen because he has to tell me something he remembers, it is AGONIZING for him - just like you said!  He listens to remember something.  I remember recently, he stopped me and said, OK, I have my one thing, can I tell it now?  It was excruciating for him to listen to me finish and then finally tell me that one thing (from the beginning of the reading) that he held in his mind lol.

You may be right!  He is a perfectionist, especially with everything else - everything has to be done a certain way.

I'm not entirely sure however, that he "gets" the history stories because he can't tell me about what I read - so confusing.  He gets other things he finds interesting and can tell about them, so he can comprehend when he wants to.  He has no problem with science - he gets it and is excited about it.

If he's really not "getting" the history, then maybe it would help him to also read other books / watch documentaries / do hands on activities about ancient history? In a fun way, with no pressure. Maybe the whole idea of the ancient world is just too remote for him to understand? 

For me, if he has "one thing" he remembers and he wants to say it, I'd stop and let him say it right away. Then I'd go back to reading. If he finds another thing he wants to say, great. If not, also fine.

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26 minutes ago, Little Green Leaves said:

If he's really not "getting" the history, then maybe it would help him to also read other books / watch documentaries / do hands on activities about ancient history? In a fun way, with no pressure. Maybe the whole idea of the ancient world is just too remote for him to understand? 

For me, if he has "one thing" he remembers and he wants to say it, I'd stop and let him say it right away. Then I'd go back to reading. If he finds another thing he wants to say, great. If not, also fine.

 

That's probably a better idea than me making him wait till the end lol - I honestly couldn't even see that.  I may try reading a paragraph and then having him say what he remembers and then going on.  I don't know why I didn't think of that, it seems so obvious now.

I had him watch some elementary DVD's on the Ancient topics and he liked it for a few minutes but could barely stand watching the whole 20 minutes.  He did like the one on Mesopotomia.  I may try to do more of that along with the reading to help him understand more.  But yes, he seems to not understand ancient history - I tried to tell him thousands of years ago but he looks confused.  Thanks so much for your help!!

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I wonder if my method might help him.  In the early years, one of mine often needed me to narrate incorrectly in order to relieve some of the tension.  Without that, it was either blank stares or wailing about not knowing. 

I'd say something silly like, "Hatshepsut was a man who lived in New Jersey.  Right?" 

Dc would look at me strangely and argue, "No, Hatshepsut was a woman, and she lived in Egypt." 

"Oh, okay.  Sorry.  Hatshepsut was a woman who lived in Egypt, and she bagged groceries at the supermarket." 

(Dc either gets annoyed or giggles.) "Mom, they didn't have supermarkets.  She was Pharoah." 

"Oh, okay. She was Pharoah, and she wore a pink, polka-dotted frog on her chin." 

"Mom, she did not!  She wore a fake beard!" 

"Oh, okay.  Can you tell me again, so I remember?  Who was Hatshepsut?" 

"She was Pharoah."

"What did she do?"

"She wore a fake beard." 

  

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I think you've been given good advice about working through challenges with narrations, but if he really dislikes ancient history... switch to something else.  At 7, I would talk to him about what he wants to learn about and go the pile of books from the library route.  Knights? Dinosaurs? Airplanes?  He can practice the skill of studying history without the four year cycle.

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12 hours ago, Classically Minded said:

Do I go with a different history or put history aside altogether?  Is it an interest problem or an actual reading comprehension problem?  How should I go about figuring this out?  Thanks in advance!

I would do history without requiring narration. History is way too much fun to make it into a chore.

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How about instead of narration, you have a conversation with him?  As in saying something like "I was so surprised when they just chopped off the king's head!  What did you think of that part?"  Or "What did you think was the most interesting thing that happened?"  Or stopping in the middle of reading and making comments that spark interaction.

My opinion is that narration and comprehension questions suck the joy out of history.  Have a conversation with him and then help him compose one sentence about what you discussed.   Write it down for him, then if you do copywork, it can be what he copies the next day.

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If with the "fun stuff " he can do it then it might not be a comprehension issue.

I read your OP to my DD7 and asked what she thought. She said, it sounded like he wasn't ready.

Sometimes it's hard to pay attention to stuff your not into or don't understand.

With my kid I do history of our family, city and state along with learning the states names and capitals. She also has flash cards of the US Presidents.

Ancient history is something she isn't ready for yet. But she is starting to ask questions so maybe soon.

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Wow!  Thanks for all the replies and advice!  He does well in everything else, above and beyond, so that is why I didn't understand this problem he has with telling me one thing he remembers in SOTW.  I don't want to just read to him and waste time if he isn't really taking it in or understanding.  On the other hand, I really value the 4-year cycle with SOTW and want to do it with him, so I'm going to try several of the ideas mentioned here and we'll see how it goes!  If after doing that next week, he still just either can't "get" it or isn't interested, I think I will look into something else, as some of you mentioned - having him pick a history topic, State history, etc.

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13 minutes ago, Classically Minded said:

I don't want to just read to him and waste time if he isn't really taking it in or understanding. 

"Just" reading to him?!?!  In my world, reading to my kids is THE most valuable thing I can do even if they can't narrate one thing back to me.  Over and over all of my kids have proven that they take in way more than they can ever spit back out.

We have LOVED SOTW, but there have certainly been times that I have had to slow down and scaffold it to make it more accessible.  Right now we are half-way through SOTW 4, and most days I am reading to 4, 6, 8 and 10 year olds.  Not exactly the intended audience!  So I slow down; rephrase certain passages; offer up my own summary narratives after a difficult, dense page; etc. 

I try to get and keep the kids engaged - yesterday we were reading about The Last March and it mentioned the Chinese Communist Party every other sentence or so; so we started to do a shot (okay, eat an M&M 😄) every time they heard that phrase.  I ask questions - some substantive, some silly - as we go.   As often as possible I set them up to make connections and draw conclusions.  Today's reading was about Black Tuesday, and the first two paragraphs of the section were about how great the 20's were after World War 1.  The third paragraph was simply the sentence, "In 1929, the dream ended."  Instead, after the lead up of the first two paragraphs, I just went with a very loaded, "BUUUUT....." and let them speculate about what they thought might happen next.  It didn't matter to me if they were right or wrong (my 10 year old posited an alien take-over, which to the best of my knowledge did not happen), as long as they realized that there was going to be an abrupt change of fortune...and once they made their guesses they were more tuned in to listen to see if they were right.

If your son really dislikes listening to SOTW then I might consider changing to a different book, but as long as my kids are willing listeners I keep reading even if I question how much they are "getting" out of it.  Last week my 4 year old insisted she was wearing her tiara because she was the emperor and she was sending her army to take over China (aka under the table knocking again all our legs while we tried to work) - she is clearly being exposed to ideas that are percolating in her head and will serve as pegs to hang future learning.

As one last note, in your shoes I probably would start WWE 1.  It starts SO gentle; building beginning narrating skills is exactly its goal.  The passages in WWE 1 are much, much easier than SOTW...even WWE 2 and 3 use passages that are significantly shorter than a section of SOTW.  If you want to help your son strengthen his narrations, then I would dive right in to WWE 1 because that is exactly what it will do.

Wendy 

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11 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

"Just" reading to him?!?!  In my world, reading to my kids is THE most valuable thing I can do even if they can't narrate one thing back to me.  Over and over all of my kids have proven that they take in way more than they can ever spit back out.

 

Sorry if I came across that way lol!  My husband reads to him almost every evening fun books, educational books and Bible, so we do also believe it is the most valuable thing and he doesn't narrate any of that.  However, he "gets" those books and he talks about them or stops in the middle of them and gets excited about what he's learning or the fun story.  He doesn't do ANY of that with SOTW - if anything, it seems as though it is excruciating to him to listen to me read it.  That is why I was saying I didn't want to waste my time because it doesn't seem like he is taking it in, more like just waiting for it to be over.  He stops me a lot and says, are we almost done? 

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24 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

As one last note, in your shoes I probably would start WWE 1.  It starts SO gentle; building beginning narrating skills is exactly its goal.  The passages in WWE 1 are much, much easier than SOTW...even WWE 2 and 3 use passages that are significantly shorter than a section of SOTW.  If you want to help your son strengthen his narrations, then I would dive right in to WWE 1 because that is exactly what it will do.

 

I'm going to start this coming week then and see how it goes, thanks for the tips!

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25 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

If your son really dislikes listening to SOTW then I might consider changing to a different book, but as long as my kids are willing listeners I keep reading even if I question how much they are "getting" out of it.  Last week my 4 year old insisted she was wearing her tiara because she was the emperor and she was sending her army to take over China (aka under the table knocking again all our legs while we tried to work) - she is clearly being exposed to ideas that are percolating in her head and will serve as pegs to hang future learning.

 

So you think he is taking it in but I just can't see it now?  That is my hope!  I know 9 years ago when I did SOTW with my dd it was so different, she really got into the stories and could answer the questions and tell me things she remembered.  I expected that and more out of him because he is so much more advanced than she was.

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3 minutes ago, Classically Minded said:

So you think he is taking it in but I just can't see it now?  That is my hope!  I know 9 years ago when I did SOTW with my dd it was so different, she really got into the stories and could answer the questions and tell me things she remembered.  I expected that and more out of him because he is so much more advanced than she was.

Sure.  Honestly, there are some sections of SOTW that I would have a hard time narrating back immediately after I read them.  There is just A LOT of information in them and a lot of unfamiliar names. 

I really struggle with the names of people and places; the other day during one section we were juggling Henry Puyi, Sun Yixian, Yuan Shikai, Manchuria, Shantung, Mongolia, Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-shek, Hirohito, Yoshihito, Amaterasu, and Manchukuo.  I don't even know how to pronounce most of those, and it is very hard to keep track of new information in your head when you can't even confidently pin it to a particular pronunciation!

One thing we do is start tagging each name with a catch phrase.  So every time I read "Henry Puyi", I added, "who wants his throne back!!" because that is the first thing we learned about him.  To help the kids engage, we also sometimes make up hand motions to go with names (especially foreign names that are hard to say, remember and differentiate).  So every time I read Henry Puyi (who wants his throne back!) the kids would mime putting on a crown.  This was VERY helpful when at the end of the section, after not having heard a peep about Puyi in 3 pages, suddenly he reappeared once again angling for an emperorship!

Different kids take in and give back information differently.  My most advanced learner really struggles with narrative speech.  Another resists narrations because he is paralyzed by anxiety about getting them "wrong".  And yet I am educating four kids who all have different needs, so I just keep reading and engaging and trust that all of them are getting something out of it.

Wendy

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On 2/6/2020 at 10:08 PM, Classically Minded said:

I'm not entirely sure however, that he "gets" the history stories because he can't tell me about what I read - so confusing.  He gets other things he finds interesting and can tell about them, so he can comprehend when he wants to.  He has no problem with science - he gets it and is excited about it.

 I would keep an eye on it. My son was similar at that age, and he did have issues with narrative language that still affect his ability to write essays, summarize, etc. The test for this is called Test of Narrative Language. We have been remediating with stuff from Mindwing Concepts (Story Grammar concepts--products vary by age and stage of narrative development), and it's been life-changing.

Remediation doesn't have to involve history--you can use other things for that. 

I agree that kids can be taking in stuff and not be able to say it back. The things Wendy mentioned resonate with me. My son with narrative language issues really likes documentaries and podcasts with his history, but he also liked SOTW.

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When my kids were that age, I thought that SOTW would be too difficult for them, so we didn't use it. I made a list of things that I wanted to cover with them, and I used library books at their level, so that the material would be accessible for them. I especially liked picture book biographies and the Magic Treehouse Fact Tracker series. The Magic Treehouse books might seem like an odd choice, but they were ideal for my kids, because they covered the facts in age appropriate language. (I am not talking about the MTH fiction books; these are nonfiction informational books.)

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I would also make history just fun----read SOTW outloud and choose some of the fun activities from the activity guide.

That said, I would be reading him other stories, highly engaging ones, and asking some comprehension questions.  Here's why: 1. I would want to check his processing speed for oral information.  Can he follow complex multi-step directions? Does he have to stop and replay an audio loop in his brain before he responds? Or does he miss out on info altogether?  2. Can he follow a narrative plot line? Can he tell me first, then, and last?  3. Can he follow oral directions and create a visual image of what is happening? 

I have a few kids who are both highly gifted AND have some learning issues.  It's better to figure this out now than later.  The quicker that you can start remediation, while the brain is especially plastic and kids are still fairly compliant the easier your schooling years will be.  The "smarter" they are, the more likely they can fake/compensate, so pay attention. 

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5 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

I have a few kids who are both highly gifted AND have some learning issues.

Yeah, to me it sounds like he's not attending. Could be anything from not liking history (I certainly don't) to not visualizing well (fiction might be easier than nonfiction for him to visualize) to some attention issues. The strategies to improve his attention by giving him something to focus on, preloading material, increasing visual, etc. could help. Honestly, neither of my kids have been into SOTW though for entirely different reasons. So I'm with Storygirl that it's skippable and just to move on to something he DOES click with. Maybe he'd like something more organized, something with an outline and clear structure. VP has their online self-paced sequence. Or try a briefer spine like CHOW. If he's a strong reader, can he read the SOTW lesson for himself? Or have him follow along with his copy while you read aloud yours. Give him highlighters and have him listen for and color code major themes you want him to look for. Could be anything like the big problem and the plan, someone doing something virtuous, whatever you want. But you'd be moving it from auditory input (harder for some people to attend to) to visual (possibly easier). And you'd be increasing the number of ways he's getting the input, because then he'd be getting visual and auditory while interacting kinesthetically (with the markers). 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update - We started WWE and he is doing amazing with the Narration exercises!  He gets almost all the questions and easily comes up with a sentence of what he remembers.  Same thing is happening in FLL.  So it is definitely not an issue with him not being able to listen and narrate.  I've tried several things in SOTW since this post and nothing is working.  History is the only subject he's having this problem.  I tried letting him read it and that didn't go over well, he was so upset, a lot of the words are ones he's never seen and it is just too hard for him.

I'm going to try to just use the Usborne encyclopedia today, since it has pictures and short little explanations.  I don't know of another history for 1st grade, seems like everything I've looked at is for older elementary or middle grades.

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On 2/9/2020 at 11:58 PM, PeterPan said:

VP has their online self-paced sequence. Or try a briefer spine like CHOW. If he's a strong reader, can he read the SOTW lesson for himself? Or have him follow along with his copy while you read aloud yours. Give him highlighters and have him listen for and color code major themes you want him to look for. Could be anything like the big problem and the plan, someone doing something virtuous, whatever you want. But you'd be moving it from auditory input (harder for some people to attend to) to visual (possibly easier). And you'd be increasing the number of ways he's getting the input, because then he'd be getting visual and auditory while interacting kinesthetically (with the markers). 

 

 

What is VP and CHOW?

*Nevermind* I figured out what the abbreviations were for.

Edited by Classically Minded
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1 hour ago, Classically Minded said:

Update - We started WWE and he is doing amazing with the Narration exercises!  He gets almost all the questions and easily comes up with a sentence of what he remembers.  Same thing is happening in FLL.  So it is definitely not an issue with him not being able to listen and narrate.  I've tried several things in SOTW since this post and nothing is working.  History is the only subject he's having this problem.  I tried letting him read it and that didn't go over well, he was so upset, a lot of the words are ones he's never seen and it is just too hard for him.

I'm going to try to just use the Usborne encyclopedia today, since it has pictures and short little explanations.  I don't know of another history for 1st grade, seems like everything I've looked at is for older elementary or middle grades.

I agree with Peter Pan that he might be more successful with CHOW than with SOTW.  I think it would be more accessible, imho.  

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  • 8 months later...

*Update to this in case someone needs this in the future. 

I tried several different things for history but nothing really worked and we even went back to SOTW and tried to do it in a more exciting way and go slowly but still my son couldn't pay attention or remember what we read.  So I started doing videos on YouTube about social studies/citizenship related topics and he really loved it.  However, we finished up everything I could think of that for that and I still was left with how to approach history with him.  I finally ordered Abeka 2nd grade American history and he loves it!  Not only does he answer every question but he can narrate a summary and he's finally excited about history.  So, his problem wasn't comprehension, it was interest evidently and he needs visual things for history it seems, as the Abeka book has pictures.  I also ordered their 3rd grade reading comprehension worksheets to test him and make sure and he does great on those, along with doing great in WWE narrations.

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