At the end of each term, Charlotte Mason had her students participate in exams. Exams were simply narrations based on a single question instead of a book that had just been read. There was no preparation time, just the student's exposure to the subject throughout the term. The result was an oral composition (aka, a speech) on a specific subject.
While I hesitate to call what we are working on right now exams, I decided to incorporate this idea into our end of fall work. Last week in science I had Aidan draw and label the life cycle of an insect of choice. He chose the ladybug and put in a very nice effort. He even included pictures of different types of ladybugs. When he was done, the only thing I did was help him correct spelling.
This week, I asked him to tell me "everything he knows about King Tut". This is his resulting composition, which I put onto paper from his dictation. The spelling and punctuation are mine, but the words are his in the order he gave them to me.
Aidan- History Exam Fall 2010
I know a lot about King Tut because of a book. King Tut was a very young king. His tomb was one of the last kings found and he had his body and many treasures.
King Tut was found by Howard Carter. Lord Carnarvon died a few weeks after they found the tomb. Carter's parakeet died too. There were jam jars from the tomb. Lord Carnarvon's dog died the same day.
King Tut died in the night. His heart was wrapped in a bandage and put back in him. His liver and his brain were taken out of him and put in jars. Bandages were wrapped and he was put in the first sarcophagus and a second sarcophagus and a third sarcophagus and a fourth sarcophagus. They put a mask on him. He was a pharaoh of Egypt.
Honestly, he did much better on this focused narration than he generally does on his daily narrations. I can see the bridge from oral composition to written composition much more clearly now. Charlotte Mason believed in waiting to begin written composition until later, only after the child had plenty of practice putting their thoughts into words with oral composition. I was unsure, but I think I'm becoming a believer.
For now, my tentative plan (tentative not because I don't think it will work, but because I am known to change my mind on these things) is to continue with oral compositions this year, then at some point next year I will begin having him copy his narrations after he dictates them to me. After lots of practice doing that (and probably learning how to type) we will begin doing written narrations and composition instead of strictly oral.
I get super excited when I see these long term goals forming for us. I am such a nerd that way!