Written Narrations As a Homeschool Form of Assessment

From Our House To Yours

What is a written narration?

I thought I’d make the focus of this weekly check-in written narrations.  So, just what is a written narration, you might ask? Well, a written narration is an assessment requiring students to use writing to tell back what they’ve just read or heard. Students use this Charlotte Mason inspired written skill in response to the reading of living books. Authors of living books write in a narrative style and are passionate about what they are writing about.  Heart of Dakota uses living books as the primary reading material for virtually every school subject in homeschooling. Therefore, it makes sense that a common form of assessment in Heart of Dakota’s plans is the written narration.

What makes written narrations a good form of assessment?

Using written narrations as an assessment encourages children to share what they have read with accuracy, personality, originality, and spirit. This is the opposite of using worksheets, quizzes, and tests as a form of assessment. Students often find  writing a narration to be the harder of the two assessments.  Why? Probably because the student does not have any aid in writing a narration. Multiple choice answers, true or false questions, or fill-in-the-blank quizzes aid the student in giving (or guessing) the proper response. In contrast, students rely wholly on their own memory and knowledge of the topic in written narrations. There is certainly a place for both forms of assessment!  Heart of Dakota does use both. However,  when students retell what they are reading, they better remember what they have read. So, this is the preferred method of assessment whenever possible.

What do written narrations look like at various ages?

Heart of Dakota’s plans take away the guesswork for what kinds of narrations we as teachers of our children should expect. First, students follow clear step-by-step instructions in each Heart of Dakota guide. Students carefully follow the noted parameters particular to each written narration assessment. Second, students always write narrations in response to reading a living book. However, the subject they write about may vary.  Students often write narrations in response to history readings, but they can write them in response to science, literature, etc. Finally, whatever the subject matter, students always write narrations in response to reading outstanding books! So, to show what written narrations look like at various ages, I’ve included one from each of my kiddos below…

Creation to Christ Written Narration
World Geography Written Narration
U.S. History II Written Narration
What improvements in written narrations should be expected?

Incrementally, the parameters of written narrations get harder as students age and mature. Some improvements can definitely be expected! But, what are they?

Expect an increase in the reading level and maturity level of books. 

To begin with, you can expect an increase in the reading level of living books in which written narrations are given as an assessment.  The Creation to Christ reading was Streams of History: Ancient Rome.  In World Geography, students read  A Book of Discovery, and in U.S. History II students read America: The Last Best Hope Volume II.

Plan for the length of the written narrations to increase each year.

In addition, you can expect an increase in length of the written narrations.  Students write 5-8 sentences in Creation to Christ. In World Geography, students write a length of 3-4 paragraphs. By U.S. History II, students write a length of 5 paragraphs.

Anticipate editing abilities to gradually improve as students move down the Written Narrations Skills checklist.

Furthermore, you can expect an increase in a student’s ability to edit using Heart of Dakota’s Written Narration Skills checklist.  I still do the editing in Creation to Christ.  We do not address every skill on the Written Narration Skills checklist. In World Geography, we share the editing process and most skills on the Written Narration Skills checklist are addressed.  By U.S. History II, the student edits his own written narration, and the entire Written Narration Skills checklist is usually addressed.

Plan for more difficult and varied types of written narration assessments as students mature.

Last, you can expect an increase in difficulty and variety of types of written narrations. In Creation to Christ, students use guided questions to help aid their writing of a general written narration. Students in World Geography must include the main topic, main ideas with supporting details, author’s style, and a strong opening and closing sentence. U.S. History II students must include all of these elements.  But, they must also list 5 topics from the given options in the guide.  They must also include names, dates, and events pertinent to the reading.

Finally, to conclude this written narration From Our House to Yours…

Many of us homeschool moms did not grow up in schools that used written narrations as a form of assessment. Hopefully, this shows what written narrations are, what written narrations look like at different ages, and what improvements to expect!

In Christ,

Julie