Learning Stories as defined by NAEYC
The Learning Stories Assessment approach is a form of observation and documentation that is written in a narrative story format. The teacher watches and listens as children explore through play. They may take a photo or two, jot down some notes, and create a story about what they have seen to share with children and their families.
A story is powerful and meaningful to families and can often communicate more than a number, a score, or a checklist of skills. Because the story is written to the children, it’s both easy for teachers to write and easy for families to understand. Teachers become observers and story writers while reflecting on children’s actions and words. The story is always a positive one about children’s strengths, good ideas, and dispositions for learning.
Creating a Learning Story
Write the Story
Describe what the child did and said, then provide your perspective on it. Add a title.
Read the Story to the Child
Listen for her comments and feedback. You can also read the story to the entire group of children as long as the child in the story agrees to share it. Sharing a story can sometimes spark ideas for other children.
Describe what you will do to enhance or extend the play. This is an opportunity to reflect on the child’s play while planning for a group of children or one child. Will you add more or different materials? Provide books for research or books for story reading?
Connect to Families
Provide a copy of the story to the family, along with a note asking for their feedback. The note might say, “This is your child’s story. I would appreciate any feedback or comments you wish to share.”
You can share more information about what the child has learned or is learning and attach that to the story when you place it in the child’s portfolio.
What to look for When Documenting a Learning Story
- Child-initiated play. The play comes from the child’s ideas, interest, or discoveries.
- Engagement. The child is deeply engaged and sustains the play or inquiry for some time.
- Intentionality. The child has a plan or goal in mind.
- Relationships. The child is engaged with others or with materials in a way that is interesting to the teacher.
- Learning disposition. The child’s way of learning or approach to figuring things out is revealed.
Benefits for Children
- By listening to, observing, and recording children’s explorations, you send them a clear message that you value their ideas and thinking.
- The child has an opportunity to reflect on his own thinking and learning.
- The group listens to and participates in each other’s stories and ideas.
Benefits for Teachers
- Teachers learn more about their group of children, child development in general, and how children learn.
- The stories provide insight into the best way to plan for a more meaningful curriculum.
- The stories become part of the child’s portfolio and capture moments in the child’s daily life that will create a comprehensive profile of a particular child.
Benefits for the Entire School Community
- Use learning stories as discussion prompts at staff meetings and for staff collaboration.
- Create books, displays, or slides for families, children, and teachers.
- Use stories to broadcast the strengths and capabilities of children to neighbors, families, and others in the wider community.
Benefits for Families and the Teacher/Family Relationship
- Illustrate how much the teachers value the children.
- Provide information about children’s strengths in a friendly, authentic format that informs how children learn through play.
- Spotlight how children are natural learners, eager investigators, and problem solvers.
- Open a door for continuing conversations with parents.
- Show parents that teachers value their input.
- Provide parents with insight about how teachers plan for their children’s learning.
- Show parents that teachers are thoughtful and continuous learners.
- Provide a vehicle to help families and children to share and talk about children’s school experiences.
- Show children as powerful and capable.
What Teachers Need To Do
- Regard children’s ideas as worthwhile and interesting.
- Believe in the importance of connecting with parents in meaningful ways.
- Are self-reflective and willing to use the stories as a catalyst for further understanding, growth, and action.
Learning stories can respectfully connect teachers with families and build strong relationships. When they write stories, teachers become better observers of children and develop their storytelling voice to joyfully share with the entire community.