You are on page 1of 12

Transition to School

Narrative Assessment
Action Research
November 2009

Researched by:
Debbie Smith
Barbara Blake
Joy Chilcott
Kathryn Wealleans
Lesley Stevens
Action Research Project
Our Project:

Teachers within our Junior School have observed, over the
past two years, that a considerable percentage of our new
entrants upon arrival at school are below expectations in oral
language, numeracy and literacy skills and find social
interactions sometimes challenging. Through anecdotal
evidence, and summative data (CAPS, NUMPA, JOST)
individual children have been identified and programmes
(Talk to Learn, Socially Speaking, small numeracy and
literacy groups) have been put in place to support these
children. Even with these programmes in place some children
were not making expected progress.

Our programmes were not taking into account the need for a transition
programme for the New Entrant children. A new initiative for 2009 has been
introduced - a Socially-Cultural Approach to our afternoon programmes, three
days per week, where all children within the New Entrant rooms and two of
our Special Needs children, are able to develop, practise and consolidate oral
language skills, numeracy and literacy skills and promote positive social
interactions. Through structured ʻplayʼ sessions based on our Inquiry
Learning topics the children are engaged in
age appropriate and skill appropriate activities.

This transition programme from Kindergarten
to School incorporates components of the Te
Whariki Document as well as the New Zealand
Curriculum. The Key Competencies and
Values are the main focus.

Goals of the Transition to School Programme:

* To provide for all aspects of a child's developmental needs including
communication and language skills, physical abilities, emotional and social
growth, and cognitive development.

* To emphasize learning as a social process that stresses exploration and
interaction with adults, other children and materials.

* To emphasize learning as an active process, utilizing experiences that are
concrete, real and relevant to the lives of young children
Our question:
How can we use digital photography and video as a narrative assessment tool
to assess the Transition to School Programme?

The focus for our action research was how to assess and
measure the success of the Transition to School
We wanted to be able to measure the effectiveness of this
new initiative to see whether it was making a difference to
our childrenʼs oral language skills and social skills.
Research suggests different tools, eg digital portfolios,
narrative stories, movies, and photo books are effective. We needed tools that
would be effective, affordable and practical.

We chose to use the digital camera and the flip video recorder to record
narratives and achievements. In addition a
learning journal recorded anecdotal evidence
as noted by teachers.

A full report was written at the end of each
term focusing on how the children used the
key competencies during the sessions.

Research Findings:
We researched two areas: developmental programmes and assessment using

1. We needed to know about developmental
programmes and how we could enhance children
learning as they entered school from early
childhood centres.

There is a wealth of research that delves into play
and its benefits. Researchers say play is
instrumental in developing social and co-operative skills as well as developing
childrenʼs understandings about the world they live in.

“Children develop working theories through observing, listening, doing,
participating, discussing, and representing within the topics and activities
provided in the programme. As children gain
greater experience, knowledge, and skills,
the theories they 
develop become more
widely applicable and have more connecting
links between them. Working theories
become increasingly useful for making sense
of the world, for giving the child control over
what happens, for problem solving, and for
further learning.” Te Whariki 1996
Kate Ridley (2007) says, “Teacher questioning, dialogue, story and play are
central to the process of developing and researching young childrenʼs

Adrian Voce, director of Play England believes “Children's play is a
profoundly important part of their lives - socially, emotionally, culturally and
developmentally. If they are given enough space, it also happens to be very
good for their physical health and fitness.”

In light of this sound research we developed
stations where the children were given
opportunities to observe, explore and
experiment, discuss and problem solve
through the five developmental domains
(emotion, social, language, physical and

Sensory Centre:

Aim Activities

• promote experiences for the • water
children to explore materials
• dough
• develop and enrich oral language
• sand
• create opportunities to encourage
children with sensory issues to • flubber
explore and cope with new
experiences • gloop,

• salt and glitter

Art and Craft Centre:

Aim Activities

• promote experiences for the • paper scissors
children to explore materials, and
develop and strengthen fine motor • painting on easels
• chalk
• develop and enrich oral language
• fine motor skill activities
• develop creative thinking
Cognitive Centre:

Aim Activities

• promote experiences for the • puzzles
children to develop reasoning,
perception and intuition • manipulative activities and games

• develop and enrich oral language • finger-play games

Imaginative Play Centre

Aim Activities

• promote experiences for the • dolls house
children to develop flexible,
creative thinking • wendy house

• to problem solve • garages and roads

• develop and enrich oral language • building blocks

• create opportunities for co- • castles and pirates ships
operative play
• puppets

2. The second area of research was in regard to how “narrative” can be used
as an assessment tool.

Anne Marie McIllroy is working for the Ministry
of Education to develop exemplars and adapt
narrative assessment for use as assessment
tools with Special Needs children.
She believes narrative assessments are an
excellent tool to show how students are
developing the key competencies and what they
are achieving at each learning area.

Researchers believe narrative assessment provides a particular way of
understanding, seeing and interpreting a child. When we share the narrative
with other people, including the student, we are sharing our way of interpreting
the children, sharing our sense of who the student is. (Moore et al, 2008)
Carr (2001 p. 62).) maintains that narrative is ʻmore suited to translating
situated and personal learning and is, therefore, a more holistic assessment
procedureʼ .
Narrative assessments keep learning complex rather than attempting to
fragment it, showing learning connections rather than highlighting knowledge
or skills alone.
Narrative assessments present a richer
picture of learning-in-action in authentic
contexts. They engage those involved in
striving to understand (Drummond, 1993)
the learning taking place and the
complexities of this, through analysis,
interpretation and discussion. More often
than not, narrative assessments lead
those involved to respond to the insights
of the learner or learners in some way,
thus informing and supporting the learning and teaching process. (Moore et
al, 2008)

Part of our Action Research has been trialling such narratives with our
developmental programme through the form of digital photography and the flip
Classroom teachers have been recording childrenʼs learning, and behaviours
through digital photography and the flip video. Childrenʼs conversations and
photographs are then used to assess childrenʼs oral language, their
participation and contribution, the way in which they relate to each other and
how they mange themselves.
The objective was for teachers to take video clip and photographic samples of
each child throughout the year.

Our Findings:

Results of JOST (Junior Oral Language Screening Tool)

In the past Teachers in the Junior School have administered the JOST
assessment to children who were at risk or had delayed language skills. At
the start of 2009 we decided to administer the JOST assessment to all
children in the Room 3 and 4 Developmental Programme. This test was then
re-administered in Term 4 to assess what change had occurred in the
childrenʼs use of oral language.
A representative sample of children was chosen to re-administer the test to.
This included a child who had been moved to the Year 1/2 classroom due to
rapid progress in her learning across the curriculum. This child is identified
with an asterix as she only had one term of the Developmental Programme.
Ability to name Ability to Ability to Ability to label Ability to Ability to name
body parts describe understand opposites provide word as many
Possible score functions of verbs e.g. An associations for different
of 12 body parts e.g. What can elephant is big, specific animals as
eg What do you cut? a fly is ….. everyday possible in 1
do with your Possible score Possible score nouns eg bat & minute. The
eyes? of 6 of 4 …. aim is to name
Possible score Possible score six in the time
of 4 of 6 provided.
Possible score
of 6
Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob
ary er ary er ary er ary er ary er ary er
Child A 11 12 4 4 6 5 4 4 6 6 6 (Was
fast) 6
Child B 8 11 4 4 4 6 3 4 5 6 6 (Was
fast) 6
Child C 10 11 4 4 5 6 4 4 5 6 6 (Was
fast) 6
Child D 11 12 4 4 6 6 4 4 6 6 4 (Was
fast) 6
Child E 11 10 4 4 6 6 4 4 6 3 6 (Was
fast) 6
Child F* 11 12 4 4 6 6 4 4 6 5 6 (Was

Ability to use Ability to use Ability to use Ability to use Ability to use Ability to name
prepositions pronouns plurals correctly negative tense past and school, address
correctly e.g. correctly e.g. he including correctly present tense and age
between / she irregular plurals, Possible score correctly Possible score
Possible score Possible score eg mouse / of 2 Possible score of 4
of 5 of 2 mice of 5
Possible score
of 3
Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob Febru Octob
ary er ary er ary er ary er ary er ary er
Child 3 5 0 0 1 3 0 0 1 1 4 4
Child 4 5 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 2 2 2
Child 5 5 0 0 3 3 2 2 1 1 4 4
Child 4 5 0 0 1 2 2 0 1 1 2 2
Child 4 4 0 0 2 2 1 2 3 2 0 2
Child 4 5 0 2 2 1 2 2 2 5 2 4
The results show:
• Most children improved their knowledge of body parts
during the year.
• All children are able to describe the function of their
body parts.
• Most children demonstrated an understanding of
verbs at the beginning of the year. Two out of three
other children improved their understanding during
the year.
• Most children demonstrated a sound understanding
of opposites at the start of the year. The child who
was less able in this area caught up with their peers
during the year.
• There was a mixed result for the childrenʼs ability to use word
associations. Two children improved their ability and two childrenʼs ability
decreased during the year.
• Almost all children were able to name six animals in a minute at the start
of the year. The child who could only name four animals caught up with
her peers during the year. All children got faster at this task during the year
and would have been able to name even more animals but there is a lack
of space to record this on the sheet.
• Most children improved their ability to use prepositions to describe the
position of objects improved during the year.
• One child improved her ability to use pronouns during the year.
• Three children improved their ability to use plurals correctly during the year
but one childʼs ability decreased.
• One child improved their ability to use negative tense correctly during the
year but one childʼs ability decreased.
• Two children improved their use of past and present tense correctly during
the year but one childʼs ability decreased.
• Two children improved their ability to list their school, address and age
during the year.

• Most childrenʼs oral language improved during the year. In February they
mainly used simple sentences and labels to describe a picture. In October
they were all able to use complex sentences in their description,
sometimes in combination with simple sentences or a few labels.

After analysing the results of the JOST tests it
is apparent there has been a general
improvement in the childrenʼs use of oral
language. Factors responsible for this change
could include the Transition to School
Programme, small class sizes, developing
maturity of the children, quality teaching, HPP
Programme, Talk to Learn Programme and
improved confidence of the children.
Over the past three terms teachers have observed and recorded through
interviews, photos, videos and writing learning journals:

• Several changes in communication skills, and
language development. Children are using more
appropriate language when discussing Inquiry
Learning topics eg scientific language was used
when talking about shadows and planets during
Space and Beyond Inquiry; children used more
descriptive adjectives when describing how to use
their senses.
• Several changes in communication skills and
language development.
• Several changes in emotional and social growth: Children are using
sentence stems to help them problem solve confrontations; caring and
compassion towards our Special Needs children has grown
• Several changes in interaction between peers, a greater willingness
to take risks and children developing more confidence when faced
with choices and making decisions: Children making more
independent choices and taking risks to try new activities; children
developing more confidence when attempting new challenges.
• Several changes in children’s motivation, and their belief in their own
ability. Children are able to explore their own ideas, use their
imagination and problem solve during developmental: Children are
learning from each other ie they are learning to be resourceful and
enterprising; Children are managing their own learning.

• Boys and girls were participating in gender based activities at the
beginning of the programme in Term 1. The boys tended to work with the
cars, garages, construction and building activities when given free choice
and the girls were predominantly choosing the doll’s house, tea set, and
cut up dolls. These behaviours have changed throughout the year and the
gender based activities are mixed now
where girls and boys work at these
activities together.

• Teachers have been interacting in a one-
on-one or small group situation more than
with whole class once mat time has been
completed. We heard children interacting
and discussing, problem solving and
sharing ideas rather than adults doing the
• It was not until Week 9 in Term 1 that
there was any teacher intervention about
care and respect towards the
developmental equipment as it was not
needed up until then.

• Behaviour management has been minimal.
The children have been all on task,
actively engaged in activities that interest them and hooked into learning.
They demonstrate positive attitudes towards the programme. We have
had positive comments from parents about how much the children are
enjoying Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

• The use of digital photography has been effective in recording children’s
learning and identifying next steps, particularly in observing over time
children’s improvement. An example of this is recording a child’s painting
throughout the term and watching how she improved her confidence
levels in putting her ideas into her paintings, her use of the brush and her
colour choices.

• The use of the flip video has enabled us to record conversations of
children during the developmental activities. Teachers could then listen to
these conversations and analyse the oral language the children were
using and identify next learning steps. An example of this was analysing a
childʼs language when he was playing with the dough. The use of maths
language was evident but also he had some confusions which teachers
where then able to help him with.

The digital camera has captured many incidences
of children developing their key competencies.
Teachers have been able to use these
photographic examples for reflection with the
children. “The flip videos and digital photography
have been an integral part of our narrative
assessment process – itʼs hard to imagine how it
would work without them. I love looking at our
class photos and itʼs amazing the moments you
capture with them. Itʼs often only later that you
realise how special the events of the day were! I
feel particularly proud of the crossover from our
Inquiry topics to the children's play. At one point
everything was about birds (play dough nests with eggs in them) and then in
Term 3 everyone was involved with rockets and space adventure. We are
allowing children to harness the power of their imaginations and creativity!
...Quality learning!” Barbara Blake

Teachers feel that the Transition to School
Programme is making a positive difference to
childrenʼs learning and this has been backed up
by quantitative data using the JOST test as well
as qualitative data through narrative assessment.
The three term reports are full of anecdotal
evidence (supported by digital photography and
video) of learning and thinking based around the
key competencies.

The Transition to School Programme allows children to have a choice in their
learning, enables children to adapt to new school routines and structures in a
less formal manner, gives children opportunities to cultivate relationships, and
enables children to communicate in a variety of ways.

The Programme gives children opportunities to observe, explore, experiment,
and problem solve in authentic contexts. This creates a culture in the class for
more inquiry, more inquisitiveness and more innovation by our children, which
are all components of our Vision and Mission at Musselburgh School .

The use of digital photography, and video as tools to create narrative
assessments has enabled teachers to observe and assess children in a more
personalised and holistic manner.

However there are still questions that need to be explored in regard to
manageability of collecting samples of childrenʼs learning; the development of
a skill based continuum; and how we can teach our children to be more
reflective upon their learning.

Carr, M. (2001). Assessment in early childhood settings: learning stories.
London: Paul
Chapman Publishing.

Moore G, Molloy S, Morton M, Davis K (2008) Narrative Assessment: identity
and equity for disabled students. New Zealand: University of Canterbury, UC
Education Plus, College of Education

Ridley, Kate (2007) Thinking Skills in the Early Years, Set Magazine, No 1,

Te Whariki (1996) Learning Media Limited, Box 3293, Wellington, New