Sunday, March 27

LEARNING STORIES – Observation and documentation the New Zealand Te Whāriki Way


Learning Stories are a widely used technique to assess children’s learning in New Zealand's, Te Whāriki early childhood curriculum, child care centres.

The technique requires teachers to observe children and write narrative ‘stories’ to interpret the learning that is occurring in particular situations.

A 'Learning Story' is a record of what an educator has seen a child, or what a group of children do in program.  

The written story can be as short as one paragraph, one page or longer, but usually focuses on a specific incident or episode (like an anecdotal), or a snapshot of time(e.g. 10 minutes at the art table), or a group activity (a nature walk or visit to a fire station).

It becomes a 'learning' story when the educator adds their interpretation of the child's competencies and attitude toward learning (courage, curiosity, perseverance).

New Zealand educators match up the strands of their early childhood curriculum to the story to try to explain what the child (or group) have learned.  We would match strands to ELECT or How Does Learning Happen? 

Photographs or video are almost always include, and the completed story is shared with the child and family, with an additional copy added the child's portfolio.  

Learning stories provide us a powerful tool to capture this learning.
A learning story generally captures a moment in time to illustrate the child’s learning.
A learning story can also capture a child’s learning over a longer period of time  – this will provide a holistic picture of the child as a learner.


It is essential to have at least one picture of the child, or group of children. However, more photos convey more of a story.
       BEGIN with something the child has taken the initiative to do. 
        DESCRIBE what the child does and says from your personal perspective; as someone who cares and is listening closely to discover what is happening. This is the heart of the story.
        USE a “What it means” to write about the significance of what was observed.   
        OFFER “Opportunities and Possibilities” to describe, as an educator what can be  provided next for the child or children.
FINALLY, offer a blank page for the family to respond with their view.  Make sure to find a way to draw the family in (e.g. I am wondering what would you say to your child about this. What do you see happening? What delights you?)
      MAKE two copies of the story, one for the child and one to add to the child's portfolio.