Recently someone asked me a question about end-of-term exams. In a Charlotte Mason school, end-of-term exams are given by asking the student narration questions over the books that he was reading during the term (12 weeks). It’s a great way to assess long-term retention.
I wonder if perhaps other Charlotte Mason homeschoolers might have the same question at this time of year, so I have posted it below. I hope the suggestions in my answer that follows will give you some helpful ideas.
“What does one do if your child cannot answer the exam question or just gives a very short answer?”
A poor exam answer would prompt me to check a few things:
- Am I faithfully doing the pre-reading reviews and post-reading narrations? If not, the student isn’t getting enough opportunities to perform the act of knowing and mental reinforcement.
- Did the student have trouble with all the books examined or only one? And along with that, Has the student been able to narrate easily from that book all term? If not, it might be the book.
- How was the student feeling on exam day? Fatigue, illness, or emotional stress could affect exam answers.
Some of the length of the student’s answer could also depend upon how the question was worded. Sometimes I have given a narration prompt and ended up with a short paragraph (or two sentences) in response. When I take a second look at the question and think about how I would answer it, then I realize that the question itself doesn’t leave a lot of room for a long response.
In short, I use poor exam answers as a learning experience for me, the teacher. After all, we are learning right along with our children—learning about history and science and math, yes; but also learning how to improve in our teaching abilities. If our children zipped right through every exam, we wouldn’t have any reason to stop and evaluate how we can do a better job as their educational guide. Exams offer a prime opportunity to continue to grow.