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Learning stories

Learning stories integrate learning dispositions into a story framework and include an analysis of the learning. They frequently include possible pathways or "what next?" suggestions.

This holistic approach to assessment enables teachers to notice student's progress and invites others to contribute perspectives on their learning. Learning stories can be written for individuals, for groups, or to capture whole class teaching and learning experiences. They can be for one audience, for example, the student, or to share with multiple audiences, for example, the student, teacher/s, and wider family and whānau.

Learning stories give parents an insight into what's happening at school. This supports the home-school partnership and involves parents as they contribute as writers of learning stories.

The following examples could be used as a starting point to:

  • consider how you could develop the use of learning stories in your classroom/school
  • show and encourage the development of self regulated learning
  • build on key competency development
  • include family and whānau perspectives.

Isabel's story

In this learning story, Isabel's teacher describes how she is learning to recognise numbers to 20. 

  • What aspects of this learning story support Isabel's learning?
  • What might the teacher have noticed from this learning story?
  • How might this story support Isabel to develop her maths capability at school, at home, and in another context?
  • What learning to learn strategies would you support Isabel to develop next?

(You will find the text for the learning story beneath the image.)

Terrific Teenagers  

Curriculum area: Mathematics: Level 1. Numeracy stage 2

Recognising numbers to 20.

For maths we have been learning to count to 20 and recognise the numbers on the number line. We are calling the numbers "Teenagers". Some of the teen numbers are easier to recognise such as fourteen, sixteen, and nineteen. We are learning these numbers first.

At maths time we practiced using the hundreds board, flip charts, and number lines. Everyone had turns calling out numbers and we had races to see who was the fastest at finding the numbers.

Next we are going to put the numbers in order from 1 all the way to 20.

What Isabel noticed:

"I'm going to practise the teenagers now" said Isabel. "Can I use the whiteboards?" Isabel collected the pens and boards and started writing. She remembered that one came first and then she wrote the digits that she knew. Isabel proudly read out the numbers and shared her maths with her friends.

This is certainly quality work Isabel!

Can you write the numbers in order? What comes after 10?

What Isabel thought:

I am clever at maths. I can write the teenagers fast. I like maths and I like counting.

What did mum and dad think:

You are doing really well Isabel, you are very good at practicing at home, well done.

Raven's story

This learning story describes the strategies Raven uses to support her learning. 

  • What has the teacher considered important to notice about Raven's learning?
  • How does the teacher reflect on her own practice?
  • How has the teacher helped parents and whānau notice particular features of Raven's learning?
  • How might the parent's comment help guide Raven's next learning steps?

(You will find the text for the learning story beneath the image.)

Rods for skip counting in 2s

Teacher's comment:

Raven is learning to skip count in 2s. We are doing this skip counting in different ways - so that she can work out how numbers work.

I have explained to Raven that I will be getting her to do some of the tasks until she 'just knows' the answer and it is easy and automatic for her.

I am also giving Raven a wide range of resources to try working the answers out with. We have used beads threaded onto a string, and we are using rods.

Each of the red rods are the same size as 2 of the white rods. So each red rod is a '2'.

When Raven puts the rods into the groove on the ruler she can see where the numbers are on the number line.

Raven is able to predict the next number in the sequence and then check by adding the rod to see if she is correct.

Alison 2nd August 2010.

Parents/family/friends response sheet:

Has Raven been discussing the maths she has been learning? I have given her a number line to practise her skip counting with - has she been enjoying doing this - and is it getting any easier for her? What do you think? Alison

Raven is really enjoying her one on one learning with you and she is so much more focused in her learning at home as well as school.

Extending the skip counting in 2s

Teacher's comment:

I have been challenging Raven in her classes - We have been working with "extending her knowledge of skip counting in 2s".

We started with skip counting up to 20. Then I made it really hard by getting Raven to count backwards in 2s from 20. Raven found this challenging, so we had a look at the numbers using the bundles of ice block sticks, so that Raven could see that it was the same as her "ten and" knowledge. She knew the "special numbers" were 0,2,4,6, and 8 and when we went up into the "teen" numbers we were using the same "special numbers" with a "ten" in front of them ... Once Raven could see this, she was able to then work out how the numbers would work when counting backwards from 20.

The latest challenge that I have been giving Raven is to start skip counting in 2s from a "given number" for example - Start skip counting in 2s from 60 and stop at 70. She has found this fun to do and has been good at working out the sequence ... 60...62...64...66...

Next step to skip count backwards in 2s from a "given number".

Alison 20th August 2010.

Phoebe's story

This learning story describes the competencies and strategies Phoebe has used to learn her times tables. 

  • What key competencies are exemplified in this learning story?
  • How does this learning story help Phoebe understand the idea of transferring learning to different contexts?

(You will find the text for the learning story beneath the image.)

Timing the pegs

Teacher's comment:

Phoebe I love your determination. When you decide you are going to do something you just get on with doing it. Today was a good example of this. You mentioned that you were having difficulty with remembering the 6,7,8, and 9 times tables and that your dad has started asking you times tables questions in the car. I suggested that you might like to practise those tables using the times tables pegs.

Phoebe it was great to see the way you decided to "do it" and how you set yourself the challenge of getting faster. We set the timer to count up and you kept doing the x 6 table. Your first time was 2 min 6 seconds. Straight away you decided that you wanted to get quicker than 2 minutes... Once you had got your time below 2 minutes you then wanted to get your time below 1 minute.

It is great to see that you set your own goals and it is wonderful to see you enjoying being successful.

Alison 3rd September 2010.

Parents/family/friends response sheet:

Have you noticed this "determination" with Phoebe when she is at home? Perhaps you could describe another example of where Phoebe has decided to achieve something, and just steadily worked towards it?

Phoebe's determination is one of her greatest assets. She uses it at home with tricky jigsaw puzzles, with games she wants to finish or costume designs she has clear in her head that she needs to get down on paper. She responds well to the right kind of challenges (which are sometimes hard to find). And I know she needs more of them to stay hungry for learning. Laura (mum).

Getting started with learning stories


  • Write some group or whole class learning stories.
  • Focus on one story at a time.
  • Keep it jargon free.
  • Capture learning with photos.
  • Use photos as prompts for students to talk/write about their learning.

Supporting resources

For information about using this approach (including exemplars), download the PDF Narrative Assessment: A guide for teachers (PDF 2.3MB).

Through Different Eyes explains learning stories from the perspective of teachers and parents. Use as a discussion starter to consider learning stories within the context of your own classroom or school.

Published on: 14 Jun 2020