Presentations: Assessing Your Student’s Progress

Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Like many homeschool families, we don’t use tests as a measure of our children’s progress very often. The math program that the kids use does regular quizzes and tests, as does the computer-based program that my older daughter uses. For my younger kids, though, testing is not my primary means of checking their level of retention or comprehension.

We’ve used a lot of different methods for assessing their progress over the years, but one that I’m really enjoying now as part of the new curriculum we’re using is the oral presentation. Despite very little preparation time, I was really impressed with their first oral presentation – both how much they retained and what they chose to include.

My youngest gave an eloquent synopsis of one of our read aloud books, while my son gave a detailed description of the weather watching instruments we’d made and how they worked. We made some mental notes on how to improve next time, but overall, I found the presentation a great way for the kids to review and demonstrate what they’d learned and a fun way to show Dad what we’ve been doing.

What are some things that you should include in an oral presentation?

Recitations

If your kids have learned any poems or memorized any speeches or scripture verses, include them! On our second presentation, I plan to have one of the kids recite an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, while the other will be reciting the preamble to the Constitution.

Book Reports

You don’t necessarily want your child reading his 5-paragraph written book report, but including a synopsis of one of the books he’s read or telling a favorite part of a book is a great way to see what he remembers most from the story.

Projects

Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom

Include any hands-on projects or crafts that you made because they give a kid something to focus on besides the fact that everyone is watching him and waiting on him to remember what he is supposed to say.

Describing a science project that you made or the replica of the Nile that you built is a great way to reinforce lessons learned, as well as seeing what he remembers about it.

Art Work

Showing Dad (or Mom, siblings, or grandparents) her art work gives your child a chance to show pride in her work, but also allows her the opportunity to describe the techniques or mediums used or artist imitated to create the piece.

People

Who has your child been learning about? Which of these people was his favorite? What did this person do that made him the favorite?

Sharing details about a real person is so much more memorable than sharing dry dates or random facts – and often it’s those memorable anecdotes that help the dates and facts stick in your child’s mind. Encourage him to include his favorite person, along with facts about the person’s life and contributions,  in his presentation.

Places

Did your studies take you to new and exciting places? Remind your child to share those adventures with her audience. Where did you go? What happened there? What makes it memorable?

I loved that my daughter included Vermont in her last presentation. We were amazed that it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup and that Vermont produces over 500,000 gallons of said syrup each year!

Q & A

Be sure to have your child ask if there are any questions when he’s finished. It’s a good idea to remind the audience ahead of time to be thinking of questions – and to encourage them not to ask “quiz type” questions that can make a kid feel like you’re trying to trip him up, but rather questions that seek to have the child respond to what he has learned, such as:

  • What was your favorite…?
  • How does that work?
  • How would you have responded?
  • What do you think about…?
  • Is that how you would have acted?
  • What would you have done differently?

Do you use presentations or something similar to assess your child’s understanding? What suggestions would you add?

About Kris

Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, is a homeschooling mom to three amazing kids and wife to her unbelievably supportive husband. She enjoys photography, running, and drinking sweet tea. You can connect with Kris on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    We do presentations through 4H every year although it doesn’t include everything she has learned. This would be a great idea for the end of the year to show off to grandparents though!

    On a side note….the picture at the top, the girl I assume is being Betsy Ross should not be wearing the flag. Wearing of the flag is completely against flag etiquette. I know that atheltes do this regularly but that doesn’t make it right! I hope you change that picture…..

    • Yes, it would make a great end-of-the-year event for a family or even an entire homeschool group, inviting grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends.
      Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: Showing God’s Grace to Everyone

    • the Mommy says:

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing! All our extended families are nearby so I was thinking maybe twice a semester would be nice. Since we will be first generation homeschoolers (“kinder” is a year away) I think it would help alleviate some of the questioning about what we do all day and whether whe is learning anything.
      Glad you brought up the flag. I at first thought it was a costume (didn’t notice the blue in the corner) but upon looking again, you are correct, and I hope your mention means more people will remember to learn about our flag and the ways we show our respect for it. (and perhaps study the ways other countries do the same!)
      the Mommy’s latest post: Organization Obsession

  2. Heidi says:

    This is a great idea! How do you convince your child that this is a great idea? I guess you could start out with little snippets of information that they share with Dad and help it to grow from there. Any other suggestions?
    Heidi’s latest post: Alpha Omega LifePac Second Grade

  3. Oral presentations are a great way for kids to share what they know. Had you thought of posting videos of their presentations to YouTube? This is a great way to share with relatives or friends that are not able to attend the presentation, and also a great journaling souvenir. We like to make these kind of end of project sessions a party, with cake, ice cream or (small) gifts. Even the though the teacher(mom) probably has a good idea of what the kids know, it’s wonderful to share it with everyone. And restating what we have learned is great for retention.
    Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: Homeschooling to Adulthood: Teaching Kids to Clean

  4. I’ve done this in the past, mostly for research projects that my kids were particularly excited about. My two older kids always loved making power points and going to their dad’s classroom to use his smart board – presenting that way. As they get older and spend more time volunteering, or in groups with opportunities to lead, I don’t find it necessary to push this type of HS presentation. But for my youngest (currently grade one) this is a good nudge to consider if she might enjoy presenting her learning to family and/or friends.
    Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Nurturing Creativity – And A Giveaway!

  5. Laura Carter says:

    These are great ideas, thank you! We don’t do testing (except for quizzes at the end of chapters in their workbooks) but I have been thinking of doing something to evaluate their progress. This is a great idea as it not only helps us see what they’ve learned, but also gives them practice speaking to a “crowd” and presenting an idea in a comprehensive way. Double bonus!

  6. I love this idea, and I’m going to bookmark this page for future reference – thank you! Right now my son is only 5, and he initiated doing puppet shows a year ago or so. After using some finger puppets that we have for a while, he started wanting to make puppets and act out some books and stories he has heard (and he wrote one too!) I can’t think of a better way to showcase his retention and comprehension than to watch him act out these stories in a puppet show! And it tickles me pink that all of his was his own idea!
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Free Give-Away This Week for Creative Moms

  7. This is such a great idea. My children are too young for presentations, but I think I am preparing them for when that time comes. Even now, we discuss at dinner our read aloud book. This gives my four year old a chance to tell daddy what we have read, and I ask leading questions, etc. It is not a presentation, but it is giving him an opportunity to “report” in a non-threatening way what he got out of a story. I plan to do lots of presentations (very little testing) when we get into school age.
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Put Your Earrings On!

  8. Charmaine says:

    This is a problem of combinations, because 6 students have to be chosen from a group of 53 students, and the order in which these 6 students are arranged does not matter.
    Charmaine’s latest post: Livegadgetz

  9. Kael23 says:

    Thanks for this sharing this idea.. :) Learning this assessment is very important for a future teacher like me so that I can apply what I learned and I can handle my students needs professional.. I can be more effective teacher because if this info! Thanks for sharing…
    Kael23′s latest post: Plenty of Fish

  10. Renea says:

    Every kid at the soccer tournament gets a trophy these days. Kids need to learn that if they don’t study and if they don’t get good grades, they are going to be left behind later in life.
    Renea’s latest post: Master Cleanse Review

  11. Mary says:

    Kris — I think “alternative” assessments are the norm in our homeschool. We do a lot of talking about what we have learned with our family members. My kids also love to do lapbooks and posters, which really shows what they know.

    Recently, I’ve been having my youngest make videos of his LEGO creations, explaining how he made them, and even designing his own instructions.

    I love that we can be so creative and flexible in this area!!

    Thank you for all of the great ideas!
    Mary’s latest post: Are You A Homeschool Ambassador?

    • Oral presentations are a great tool for developing childrens’ skills and confidence. Here’s a simple but powerful idea to add to oral presentations and avoid tests. If you want a simple measure, just try counting the frequency of the child’s responses. It literally only takes a minute. How many math facts can your child do in one minute? How many can you do? If you are a success and your child does math facts as well as you do, then they are probably going to do okay as well. If your child has difficulty, you can also repeat the task every few days to check on improvement. It’s simple, easy to use that shows you improvement in one minute.

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