Assessing Your Child's Knowledge, Not Their Writing Skills


photo by DeclanTM

As a blogger, I’m obviously a big fan of writing.  It is something that I have enjoyed my whole life.  When I was a kid, I enjoyed writing stories, I always had lots of pen pals, and as I got older, I was always one of those students that had a hard time staying within the page limits of an assignment.  I can’t help it — I just love to write.

Writing is one of those things that I hoped my kids would love too.  Unfortunately, it just isn’t.  As a matter of fact, at least some of them act like I’m torturing them if I try to get them to write up even a paragraph. It’s definitely an area that we need to work on.

However, what does that mean for trying to write a paper in science or social studies, for instance?  Is it more important to work on writing skills or to see what your child actually knows?

In our homeschool co-op a couple of years ago, Noah was taking a state history class.  As a final project, they could either make a poster about any state topic of their choice or they could write a paper.  It seemed like a given that Noah would do a poster, even though his mind is full of so many great ideas.  Things like fine motor delays and Autism often keep those ideas off of paper.

Noah chose to do his project about a particular battle that took place in our state, so I helped him to find some pictures on the Internet of major players in the battle.  Then, I sat down at the computer and told him we need to write up just a bit to put on the poster with it.

I was both shocked and not surprised at all in the same moment when what I intended to be a couple of sentences turned into a full page (with single spaced lines) account of what led up to the battle, information about the people in the battle, an account of the details of the actual battle, and then the aftermath.  I just typed as he told me all about it.  Noah was so proud of his paper, and I was too!

It reminded me that just because he would have written two sentences if he had to write it himself, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t know the material in so much detail that it was surprising.  And, it also reminded me that even though we need to work on writing skills, I also need to give the kids a chance to show off what they know without the pressure of having to be the ones to write it all out.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.


  1. says

    Great post, thank you! Every day I worry about my 6 year old’s handwriting. It really is not good. I can’t even get her to write a sentence. Now, talking…that’s a completely different story. She can make up songs and stories that go on forever!

  2. says

    So So True! As a former teacher of students for whom English was not their first language, I am very familiar with the trouble of assessing knowledge via writing. Writing down our thoughts is another skill-set entirely!