Exams - Tell what you know

Exams 2In Foibles of Man, Winston Churchill commented on his boyhood examinations, “I was unable to suggest a satisfactory answer. I should have liked to be asked to say what I knew. They always tried to ask what I did not know. When I would have willingly displayed my knowledge, they sought to expose my ignorance. This sort of treatment had only one result: I did not do well on my examinations.”

At The Vine School, there is no special preparation required when students take their exams. We are simply interested in seeing what the students know. Exam time is not pressurised or stressful; they do not receive an exam timetable and students are often excited to come to school “to see which subject I will be assessed on today.”

Exams 4​​In our preschool, the students are assessed incidentally throughout the year. They are evaluated on their grasp of maths concepts, phonics and even reading in the second semester, moving from groups to individuals but in the classroom setting. The students take part in narration daily in the classroom, which allows the teacher to ascertain all that they know. There is also a weekly narration done at home that is recorded by the parents and sent to school for the teacher to see. They always comment on the fact that they wish they could have “exams” like the rest of the school!

Exams 1Our Grade 1 to 3 students do these assessments verbally answering questions such as “Tell back what happened to the servant when the king asked him to pay back his debt and what happened afterward to teach about forgiveness.“ (in reference to the parable Jesus told about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35)

This is done one-to-one with a scribe writing down as the student speaks. Here is an unedited example of one student's answer.

“One day Simon Peter ran to Jesus and he asked “how much times must I forgive my brother for doing bad things to me?” Jesus said, “Not 7 times, but 70 times 7.” “Let me tell you a story about a king and his servant who couldn't pay back.” “Once there was a king and a servant owed the king money. The king asked for money but the servant told the king he did not have the money.  The king got so mad that he said to the servant, “Your wife, your sisters and your brothers will be sold.”  The servant bowed down to the king’s feet and the servant said, “Have mercy on me please, do not take everything I own away from me and please forgive me.”  The king forgave him.  The servant was glad that the king forgave him.  And there was another servant who owed the king's servant a little bit of money.  The king's servant asked for the money. The servant said to the king's servant, “I do not have money.”  And then the king's servant grabbed the poor servant by the neck and he said to the poor servant, “Give me my money otherwise I'll throw you into prison.  The poor servant told the king's servant again that he does not have the money.  And the king's servant threw the poor servant into prison.  One of the king's servants saw this and told the king.  The king got upset and sent for the servant.  The king told the servant, “I forgave you and you did not forgive another.” And now the king ordered that his servant be thrown in prison.“

Exams 2Our Grade 4 to 7 students write their own answers to the questions but they are similarly open-ended to allow them to tell all that they know.  To assist in preparing our Grade 7’s for high school exams they are given instruction on how to study and are able to take their books home from a few of their subjects in order to prepare for their exams the week before.

​​Exams 3Our exam days are kept as close to any normal day as possible with specialist PT and Art lessons still taking place and other regular subjects continuing once the exam has been taken.

Narrating is not the work of a parrot, but of absorbing into oneself the beautiful thought from the book, making it one’s own and then giving it forth again with just that little touch that comes from one’s own mind. (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 125)