Diving into Documentation

With the continued hope of making my practice and my learning more visible to others, I am going to share a few ideas I have about documentation in Kindergarten. First and foremost, documentation is about making the learning visible in the classroom.

The first thing I implemented about 5 years ago was to open the classroom up to families every Friday. Not all parents come every Friday, but on any given Friday, 4 or 5 of them join us to see the learning that’s happening in Kindergarten these days.  They join us at song circle, help with class projects, sit and read with children, or play games with a small group. Over the course of the year, nearly all families spend some time with us.

Something I am always learning more about is how to take and display photographs of children learning. Including dialogue with a photograph is a great way to capture learning. Last year I began to use large clear panels of laminating film hung on the wall.  I had created documentation panels in previous years but I had put them together after school and it took a lot of time and I wasn’t even sure if anyone had looked at them afterwards.

This year, as the children explored numbers, I took photographs and printed around 10 of them. Then I placed a couple sharpies, some tape, some cue cards, and the photographs on a small table next to the wall where I had hung the laminating film. I sat down and children began to come over and ask what I was doing. I told them I was looking at some photos of them. They started to find themselves in the photos, saying things like:

“That’s me when I was making my number book. Look, there’s the 4 I made. It goes [motions how to make a 4 in the air].”

“Look, there’s the boxes in the post office. They had numbers on them. What was my number? The numbers were to tell whose mail it is. Do I have a number in our post office? I need to go see.”

“My number book went to 7 but I can count way past 7. Listen: 1, 2,3,4…. [rote counts to 104].”

I wrote some of this dialogue on the cue cards and attached it next to the photo on the clear panel as the children were talking about their photos. I also recorded my own discoveries (who had just rote counted to 104) and stuck those cards to the panel as well.

I’ve gone back to look at the panel since several times to reflect on the learning that was made visible. I’ve discussed it with my teaching partner and started another panel with information about the children’s families and interests in our other room.

I pulled furniture and materials away from the walls last year to free up space for these panels. Now I’m thinking I can add more of these panels that are co-constructed with children to make other types of learning visible – things like social, listening, and helpful behaviours.  These are outcomes in Kindergarten that are traditionally very difficult to document. I could photograph a student trying a new food, cleaning up a play area by sorting materials, or washing up at the sink. Displaying these types of photos could open up all kinds of conversations with children. Including dialogue, even just simple words that some children could attempt to read, would add a whole other purpose.

Another thing that I consider when documenting is that it should show the children’s work in progress, as opposed to the final product. It is important to make visible the children’s thinking — how they planned, carried out, and completed the work. One example of this I am currently working on is the panel with the sheets about the children’s families. This week, I’ll put the pictures belonging to the children who haven’t added anything to the panel yet on a table next to it. I’ll post a card explaining that the sheets displayed will be used to create a class book about our families. Some simple sentences could be created from what’s on the panel now. Or even some simple questions that required the children to read the panel for certain information. Are you starting to see where I’m going with this?

You’ll know you’re on the right path with documentation when it continues to act as a tool for learning in addition to making the learning visible.  So, take a look around the classroom. Is what you have on the walls making the learning visible?

Is it documentation or decoration?

 

Cathy 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report cards are looming and once again, I am struggling with the idea of assigning numbers to children. Time and time again, I hear from parents, “So, the 4, is that like an A?” and “My child got all 4s, but my sister’s child at another school got all 3s, because they said no one could have 4s in November.” I mean, really? As a parent, I’ve felt it. Getting that report card, feeling like my child had been shortchanged, misunderstood, and looki

 

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Cathy Baker View All →

Dedicated teacher for the past 15 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy

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