Reggio-Inspired Kindergarten: Documentation

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Summer learning included a week long stay in Ontario, Canada where I attended the Transform Ed Workshop Series, given by Joanne Babalis.  Here she shared her experiences with a Reggio-Inspired Approach to learning and her Masters' research on the seven layers of Inquiry-Based learning.

The sixth layer, and the focus of this post, is documenting. Other blog posts will discuss the other layers that include image of the childtimespacematerialslistening, and planning.

Growing My Thinking Around Documentation

It’s mid-August and one of the items on my summer to-do list is to read about pedagogical documentation (say what?).  
thoughts on documenting children's learning in a kindergarten classroom

It’s hardly a “beach read,” and If I’m being honest, a topic I haven’t exactly been dying to sink my teeth into. In fact, I’ve checked out and returned the book Windows on Learning (Helm, Beneke, and Steinheimer) from the library a few times without actually reading it.

So out on a walk, (this is where I do my best thinking) it occurs to me that if I think about documentation as “learning stories,” I suddenly become interested. This puts me in the role of researcher and author.

“I’m writing a book about each child,” I tell myself.  This motivates me.

Where Do I Begin?   

So in my beginning attempts to document student learning, I know I will be embarking on a journey without a clear path.

This is why I greatly appreciate an article written by Carol Anne Wein entitled Learning to Document in Reggio-Inspired Education.

In her article, she describes the progressions she has observed in teachers’ attempts to document learning.  She is clear that these are not stages, but rather “a more flexible, a more varied process.”  Her progression includes:

1) Developing habits of documenting
2) Becoming comfortable in going public
3) Developing visual literacy skills
4) Conceptualizing a purpose of documentation  
as making learning visible
5) sharing visible theories with others for interpretation and further design of curriculum

While this is in no way a “road map” for me, it does help me evaluate my current skill set and identify areas where improvement is needed.  It leads me to ask myself questions about documentation habits such as,”When will I document? What tools will I use and How will I keep them handy? Also, when will I reflect on the documentation I have collected?”

It motivates me to look critically at the photos I am taking in order to better develop my visual literacy skills and create more effective documentation.

using children's photos for documentation purposes

What can I learn about this child from this photo?

Number four on the list serves as a “pothole to avoid”  where I see the word “purpose” in bright orange, neon letters blinking among piles of photos, work samples, and anecdotes.

Jumping In

While reframing documentation as “learning stories” is definitely helping me to get started (I’m finally reading Windows on Learning!), I’m pretty sure this is one of those times where I will learn the most in applying the Nike Slogan, Just Do It!  

Reading about pedagogical documentation in a kindergarten classroom environment

As the new school year fast approaches, I’m excited about the prospect of a new group of children that I will come to know in a way that I never have before.  I’m looking forward to finding new ways to make their learning visible and to use documentation to guide my planning and teaching.
Where are you in journey with documentation and what have you found to be most helpful?

Thanks for stopping by!

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