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recording learning

documentation

Documenting the learning of our students can often be a daunting and overwhelming task.  Keeping focused on what we need to find out about our children and deciding on open-ended question prior to the activities can narrow the focus.  Some focused questions to get you thinking about your students are;  What do I need to find out about them as learners?  What do I need to learn in order to plan a program for them?  What do I need to see children demonstrating? 

Keeping the oral conversation open at a centre allows us to collect a great wealth of information.  What we planned may not go as we expected, but it may teach us a whole lot about how our students learn.   At times, I have planned in my mind what I think they will do and I have my open-ended questions handy to start the conversation, but by placing out materials that are interesting, the students will lead the conversation in new directions and I will carefully as questions as needed.  This is good!  We will learn from them! 

When do we observe?  Observation should happen daily and early on in the school year.  It is part of what we do in the classroom to plan for student learning.  Gathering a base-line early on in the year, and then seeing a progression as they are learning new things.  Placing yourself in discrete positions around the room may be something to consider so that you do not interfere with the natural play and they will not rely on you for answers or help.  Daily observations are either planned or incidental.  For the incidental observations,  I may over hear something, or see someone doing something new–for these moments I always have a clipboard with blank paper on hand and my Ipod charged!  For the planned observations there are many ways to keep things organized. 

Some ideas of how to record learning that have worked for me are;

-notebook or blank paper on clipboard to record anecdotal notes

-pre-made observations sheets with children’s names in each square

-An Ipod to record conversations and take photos  ( I type these up later)

-index cards that can be moved into a child’s individual folder or sticky notes

For photos, I have seen teachers display a digital photo frame in their classrooms!

Once I have this information collected and depending on the learning goal—I use the pictures and conversations in my newsletters to display learning to parents, I display dialogue and pictures in the classroom on poster board, and I create learning stories/classroom books to add to our reading centre. 

Assessment That Informs Instruction in the Thinking it Through resources shares other ideas around observation and documentation.  http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/documentingthroughplay.pdf  Primarily Play is also a great resource for grades 1-3 that has a section on documenting learning. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/makingdocumentation.pdf