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Sunday, 6 July 2014


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Thursday, 3 April 2014

What is documentation?

This is such a huge question that I am not going to attempt to unpack it all in one post! There are many more experienced educators than I, who spend years researching and investigating this area.

In this post I will simply outline in layman's terms what I have seen as documentation in the 4 years I have been inspired by this approach. The main purpose of documentation is to make the process of learning visible. Documentation is not necessarily concerned with the 'end product' although this can be a part of the documentation.

1. Children's conversations/quotes. This deserves a post (or many!) all to its self. By recording the children's conversations or quotes you are giving visibility to the process of their thinking and learning. What are they thinking? How do they engage in conversation with others? What are they wondering about? How are they building understanding together? How are they hypothesising? How are they problem solving? Negotiating? How are they developing relationships with others? How are they developing relationships with the world around them?

2. Photographs/video. I take approximately 50 photos per day. Sometime this is still not enough. Again I will address this area in whole series of posts later on. The purpose of photographs is to give visibility to the children actively constructing their own understanding.

3. Graphic representations. This is a fancy term for the children's drawings. The children are provided with the opportunity to draw their thinking, for example "How could I measure the length of this space?". Depending on the age/ability of the children these drawings may be accompanied by the children's writing.

4. 3D models. Like graphic representations but in 3D form, often using clay, paper or wire.

These forms of on-going documentation can be made visible in the classroom on a daily basis. For example learning centres/areas that display conversations or quotes. Often we will leave out clay, wire or paper work that they children are developing to give visibility to their learning process. Similarly photos and graphic representations can be displayed daily for visitors to our classroom.

Bringing it all together

The school I currently work at uses photoshop, indesign and keynote. I had no idea how to use any of these programs before I started there, so it's been a big learning curve. We are lucky enough to have the resources to create panels similar to those seen in Reggio Emilia. These panels can be aimed at the adult community of the school or at the children. Panels are a great way to make visible key areas of the evolution of the project as the children are working.

 Teachers are also expected to create two presentations using keynote (similar to powerpoint) to summarize the learning experiences for the year. One presentation is solely about project. The second is about the identity and experiences of the children in all other aspects of the program including literacy and numeracy. Both presentations are given at the end of the year to the parent community to summarize the learning experiences.

Some examples of "end products" that reflect the children's learning;

  •  books created by the children
  •  3D models
  •  maps
  • role plays
  • dance
And many more!!!!!

What small change can I make today?

At school we've had a term of professional development in the area of literacy, covering specifically two aspects; handwriting and spelling. 

 All this new learning is exciting but can be overwhelming and leaves me thinking "where do I start?!"

To break it down and make it more manageable I try and think "what small change can I make tomorrow?" I'm not the first to think this!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Lao Tzu

Then I can begin to think about what I am going to do the next day, and the day after that, and after that, until new practises have been formed. I find that this strategy really works and stops me from thinking "It's too much! I can't do it!" 

Nobody expects your practice to change overnight, but I do believe it is critical to be constantly reflecting and improving my pedagogy through personal and school directed professional development. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Aesthetics of the learning environment - the value of calmness

In many Reggio Emillia inspired centres that I have visited the value of calmness is very apparent in their environment, thus creating a calm space for children to interact with.

Decisions from the colour of furniture, to wall coverings, to what is put on the wall and display tables often reflect this value of calmness.  

One school I worked at had neutral colours and wall coverings. The overall effect was calming but it also ensured that the children’s work was not competing with bright colour backgrounds and boards.

Another school I worked at encouraged teachers to think very carefully about what they were displaying, how and why they were displaying it. Creating a soothing calm learning environment was a high priority.

When I first started teaching, 11 years ago, one of my favourite tasks was creating wall displays. Layer upon layer of colour, boarders and children’s work all competed for audience attention. Looking back I cringe at the visual chaos that was going on in my classroom. I hope that now I am a lot more thoughtful about  the aesthetics and visual impact my environment has.

Here are some inspiring pictures of calming environments; 

2013/2014 Project Planning - A year long focus 'The City'

There are many different approaches to project planning. The two approaches I have experienced are; term by term with specific curriculum areas to be covered in the project. For example in Term 2 we are focusing on the 'Arts' curriculum which will drive your project. 
·      The second approach I have been involved in is a year  long project and curriculum areas are integrated at discretion of teacher, but the expectation is that by the end of the year all curriculum areas have been covered. 

This year, 2013/2014, we are following a year long project approach. Our umbrella topic for Year 1 is ‘The City’ which is a great concrete topic for this age level, also applicable as we live in the city!

While we don’t follow a direct ‘model’ of inquiry, there is naturally a general order to how things flow. In the initial stage of the inquiry we are gathering the children’s ideas about the topic of 'the city'. There are many ways we set up provocations;  sometimes through direct questioning, questions to think about for show and tell i.e. bring in a photo of something you see in the city, looking at books, and pictures. This stage is the perhaps the trickiest stage because there are so many possibilities with the direction the project can go in. Careful consideration of the children’s ideas, theories, hypotheses and opinions give pathways forward. The children's ideas are gathered through the recording of their conversations, photographs and graphic representations of their thinking. 

We reflect upon the children's ideas and think about the educational value of what we are doing; Why are we doing this?  And what do we want the children to learn? We are also looking for concepts as opposed to specific knowledge objectives. A concept might be 'diversity' vs a specific knowledge objective ' identify physical elements in a city'.  We brainstorm possible concepts and  use this as a 'road map’ to help guide us in our decision making and planning.