Thursday, March 30, 2017

Relationships: The Foundation to Documenting



How many times have you been in the classroom with your iPad or notebook in your hands ready to write or document….and 30 minutes later it’s blank?


Or how about when you join in play and the moment you begin to write the children leave? It’s okay it happens to all of us!


Even this year, in our 5 year of teaching with one another we felt as though we were hitting a roadblock at times. Yes, there are always certain kids that naturally hook you in and are interesting to document. Although on the flip side it’s also interesting to think and reflect on ... where am I spending all my time? And who am I naturally gravitated towards?


There was a small group of girls that were new to school and seemed to bond quickly with one another. They communicated with each other far more than their interactions with any adults in the room. A place of interest for them was often in the house centre.


As we observed from afar their play appeared intentional in terms of materials, conversations and problem solving. Once our classroom began to settle in terms of routines, we both attempted to spend time with this group. After multiple attempts, blank pages and the girls shying away from us we couldn’t understand why.


Reflecting on our noticings we saw consistency in that they would look at or notice our clipboard or iPad and quickly become quiet. It wasn’t until quite recently, after March Break, that we have finally been able to capture their learning, conversations and wonderings.


We wanted to write a blog to go deeper in our reflections about why this may be happening and some strategies that will continue to support our learning on this journey.


Relationships Are Everything!
Throughout the year we are constantly trying to balance all the elements to teaching. We want to “check” things off, keep things moving and hope we can provide our students with the best start and experience to education.


All of us know this feeling or pressure! What we have noticed over time is that what we needed to do more was build genuine connections and relationships with the children without all of the documentation tools.


If we join in their play with a specific intention (such as how high can they count) then we are already creating our own road blocks and we continue to accumulate a bunch of missed opportunities for rich, open ended documentation.


Our starting point should be taking the time to play games, asking questions, finding out what some of their likes and dislikes are all things that build trust, respect and comfort.


After a holiday, such as March Break, it is sometimes important to scale back to rebuild and refocus with these relationships before bringing out our documentation tools too.


Trust, Respect and Comfort


As relationships evolve over time children will become more settled in their environment. Children can feel the energy that we bring when we join them and if we don’t establish this connection it could be one of the reasons play is shutting down, conversations are limited and perhaps why we find it is hard for us to even find a starting point.


Imagine having someone in your classroom that you don’t know well or someone you don’t feel connected to watching you and writing on a piece of paper. It’s intimidating and may even imply a sense of “testing” which could elicit anxiety in some children.


Instead, take the time to join in on the play and involve the children in the process of documenting. Teach them that their learning is valuable and decide together how it may be used, seen or accessed in the classroom.


By involving them it can open up conversations and also eliminates assumptions of their learning by becoming objective using quotes directly from the children. It also allows the children to recognize their key and growth learning.


We have learned that sometimes it is challenging to capture everything that is happening in the context of play. If we are having a hard time writing everything down in the moment we may say to the children “Can we record this?” and simply record the audio or video of the play and then transcribe later.


Our Reflection
Each year we grow more confident and comfortable in defining our own style of documenting and capturing learning. In fact, each year it evolves and becomes more natural for us. However, we truly believe that the time invested in relationships is a big piece of WHY we are able to capture and put together pieces about the children’s learning.


It can be frustrating, but take a deep breath and reminder yourself that learning is always reappearing and always happening. We cannot always see, hear or capture everything but we can take the time to build genuine connections and foster a love for learning in hopes that we can all grow together.

If you would like to learn more about documentation and share in our experiences and reflections, join us at our next workshop on April 8th!