Every year, I like to consider ways that I can improve my teaching practices. I try to develop my goals/plans with the kids in mind: always considering how these changes could positively impact on them and their learning opportunities at school. As many of you know, I’m incredibly passionate about the value of documentation, but also how documentation can further solidify home/school relationships and increase parent engagement. Over the summer, I spent a lot of time looking at my documentation of student learning, but also thinking critically about how I can improve in this area. Pedagogical documentation is highlighted in the updated Kindergarten Program Document, and it was an important part of staff development in the role that I played at Camp Power this summer. As I thought more about pedagogical documentation and read more about it, I began to contemplate an uncomfortable question: was I really engaging in “pedagogical documentation” or just “documentation,” and did I need to make some necessary changes to my practices? It was this question and my thinking around it that led to one of my goals for this year: moving from “documentation” to “pedagogical documentation,” and making this thinking and learning more visible to parents.
Over the past month, I’ve addressed this change in different ways. Initially, I decided that I was going to do a few more thorough Learning Stories each day, which included PicCollages and videos of student learning, details about this learning and the connections to the Four Frames, and possible Next Steps. I chose to place them on our class blog in the same section that I placed our story of each day.
The Berry Picking Expedition – A Joint ELP 1 and ELP 2 Adventure!
I had mixed feelings about these stories. On one hand, I loved taking the time to really look closely at one or two bigger areas of learning, either in the classroom or outside. I loved how this learning involved students from two of the Kindergarten classes, and often events or activities from a number of days. Even though my teaching partner, Paula, and I identified next steps in our discussions with each other, writing them down made me more aware of them, and often changed how I responded to student interactions and learning possibilities the next day. I wonder if this led to more targeted instruction for students.
On the other hand, I also struggled with these stories.
- They took a long time to write, and I usually wrote them late at night, when I was tired and found it harder to clearly articulate my thoughts.
- By the time I finished writing them, it was normally after 9:00, which meant that parents may not even see the blog posts that night, when they could possibly reflect on this learning and extend it at home.
- Usually the time that I put into writing these posts, meant that I didn’t have a chance to write a professional blog post on most nights. I really value the reflection that comes out of these professional posts and the dialogue on them, and I wondered about the impact of writing fewer of them.
- I also didn’t know what to do about “what comes next.” While the Next Steps in these Learning Stories helped with focusing instruction, I continued to wonder how I could share with parents the impact of these goals. Should I write another blog post? Edit the original one? Or not share this impact at all? This last option did not sit well with me.
This is when I tried another approach. Recently, we’ve been embedding part of a more specific Learning Story into our Daily Shoot Blog Posts. While we still make a general comment about the day, we also hone in on some of the bigger learning that day, and discuss Next Steps to further this learning in the coming days and/or weeks. This way, we can also make links to previous days, and how our current plans address student needs.
I’m not sure if this latest solution is “just right” yet, but I do like how I can merge the story of our day with more focused Learning Stories. I’ve also tried to embed some Next Steps into the documentation that I share through my Instagram account.
It was interesting to see these different examples of math today. First, Joshua decided to draw a picture. I suggested he count the markings he made. I thought he would just write the total, but he wrote a number for each mark. We’ll keep working on marker/pencil grip. Then a discussion about healthy and unhealthy foods over lunch today led to a collection of data on this topic. Milla decided she wanted to write the list and number each item on it. She ended up numbering the extra spaces that we can hopefully fill in next week. We can keep working on number reversals as well. Then Brayden decided to collect data on if people play basketball, hockey, or both. @paulacrockett suggested he look at a hockey book to spell that word (which he did), and since basketball is such a long word, she suggested he use the syllables to help hear all the sounds. This is what he did, and he got most of them. He then went around and asked people what they played, and reflected on the data as he collected it. Next we can work on tally marks and groups of 5. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #engagemath
I’ve been thinking back to a presentation I saw a couple of years ago by Karyn Callaghan. She spoke a lot about pedagogical documentation, and the value in seeing this documentation not as evaluation, but as truly celebrating the work and learning of the child and what we can do to further support this learning. This is not about comparisons. None of us are perfect, and “Next Steps” should truly be valued as part of the learning process. I see this as equally important for me, and one of the reasons that I’m trying to be open as part of my learning journey. Thanks again to Lisa Noble and the #visiblelearning hashtag that I’ve continued to follow closely since learning about it. My renewed interest and professional goal around pedagogical documentation will remain an important part of my “visible learning.” What’s yours? What advice can you offer me as I continue to grow in this area? Here’s to a wonderful year of new learning, new reflections, and growth!
Thank you, as always. I sometimes don’t think you realize what a model you are of #visiblelearning. You not only work incredibly hard (harder than anyone I know, in fact) to capture your student’s learning, and share it in a way that is visible to you, them and their parents, you also do a phenomenal job of making your own learning visible, and for me, in some ways, that’s tha even bigger deal.
Last year, in my 7/8 classroom, I did a pretty good job of having my students capture the learning that was going on, and share it on Twitter and YouTube, but there wasn’t enough of my curation and reflection to help parents understand why we were sharing what we were sharing. I had done a better job of building that framework for parents in my previous school, over several years, and I somehow forgot that this would be new to my parents at my new school. Things to work on…
The other thing that I really kind of sucked at was making my own thinking around what was working and not working visible. I so appreciate the way you let me in to your thought process, and why you make the changes you do. You epitomize reflective practitioner, but go that key extra step of sharing it, and at least for me, that provokes my own reflection.
The Instagram feed brightens my day, every day.
Thank you so much, Lisa, for your kind words and your own reflection. I love getting insight into what other people are thinking, struggling with, and continuing to try. I think it’s a good reminder for all of us that we’re not perfect and we’re still learning … and it’s great to be doing this learning in the company of others. I’m also really big on sharing my reflections so visibly, as I want my students, parents, colleagues, and administrators to know that as much as I want children to be comfortable with “making mistakes,” I also want to be. Learning is not just something for kids to do. I’m a big believer in this, and I continue to think of ways to use my professional blog to make this clear.
Thanks again, Lisa, for sharing the #visiblelearning hashtag with me, and making me even more aware of how I can make my own learning visible!
P.S. I’m glad that you like my Instagram feed. I must say that I love the Instagram Learning Story potential.