Documenting children’s work in a Reggio inspired environment.
If you are here it is because you have heard the term documentation. Documentation is a big topic amongst Reggio Inspired schools. Perhaps you are just starting out with documentation or perhaps you have been doing it for a while. It took me a long time to get the hang of documentation and it takes practice. Documenting the children’s work will look different depending on your school, class, age of children and what you are using the documentation for.
What is the purpose of the documentation?
Deciding what you are going to use the documentation for, will help you decide what data you will collect and how. Documentation can be in the form of video, voice recording, written notes by the teacher (or older children can write and help document), children’s drawings or work, photographs of the children during the process etc. If you are wanting to share documentation with parents you might want to include all of the above. If you are sending out a newsletter or want to put the documentation up, you will want to focus on photographs, written work and pictures or scans of the children’s work. You also need to decide who will be seeing the documentation, how long will they spend reading it and what will they get out of it.
If your documentation is for professional development purposes you can go into detail depending on how much the know about the Reggio Approach. If your documentation is for parents who are new or unsure about the Reggio Inspired Approach, then you might want to highlight the curriculum ‘goals’ that have been covered and what the children have learned during the project.
What do I document?
Again, this will depend on who and what is it for and is it only you documenting or will the documentation include other classes? When you first start documenting it is likely that you will document EVERYTHING and then you are not sure what to do with all this information. Documentation takes practice and if you document every tiny thing, it is a good start. The other thing to remember is that you have to collate your information and display it or write it up sooner rather than later because in a few weeks or months it might be irrelevant. Eventually you will be able to discern what you want to capture, photograph and write down etc. and what you don’t need to. As the years go on you will probably change the way you document, where you display it and what you use it for etc.
As we document, some children may appear in the documentation and some might not. Sometimes if you are putting up documentation regularly it is more of a snippet from what is happening. I would advise making sure by the end of the year, each child has featured in documentation in some way as parents will be looking out for their child, wanting to know what they have been doing.
One of the main reasons for documentation is to reflect on it and decide how to further deepen the inquiry, it is useful to discuss it with a co-teacher or colleague depending on your circumstances. Documentation is used to drive the emergent curriculum. Through observing, listening and documenting, you can see what the children are interested in and what they want to know more about. They can then plan what provocations to set out for the children.
REMEMBER it’s all about the process not necessarily about the end product.. All the learning happens during the process.
HOW DO I DOCUMENT?
There are various options on how to document, depending on what suits you. It is important to capture the children’s voices and be true to the experience.
- Digital- you can use your tablet or phone to take pictures and even type notes as you observe the children.
- Hand written- you can draw up a template and use a clip board to write down notes
- Video- if you are short on time you can take a video of the children and later write your notes
- Voice recording- if you do not have a video camera, you can use a Dictaphone to record conversation which later you can type out and make your notes based on that.
There is no right or wrong way to document..
Just start somewhere. Start with something small. There is no right or wrong way to document, you need to document in a way that suits you, your purpose and environment. It is not supposed to be extra work but rather part of every day life. Good luck on your documentation journey!