How documentation informs teaching - Part 1 - Mid-Pacific Institute

Kindergarten Hitomi

How documentation informs teaching - Part 1

Posted on October 3, 2017

by Ms. Hitomi on October 3, 2017

Documentation of learning is captured through many different forms - children's drawings, photos, video, transcripts of discussions between children and teachers. This documentation serves multiple purposes. It is evidence of student learning. It informs teachers about who children are, how they think, and how they learn. Documentation also helps teachers to make decisions when working with the children in an inquiry project. In the next three blogs, teachers will share how documentation of student learning informs teachers throughout each step of a project.

When looking over our documentation from summer school the teachers discovered much about our new community this year, as we observed the children in the Bamboo Forest and in the classroom as they worked with collected materials. We learned that the children are builders and love imaginary play; they build campfires, castles, and mouse houses. We learned that the children are creative and innovative; they used collected materials as tools for building and imagined them as musical instruments. We learned that the children are compassionate; they saw the bamboo trees as families, with the smaller shoots being the babies, concerned that some seemed to be broken or damaged, and they were upset at finding trash in this otherwise clean, natural environment.

Wondering whether the children would pick up where they left off this summer or if they would travel along a new line of thinking, teachers took them back to the Bamboo Forest, excited to learn about our newly-formed community. Would they discover similiar things, move about the space in the same way, make new connections? Would our summer school friends share knowledge with our new friends?

In the forest, we found that the imaginary play continued, although the context changed:

What were you pretending the bamboo forest was?

S1: The sea.

You were saying the market was open. Tell us more about the market.

S1: The food market.

You were pretending that was the ocean. Was the market underneath the ocean then?

S1: No.

S2: It was big and we needed just what we needed. We needed food, Chinese stuff. Chinese food, hot sauce, chili.

Did you pretend those things were there, or did you use sticks?

S2: Things on the ground. And also the bamboo. There were aisle numbers. The bush was the door.

S1: But it was a small market.

I did notice that your market was on one side of the bamboo forest.

Imaginary play is often how children make sense of their environment, as well as social roles. In previous visits, the children used the sticks and leaves to create a campfire, which is a realistic use of the found materials. In the above play, the theme is decided by the row placement of trees because they provide an image of aisles, and the children used the found materials as symbolic representations of real-life items, rather than something it might actually be used for. Teachers acknowledged the student's assessment of the market size by sharing that they had noticed that children did indeed stay towards one side of the Bamboo Forest where the small bush was located.

During the summer, the children began to see the bamboo as families - taller bamboo were the parents and the smaller shoots were the children/babies. When we revisited the space, teachers observed another facet of relationships beginning to emerge:

What was happening at the pond?

S1: They were having a shrimp fight.

S2: They were battling each other.

S1: They were trying to get food.

But weren't they trying to pinch each other?

S3: Those are actually crayfish.

S4: Maybe they wanted to eat a crayfish.

S2: Maybe they were fighting because maybe the fish said fight each other.

Why would a turtle or fish tell them to fight each other?

S2: Because one was being mean and one was being kinder.

Because this is just a small piece of a longer conversation that emerged, the teachers were struck by the high interest the children had in speculating the possible relationship between these two crayfish, as well as the reasons WHY they were interacting the way they were. This relationship is in clear contrast to the relationship between the bamboo trees that the children had earlier speculated. Why was this relationship so unfriendly? Is it because they are animals versus plants? The children clearly share their beliefs for why this relationship might be antagonistic - the need for food, someone directed them to fight, one was mean. Teachers wonder if the children would also speculate other types of relationships if we continue to observe the same and different animals.

The children continued to explore with sound, as they began to do during the summer. During Jump Start Kindergarten, one group of children sorted the gathered bamboo by the sound it made as they knocked the bamboo on the floor. Another group imagined the bamboo as musical instruments. This exploration continued as a few of the children noticed that the bamboo made sounds when they pulled the stalks back and released them. The children were going beyond just hearing the bamboo but actually theorizing and testing out different sounds. (Click on the photo below to see a video.)

S1: Each side made a different sound.

S2: I was banging the bamboo on the other bamboo. I think how it made a different sound was mine was not skinny, and S3's was skinny.

S3 was part of our Jump Start Kindergarten group, and he shares his previous experience with two "new" friends (S1, S2), and together, they experiment with the bamboo. Their collaborative investigation leads them to the conclusion that the size of the bamboo, as well as the direction from which it's hit, affects the sound it makes. This is an example of how knowledge is built.