Thursday, 19 October 2017

Managing the use of a portfolio documentation template

A few years ago while taking my Kindergarten Additional Qualification courses, I was introduced to a template created by Joanne Babalis (TransformEd Consulting Services), the course instructor. The template was used to document children's learning by highlighting what and how they chose to explore, investigate, and create during the day. I found the template very informative for showcasing children's knowledge, and also a good guide for me as an educator in identifying the type of support or challenge the child needed next. It was a wonderful way of capturing everyday moments and interactions.

With all that said, I have to admit that once I tried to use the template it did become overwhelming in trying to stay on top of the documentation. I found I took a multitude of photos and struggled with how many of them to place in the template. I also didn't find a technological application that I felt comfortable using. Some were too cumbersome and took me a long time to fill in each template. This year I think I may have found a happy medium. 

I updated the template slightly to reflect the four frames in the new kindergarten curriculum. I also discovered that using the template as a background in the PicCollage application program allowed me to easily place photos into the template and type in the verbatim. I'm sure this method is widely known about, but I just stumbled on it myself and it seems to work pretty well for me. 

Below is a partially complete template done in PicCollage. I prefer to print out the templates and circle by hand for the context, social context, support, and links to curriculum information. I found it quite tedious doing it in PicCollage, though it can be done.   

For the months of September and October, I printed out the templates containing only the photos and hand wrote the verbatim using my own observation notes and/or the information obtained from conferencing with the children involved. In the next month and ongoing, I hope to experiment with completing the templates on the spot as the children are sharing their work with myself or the whole group. I think this will simplify things from me having to jot down notes and compile them at a later time. I do like that the children can re-visit their work with me during the conferencing and I may look into how they can start to complete a few templates with support using the PicCollage application or by hand. But this will be taken on down the road once I get into a good groove myself.    

To make this manageable I plan to hopefully create one or two templates per month per child to place into their portfolio. You can create folders on your computer to keep track or use a check list each month to make sure you have accounted for each child. When viewing some of the templates below, you will notice that a template may include a photo of a group of children working together. In this case I will place the same template in each of the children's portfolios with a similar description as they were collaboratively working on the same creation. I was already taking many photos each month but they didn't always have the context to go along with them. I am hoping that this simple template will provide this for families.

At the front of each child's portfolio I have placed a copy of the kindergarten overall expectations chart (below) so that families, etc., can make reference to the completed templates.

(Credit Twitter: @kelly_M_Wright) 

Lastly, I am aware of the expense in printing out so many templates even if only one per child per month. It still can add up for the ten months of school year. I agree that colour does look great but perhaps black and white is a good start and still allows for the showcasing of learning. The photos are also not very large as they have to fit into the template. I do not have all the answers of how this can work for you. I am simply trying to provide you with my example of how I am trying to make it work for me. I am sure there are many wonderful and different ways that educators are showcasing the children's learning if they are using portfolios. Every education setting and educator is unique and we all have different comfort levels. I hope that this at the very least provides you with an idea of how it can look. 

Below are a few templates showcasing the learning that has taken place during the first month and a half together. Again, only the photos are present as the templates were filled out manually.    

Thanks for taking the time to view our learning. If you have any questions or comments about this process I will try my best to answer them based on my experience.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Importance of the Learning Environment in Education

(The Kindergarten Program, 2016)   

This will mark my fourth year being in the same classroom. It's a small space but over time it has evolved with the support and input of the children. It is inviting and enticing, provides flow, allows for large group, small group, and independent learning, and the materials are stored and placed in ways that promote independence and self-regulation. But with all that said, I also like to add a bit of change at the start of every school year. I browse books, resources, and photographs for inspiration on various layouts and set-ups of learning environments and there are so many amazing ideas, but as you know, what works for one space doesn't necessarily work for another. 

One thing that has helped me immensely when I struggle in the type of change to make is to re-read excerpts from "The Kindergarten Program" and the resource "How Does Learning Happen?". These two resources brings it all back to basics and highlights important aspects of setting up a learning environment that acts like the third teacher.

Below are a few key points from both resources which I found to be very informative when contemplating the set-up and creation of a learning environment. Sometimes we can become caught up in the aesthetics and forget about function. Questioning what is most important and what is the purpose is critical and can really help with decision making and keeping one focused on the main goal which is to develop an environment that promotes learning. I have attached some photos of my new classroom set up for September with some explanations for my rationale.

 (How Does Learning Happen?, 2014)

 Materials to start the year at the Light Table Area.

Materials to start the year at the Construction Area.

(The Kindergarten Program, 2016)   

Sand Table Area

Light Table Area

Art Studio Area

Discover Area

Math Area

Reading and Calming Area

Simple and Inviting Open Ended Provocations

Addressing self awareness.

A bit of fine motor challenge using the chopsticks to pick up cubes or thimbles to build a tower using discs and/or tongue compressors. As children build their tower, comparing the size and/or counting the discs used allows for an element of math.

Using tongues to select magnetic letters that match the magnetic board.

Building a structure on a mirror surface allows for another dimension to be explored. A semi-sphere can become a sphere when seen using the mirror! Animals and wooden numbers were also added to explore the creation of storytelling.

(The Kindergarten Program, 2016)   

Construction Area

Math Area
Blank walls and open ended materials at the beginning of the school year allows for the children's input and support in co-creating the learning environment.

 (The Kindergarten Program, 2016)   

A new Dramatic Arts Area in our classroom! It may seem obvious as to how the children will engage in this space, but while observing the children in play, various strong interests arise which guide the educator in further supporting the children's interest by adding specific materials and dialogue to encourage learning at a deeper level. I like to think of learning spaces as living creatures that constantly need attention as the children interact with it.

Overall Curriculum Expectations

The overall curriculum expectations can be found in many learning areas in the classroom environment! As you read through them scroll back up and view the photos to get a better perspective.

(Twitter: @Kelly_M_Wright)   

I hope to create another blog post in a few months to demonstrate the changes that took place once the children placed their mark on their learning environment. 

Have a great year!