May 28, 2020
I hope you have enjoyed the last two weeks of Reggio Emilia. This week we conclude the Reggio approach with documentation. Before delving into this topic, someone might think that documentation means walking around the classroom with a clipboard checking off skills that a child has mastered or has yet to master. While this may be necessary at times, it is not the Reggio way. We as educators know how important it is to collect and display our children’s work. How many of us have seen the beautiful bulletin boards that display perfect work and it all looks the same?
I often wondered why my boards never looked like that. I taught in a Catholic school that went from 3-year-olds to 8th grade. During my first year as a PreK-4 teacher, I was putting up my display on the hallway bulletin board and my principal asked if I was going to correct the work – it was messy and did not look pretty. I smiled, took a breath (maybe 10) and told her that we were showcasing my children’s work, not mine. This was the beginning of my Reggio journey and I didn’t even know it!
True documentation demonstrates the learning process that a child goes through while exploring a topic. Typically, documentation is a sample of a child’s work at several different stages of completion:
Photographs showing work in progress
Transcriptions of the child’s discussions, comments, and explanations of intentions about the activity
Graphic arts display – drawings and/or paintings
Comments by the parents
By utilizing all of these items on a documentation board, we illustrate that the child’s work is serious and is valued. The documentation boards reveal how the children planned, carried out, and completed their work. Documentation affords a look at not only the products of a project but the ongoing learning processes that occurred. Displays are not created for entertainment but to inform others on what really happened in the classroom.
So now you may be saying to yourself, how do I start this process? Dr. Yu explained that she begins by asking a question:
We just read a story on dinosaurs - I wonder what they looked like? What color they were? What did they eat?
This leads to discussions where children are allowed to explore.
A variety of materials can be readily available for the children to use such as crayons, colored pencils, paint, unlined paper, lined paper, construction paper, Play Dough, blocks, Lego’s, etc.
Teachers have discussions with the children about what they are doing and why they are doing it. These are either recorded or written.
Pictures are taken (aren’t cell phones wonderful) to show progression.
The documentation is then placed on the wall at the child’s height
Each documentation board illustrates the learning process for students' families.
Dr. Yu states that learning to document what takes place in the classroom means learning to listen, see, observe, and interpret student intentions and actions. This process moves the teacher away from simply collecting works for displays to collecting and creating pieces that can educate others.