Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Documentation part 2: Observing and interpreting

With the latest Early Years Learning Framework newsletter out - here if you are interested: http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/eylfplp/newsletters/EYLFPLP_E-Newsletter_No10.pdf

It is reassuring to see that there is a return to a recognition that all forms of observations can lead to fulfilling the expectations. There did seem to a bit of confusion that only Learning Stories should be used.

However, there are lots of ways to record what is happening with the children in your care and ensure you are adequately reflecting their learning and thinking.

These are a few of my favourites:
-Jottings: if you are anything like me, jottings is one of the main ways you record what is happening on a day-to-day basis. I quickly pop down on a notepad, post it or even a scrap piece of paper whatever is being said and done and add it to my pile. The intention is then to turn this into something more meaningful when I have a chance to have programming time.
- Photos: I am of the personal belief that you cannot take too many photos. Especially if you take a number in quick succession you can often later interpret much of the children's thinking and their social skills.
- I also believe there is still a role for the many templates that were in use for the NSW curriculum framework. I would add an additional page or bit that talks about what it means in terms of the outcomes.
- Art samples - I collect as many as the children will let me keep (and take photocopies if they desperately want to take them home). As part of this I try to record what the child has talked about while making the picture and how they explain it at the end. I also love when art is displayed with the children's comments next to it.
- Word samples are very developmental psychology (and I know some people think this is a bad thing, but it's not) but they provide a important insight into the child's language development
- another useful psychological tool are interaction maps. Both the ones that track movement around the room and ones that track who the child talks and plays with.
- learning stories are fabulous but do take time and commitment (which many of us simply don't have in the world of long day care where we are lucky to have adequate staffing let alone time off the floor or a computer)
- finally, being a Macquarie graduate, there is the concept of pedagogical documentation (which will be a whole other post and something I am very much learning still)

The above is barely scratching the surface of techniques that can be used.

Finally, it is important to remember that all the observations in the whole world have little or no meaning if you don't take the time to interpret them and use them for planning and assessment (so my pile on my desk at work is rapidly becoming useless if I don't dedicate some time to them).

What forms of observation to you find to be most effective?
If you are a parent, if you see observations in a portfolio which ones do you enjoy the most?
How do we bring families into the documenting process?
Do you send home observations that you are working on?
Or put posters around showing the children's thinking and understanding?

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.

Posted by Wendy


  1. Wendy,
    We recently attended a workshop on documentation and it wasn't really long enough to go into everything available thoroughly.
    Unfortunately the people I was with rebelled really, feeling that learning stories assume to much on the part of the observer. "How do we know really what the child has learned for an art activity. we can't get inside that child's head." They felt this is presumptous.

    I feel tentative about it as well, although I think the dissatisfaction came from an inadequate amount of time given to presenting them. Since I've been reading abit about learning stories on google.

    I do agree that they take more time than many of us have, truly we need more hours in our work day to do everything we'd like to do.

    Often it seems as well many families are so busy when they drop their children off and pick them up at the end of their long day, they don't take time to look at what their children did, although I think with more documenting they may take interest.

    I love observing, and actually tend to keep more mental notes, which I use in planning, and understanding my children and what they need.

    I do take time to talk with each family.

    Thanks for this list of documenting.
    I think I'm in the processing stage of the new information, and everything is good.

    Thanks for this post, it is great!


  2. This is something we are constantly working on Wendy - I think finding the right way to document to fit with your educational approach; your centre key values; your families; your children and your staff is an organic process that takes loads of time, reflection and debate. I love learning stories - they fit my style - but I also do lots of work samples, photos, and conversations. Our children can also add to their own portfolios - as can their parents.

  3. I really enjoy the learning stories, remember these are just a snapshot of a moment in the day and then I interpret them and it helps me to plan. We have been doing this since last year and do try and have a variety of obs so that I get a more rounded picture of the children in my care. But the learning stories are my favourite.