As we near the end of the school year, everyone is busy assessing the children we have taught, looking for ways to mark the growth that we have witnessed throughout the school year. We are reading with our little ones, doing running records so that we have a measurable benchmark to send the next teacher on the ladder. We give the next teacher examples of their writing, math assessments, transition notes to ease the movement from one grade level to the next.
As we look to the Reggio Emilia form of documentation, evaluations are made daily just as we do at Trinity, but seem to be less focused on the children and more on the role of the teacher. Each grade level team keeps a journal to keep notes and pictures of all that went on in the day with the class. The teachers ask each other, “Did the materials keep the children interested? Were the questions we asked too hard or too easy? What should be our next step in following this thread of inquiry”? In this way there was a very natural differentiation between the expectations that the teachers had for each child in the group.
Much of the documentation is done through pictures and through dialogue with the children in the classes. For our recent work with eggs and egg-laying animals, there is much to be explored in the area of documentation, particularly through pictures, writing, and the art work produced by the children. As we began, our children thought only of birds, but soon found that birds weren’t the only oviparous animals they knew. From exploration at Imaginon, writing their own books, making an oviparous animal from modeling clay, to observing the miracle of life occurring in our own classroom the children built their understanding on a spiraling foundation.
The writing of the children was a form of documentation that was reflective of their conceptual understanding of all of our work as well as a clear look at the progress they have made throughout the year as readers and writers. One child picked a book about flamingos at Imaginon and used the information she gleaned from her reading to write her own book.
From her work, I can see that she has a strong understanding of writing, with a number of words that she is able to spell conventionally. The spacing between the words she is writing is excellent and she is using upper and lower case letters appropriately. Her illustrations are lovely and go with her words. This is an authentic assessment for a non-fiction story written at the end of her kindergarten year, and she has something lovely to share with her parents on Friday when we have our Portfolio Picnic.
As we assess our children here at the final two weeks of the school year, most of our finest check-ins occur when we are conferencing with our children over their work. As we are working on our running records to determine the final reading levels of our children, the notes we make as they read are as powerful as the accuracy rate of the reader. We notice the expression that a child uses as he/she reads, the way they attend to punctuation, and the questions and observations they make as they read through the unfamiliar story. When a child makes the observation that “there are too many W words in this story” it tells us that perhaps we need a mini lesson on ways to find the differences in the “what where when why who” that are found in so many of the books they read.
The pictures tell a thousand words, as do the questions the children ask us, not only at assessment times but throughout our days together.