Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Children Become the Documenters

The girls prepare their tools for the anticipated experience.
They tell their classmates what they will be doing.

Lauren prepares to take notes.

Emily snaps the pictures of her friends dancing.

Move to the music!
As I've often said, "Children never cease to amaze us!"

Three year old Emily arrives at school with her favorite backpack slung over her shoulder
"I have a surprise, " she says with excitement.

The teacher invites her to show her friends.  Emily opens her backpack and pulls out her camera and note pad.

"I'm going to document my friends dancing," she announces in her customary zestful manner.

After a year of being in a classroom where documentation is part of everyday school life, it is no wonder that this ingenious little girl would initiate such an experience.

Thus we see the power of documentation.

By popular demand, I am sharing the following write up on documentation.  I highly recommend the dissertation by Seong Bock Hong on this subject which can be found on line.
Reggio Kids copyright @2010

The Importance of Documentation-A Key Element for Communicating the Learning Process
Documentation is a key element in the Reggio Approach. Documentation serves many purposes but most of all it is used as a research tool for studying children’s learning processes. Documentation is about what children are doing, learning and thinking, and the product of documentation is a reflection of interactions between teachers and children and among children. Documentation, because it is done on a daily basis, is a medium through which teachers discuss curriculum, keep it fluid and emergent, and develop a rational for its course. It provides a growing theory for daily practice. (Seong Bock Hong 1998 pg 51). It gives us an insight into how children construct theories and challenges teachers to support and challenge that thinking.
Documenting children’s daily experiences and ongoing projects gives meaning and identity to all that the children do. It is through the documentation that the teachers are able to gain insight into the thoughts of the children, determine further investigation for working on topics, create a history of the work and generate further interest.
Reggio teachers are skilled observers of children. If a teacher observes closely she can see the intelligence on a child’s face. On a daily basis, teachers collect data via notes, recordings of conversations between children and through video taping of events and activities whether related to project work or just during classroom time. The teacher watches what children are doing and saying and how materials are being used. The documentation is then used to analyze children’s understanding and thoughts-it is revisited by the teachers and children together. This revisiting process provides children with the opportunity to discover their own questions and problems and to determine, together, what the next steps could be. In the process of revisiting, children theories and understanding grows. Also, in the revisiting process they collect more data and information which enhances the work. Documentation of work in progress is made visible on large panels throughout the classroom, thereby keeping the memory of the work vivid and alive.
Seong Bock Hong (p 50-51) summarizes the purpose of documentation as;
The process by which teachers gather information about children’s ideas and their thinking process:
Is done daily so teachers can discuss their curriculum, keep it fluid and emergent and develop rational for its course.
Is data for study.
Facilitates continuity across a given activity, because new activities evolve from earlier experiences.
Offers a research orientation to instruction.
Allows teachers to revisit with children.
Is concrete, active and reflective.
Provides the right amount of support to enable children to perform a task.
Is at the heart of each project or experience.
It serves as a lesson planner.
It defines the teacher as a facilitator.


  1. That is right, being a documenter of a teacher is very important in our work.Recording every motion and going into children's thoughts is like a flowing picture of children's development.Taking time to document and picturing the significant moment are our tasks in the daily work.

  2. Documenting the children daily definately helps the teacher's focus on what each individual child is interested in. Therefore it is really the children teaching us. It's amazing how observant children can be.~Sabrina