Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Kindergarten Scrapbooks Aren't Just Your Child's Keepsake -- They're Central to Learning

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Kindergarten Scrapbooks Aren't Just Your Child's Keepsake -- They're Central to Learning

Article excerpt

Kindergarten scrapbooks aren't just your child's keepsake -- they're central to learning

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Mary Elizabeth Picher, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto, University of Toronto

As the end of the school year approaches, kindergarten students are returning home with mounds of notes, photos, paintings and drawings that educators have been collecting throughout the year. It has many parents wondering: What do I do with all this stuff?

As a scholar of early childhood development, a parent educator and an early childhood consultant, I am aware of the purpose behind these student collections. However, as the mother of a kindergartener, I'm also aware that many of the parents I encounter are unfamiliar with how their children's work -- sometimes bound together in beautiful scrapbooks -- is intimately connected to their learning.

What I'm talking about is what early childhood educators call pedagogical documentation -- documentation related to learning.

My doctoral research is on the topic of pedagogical documentation technology in Ontario's kindergarten program, or how kindergarten teachers and parents are making use of an online platform called Storypark to document and share what is happening with children's development. Upon the completion of my research in June 2019, Storypark contracted me to present my findings to school boards and day cares, and to create content about how early childhood learning environments can use digital documentation. I have yet to begin doing this work with Storypark.

But why document and share at all? Before seeking to understand the impact of online sharing, my research explored how and why documentation itself is a critical component of early childhood learning and development and a cornerstone of Ontario's play-based kindergarten program.

Why document learning?

Noticing what is happening in children's development is one of the primary methods that early childhood educators use to assess and support their students' learning.

To the untrained eye, the artefacts that children create as they engage in a play-based learning activity look simple and straightforward, perhaps a bit like play itself. However, upon closer examination, these artefacts offer a window into children's thinking and concrete evidence of their learning.

In the Ontario kindergarten classroom, kindergarten teachers use this evidence to not only gain insight into their students' development, but also identify their evolving interests.

Pedagogical documentation is, therefore, an effective planning tool. Teachers set a course in the classroom that emerges out of children's inherent capacities and curiosities, rather than from pre-set agendas. Children's learning, thus, becomes much more organic and meaningful to them.

Like detectives

Kindergarten educators are less like instructors and more like detectives who investigate alongside their students, asking them thought-provoking questions and encouraging critical thinking skills. This particular style of adult-child interaction is rooted in both sound theory and research.

Loris Malaguzzi, one of the founders of the Reggia Emilia approach to education, believed that adults and children worked together to co-construct knowledge. Therefore, pedagogical documentation became an essential component of this type of teaching and learning. Documentation provided early childhood educators with a tool to record and make visible children's learning processes as they unfolded.

Early childhood researcher Iram Siraj-Blatchford describes adult-child interactions that involve solving problems, clarifying ideas, evaluating activities or telling stories as "sustained shared thinking" and notes that such activities have a positive impact on children's cognitive development. …

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