Documentation in the FoodPrints Classroom - by Christy Przystawik
Teaching FoodPrints at the Early Childhood level means that many of our classes use multiple centers to reinforce learning. One advantage to this is that a large class can be organized into small groups for more focused work. A disadvantage, however, is that we can only witness things happening from within our own group. This is where the concept of documentation is extremely helpful. Any adult volunteer, intern, or teacher can take documentation from within his or her group. In the FoodPrints classroom at Peabody we use several forms of documentation that are collected and presented to the child’s classroom teacher. Here are just a few advantages of classroom documentation:
- It helps us to see where at child is at with her learning and whether or not she understands the concept being presented
- It provides us with the ability to improve upon our presentation of the materials.
- This can easily be shared with families during meetings or conferences.
- It helps to contribute to collaboration between teachers.
In the FoodPrints classroom we use written notes, video clips, audio clips, and photographs for documentation. These materials may also be used separately for presentations on the FoodPrints program. Here are samples of documentation:
1. Here are two audio clips from a class about soil and worms. The first was recorded with a group of three year olds as they were examining soil samples at a table outdoors:
The second was recorded during a Kindergarten class:
2. Here is a short video clip from a 4 year old PreK class last week. I found this clip to be fascinating because it was a group of boys that normally would be very talkative while they worked. However, as you can see from the video, they are so focused on cutting the butternut squash that they do not utter a word. The only noise you here is from other children in the room.
3. Here are some written notes from a four year old class taken at the very beginning of the year during a guided observation of the garden. Names have been abbreviated to protect the children:
N: Pointed at the tomatoes and recognized them as tomatoes right away. Explained how they were turning red and said “I think the tomato is turning red.” When she saw the half “rotten” tomato made the remark that she thought that the flies were eating them.
L: Recognized the tomatoes right away, and yelled out “tomatoes” at the sight of them. She also mentioned (based on the greenish color of them) that: “If you eat them when they are green, they will taste yucky (ewww)!!”
O: Looked at the tomato and commented that (the tomato) “Looks a little green, and they are supposed to be red.”
E: When asked if the tomatoes were ready to be picked, he commented that they were ready to be picked because they were red and ripe.
M: When shown the half rotten tomato, he said “Ewww, ants are eating them, don’t touch it!” He thought that ants were the reason the tomato was half rotten.
C: When she bent down to look at the ground, she immediately recognized that there were carrots growing in the soil, and she said: “I think a carrot is there growing in the ground, and it is ready to be picked!!” Then when asked how to pick the carrot out of the ground, she said: “I need two hands to pull the carrot out.” Also, after she helped pull out the carrot, and she observed it, she mentioned that she saw ANOTHER baby carrot growing out of the carrot she just picked.
C: When he saw the carrot in the ground, he said that the “carrot was stuck”, and then once it was picked out by his classmate, and he observed it, he made a biting motion with his mouth demonstrating how he would eat the carrot, once it was ready to be eaten.
G: After pulling out all 3 carrots, the group was asked how many carrots there were, and he immediately responded “We picked 3 carrots.” When the group was asked why the carrots were different than the grocery store, he immediately responded that they were different because the ones we just picked were dirty and needed to be washed, unlike the grocery store carrots, which were already washed, cut and ready to eat.
O: at sight of the carrots said: “Carrots are dirty.”
4. In this photograph the children were looking at and touching the leaves of a cucumber plant. We took notes along with this as they described how “fuzzy” and “itchy” the leaves felt to them. We can also use these photos to remind the children of their experiences at a later date.
As you can see there is so much to be gleaned from this information. Because things happen so quickly in the classroom this sort of recording can be extremely valuable. It does take some juggling to document but even just using the voice memo function on a phone is simple. As with all things we get better with practice an eventually it just becomes automatic. Personally I find that even though documentation has its challenges it reminds me to be the observer in this process of learning that seems to come quite naturally to children.