documentation,  Project Approach,  project work

Classroom Documentation – Know your audience

I’ve spent the last couple of days talking about the basics of documentation; why it’s important, and different kinds of documentation.  Today I want to get a little deeper, so I’m going to talk about defining your audience and directing your documentation to the intended audience.

When I post documentation I consider two distinct audiences; adults (parents, family members, lab students, school staff), and my students.  I do things very different for each audience, because they respond to different kinds of documentation.

When I want to draw adults to documentation I place it at eye level for an adult.  I am more likely to create panels for adult viewing, because I know that they will be able to make sense of what I write on the panel, I also know that they will appreciate the aesthetic look of a panel – clean, clearly organized, with an obvious message.  Parents appreciate panels because they are easy to read, and with just the information that they have from my panel, they can start a conversation with their child about the activity that was documented on the panel. I often display raw documentation that I want adults to view, when I do I create a panel to go with it because it isn’t always easy to decipher children’s work.  If I have a description of the work, with some photos of the children as they create it, then parents can easily discuss the work with their child knowledgeably.  Here are some examples of panels that have been created with an adult audience in mind:

 When I display documentation that is specifically meant to encourage the children to talk about their work with each other I make sure to put it at their eye level.  I also focus on photographs, any panels that I create specifically for the children will have very few words because the words don’t hold a lot of meaning for the children, they pictures do.  I think that it is incredibly important to recognize the unique qualities of your class, and display documentation that is tailored to those qualities.  One year I had a class that was constantly tearing my documentation off the wall.  Before I gave up on posting documentation all together I spent some time watching what they were doing with the documentation.  They were carrying it around the room and showing each other the pictures.  I continued to post panels up high, for parents to see, but I stopped taping them low where the children could tear them off, instead, I made special photo pages, punched holes in the corners and attached them to binder rings.  Then I put up special hooks for these pages, the children were free to take them off the hooks, carry them around, talk to each other about them, and when they were done, they returned them to the hooks.

My main goal when presenting documentation to my students is that the documentation be engaging.  I want them to notice it and want to interact with it.  The documentation serves it’s purpose if it helps the children reflect on their experiences and make sense of their knowledge, so it has to grab their attention.  Something that has worked really well for me is class books.  Sometimes these include photos of the children along with photos of real objects, like this one:

Others are more interactive, like this one  – the photos were taken during a class trip to Tim Horton’s (we were doing a coffee project), I included pictures of the children, photos of the displays that we saw at the restaurant, and actual items that we brought back with us (cups, lids, sugar packets, straws, etc.):

And some have no photos at all, instead, they have work samples, in this case a rough draft and final draft of plans for a leprechaun trap from each student in the class;

I also like to consider the ways that my audiences will receive documentation.  When I’m displaying documentation for my students it is easy to share it with them during circle time, and then put it in the classroom for them to explore.  When I create a new panel that I want parents to see I might decide to email it to all of the parents in my class because I know that most of my parents will check their email throughout the day.

Hopefully this has given you some new ideas for your own documentation! Next week I’ll be back with more thoughts on documentation, and if you missed my posts from earlier this week make sure to check them out (Documentation in the Preschool Classroom and Different Types of Documentation).

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