Documentation in the early years aims to tell the story of a child’s journey as they grow and develop within the early years setting. As with every good story it is important to have a strong beginning, an engaging middle and a conclusion which will satisfy all stakeholders involved in the care and education of each child. As educators we meet many unexpected challenges and highlights along the way. It is important that this journey reflects each child from a strengths-based perspective. This can then be used to inform new learning experiences for the child as they move on to primary school. Meeting the children where they are now is the starting point of any learning journey. Through careful collaboration with parents and caregivers, we form an impression of the child, their likes, dislikes, attachments, and skillsets. This will inform the beginning of the child’s story with us. The environment can then be prepared accordingly to reflect each child. This strategy enables children to feel secure, and they are more likely to begin to explore and develop in their new environment.
The teacher becomes a “researcher”, collaborating with each child to involve them in their own learning. This phase requires careful observation, whilst being mindful of what exactly we are looking for. A simple example of this might be an observation to determine where children are spending their time, what interests are they displaying? What do we notice, what skills might they need to build on? A simple adjustment to the environment or addition to the curriculum may contribute positively to a child’s learning and development.
There are many ways of documenting evidence of children’s learning and a combination of photographs, art-work, pre-writing activities, observations and both teachers and parent’s notes can be used. Above all the children’s own voice should be recorded. All of the activities should then be linked to the Aistear themes and learning goals. Why not check out our Documentation Made Simple series which includes 6 Journals:
- My Learning Journey – documenting the learning journey through the year of a single child
- ‘Friends Together’ Journal (group learning journal)
- ‘Where I Live’ Journal (group learning journal)
- ‘Starting Big School’ Journal (group learning journal)
- Birthday Album (group learning journal)
- Christmas Album (group learning journal)
The learning journals are available individually, or in our new Journal Bundle – this big bundle of the 5 group learning journals also includes curriculum ideas to accompany each theme. These can be used as a starting point with the children to establish ‘sustained shared thinking’ and collaborate to make learning as effective as possible. Teachers can use the Aistear themes included on the first page to link each child’s learning. Each journal is strong and durable and will allow children to review both their own and their class work helping to build a community of learners whilst promoting relationships with both children and their families.
The strong white pages allow children to record evidence of learning, through pre-writing activities and Art in a way that is meaningful to them, whilst also allowing plenty of space for both teachers and educators to include their comments and record what children say about their own learning.
There are many excellent reasons to engage fully with documentation in the early years including:
- Opportunities to demonstrate the high-quality curriculum provided for the children on a daily basis.
- Building relationships with parents and children.
- A measure of the progress and accomplishments of each child.
- Meeting the regulatory requirements for documenting and demonstrating this during an inspection by DES, or Tusla.
- Promoting the setting to prospective parents.
- A reflective tool in getting to know and understand the children and the effectiveness of the curriculum in meeting their needs. This information can then be used to inform future planning and development and to record the progress already made.
- A document which can inform part of induction training for new team members.
Documentation will help to bring to life the extraordinary learning which occurs on an average day in an early-years setting and the vision, creativity and passion of the educator will be visible for all to see.