Over the last 10 years I have been invited into many services to deliver training on the topic of learning stories. It never ceases to amaze me the insight and motivation this training brings to the way educators approach assessment and documentation overall. Almost as if it provides permission to write about relationships, the very heart of our early childhood frameworks. I thought it was timely to start sharing some of my own learning stories on my blog with the purpose of delving into some of the important features of this way to document. The more I have engaged in a learning story approach the more I understand and recognise how deeply connected my practice is to what and how I write documentation, even after 15 years I continue to find new ways to make visible important moments in learning for children. It is impossible to cover the many layers of learning stories in 1-2 posts so it is my intention to touch on a few focus area's with an example story to make this evident. Over time we will unpack some of the truths, misconceptions and opportunities this form of assessment provides.
LEARNING STORY FOCUS: Planning cycle.
Recently I have started hearing Jason talk about the world in ways that really invoke intrigue, curiosity and wonderment. He is grappling with some complex ideas that he is trying to not only make sense of but also draw from connections that he already has. A perfect place to start a story ......a place of 'tension' & 'persistence' - I use my journal to capture his thinking over a period of time......
Over the last few months I have been hearing Jason describe the world in the most amazing ways. It has really captured my attention and caused me to pause and consider the world through his eyes......to appreciate his 'amazement' and 'wonderment' - the world is really such an amazing place after all!
On a recent flight upon take off Jason declared:
“Do you know why I’m berry excited?”
“we are leaving the earth now”
“Cause we are going up … and look … I can see the world”
On another day whilst in the car he declared in the back seat:
“God’s mouth is very powerful, that’s cause he makes the earth and everything”
“When the wind blows on us, it is God”
When walking home from kinder recently:
“Did you know the world is round?” long pause for emphasis
“The earth goes soooo slowly that nothing actually falls off it” with arms in air to make a declaration
later that week…….
“The planet is round……….(pause)…………maybe it’s square with a round thing on the top so then we don’t fall off it”
When driving over a bridge in Melbourne recently I hear:
“when you go over water you go to another country you know?”
What does this tell me about Jason as a learner?
Jason's insights have made visible his working theories about the world. It is clear he is drawing together his experiences and trying to articulate this in ways that capture his thinking. I can hear there is a wonderful intersection between fact, question, wonderment and possibility - what a wonderful place to be! I can hear he is drawing from his own thoughts as well as other contexts such as home and kindergarten. Jason is pursuing and researching some BIG idea's in his quest to make sense of the planet and earth.
I wonder if there is a space to make some distinctions between earth, planets and countries?
How might we (Jason & I) pursue these idea's?
Jason recently requested to look at the earth so I followed this lead with a suggestion to draw? We revisited his statement about the 'planet being round but maybe square' as we engaged in some observational drawing (see image - this took a few days to create before Jason was satisfied with his replication of the planet)
LEARNING STORY FOCUS: Planning cycle.
In writing this story I have emphasised a simple planning cycle by identifying each section of my story with 'notice' 'recognise' 'respond'. It is important to recognise here that learning stories do not require a template to follow and each story will sound, look and vary from the last - what does stay true however is the pedagogy of learning stories (will write about this in another post but this book by Margaret Carr covers the theory).
Carr, M. (2001). Assessment in early childhood settings: Learning stories. London: Paul Chapman.
NOTICE - what do you hear, what do you see? Is there continuity in the child/s thinking/learning that you can add brief context to? Your story is written in a way that invites the reader (children and families) into the story. It is in the space of noticing (relationships) that we quiet our busyness and sharpen our focus on the important features of learning. Consider having a journal to capture children's 'thinking' - a place to keep your working notes.
RECOGNISE - what does this mean, what does it tell me about the child/ren? You might use relevant ECE curriculum or frameworks to guide your narrative here. Resist any urge to copy and paste outcomes or strands. Instead use these documents as a platform to spring from, to bring life to the learning you are describing. It is important to capture the identity of the child here - who they are as learners? Emphasis a balance of skills + knowledge + dispositions (I'll chat more about this in another post).
RESPOND - how can I see the child pursuing these ideas? How might I use the child's natural inclination to strengthen/master this particular area of learning? What are the possibilities? What questions do I have? What questions does the child/ren have?
*Always read/develop your stories in conjunction with the child and family.