Purplicious: Thinking colourfully and reflecting deeply

As you may have noticed on Instagram, we try to collect photographs of our everyday life in the classroom to add in each student's portfolio.  When they have been printed out, it is a great opportunity for us to discuss their play-based and inquiry-based learning.  After our oral conversations, I extend our talk by encouraging the students to visually represent their thoughts in a drawing or guided writing lesson.  At the end of Senior Kindergarten, the families get to keep this portfolio, as a record of our time together.

Last week a special moment occurred that I wanted to capture in a blog post, rather than tucking it away into the student's documentation portfolio.  In addition to sharing this child's successes, celebrating his growth throughout his two years in our class, I wanted to write about it in relation to my new learning from the Ontario Reggio Association's conference entitled, "Documentation as Relationship."  

Karyn Callaghan introducing the keynote speakers for the ORA Conference April 11-13th, 2014.

During the conference, I was inspired by the keynote addresses made by Dr. Garfield Gini-Newman, Lella Gandini, Daniela Lanzi, and Laura Rubizzi.  For the purpose of this particular post, I would like to make reference to some of Daniela's insights around pedagogical documentation.

Daniela Lanzi is a very passionate and knowledgeable pedagogista from Reggio Emilia, Italy.  She emphasized that pedagogical documentation is an ethical and democratic experience.  It is an exchange that makes visible an individual, group, and educator's decision making.  Documentation is seen as research, a quest for meaning, and a way of making sense of our daily experiences through reciprocal listening.  She argued that we should live pedagogical documentation in real time.  This idea really resonated with me, as did her comment about documentation not only being used for a follow-up aimed at reconstructing a finished process, but rather that documentation needs to occur during the learning process as well.  Daniela explained that if you complete documentation only at the end, then it is not documentation, it is visible communication. 

At first, I wanted to prove what the student (A.S.) had learned from his earlier days in Junior Kindergarten when he first began to explore making various marks on paper (see the binder images below) and later progressed to intricate flower drawings.  I realized after having listened to him that this was not the only piece of his story.  It was about much more than his growth as a writer and I hope that this post highlights his process of thinking and the possibility of future discovery...

With this in mind I wanted to showcase some traces of experiences that I collected to make A.S.'s process of learning visible.  I hope that we can study this moment in time together and you might consider leaving a comment about what to plan next for this child whose learning continues...

Ms. Babalis: Why did you decide to draw the flowers today during Thinking and Learning Time?

A.S.: That's cause they are so pretty and I like them for the wedding.  There can't be a wedding without flowers!  I wonder why flowers are so pretty.

Ms. Babalis: Oh!  How come?  Why do all weddings need flowers?

A.S.: That's cause it would be wrecked.  The princess wouldn't like it!  Princesses like something pretty and flowers are pretty.

Ms. Babalis: What kind of flowers should I have at my wedding?

A.S.: I will bring you real purple flowers that don't have water.  I will use a watering can to water them for you.  They only come in Spring!

Ms. Babalis: We might have a problem, A.S., because my wedding is in the winter.  What kind of flowers can I have in the winter time?

A.S.: If a flower has shelter it will still grow in the winter.  Only if you keep it warm, so you can have purple flowers at your wedding.  I will bring them!

Ms. Babalis: Talk to me more about your drawing.

A.S.: They are purple flowers and they are called tulips.  I call them Purplicious like the book we have in our classroom!

Ms. Babalis: How did you draw them so beautifully?

A.S.: I took my time and I focused.  I had to look at the flowers carefully and then draw them.  Now I am going to draw the white flowers!  You have to take time to be good at drawing flowers, like me!

According to Daniela Lanzi, documentation does not exist until it is made visible.  Be courageous and begin documenting today, because I couldn't agree with her more when she states that a school is a privileged context for listening to our students' ideas, questions, and theories!

"The research and everyday life of a child and school go together.  Every moment is important."
-Daniela Lanzi

Share your thoughts :

  1. Thanks for helping me to focus on documentation throughout learning and not just at the end.

  2. Wonderful documentation of a child learning and speaking through drawing. Simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love following your blog, it's so inspiring. Of course there are so many different ways the learning could go. I'd probably start with "I wonder why flowers are so pretty?", but maybe the interest lies more with taking time and focusing on drawing, or on drawing other flowers or weddings or, or, or . . . This is why I love teaching.