Thursday, June 30, 2016

Another Piece of the Puzzle: Documentation Panels

Documentation can be a very overwhelming topic and learning process for all educators...mostly because we are constantly searching for a "how to" or a formula to guide us towards perfecting our skills in documentation.

We started a series on documentation last May, thinking carefully about the similarities and differences in how educators approach documentation. We have had rich conversations about development, age, setting (school, childcare, home). We are still thinking through the complexities and how documentation aligns with reality in Full Day Kindergarten.

As we continue to reflect on this complex topic, we have shared some of our learning about portfolios (Blog about Portfolios) and digital documentation (Blog about SeeSaw).

One form of documentation that we have found particularly engaging for the students in our room this year has been documentation panels. 

What is a Documentation Panel?

A documentation panel is a collection of artifacts, documentation pieces, drawings, photographs that tell a story and make learning visible.

Why are they such a valuable from of documentation?
  • childrens work is made visable
  • they provide an opporuntity for children to make connections to their experiences and learning
  • children are able to revisit text or photos to support them in retelling or recreating their learning
  • it provides children with an opportunity to share their theories and thought process
  • provides an opportunity to furhter conversations (between students or students and educators) - often leading to further wonderings, discoveries, and exploration


What is included in a panel?
  • photographs
  • sketches
  • documented conversations
  • writing samples
  • documentation pieces 

Things to consider when putting your panel together:
  • height: if the audience is children, is it at their eye level? 
  • "text" heavy documentation or recorded conversations may be included, but their intended audience would likely be educators or adults (could be placed higher on panel)
  • our students gravitate towards large photographs and visuals
  • how might the students interact with the documentation panel? could it be interactive? 
  • it is beneficial to involve children in the creation and construction of the panel 

Wind Panel


This panel was created during out wind project. Taking a quick glance at it you can see that the text heavy documentation pieces are located at the top of the panel. We chose this because the audience that would be interacting with those pieces more frequently are adults and educators who come into our classroom (e.g., parents during our monthly open house, other educators/administrators or visitors to our classroom). 

At the bottom of the panel you can see that the learning is more visually appealing. Developmentally it is easier for the children to interact with images and intentionally limited text.




Ramp Panel
This is another example of a documentation panel that was created in our classroom. This panel was co-constructed with the children. It is placed at the bottom of the bulletin board and close to the building area to ensure that children could easily interact with it.

After recognizing an interest in the construction of ramps, we began to document the children's explorations noticing the complexity of their ramps growing over time. We encouraged the children to document their construction and ramps using the iPad. As we printed each photo, the children would add it to the panel and many conversations came up while looking at their learning. The children were often using language to describe whether the ramp was easy or difficult.

The children added their ideas about the difficulty level using sticky notes and interacting daily with the panel.


It was really interesting to listen to the conversations that arose based on the panel. The children would often stand beside the wall and discuss strategies, theories and wonderings. They were asking each other questions and for support. They were explaining their thinking using real visuals from the classroom. It was truly evident that they were engaged with what was on the walls. 



How long does a documentation panel stay up?

When things on your wall become wallpaper and the children don't interact with them, remove them! Whenever we are unsure about something on our walls, we ask ourselves ... are the children still interacting with it? Are we still adding and reflecting on what is up?

If you notice that children are no longer interacting, talking about and using what is there on the wall it may be a good indication that it can come down. That doesn't mean you have to get rid of it completely! Perhaps it can be added to a project binder, a portfolios, or your book area?


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