The Documenting Process

Although I’ve written some blog posts both here and on my classroom blog in an effort to document my learning and the learning of my students, I’ve never consciously thought about the actual process of documenting. Today, some colleagues and I, who are participating in an incredible learning cohort with Silvia Tolisano, focused in on the three phases of documentation: Pre-documentation, During Documentation, and Post-Documentation.

During the pre-documentation phase, we met with Julie, a grade 3 teacher, whose class we would be documenting learning in. (In hindsight, I wish I had taken some pictures of this step.) She shared her goals for the lesson, articulating the learning she was hoping to capture. First, she wanted to see if students could answer open-ended multiplication problems. She was curious to see if the students could show their mathematical thinking in pictures, numbers and words. She also mentioned how it was a class-wide learning goal for students to work together cooperatively, take risks and show leadership skills.

As was to be expected, the magic happened in the classroom!

Mathematical Thinking

Many groups gravitated towards using pictures to start off when solving the problem. Eventually, these pictures lead to math phrases and equations. All the while, there was a lot of discussion between group members about what to write and how. Although they may not have written it down on their paper, listening in to the conversation was evidence that many students understood their task. There were some groups that chose not to draw pictures and used numbers instead. There was only one group that clearly organized and identified their thinking as pictures, numbers and words, even though their question did not specifically ask for it.

              

Cooperative Learning and Risk-Taking

I witnessed an amazing moment of cooperative learning and risk-taking. Something I’ve witnessed in my own classroom is the reluctance for students to listen to each other’s ideas and try them out. There is often a desire to have their idea listened to, their example used, their writing on the sheet, that they often miss the point of the activity. Watch how these two students listened and ultimately cooperated to come to a conclusion.

Personalized Learning

Although this wasn’t necessarily one of Julie’s identified goals for her lesson, I chose to focus on this for my own learning, as this is the lens through which I am constantly looking in my own classroom. It was amazing to see students working on different questions depending on where they are in their learning. It was also interesting to see how they tackled such an open ended task. They each used their own strategies, tools and voices to tackle the problem in their own unique way. As mentioned above, some used pictures, some numbers, and one group even used manipulatives to help demonstrate their understanding. When I noticed some responses that didn’t quite make sense on paper, I was able to ask these groups for further clarification. With this extra step, students were able to show that although their writing did not convey the “correct” answer, they were more than capable of explaining their understanding thoroughly.

    

It felt new and familiar at the same time to be documenting another class’s learning. The pre-documenting phase of this process is the one I have overlooked in the past. However, I see now that this important step in this process completely organized what I wanted to capture, how I would capture it, and even organized this post long before I ever put it into writing. I imagine this may be the step that many tend to omit, but I see its value now and promise to at least try to do it more often in the future 🙂

2 Comments on The Documenting Process

  1. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
    30th January 2019 at 10:11 pm (2 months ago)

    @Melissa
    You write, “Although they may not have written it down on their paper, listening in to the conversation was evidence that many students understood their task.”, it would have been good to capture a quote to show that evidence more clearly and make it visible what made you think that it was indeed evidence of understanding. As we have documenting FOR the learning of others in the back of our minds, it becomes even more important to share our reasoning why we consider something as evidence of learning and other things not.

    Looking at your blog post through the “mechanical” aspect of documenting lens, I am impressed with your multimedia artifacts and see them as “evidence of your own literacy” 😉

    Reply
    • melissat
      4th February 2019 at 2:53 pm (2 months ago)

      Thank you for the feedback. I need to get out of my own narrowed definition of what evidence is. I think I’m still stuck on capturing something with an image. But you’re 100% right, a quote would have added so much value to my statement that I knew there was learning happening. I feel like writing a big “HOW?” in my own post now 🙂 I will definitely keep this in mind as I work on developing guidelines for our own students and teachers of what documenting can look like.

      Reply

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