What does it mean to belong? This was my educator wonder at the beginning of this year. How can children learn from and with each other to establish positive classroom culture? How do their actions and interactions create the learning community and develop a sense of belonging amongst those within? How could documentation serve as a pedagogical tool to support this?
One of my main goals within my classroom each year is to establish a culture of learning. I strive to establish a culture where children interact supportively and respectfully towards each other, where they are safe to take risks, to speak their thoughts, to become partners in learning with each other. I have not, for many years, discussed with the children a list of rules of classroom behaviour and instead convey expectations gradually through the discussion of authentic events. This year I wanted to explore the role and impact of documentation on the children’s ability to co-construct the classroom culture.
In my own practice, I have been seeking to further my understanding of documentation as a tool to deepen and extend the learning of children. For the Reggio educator’s, documentation is not something they put together at the end of a project, but instead happens as a part of the learning, as a way for children and educators to reflect on the learning and consider where to go next.
…documentation is an integral part of the learning and teaching process of the children and teachers.
Rinaldi, Carlina. “The Pedagogy of Listening: The Listening Perspective from Reggio Emilia”, Ch. 13, The Hundred Languages of Children. p. 281.
I wanted to use documentation to reflect back to the children their genuine interactions that were supporting the development of a sense of belonging within our classroom. Over time, I captured the children’s’ interactions with each other through photographs and transcriptions. When common ideas emerged, I shared these back to the children and they would explain their actions in the photograph to their classmates. This lead to discussions and the creation of shared touchstones for how we existed within our community.
Below are excerpts of photos and comments that helped us create our community.
Two girls explained how they were able to enjoy a book together and help each other read.
“We take turns” “We teach each other”
The children found many opportunities in the classroom to learn each other’s names and about each other’s families including name cards, a wall of their pictures, photos of their families above their cubbies and a wall display where some of them were sharing how they were learning to write their name in a language other than English.
“We learn about each other and our families”
Three children explained how they created structures together, how they decided which idea to use and what they did when disagreements happened.
“We share ideas” and “We say sorry”
Two children explain how it is possible to create a painting together.
“We each do a part”
These children explain how they created and played a game together.
“We agree on the rules”
How do we show care for each other? The children often assist each other in the coatroom, to tidy toys, to get band aids when hurt or to fetch an adult to assist a friend.
“We help each other”
These children explained what is important when playing and creating with someone else.
“We listen to each other”
“We create things together”
The use of documentation reflected back to children the positive interactions they were already having. It provided a means of research and reflection on how we act and treat each other. By capturing what the children were already doing, the process was valuing of their capabilities and strengths and allowed them to learn from and with each other.
As the year continues, so does the process as new challenges emerge and serve as provocations for further learning and exploration into the concept of what it means to belong.
Written by Sandra Rosekat