Making Thinking and Learning Visible in the ELC

By Emily Trenchard, St Leonard’s College Head of Early Learning Centre

The 2024 year is off to a tremendous start – connections are forming, relationships building, ideas are sprouting, and learning is happening all around us. It is clear to see that a sense of belonging and connection is forming and strengthening across all four of our ELC classes.

“Experiencing belonging – knowing where and with whom you belong – is integral to human existence. Children belong first to a family, a cultural group, a neighborhood and a wider community. Belonging acknowledges children’s interdependence with others and the basis of relationships in defining identities. In early childhood, and throughout life, relationships are crucial to a sense of belonging. Belonging is central to being and becoming in that it shapes who children are and who they can become”. (The Early Years Learning Framework)

Across every single day in the ELC, there are so many interactions with people, with materials and with the environment. Our educators are constantly observing, listening and documenting what the children are curious about, what they are trying to find out and thinking about how we can challenge their thinking. They take notes, record their ideas, take photographs, voice memos and videos and respect the children’s artwork that also demonstrates their ideas and theories.

Our educators will then share, discuss and interpret their documentation to provide new learning contexts; to enrich the children’s learning. Documentation is a wonderful way for us to be strong advocates for children; to share with our community our strong image of children and to clearly demonstrate the value in all experiences in the ELC.

This documentation is shared with our ELC families, through our weekly journals and through the documentation on our walls within the classrooms and gallery space. Recording children’s learning is an important part of early childhood practice. Educators will reflect on what we observe or hear whilst immersed in play alongside the children. We then plan learning experiences to challenge thinking and deepen the children’s understanding. By documenting the children’s learning, they see and feel how much we value their thoughts and ideas. The weekly journals and the portfolios will also demonstrate strong links to the Early Years Learning and Development Framework.

“The documentation, just like the children’s processes, is never finished. It is a tool that is fluid, that helps to give structure to our thinking and doing about children”. (Francesca Manfredi)

At the beginning of the year, as relationships, security and trust are forming, the journals will reflect the beginning stages of life within the four ELC classes. As the year progresses, these will make visible deeper inquiry and project work. As parents share the journals with their children at home, our wish is that it opens conversations up and give even more  insight into their child’s week.

I met with some children to reflect on their thoughts about the documentation (specifically journals) which are visible outside each of their classrooms:

“Well, when you say your words, the teachers write it down so everyone can hear it…like your mum and your dad. I love looking at the pictures of all of us.” Charlotte M, ELC4

“There is pictures of me, I can see myself and my friends doing all of the stuff in the Gingko room.” Noa ELC4

During our recent Parent Information Evening, some of our families shared their love for our ELC journals:

“Receiving the weekly journals on a Friday afternoon has become a highlight of the week in our home and a wonderful talking point around the dinner table. Our son was in day-care last year and we got daily photos of him, so I was quite sad knowing we wouldn’t see his daily happenings. That sentiment quickly disappeared after the first journal. We can’t thank Ms Wassink enough for the care and thought that goes into the weekly summary. The journals have also become a weekly highlight for our grandparents, deep dive into our son’s time at St Leonard’s. Thank you so much for the hard work that goes into the journals each and every week!” ELC Parent

“We absolutely love the journal! That’s the best way to know what our kids do at school, given they are still young, they probably couldn’t express clearly enough. Also, it is so interesting to read the words/ conversations in the journals. We are surprised that kids have already known alot at that age, and how funny their dialogues are, also they have such a rich sense of fantasy. Being a parent is a learning journey for us too, by reading the sentences all the kids say we probably wouldn’t hear that at home. Thank you so much for the hard work that all the educators have done for us, taking photos, recording all the conversations the talks in the class every day. The journals are absolutely No.1 thing every parent is looking forward to receiving every Friday. Also, the end of term video is another amazing and brilliant idea to finish off each term” ELC Parent

“I wanted to call out that the educators both in the class and in all the other classes are doing an exceptional and wonderful job; my son thoroughly enjoys going to school, which speaks volumes about the outstanding, care and dedication they provide to the children. It has been incredibly rewarding to witness my son’s growth and his personality develop, all thanks to the teachers for fostering such a nurturing environment.” ELC Parent