Documentation of Objectives with Color Splash




In early grades when children are learning through play and hands-on activities, we need a method of displaying the learning that is taking place in regards to standards and objectives. Visually documenting children’s learning is a tool we use to analyze the intent of children’s work, reflect on the learning and progress to inform instruction and to engage students’ in conversations and self-reflection. If the hands-on work in which children engage becomes visible, it becomes a starting 2013-03-29 08.28.06point for conversations with children, families, colleagues, and administrators.

One way to draw attention to the learning in which we want to reflect upon is through the use of The Color Splash app. This app allows the focus to be on what the child is learning and accomplishing by coloring the parts of the photo in which you want to focus. A caption can be added to include the words of the child as he/she discusses the process of what is being learned or explored. 

This provides an insightful glance into the learning that is taking place during hands-on learning activities.

Pictures hung at the students’ eye-level spark conversations, reflections on their learning and encourage others to recreate and expand on the process.

color splash doc

color splash app

Color Splash on Google Play

Color Splash for Apple


Honoring the Process: Open-Ended Art



When we provide children with open-ended art experiences, children are…

  • learning initiative
  • taking risks by showing originality
  • expressing her/himself through representation
  • formulating unexpected connections
  • building confidence and self- worth
  • engaging in play with art materials that have no “correct” end product
  • exploring in their own way with their choice of materials
  • constructing independent decisions and/or rethinking their decisions based on ideas shared by peers 
  • building theories
  • making decisions
  • developing fine motor skills
  • problem-solving
  • persisting through challenges and staying engaged since it is creation of his/her choice

For example, one child may be painting on the easel, another stringing necklaces of noodles at the sensory table, another creating cookies from play dough, another is creating a dinosaur from collage materials, while yet another is drawing with crayons the illustrations on a self- created picture book- all children do not need to be experiencing art in the same way at the same time.

Children learn so many more skills than they would in the same amount of time completing a template art activity designed by the teacher that often holds no interest for the child.

Provocations can be provided for children to encourage exploration of a specific skill (ie. color blending, making of lines, shapes, 2D representation to 3D representation) while still allowing students to explore and design based on what is meaningful to them.

Example:  One project was cut by teacher and all students made the penguin at the same time, waiting to move to the next step until all children were completed step by step.

One art work was completed by the teacher setting out pictures of penguins, black, white and yellow paper. Teacher joined the center to discuss the design process, ask open-ended questions and provide choices to help students make thoughtful decisions.

process art

open ended art featured image


Pondering Documentation

flightPondering a Quote regarding Documentation:

I love the following quote to continue thinking about not just reflecting the work of the child- but how are we truly showcasing the thinking process of the child. I believe that if we had this goal in mind as we are hanging items on our walls and deciding how to document children’s learning- not just the end product but the process as well- it would serve as an incredible focal point for student conversations as well as provide an amazing visible display of what children are learning through play and exploration for parents, administrators and other stakeholders- what are your thoughts?

Documentation is not pretty pictures of engaged children. Rather, it captures
the thinking process:

  • What motivated [students] to begin, continue, change direction?

  • What were the breakthroughs, the pivotal remarks or actions?

  • How did  they solve the problem?

  • The goal is to enable whoever reads a panel to understand what the child attempted and how they went about it, to see stimulus,  process, and outcome.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -A. Lewin-Benham

Authentic Assessment during Play

The Power of Observation:  

   emily with blocks Assessment in early childhood classrooms should occur through observations in a natural, authentic environment.
As we watch, listen and interact with children with the intention of being in the moment with them, we discover not only their understandings but also their learning process, their uniqueness and interests. We begin to value each child’s contributions to the community of learners.

We gain valuable information on how we can promote their success as a learner.

                   NAEYC Recommendations for Assessments:
*teachers’ observations of what children say and do
*other documentation (e.g. photographs)
*collected during their play and daily activities
*used  to refine how teachers plan and implement activities

Key Benefits:

  • Through intentional observation of each individual child, we begin to respect and appreciate each one for his/her uniqueness and for the strengths he/she brings to the community of learners. We value the contributions of each individual child.
  • Gain understanding of child’s skills in their natural environment, how they apply the knowledge in everyday exploration and use instead of in a contrived testing situation
  • Ability to reflect on each child’s skills and developmental growth
  • Increased ability to respond in ways that enable the children to be successful learners; turning the observations into effective instructional invitations
  • Provides differentiated instruction- clearly knowing the next steps for each child
  • Allows for strong relationship building- (which leads to more engaged and risk-taking learners)
  • Beautiful opportunities to wonder and learn about children’s thinking
  • Provides information on child’s approach to learning and their application of the knowledge instead of just ability to label or perform an isolated skill
  • Fuels our desire to learn more about the learning process