Earlier today I was asked by a colleague about my experiences of recording and assessing children’s work and learning while outside. As I described in this post, I found playground chalks a valuable way to encourage children to record their learning; photographing any relevant drawing or writing meant that a permanent record could be kept of children’s work. (Although I always found that there was a tendency to take too many pictures due to the worry that there would not be enough evidence of what we had done).
I also liked to take photographs of what children were doing, for example I meant to take photographs when I took the children outside to make shadows. However, by themselves I found that the photographs had little value. Some of them looked posed and many of the pictures looked very similar even though the children in the pictures had demonstrated different levels of learning. Annotating them helped but, to tell the truth, unless I made extensive notes during the lesson (which meant that I had to stop teaching) I often forgot what the pictures were meant to be showing!
Instead I found that it was more valuable to ask the children to both take and annotate the photographs, perhaps adding a description of what they were doing or describing what they had learned. One of the things that I liked about this approach was that the work showed different levels of attainment and allowed children to challenge themselves but did not restrict individuals by differentiating through task or by labelling them. It also meant that children tended to have a good understanding of where they were with their learning and what their next steps were, especially if I found time to listen to them tell me about their pictures.
With younger children I still used to end up doing the writing, but wrote down what children said (I found a dictaphone invaluable for this). Tomorrow I shall describe some other ways that younger children recorded their experiences outside.