start with a sharpie

Many teachers have asked me over the years HOW to document children's work -  HOW did I "get" the children to say the things they have said.

My answer has always been this simple: Start with a sharpie in your hand - or in your pocket, or hooked on your shirt, or attached to your belt - start with a sharpie.
(Ideally, you'll have a camera, also, and will need to learn how to ask good questions but these will be for another blog post.)

Sharpie brand pens are The Pen - keep one with you at all times.
If you allow yourself to keep a pen with you at all times, you will start paying attention to what children say, what they do, how they do something. You will start hearing - more clearly - a child describe the process of their magnet experiment, the problem with the blocks falling over, their discovery of blue mixed with red. The pen will help you be accountable for connecting with children, for authentically representing the learning that occurs that day in the classroom or outside. It is a process to learn to document - you don't need to write down every word the child says, you don't write down every "ummm" or every rambling "and, and, and". Documenting takes some skill at both listening and editing to some degree, and confirmation from the child that what you are writing down is what they ARE saying, believing, meaning.

The pen will help you identify developmental differences in age groups - how a three-year-old's explanation of something might sound one way compared to how a five-year-old would explain the same thing. The pen will help you begin to communicate with the class as a group, with the guardians of the children, with the wider school community.

The pen will help you start on a journey that  - for me - is a privilege to continue to be on. Listening with and documenting for children is a surprise, a gift and an endless education.

Get yourself a pen. Keep it with you.

For further reading on Documenting you might enjoy:
Sophia's Train a documented art story 
or "I Need Dirty Water"  a 3yo makes friends using dirt and water


  1. love love love this post, Jeanne. Pure Poetry.

  2. @Pam - thanks thanks thanks for your comment. YOU know all about sharpies...!

  3. Great to read this again a year later. Your blog is a gift!

    1. You are so supportive. I am grateful for our friendship :)


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