Kindergarten Communication of Learning: Initial Observations
Are you looking for some help writing the Initial Observations report for Kindergarten? This post is for new teachers, teachers who have changed grades, and teachers covering prep in kindergarten. I have been covering Kindergarten prep for several years and recently had a year teaching Year One of the Kindergarten program. Since we have several Kindergarten classes at my school, I can bounce ideas off many educators regarding reporting. Getting support is extremely helpful, so I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.
Collaboration is key! Like all aspects of the Kindergarten program, collecting evidence of children’s learning for reports is a responsibility that teachers and designated early childhood educators (DECEs) can share. It is an essential conversation for the educator team to have early on so that observations are collected throughout the year to demonstrate each child’s growth. We had a shared Google doc for each student, organized by frames, so we could make notes, add pictures and keep the documentation all in one place. Some teachers prefer to use a slide deck. Educators need to select the practices and strategies that work best for them.
The Initial Observations report is intended to be an overview of student key learning and growth in learning during the first two months of school. I think of it as a snapshot and often remind myself that there is another report coming in about ten weeks that will have more detailed observations and cover a greater breadth of the Kindergarten program. In some cases, teachers have had limited time with students due to class restructuring and absences. In these cases, do your best to let the parents know how their child is adjusting to Kindergarten.
If you consult social media groups and other blogs, you will see a range of educators’ opinions about Kindergarten reporting. There is a consensus that the box on the Communication of Learning: Initial Observations is much larger than needed in Ontario. I have heard the message repeated for several years from many sources, “Don’t aim to fill the box!”
Ask yourself, what happens initially in the Kindergarten program? What is the essential information to communicate to parents? What are the most obvious strengths of the child? The following questions guide you through the child’s day at school and give you ideas to consider as you write the Initial Observations. You may wish to focus more on the Self Regulation and Well Being frame, but there is an opportunity to comment on the other three frames, especially if a child demonstrates strong skills in those areas. Choose a few areas to highlight about each child and support with real-life examples if possible. To avoid using jargon, educators should aim to refer to overall expectations in a natural way when writing initial observations about a child’s learning. Here are some prompts to help you in your writing. Do not try to answer all these questions! The variety in the list is to help you describe the strengths of different children.
Is the child:
– content to be at school?
– beginning to show more independence with their belongings as they unpack their backpack and change their shoes?
-engaging in conversation with peers and adults?
-asking questions of their peers and adults?
-answering questions with detail?
-beginning to follow routines?
-playing with a variety of learning tools inside and/or outside?
-participating in games and songs with the whole group?
-building, creating, role-playing?
-sorting? (e.g., when tidying up toys)
-making observations about the natural world?
You will have observed changes in many of the children, in the first ten weeks, as they have become more comfortable with the school environment.
I’m writing this comment with a confident, enthusiastic student in mind. Here is a sample comment based on some of the questions listed above. I would personalize this comment with the correct name and pronoun when editing.
STUDENT ONE arrives at school content and excited about the day ahead. They have adapted to the morning entry routines and often greet other students by saying, “Hi!”. STUDENT ONE uses social skills when playing with their friends (e.g., at the blocks centre and when playing soccer). He/She/They often invite(s) other students to join him/her/them, especially at his/her/their favourite activities, which are: creating with loose parts or playing at the sand table. He/She/They can identify and print the letters in his/her/their name. STUDENT ONE is excited to play games that involve counting to ten and is working on pointing at objects to count accurately. Beyond the classroom, STUDENT ONE is willing to try new activities in different locations such as the gym, library or outdoors. He/She/They often take a turn with a sit-on bouncy ball during outdoor play. He/She/They have/has recently expanded their design skills – they has been seeking out different kinds of tools and materials to construct with. When building a tower they said: “We need something to make it stronger so it doesn’t fall down”. STUDENT ONE often contributes during class discussions and is eager to learn more about animals.
In contrast, STUDENT TWO has had some struggles adjusting to school and experiences sadness throughout the day. Since we have already communicated with parents extensively about this issue I am not dwelling on it in the Initial Observations. Instead, I deliberately frame the comments with positivity and a growth mindset.
STUDENT TWO has made progress in adjusting to the kindergarten program. He/She/They is/are independently unpacking his/her/their backpack each morning and joining the class for play. STUDENT TWO prefers the art centre where he/she/they enjoy drawing and painting. STUDENT TWO shows an interest in completing puzzles, especially when an educator is sitting nearby. She/He/They often build(s) a house using blocks or Lego. STUDENT TWO spends time outside observing his/her/their peers and often walks quietly with the educator, we will support them in making connections with their classmates. He/She/They have/has commented on the changing weather and fall colours and shows curiosity about the natural world. We look forward to helping STUDENT TWO adjust to the school environment and build his/her/their confidence and independence over the school year.
Good luck to all educators with Initial Observations and with Progress Reports for grades 1-8. Make use of human, print and online resources. ETFO has a website dedicated to Professional Learning in the Early Years where you will find videos and information from Kindergarten educators and their classrooms. ETFO has also just published an engaging resource, Building and Enriching Partnerships in Kindergarten, which includes a chapter on planning and documenting.
Take care of yourselves as you take on the task of writing these reports while also planning, teaching, and assessing your students. Do a little each day to make it manageable. I believe in you!
Key resources to assist you in this work:
The Kindergarten Program, 2016
Growing Success, The Kindergarten Addendum, 2016
Communicating with Parents about Children’s Learning: A Guide for Kindergarten Educators, Revised Draft, September 2017
ETFO’s website for Professional Learning in the Early Years
ETFO’s new resource: Building and Enriching Partnerships in Kindergarten