Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Keeping a record

In the introduction of all Picture Book Explorers guides, you will find advice on how to keep a record of your child's learning. This is mostly achieved through the suggested activities done by the child themselves. But what if your child doesn't like writing or isn't ready to write sentences or stories yet?

Photograph by Les Anderson on
You have to decide what is important to you and your child. Are you wanting to keep a record of your child's knowledge and understanding? Or are you wanting them to produce some actual writing?

Lots of the activities in Picture Book Explorers literature based unit studies can be completed as conversations with no need of written records at all. You can, of course, keep your  own notes of areas that you or your child would like to follow-up in future. But if recording your child's knowledge and understanding is your goal, there is room for plenty of creativity without pressurising emergent writers into producing reams of work unwillingly. Conflict isn't particularly conducive to creating a happy learning environment. (Believe me, I know 😢)

In Day 2 of each Picture Book Explorers topic pack, you will find a narration activity. Based on Charlotte Mason principles, narration will help you to discover just how much of the story your child has remembered, how much they have understood and which parts of the story jumped out at them. It helps to build the skills needed for future written work.

Narration can take different forms. A story can be retold with pictures or as a comic strip. It can be re-enacted as a short play or even as a short animation if your children feel so inspired. I have wonderful memories of my own children acting out some of their favourite stories in the garden, much to the bemusement of passers-by 😀

Let your children get creative when they are filling in the minibooks in lapbooks and Logbooks. Not everything has to be answered in writing. When learning about Marco Polo, we glued ground cinnamon, tea leaves, gold foil, pieces of wool and silk into our minibook as examples of the goods that travelled along the Silk Road. In one of our older projects, my son made a fantastic collage of a  boat to show how the Anglo-Saxons travelled to England.

Let your kids get creative with how they want to show their knowledge and understanding. Encourage them to make their lapbooks and Logbooks into unique souvenirs of their own personal learning journeys 🚀

If your goal is to practise the physical act of writing, it is worth breaking it down into small chunks, especially with younger children and/or reluctant writers. It can be overwhelming to have to think about content and the actual mechanics of writing every...single...time. When focussing on content, some children will find it much easier to type their answers. They can print out their work and stick it into the Logbook or lapbook, maybe with the addition of an extra flap or pocket.

For beginner writers, or the most reluctant, it can be enough to encourage them to write the title for themselves, and then act as scribe for them if they want to give longer answers in their Logbooks. They may enjoy labelling and naming their artwork at this stage too.

As they progress, more skills can be developed. I have found that it helps to focus on one area at a time with each written answer. For instance, the focus may be making sure all the letters are the correct heights. Or today you may be focussing on capital letters and full stops. Another day you may focus on spelling, or punctuation, legibility, sentence structure or content. Obviously, these requirements will change according to age and ability, but for me, one of the beauties of minibooks  is that often, they require short written answers that never seem too onerous, even for the most reluctant or inexperienced writer ✒

Download this free Handy Writing Helper guide. Print it out, cut out the hand, fold the fingers in and fold out the digit that  your child wants to focus on for each handwriting session. Eventually, all the fingers can be left open so that they cover all areas at once and be reminded of their own achievements 😊

Happy Exploring!