Ask any parent what it’s like to get a child to share details about their day and you’re likely to be met with a small sigh. Many a car ride or walk home from school begins with a well-intentioned and inquisitive parent asking their child “What did you do at school today?” and ends shortly thereafter when the child simply says “We played,” or worse, “Nothing.” Of course, if one asks a teacher that same question he or she could go on and on about what their students learned and did that day: the animals that live in the ocean, the types of clouds in the sky, and what seaweed tastes like.
To help bridge the communication gap between how children describe their day and what they actually did, KinderCare Education teachers display examples of their student’s work all around their classroom. Frequently called “evidence of learning” the displays show parents what skills their child is working on, and serves as a new twist on the “What did you do today?” conversation starter than the “What did you do today?”
“At my site we display a lot of our children’s’ work,” said Anjelica Hernandez, a site director at the Champions program at Alta Vista Elementary School in Los Gatos, Calif., and a recent Champions Quality Award winner. “We display, art, writing samples from the children, and also leave up projects they made here at Champions for families to see. We also display LEGO creations at the parent table for children to share with their parents. That way not only is their parent seeing it, it also gives other families a chance to ask their children ‘What is this?’ or ‘Where is yours?”
One challenge many Champions before- and after-school site directors face is their program’s location; many are popup spaces within a school cafeteria or gymnasium and thus aren’t able to fill their walls with children’s art work and writing samples. Before the first child arrives, staff pull cabinets and bookcases full of craft items, books, toys, and more out of storage areas and lay carpets down on the linoleum floor. When the program ends, they pack everything up and put it back in storage. Even with these space restrictions, Champions staff still find ways to display their students’ work.
“I create evidence of learning displays with the children’s work from all of our completed curriculum,” said Debbie Bowyer, site director at the Champions program at Aitken Elementary School in Seekonk, Mass.
She has six wall displays up at any time and changes them every month or so.
“The children are always so excited to point out their work when parents are dropping off or picking up,” she said.
“Our Loveland site is very fortunate…we have almost one whole back wall designated for us as well as back doors and part of a front wall [in the cafeteria], ” said Leslie Barr, site director at the Champions program at Loveland Primary School in Ohio, and a 2015 Educator Award winner. “We’ve branded all of this and made what looks like a bulletin board on the back wall that showcases all of our enhancements.”
Barr and her staff display children’s work and photos of the children in action on their bulletin board. They also use trifolds to showcase information about special events.
“The kids love showing their parents their work and pictures on the walls and displays,” she said.
To keep the displays up-to-date and interesting, Barr and her teachers frequently update them, saving each child’s work and passing it on to parents with a written description of the lesson theme and learning objectives.
Shirl Rose, site director at the Champions program at Coventry Elementary in York, Va., uses the two bulletin boards her program has to showcase what students learn in her program. She and her staff fill the boards with photos of the children at work and play alongside work samples and descriptions of the activities and the skills children learned. While the boards give parents a line of sight into the program, they are just as informative for prospective parents (and clients) too.
“Children are the spokespeople for the program,” she said. “Children want parents to see what they’ve done. They’re eager to share.”
With a little bit of creativity, any teacher can find a way to visually showcase the skills children learn in class and help parents start a conversation with their child about what they did in school that day.