A few years ago at YIS we redesigned our approach to elementary school portfolios. We moved away from paper-based portfolios that were sent home twice a year and didn’t really capture the journey of learning that happened in our classes and move to an electronic learning journal powered by Seesaw.

Seesaw is an amazing tool that allows our students to document and share their learning in a way that paper based portfolios could not compete with. However, it’s more than just the sharing of learning our learning journals do, it’s the development of learning conversations with the child’s community and the opportunity for in-depth, honest reflection.

Context: Learning Journals is the term we use at YIS instead of Seesaw as we want to focus on the purpose and not the tool.

Nelle, Mimi, our amazing kindergarten teachers, and I were after a way to further develop what in-depth, honest reflections look like for a kindergarten student. Last year we developed a series of questions to help develop the students ability to reflect on our Learning Journal posts. Not much thought went into the creation of the questions and our design was only the questions with the few sentence starters written on a small whiteboard:

Version 1

Conversations with students

The kindergarten team and I knew we wanted to redevelop it this year with something a bit more permanent that we could refer to as students reflected on their Learning Journals. However, we first decided to chat with a few kindergartners to see what their thoughts were on the previous design. This is what they had to say:

  • “the writing is hard to read”
  • “It’s easy to erase the words on accident”
  • “It’s a little busy”

So, I took these conversations and conversations I had with kindergarten team and used them to redevelop our approach to reflection starters:

Version 2

Nelle and Mimi had some great inspiration for for the reflection starters and I worked to create a large design that could be on permanent display in the kindergarten rooms. I wanted a modular design as we want the display to ‘grow’ as the year progresses and our reflections progress. We envision it growing into a tree of reflection inspiration where students have the agency, yet support, to construct their own refections. 

With that said, we did find a few challenges with version 2:

  • “I made a…” wasn’t perfect for how we use Learning Journals. Nelle summarized it nicely in an email:

I know we said “I made…” but I’m now thinking that could be limiting (thinking of their Taiko experience, or a post about playing a maths game or something, where they’re not actually making). “I did…” doesn’t quite work either, and sounds bad! What about, “I’m showing…”? “I’m showing the creation that I made”, “I’m showing how to play this maths game”, “I’m showing how I played drums at the ICJC”. Not perfect, but maybe more flexible? What do we think?

  • The diagonal stripe in the design was distracting and some of the colors were a bit off. 

So, back to the drawing board for a third version:

Version 3

Finally, we had something we wanted to share, something we felt would help structure and scaffold the student in developing in-depth reflection. 

We’ve already shared it with one class and were very happy with the results. Take a look:

Next steps

As I mentioned, we want this this to grow and develop as our kindergartners grow and develop as learners and reflectors. We have plans to add more reflection starters and draw connections with string – we want students to have choice and agency in how they reflect, but to feel supported in making that happen. 

We also want to support our kindergartens who are still developing their reading skills. We hope to create a reflection starter card that includes these sentences, but also has icons to provide them with some visual aids. My goal is to create that this week and share it out soon!