It Takes a Team

Area(s) of Focus: kindergarten
Division(s): Primary
Level(s): Kindergarten

Starting from where each learner is at and moving forward: It's what we practise when working with children, and it is what we practised as educators working together to help each other grow in regards to using technology to document student learning

There are many changes coming to the kindergarten world this fall (2016). We would like to be on top of these changes and work together as a team developing a thorough understanding of these changes and help each other grow professionally. Here in Ottawa, we have a unique scenario as all kindergarten classes are going to a 50/50 French/English program. Starting in September, we will have one French and one English teacher (each with their own ECE partners) covering two homerooms. As a kindergarten team, we are all at various spots on the “Pedagogical Documentation Continuum.” We would like to embrace digital documentation to help make the learning that happens through play more visible, whilst developing an online system that would allow the French and English classroom pairings to collect, reflect, share and plan more effectively.

Team Members

  • Asma Jawed

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

  • Tammy Maxsom-Hunt

    Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Deeper knowledge and understanding of the new kindergarten curriculum framework
  • Understanding of what the Third Teacher means and strategies to help implement this
  • Strengthened ability to make learning visible for all (students, staff and families), particularly with the use of technology (iPads and embracing the many opportunities within the G Suite for Education)
  • Developed a system to better track students learning, and used this data to write and support comments in the new report card (looked at co-writing some overall big idea comments early in the year to use as a guide)

Activities and Resources

  • As a team, we went through the new document highlighting the verbs, then created a Wordle with these words to help boil the curriculum down and pull out the most meaningful words, and how much overlap there is
  • We also mounted and laminated the condensed curriculum document onto cardstock, used the Wordle as a cover, and the frame: Key Learning, Growth in Learning and Next Steps at the bottom to help guide our observations and purposeful planning
  • Used Google Forms to create surveys to send to the team to get an understanding of where people are at on the Documentation Continuum, and reflect on the data
  • Worked in small groups/pairing to teach one another how to use the iPads, some of the documentation apps, and shared folders on Google Drive (had to borrow iPads as we have overlapping ECE shifts and we needed to all have a device in our hands)
  • Created a display of  learning stories, annotated photographs and highlighted verbs within the headings in a four-frame window, and used this as a way to show the rest of the school what full-day kindergarten is all about, as well as a display for Kindergarten Information night 
  • In our French/English partnerships, spent time learning from each other and co-created a tracking system and Shared Google Folders that is used to house documentation of each student’s learning (ePortfolio), that can also be shared with families

Unexpected Challenges

We were also planning to co-create some Communication of Learning comments, but with little direction from the ministry, and many of us still at various points on our learning journey, we chose not to co-create comments as we were not ready to use each other’s voices. Also the immense workload of tackling the Communication of Learning left most of us writing two frames each and found it more valuable to talk to people who were writing the same frames as you, opposed to the people writing your classes’ other frames. Working closer within our own teaching teams (English and French teacher and all the ECEs) in regards to planning and embracing more reflective practices will hopefully help bring us even closer to being on the same page for future writing of COLs.

With only one iPad per class (and then having one break), it was hard to have all hands consistently involved in documentation. Our board has two ECEs per classroom (overlapping shifts), so again, only having one iPad per class was a real struggle. We needed to borrow extra ones to help the workload, and ended up checking to see if we could allocate some TLC funds to purchase two more iPads. We were granted permission.

We had also originally thought doing a professional book club would be of assistance, but with our ECE partners working different shifts (one works 6:45-2:15, the other 10:45-6:15), it came logistically challenging. Also, with so much new this year (new curriculum, new model in our board – 50/50 English/French, etc.), tackling a book on top of everything was too much for many, so we decided to put that part aside. We continued instead to have professional conversations as needed to help adjust flow of the day, balance of assessments, etc.

Again with so much new put on us this year, we didn’t get a chance to go as in depth in exploring the role of the third teacher. We did explore a few articles, and with more digital documentation being done, more items were put up as part of the third teacher, but our focus did zero in more on working together to capture learning and communicate with families and as a team. Embracing the third teacher more is something we would like to continue to work on as a team, not just within the kindergarten team, but hopefully up into the other grades as well.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

As many of us made a conscious shift to be more present (i.e., no “busy” paperwork such as Note Totes/agendas, etc. done while kids are “playing”) with the children during play in order to document their learning in an authentic play-based context, we became more adept at capturing and naming students’ learning, and extending or enhancing experiences. This also helped us be more purposeful in our planning, allowing us to question our own motives (why this activity, why now, etc.).  These in turn helped us provide more rich learning experiences for the students in our classroom. Many of us also shared more of the student learning with families via things like Twitter, Instagram and Shared Google Folders, which allowed parents to become more engaged in their child’s learning experiences, which in turn further enhanced student learning.


Our target audience was primarily our own kindergarten team as we were trying to help each other grow. This was primarily done through small groups working together with a half-day release time provided. Groups were formed based on where each individual felt they were at in so far as using technology to help document, communicate and collaborate. Google Shared Folders and Google Forms and Spreadsheets were the primary means we interacted and supported each other with outside of the release time. We have taken many screenshots and put them into Google Slides highlighting step-by-step how to do many of the things we worked on (creating Shared Folders, uploading items to Drive, creating shared iOS photo albums, etc.) for people to refer back on, or for them to use as a reference when they are ready to take the next steps.

Project Evaluation

We feel our project was a success. Everyone has grown some. We are more familiar with the new document, and thus more purposeful planning is being done. We are taking steps to work effectively in teams and more student documentation and naming the learning is being done. The documentation piece is mostly through the use of technology, which our teams are becoming more comfortable using. We are communicating more with our families and helping them see the learning that happens through play. Above all, with all of us needing to learn to work as a team (French teacher, English teacher in 50/50 model, plus four ECEs), and not a solo ship, we are all learning to be more flexible and open to new ideas, and respecting the spot each of us are at along the learning journey.  People are becoming proud to show off their accomplishments, and ask for help when they need it. Some of us have even been asked if teams from other schools can come see how we are making things work as a team. The half-day release that our whole team got to have (ECEs and OCTs), where learning started where each person was at and done in small groups 1:3, was very effective and rewarding.

There isn’t much we would do differently, other than narrow our focus more from the start. There was so much new in kindergarten this year both at the provincial level and our local level, that focussing on those changes was enough of a project, so book clubs and such were just not doable this year … but maybe they will be next year.