Following a warm hug from our families and a visit with the Morning Message, Planning and Reflection Journals are our third official stop each morning. Once the children have become comfortable with the morning habits and are practiced in the routines and procedures in each of our centers, we introduce a journal they will write in everyday. This growing documentation is designed to accomplish many goals. One of the goals is to begin encouraging the children to plan their play and projects. Early on the children tend to write about where (which center) they want to visit. Later, we encourage them write about what they plan to do.
Planning an activity and then carrying out the plan is not something young children tend to do without practice. Generally, a child will arrive in a space, see something that interests them and begin to engage with the medium. He or she might continue to play in this manner until a novel experience presents itself. At this point, the child will disengage and float off to the new activity. Engagement is spurred by the “now”.
By asking a child to plan his or her actions ahead of time, we are asking them to focus on what is possible instead of what is happening. A child has to use different portions of the brain to both imagine activities they can encounter and remember the possibilities of the classroom space. We also encourage them to think about “stories” they might have been playing with friends yesterday. Are they interested in continuing the same play scenario? Are there changes they want to make? Thus memory, recall and self-regulation are all tapped.
Our reflection portion of the day progressively changes as the year moves forward. In the beginning, we meet as a class and talk about some of the things we have done that day. Each child is asked to share one thing they learned, did or remembered. After we have practiced this for a while, we introduce the Planning and Reflection journals. As discussed, the children use the journals in the morning to plan their choice time activities. At the end of the day, they write their reflections similar to our class discussions.
Each month, we begin a new journal. As teachers, we use these journals to help us understand many areas of development in each individual child; their concept of writing, their fine motor development, their understanding of current topics, their interest in future areas of study and their social development to name a few. The journals also help the children focus on memorable parts of their day that they can share with their families later. During conferences with parents, we use them to make learning visible to parents. It is always exciting to see the dramatic changes throughout the year.