CNC in Action: Documentation

Five Simple Strategies for Documenting Observations of Children

With Ann Hutchings and the team at Graybridge Malkam

In our post Observing Immigrant and Refugee Children, we talked about observations, but they’re just the first step in creating a play-based program that incorporates Intentional Teaching (thoughtful, informed and deliberate) to facilitate co-learning. To allow for effective planning and to help engage children in the program, observations must be followed by documentation.

Graybridge Malkam CNC staff have identified five effective and easy-to-implement documentation techniques. Try them out and see what a difference they can make in your own program!


1 – Set up a Webbing Board in your CNC room.

A large whiteboard that is right in the room, allows for an ongoing, interactive and visual display of what is happening throughout the day.

As Ann Hutchings, supervisor at Graybridge Malkam explains:

“Don’t worry about being an artist and some of us are neater than others! The point is to give the parents a simple visual snapshot. This inspires communication. The board is added to each day, until it is full and then we start all over again. “

“This is by and large the best piece of communication/documentation equipment we have in our room since it can be quickly added to by anyone in the room—even the parents. We then transfer transfers content onto a more detailed program sheets following ELECT (in Ontario) principles. If CNC programs do nothing else, this is the one essential thing they should do.”


2- Put your Child Profiles in a portable format.

The Graybridge Malkam team uses a divided binder, as it is accessible and portable. “With the day’s unpredictability and lack of funded time to do ongoing profiles; portability allows us to grab the binder on the go when they can snatch a moment to write down an observation,” says Ann.


3- Get a digital camera and keep it handy.

The team has a digital camera always ready. They can snap pictures of milestones and group observations. “Photos give you a chance to see some things that you might have missed otherwise,” says Ann. “The photos are also used to develop story boards.”


4- Develop story boards and display them using Mactac.

“We display our story boards on the tables in our room, but each program can find the best place for their situation. Storyboards take time to do, but they are very effective as an educational tool to demonstrate various root skills and domains,” Ann explains.


5- Use a long-form observation when needed.

Occasionally the program does a long-form observation with the parents’ permission. Ann explains: “We do these if a child is in need of more resources than we can provide and before referral to another service. We use one developed by Algonquin College department of ECE.”


Ann and her team have found that documenting their observations has had many positive outcomes. Here are just a few:

  • Story boards allow the children to reflect on their past experiences, open new conversations and build on those.
  • Parents can participate in their child’s experiences. They can see what their child is doing and learning.
  • Parents are more engaged with staff and the program. They ask more questions and reach out to learn about the activities.
  • Knowledgeable responsive staff are able to plan experiences based on the documentation information about individual children, and are better able to meet the children’s needs.