Monday, October 29, 2012

Tracking Children's Work

I have seen a variety of combinations of methods for tracking children's work, presentations, mastery, etc. Some just seem too over-done; others work better in some situations than others.

  • Every child has a page in a binder with a list of all possible presentations for that atrium level. The date is noted when the child receives each presentation or moment. 
  • Similar idea with more space for observation notes. 
  • Separate page for every session, with every child's name listed, with space for writing in presentations and work choices. 
  • Basic attendance and that is it. 
  • A chart of presentations down the side and every child's name across the top - a page for each age level within the atrium. Catechist fills in a variety of symbols based on presentation, mastery, repetition, etc. 
  • Same idea as above, but a simple X for the catechist presented or an O for another child presenting it (in the case of a previous absence). 
  • Any combination of the above. 

My personal preference: the last one listed. I have tried them all. Everything else is just too many pages or doesn't provide "enough." When required to, I am happy to keep an attendance sheet (one sheet that covers the whole year). Otherwise, I like to see all "year one" presentations on a chart listed down the side, with the children's names across the top. I place a simple X or O as needed. 

I usually include a 4th chart for "all children likely to receive" - and I am NEVER opposed to adding in a child who is ready for something sooner; or waiting to present something to a child who is just not ready. 

For the first few weeks of this year, I did not have these charts ready for my combination 2/3 atrium. The following reasons made that (not having the charts ready) a very bad idea: 
  • Some of the children are new; some children have varying levels of experiences at various times. 
  • All of the children are new to me. 
  • This combination is brand new. 
  • The WIDE age range (grades K/1, 3/4, 6)
  • Being in an atrium not my own. 

Today I was in the atrium, with charts in hand, filled out with what I already knew (I don't know everything the children have done) --- and the whole atmosphere was totally different. 

Within the atrium, we want to be "matchmakers" - match the child with a material that will help him respond to the gifts of God. We as catechists are to be humble servants to the workings of the Holy Spirit. 

One would think that would mean "wing it" - but it doesn't. Winging it does NOT work. 

Coming in with a plan, knowing that the plan might not work out (and likely won't), instills a confidence level that allows for that gift of humility. 

I came in today ready to give the Blue Unity to the 3rd graders and older. They'd all had it. I was able, because I had my little charts, to *quickly* (not scanning a variety of pages) look at, "Ok, what else has this child already had, and what are the next possibilities?" Yes, I still had some questions for the children (with the Blue Unity, I wanted to know what they remember, what work they have done with it - to ascertain, is there anything more they will receive if I have them do it again, or is it best to just move on to something else?). 

And now I can say, "ok, next week I will present the Plan of God to the level 3 children and follow their interests from there. But for all the children, for the next 2-3 weeks we are going to look at geography of Israel appropriate to each child's level; and we are going to pull together the pieces we have of the Mass so that the older children are ready to work with the level 3 Mass charts if interest directs them there right away (otherwise we'll get to it later in the year) and the younger children can come together for the Synthesis of the Mass." Do I know precisely what I am going to show each child on each day? Not a chance! They might be sick or otherwise absent; or so in deep with another work that I won't take them away from it. So I will work with the children who are present at the time, inviting them to spend their work time selecting previously presented materials that meet their current needs. And over the course of the month all will be accomplished. :) 

We will be well-prepared then to enter into prophecy and infancy narratives in December, with the older children going into Prophet Studies and the level 2 children exploring the Messianic prophecies. 

Having a plan of some sort - just to see the connections and the patterns - is such a balm to the soul. The charts of my choice provide me such a quick glance to ascertain appropriate work choices for the children, and options for where I can present if they are ready for something new. 
Planning = freedom! 

One last thought. I do not personally need to note every single follow-up a child has had. That is the work of the Holy Spirit - that is NOT MY PLACE. It is my place and it is necessary for me to note that a child has a received a presentation, therefore has the option of working with it again. By seeing on my chart, "this child had this work already" - I know that I can call over a small group of children who have all had something and have a new meditation on it. OR I know that a child has already seen something when I see him working with it inappropriately; if I know he has seen it, I know he needs a re-presentation and probably something deeper with it; conversely if I know he has not received a presentation or received the presentation from another child, that gives me another clue as to WHAT needs to be said, HOW to address the situation and WHERE to take the meditation. 

I am good knowing THAT a child has received something already; I can then gauge responses to see what to do next. No more paperwork details than that! 


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