between Teachers and Families, To See Takes Time, and Side by Side (available
at www.ecetrainers.com). Pelo describes her evolving pedagogy of listening,
observing, and documenting in the book she coauthored with Fran Davidson,
That’s Not Fair! (Pelo and Davidson 2000).
When I first began the practice of taking notes about children’s play and
making recordings of children’s conversations, I didn’t really understand
how to use all the documentation I gathered. I did it because I’d read
about it being the right thing to do. I’d carefully transcribe a recorded
conversation among children, then go on with the plans I’d already made.
I mostly thought of the notes and conversations as ways to capture on
paper the sweet and appealing thinking of young children. I’d share my
transcriptions with parents, inviting them to “listen in” on conversations
that they would otherwise miss.
As I grew into the practice of supporting emerging projects, I learned
more about how to use the documentation that I collected. I noticed
myself wishing to understand if my guesses about the children’s interests
were on target or way off base, knowing that it mattered deeply to the
success of an emerging project. I began to turn to my carefully collected
notes for guidance. When I studied my notes and transcriptions alone
or with a coteacher, I could see underneath the children’s words to the
themes and issues undergirding them. I noticed when ideas were repeated
or when a theme showed up over and over. I began to see through to the
heart of children’s play. And with an understanding of the heart of their
play, I could respond in meaningful ways and take an active role in shap-
ing an activism project. I could better supply the classroom with props
that would sustain play. I could plan trips or invite visitors to the class-
room. I could ask provocative questions of the children. I could develop
strategies for the children to represent their thinking. Listening to the
children is my best guide for supporting emerging projects. The documen-
tation I collect while the children play and talk deepens my listening. (Pelo
and Davidson 2000, 76, 78)
Later Pelo went on to author The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio
Practices in Early Childhood Settings (2007), in which she describes how she
used her observations to design in-depth studies for children using art media
as “thinking tools.” You’ll see examples of this kind of work in several of the
chapters of The Art of Awareness.
First-grade teacher Karen Gallas has written a number of books charting
her journey as a teacher. Gallas makes children’s words, actions, and artistic
expressions a focal point for her own development. In her book The Languages
of Learning, Gallas (1994, 5–6) describes her pedagogy of creating the class-
room as a research community.