First and second grade is a time of huge growth. Of course, the children grow long and reedy before our eyes and tiny teeth fall out and are replaced with much bigger ones. Socially, children learn slowly but surely to be team players, to compromise, and to look beyond their own needs and wants. Intellectually, there is spectacular growth, as children learn to read, write, do complicated math, and to conduct and document science experiments.
One of my favorite ways to document growth is through the children's memory books. I take pictures each month, and they are printed out for the students to look at, reflect on, and discuss. Then we brainstorm some words for the board. Children are encouraged to do their best work, and to write as much as they can for each photograph.
Many children start out by simply labeling the page with the word on the board. As the year progresses, they may then write a sentence. Students who were already well on their way to being an excellent writer are encouraged to write more interesting details, to include punctuation, and to write in upper and lower case as required.
Even as their teacher, who is with them nearly every day, I am sometimes taken aback on what they can achieve over the course of the school year. It is only looking through their portfolios or memory books that I get a clearer picture of the remarkable work they've done. Here is an example of a page written in September and two pages written in March or April, by the same first grade child:
As we looked at these pages together today, she and I, we couldn't believe the difference. In fact, we chuckled as we struggled (and finally gave up) even trying to read the first one done in September. (I think I've got it now, though...all these years as an early childhood teacher have paid off.)