The exponential growth in the minds of early elementary school children is nothing short of awesome. But time flies when you’re busy with young kids, so it’s easy to forget to take the time to reflect on just how far your daughter or son came in just a handful of months between the beginning of school year and the end. That’s why—especially for early elementary school students—creating a photo book that tracks academic growth is a wonderful way to illustrate accomplishments. Not only does it archive your child’s progress in everything from reading and writing to art and other activities and accomplishments for posterity, a book like this can really serve to boost your child’s confidence. Seeing everything he or she has achieved throughout the year is proof that they’re growing up and learning a lot along the way.
To stay on top of the process of making your book, start your project at the beginning of the year and add to it once a month. The Back To School theme is ideal for showcasing your child’s academic progress throughout the year. The first few pages will capture the first day of school. I love how in the book I made last year my son looks so timid on his first day of Kindergarten. It only serves to create an incredible contrast to his picture from the very end of kindergarten, which couldn’t possibly exude more happy confidence! Once you’ve got this opening sequence established, simply scan a favorite piece of writing or artwork that comes home each month. And don’t forget to upload a few photos each month, too. Almost as astonishing as their academic growth will be the physical growth that goes along with it! For ideas on back to school photo shoot opportunities, check out our previous post here.
Try to scan a sample of writing each month. Chances are you’ll see your child’s handwriting get smaller and more legible throughout the year. You’ll see that in my son’s book, the first few writing samples are single words that are practically illegible. By the end of the year he’s writing paragraphs that are legible—well at least by his mother! I also included a few photographs of my son writing. There’s something so sweet about the earnest process of sitting down at a desk and focusing so hard on forming letters. It’s also something that you may see less and less of over the years as they shift over to typing assignments. I love the way these photographs look against the old-school writing tablet paper that’s one of the signature backgrounds for this theme.
I had my son keep a journal of every book he read throughout kindergarten. He simply wrote down the name of the book along with the author, then he’d draw a picture to illustrate his favorite part. From time to time I would snap a photograph of him curled up with his book just to have an illustration of him poring over these sweet first readers. I love seeing the juxtaposition of his focused face and his lanky big-boy body reading an early chapter book next to the rudimentary words and images he put to paper—evidence that he’s still so little even if his weekly growth is astounding.
Especially for early learners, you’ll find that art class is as much about academics as any other aspect of their day (including recess!). From finding symmetry in a picture (math) to drawing a family having an adventure (storytelling), academic growth abounds in art class. When I had the opportunity, I’d drop by my son’s school to snap a photo of him cutting, pasting, painting and glittering. You’ll find that if you track art right along with reading and writing, his or her abilities in everything from fine motor skills to more realistic representation will evolve dramatically throughout the year.
From tiny slips of paper called “good citizen awards” given out daily in my son’s kindergarten classroom (from child to child for “making good choices”) to school-wide award certificates given out for significant accomplishments, your academic growth photo book is the perfect place to showcase any type of positive feedback that comes your child’s way. You can even scan a note from the teacher that says “Good Job!” Your child will feel so good to have his or her accomplishments saved in a bound book.
By the end of the year you’ll have a wonderful time capsule that tracks all the progress your child made on every academic front. You’ll love to see the evolution of the handwriting, evidence of reading, samples of art, and handwritten journal excerpts that summarize events from your child’s perspective. It’s as much a tool to celebrate and motivate your child now as it is a way to ensure your memories are neat and organized. And it’s as much a gift for relatives this Christmas as it is a treasure to be enjoyed thirty years from now when your child has kids of his or her own.