Anecdotal Notes~ A Great Way to Organize Student Observations

    Do you find it difficult to organize all the enormous amounts of paperwork and note taking that you take throughout the year? Keeping track of grade books, checklists and notes can be a huge challenge. We all have to take informal notes while making student observations. I've tried this simple system to try and stay on top of all the anecdotal notes that I need to keep. I used colored index cards and layered them into four different groups. I wrote students names on the top and layered downward. I stapled each group of cards on the left hand side and used mailing tape to secure each of the four sets of index cards to a clipboard. The index cards can be flipped open like a book for you to write your observations. You could group your index cards according to groupings you use for RTI or randomly select students you would like to observe for each day of the week. I like the colored index cards because it makes it easier for me to locate students quickly while I jot down notes. I used pink and purple for the girls and blue, green and yellow for the boys. The picture above just shows the index cards blank before I started the note taking for confidential reasons. Once the index cards are filled, I can file it away in each student's file and replace it with a new one. These index cards come in handy during team meetings, parent teacher conferences and grading students for report cards. These index cards include academic notes as well as notes concerning behavior and social interactions. Kids sometimes say the darnest things. They can make you laugh or make you want to cry. It is important that we try and capture these moments and not forget them. When a student uses an unexpected vocabulary word that is way advanced for his or her age or when a student tells a funny joke or takes something very literally, as kids often do, be sure to catch the moment.  Having a  place to quickly jot it down is important.

     You could make more than one clipboard to use for your classroom. Maybe you could make one for literacy and one for math. I made more than one clipboard with all my students and gave it to my para. This way we team up and record data on more students. At times, we compare notes and we tend to notice many of the same things. This can be very reassuring as it substantiates our findings. Other times, we may not notice something and it is great to have an extra set of eyes always on the lookout.
Our school staff is part of the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment  MKEA  Districts in Cohort 3 and we have received training and are in the midst of Teaching Strategies GOLD. We are closely observing students in a variety of settings within the classroom and making documentations through note taking, pictures and video clips. Through observations, we will get a better sense of our student's development over time. Keeping track of each student's observations and how they are each performing in the areas of development and learning is a massive undertaking.  There are 38 objectives in which we need to place students on a developmental continuum. Much of GOLD is based on observations. It is important for us to seize the moment and jot things down as we watch the kids during playtime, literacy centers, math centers and daily routines. Continually uploading all this data for each student can be very time consuming. Having all these anecdotal notes on these clipboards has made it convenient and easy to find. No longer do I have notes of different students scattered all over my desk and becoming lost. Although, I find GOLD to be overwhelming as I spend hours and hours entering detailed data, I feel that these little index cards are helping me get through it.  Are you using Teaching Strategies GOLD in your district? How are you managing your time? What have you found that has helped you along the way with this process? Please share as I need all the help I can get. 

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