B. Observations and Note Taking
Classroom observation is another form of ongoing assessment. Most
teachers can "read" their students; observing when they
are bored, frustrated, excited, motivated, etc. As a teacher picks
up these cues, she or he can adjust the instruction accordingly.
It is also beneficial for teachers to make observational notes
(referred to as anecdotal notes). These notes serve to document
and describe student learning relative to concept development, reading,
social interaction, communication skills, etc.
Morrow County Head Start, Inc. has published numerous observation
forms and guidelines on their website. For example, they adapted
the following guidelines, Making
Observation Note-taking Easier, from the Child Observation Record
Manual - High Scope (p. E-11). The guidelines emphasize that "the
most important part of note taking is to find a system that will
work for your teaching team and that you will use consistently."
- Take about ten minutes after children leave to record and discuss
your observations, perhaps working with your teaching partner(s)
as a team. Set this time aside daily.
- Jot notes to yourself during the day as you interact with children.
Keep paper to record notes in different locations throughout the
room or in your pocket. Devise your own system, but don't let
it interfere with your primary role of interacting with the children.
- Be selective in what you write. As you become more familiar
with observing and recording and get more practice in recording
your observations, it will become easier to take notes.
- Save children's dated art work to evaluate areas.
- Keep a tape recorder on hand to record children playing in classroom
areas. Listen and record comments on the spot or later.
- Focus in on one category and observe children in relation to
that. Post key words to help you to remember what to watch for
as children work and play in the classroom.
- With your team member, focus on a few children each day or two
and write notes on those children specifically.
- Use guidelines as a resource when planning for children's materials,
activities, and lessons and as ideas for collecting developmental
- Set up some systematic way to collect and organize the notes
you have made on each child (e.g., individual folders or pages
in a notebook can be set up for each child).
- Finally, in your routine, think about when, with your group
of children, these observations can be made most naturally, easily,
The guidelines listed above are pertinent for elementary schools
and can contribute to anecdotal notes, running records, and classroom
walkthroughs. At higher grade levels, it is more difficult to
maintain detailed observation data about each student because
a teacher may have 150 students each day! Nonetheless, all teachers
should be aware of the value of observations and note taking,
and they should document important aspects of the classroom environment
as much as possible.