Writing brief notes is the best way to get your feet wet observing. Teachers who are involved and busy find this a good starting point. Some educators develop a code or a shorthand way of writing brief notes about what they are observing. They do this on sticky note pads or on mailing labels that can be placed later in the child’s folder along with samples of work, drawings, or pictures. Keep sticky notes and mailing label sheets on a shelf or counter for easy access. Planning and carrying through on observations becomes easier with practice. Anecdotal records – brief narrative accounts describing a child’s behaviour after it occurs (with this method, you observe first, then write) Longer factual notations that are based on your brief notes and reflect on earlier observations are called anecdotal records. Observe first, and then write. These longer narratives can be collected over a period of time and are more specific in describing detail of an observed event. Writing more anecdotal records will reveal more about the children’s interests.
As a result, you are better able to plan creative experiences to expand on the children’s play and learning. Running records – detailed narrative accounts of behavior written as it happens Like anecdotal records, running records are longer narratives that include details. Running records require you to be fully focused on the observation and recording behaviour as you see it happening. Is there a child who is having difficulty adjusting to the program? A child whose behaviour has been a concern? Do you need to know if children can demonstrate new learning skills you’ve been teaching? Running records can help you see and make connections when you have a specific concern or want to identify specific learning abilities Frequency count – a method of recording how often a specific event or behavior occurs Frequency count is sometimes called an event recording.
This method allows you to measure how often an event occurs. When you look at program planning, frequency count can help you see if your environment is set up well and working. Do the children seem to be crowding into certain play areas and avoiding other areas? Are there playing problems that could be avoided? Frequency count can easily show you. Using a piece of paper, make columns for each area and set off a time period of five minutes to record with tally marks where children are playing. In five minutes, check again and using tally marks enter the number of children in the next column and note the time at the top. This is a helpful way to discover how the environment is being used and identify areas that need attention. Checklists – a list of specific traits or behaviors that are clearly observable
We know all children develop in their own way at their own pace. Understanding the different ages and stages of child development is important for early educators. Using a simple checklist of developmental abilities for different ages that can be checked off as observed is one way to document developmental growth. Early educators find them easy to use because they can check off many behaviours at once. Checklists are a good tool to use for curriculum planning and encouraging new growth and learning. Drawings, photographs and work samples – documentation of children’s work represented in various forms
When children work on projects, a method of observation that is often overlooked is capturing the action in a photograph. It’s a good idea to have a camera ready to use. Saving artwork, samples of writings and books children create are all ways to document observations. These items can be displayed for families to see or share during conferences. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words! Educators use other methods and tools, such as recording devices in observing. Videotapes and audiotapes can be useful in catching the actions and activities of children during play, storytelling, puppet shows, and field trips. Various computer programs are fast becoming another method that teachers are using to store and organize observations. If these options are available, they can be helpful enhancements to observations. Keep the child in mind when observing
Jotting down notes on sticky pads, writing more detailed narration on index cards, or developing simple checklists are all informal methods of recording and documenting observations. They can help you build strong relationships with both children and families and plan for the individual needs of each child. Whatever the method we choose to use, it should be kept in balance. The end result of all observations should be to find the best strategies and resources to help each individual child learn and develop