Regular classroom teaching throws up innumerable direct experiences that are priceless opportunities for us to understand student learning and behavior. Just observing those and not recording them for better planning and preparation is very often a lost opportunity.
Anecdotal records are one such method that I have often used when teaching. Observing the students working on an assignment individually, in pair or in a group and then recording each students’ understanding, skills, attitude and behavior helps me understand their learning journey as it transitions from one point to the next through the year. These anecdotal records also add more value to parent interaction as I have concrete evidence to explain the students’ development over the months.
The process: I keep multiple loose sheets with names of the students listed down in the first column. The second column has the ‘name of the activity with date’ in the column heading and my observations below that. The third column has the heading ‘action plan’. In this column I make short notes on specific interventions that I will make for each student.
For some activities, I especially like to note a particular skill that is being developed in the students or the learning outcome that has to be achieved through that lesson . For example, drawing and annotating diagrams, note taking skills, data analysis, or evaluating skills etc.
This way I can note what students collectively found difficult or they enjoyed doing.
The other method: that I use is, to write comments regarding each student on stick notes while taking my round and observing students as they work and then transfer the sticky notes to their individual sheet that is put in a binder for that class. The first sheet of the binder has all the names of the students in the first column. The sheet has multiple columns. In each of the multiple columns I place a tick when I have observed a student. This gives me a clear overview of how many times I have observed the student and recorded my observations.
This record of information allows me to plan interventions, remedial sessions, mark milestones on one hand and on the other, have factual, concrete and effective discussion with students and parents during meetings or conferences.
Observing students make you see what is right there in front of you. But only, if you observe with intent.