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A Guide to Anecdotal Records in a Child Care Setting

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 9/11/2012

What exactly are anecdotal records, anyway? And how do I use them in my child care classroom? Aren't child care anecdotal records only for assessments? Read on for the answers as well as tips on observation and documentation that will transform the way you teach and plan your curriculum.

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    What Are Anecdotal Records?

    Anecdotal records are the documentation of classroom observations. Anecdotal records can be kept for classroom activities as well as for individual children. For example, you may keep a record of your observations of a particular learning center such as blocks in order to assess the children's use of the materials. Included in an observation like child care anecdotal records would be your notes on how the children treat the materials, whether there are enough for the class to share, and what kinds of structures the children build most often. You can then use those observations to decide if the children are in need of a more challenging block area or if more materials should be offered.

    When observing individual children, you may be looking at a specific developmental area such as language. Included in a single child observation would be the language the child used to communicate, who he was communicating with, and whether the message was received correctly.

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    Observe individual children for milestones.
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    Examples of Observations

    When observing young children, it is important to remember what an observation is. An observation does not include any teacher bias or teacher assessment. For example, a true single-child observation should read:

    • Observation for Lauren, age 3 years, 4 months: Lauren walked to the dress-up area with Caitlin. Lauren chose the purple dress and blue high heels. After dressing herself, she stood in front of the mirror and smiled. She poked Caitlin on the arm and said, "Look, Cait! I am a princess!"

    An example of a biased observation would read:

    • Lauren happily walked to dress-up with Caitlin. She was excited when she picked up the dress and put it on. She put shoes on, too. She liked what she saw in the mirror and said to Caitlin: "I am a princess".

    Since we are not Lauren, we do not know if she was happy, excited, or that she liked what she saw in the mirror. We can assume that from her facial expressions, but observations are not the place for assumptions. It is a better idea to include your observations of her facial expressions than assume that she was happy, excited, or proud.

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    Use Observation to Transform Your Teaching

    Child care anecdotal records are important because often children spend most of their waking hours within your classroom. Keeping records will allow you to see the development of each individual child, and you can use use this documentation to improve your curriculum and lesson plans. Anecdotal records may also make it possible for you to spot delays and other roadblocks to learning.

    Observing the behaviors and interests of your class as a whole will also help you. If you notice that your class shows a very strong interest in outdoor digging, gardening, or planting, you may be able use that information to create a lesson plan the entire class will enjoy. Noticing your class' interest in a particular subject may enable you to create a curriculum web with their help. Young children learn best when the material presented is relevant to their lives and interests. What better way to get a class excited about a theme than letting them help decide on it?

    Keep your individual child observations on index cards. Be sure to include the date of the observation and the age of the child in years and months when documenting the observation. If you carry a few blank index cards in your pocket with a pen, you will always be prepared to jot down an observation or two. Do not worry about neatness when writing since you can always go back and revise and rewrite the observation. If possible, keep each child's observations in its own box. When it is time for assessments, it will be easy to spot the developmental growth of each child. You will have a personal time line for each child in your classroom, noting the developmental milestones of each.