Tips for Writing Observations


Observation notes is essential teaching. There are some best practices to make this daily task easier and more efficient. Here are some tips:

Record Time and Date

Time and date information is helpful. For example, you can spot trending behaviors, such as challenges always happening in the morning. Teachers can also use time and date info to make sure their intentional about taking notes throughout the day.

I noticed that I use to take notes only between 10am and 11am, which is free choice time. I needed to do more.

Abbreviations for Names

Write quickly because you may miss something. For information you write repeatedly, abbreviate. For example, teacher can be “T” or teacher assistant is “TA”. Draw a circle around it so it helps you know it’s a name or professional title.

For children, write abbreviations. There’s two reasons for that. First, child observations are confidential. If notes are lying about, abbreviated names can help maintain privacy. Secondly, I would highly suggest you make up some names, such as having your own code for children. For example, in my picture above, I have “G1”. It could stand for the first girl on my alphabetized roster. Or, I could have a master list where I have a list of names matching with special abbreviations (“GB” is for Gabby, “ST” is for Samantha, etc.).

Practice Makes a Keener Eye

Keep watching. Keep writing. Writing speed will improve. With practice, you can write notes without looking at your notebook. Neatness is not necessary, but make sure you can read your notes later or else it’s all for not.


5 thoughts on “Tips for Writing Observations

  1. Documenting students has been a struggle for me in the past. I do photo documentation a lot, but I’ve found I can never seem to hand write notes fast enough to keep up with my students mile-a-minute mouths.

    Do you ever use voice recordings, instead?


    1. Great question Misha. Voice recordings are a great tool. I’ve used in the past to document language development, small group activities, and a few others. Recordings are excellent for getting quotes and conversations as well. In the end – much like photos – it does take time to review the material. Still, it’s good to have options.
      In the end, the written format is something that – in schools I’ve worked in – are the final form my observations must be in because they end up in the student’s file. However, I’ve used written notes, photos, videos, audio recordings, and student examples all as documentation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My school is dedicated to working in the Reggio Emilia way, which means we tend to view student voice as the main purpose of documentation. I probably should take more behavioral notes now that I think about it.

        Is the student file you are referring to primarily for you and the teaching staff at your institution to review, or is it also for parents?


    2. The student files – although available to parents at any time – are usually used primarily for the teachers (and this includes summaries, student work, student voice, etc.). A summary of the teacher notes are provided and shared during parent-teacher conference meetings (twice a year). Also at these meetings, parents receive a document that includes summaries of the child’s learning and growth in all developmental areas, as well as individual learning goals to achieve by the next parent-teacher meeting.

      Liked by 1 person

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