**This blog post is a longer response to a question posed during our Twitter chat for the intermediate/middle grades last year.
Finding a recording method for anecdotal notes is often a journey that takes on varying forms over time until you find one that suits you. It’s a bit like shopping for jeans. You have to try on a few pairs, visit several stores, ask friends for recommendations and suggestions, and even buy a couple that don’t fit quite right before discovering the pair you were born to wear.
My own journey started with a sophisticated system of sticky notes and checklists, which was far more complicated and time consuming than it was effective. So I scaled down to a less sophisticated system, replacing sticky notes with mailing labels and adding multicolored file folders and a binder. Scaling down looked an awful lot like scaling up.
I thought the more complicated and colorful the system, the better I would be at recording information about my students. At the time I also thought fancy systems were the hallmark of a good teacher. What actually happened is that I maintained my system for roughly two days before becoming overwhelmed by the management required to keep it running that I neglected to take notes on the students.
I was more focused on creating a system with bells and whistles than finding a way to take and store meaningful notes about my students that would both be evidence of student learning and inform future work with these students.
Though this process of finding an effective system was long and expensive—I think I spent at least a week’s salary at Staples on labels of various colors and sizes—I learned several things.
- Bells and whistles are for cars, not systems for recording anecdotal notes.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out our Center’s guided reading pages, below are the links: