Anecdotal-1ANECDOTAL RECORDS: ASSESSING AS YOU TEACHJohn E. ReadenceUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas As a form of assessment, Anecdotal Records* are a way of recordinginformation about a childs literacy as they do reading and writing inclassrooms or other settings. They usually represent information that iscollected on the run by a teacher. Anecdotal Records have become a way ofassessing childrens literacy development. Unlike checklists, AnecdotalRecords can be made without anticipating the ways in which children engagewith various events in school. Thus, Anecdotal Records not only allowteachers to engage in kidwatching, but they also allow them to consider theirobservations and use those observations in their future interactions withchildren and their parents. Anecdotal Records require teachers to: a) draw upon theirunderstanding of the child in relation to their understanding about literacydevelopment; b) recognize significant events, as it is neither possible nordesirable to record every event in the process of a childs acquisition ofliteracy; and c) use the event to inform their instructional practice. Thus,Anecdotal Records provide teachers with information that can be used in theclassroom, leading ultimately to action and then collecting more information as______________________________________________________________*Adapted from Tierney, R.J., & Readence, J.E. (2005). Reading strategies and practices: A compendium(6th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.events unfold. Assessment is cyclical in nature.Description of the Procedure Anecdotal Records allow teachers to bring together knowledge ofliteracy development and the history of a particular child in a process of
Anecdotal-2recognizing events that are significant to that childs reading and writingdevelopment. In turn, this information leads teachers to a process of analysisthat leads to instructional planning and the generation of new questions forassessment. Anecdotal records may be implemented as follows. 1. Guiding Observations. Since literacy development is a lifelongprocess that changes significantly from moment to moment in a persons life, itcannot be easily or briefly summed up. Additionally, there are many aspects ofreading and writing that are part of literacy development. Therefore, it issuggested that some guiding questions be used to structure yourobservations. Questions to Guide ObservationsConcepts about Print1. To what extent does the child attend to print (e.g., does the child focus on the print when someone else is reading)?2. How does the child handle books (e.g., is the child able to hold the book right side up, turn pages one at a time, and point to the place where one should begin reading)?3. Does the child expect the print to make sense and have meaning (e.g., does the child seek out text that will provide the information s/he wants)?4. How does the child use information from the print setting (e.g., where the print is found, who asked that it be read, why it is being read)?Background Knowledge1. How does the child bring background knowledge to the reading situation?2. How does the child approach text? Is there an effort made to appreciate the
Anecdotal-3 written experiences by relating the text to his/her own life?3. How does the child use memory as an aid (e.g., when asked to read a familiar song or riddle, does the child use familiarity with the material as a basis for predicting and making inferences)?Strategy Use1. How does the child handle the information-giving systems of language? Does the child use a flexible strategy that encompasses all language cues (e.g., context, sound/symbol) to construct meaning, or does the child rely on a single system?2. Does the child proficiently sample and construct meaning from text?3. Does the child monitor his/her reading by asking, "Does this make sense?"4. Does the child self-correct when meaning is interrupted?5. Is there a dialect or first language influence on the childs reading, and how does the child handle this influence?6. What strategies does the child use to approach unfamiliar text?Self as Reader1. What does the child think of himself/herself as a reader?2. Under what circumstances and with what frequency does the child make the decision to read?3. What risks are taken by the child as he/she reads?4. How realistic is the childs judgment of his/her knowledge of discourse forms needed to read various texts (e.g., science materials vs. drama)? 2. Recording Significant Events. Anecdotal Records provide a methodof recording teacher’s observations of significant events as children engage inactual reading and writing. What constitutes a significant event? There isusually so much happening in a class that teachers must be highly selective
Anecdotal-4about what to record. Teachers must decide if they want to use AnecdotalRecords in a planned fashion to track specific aspects of literacy acquisition,or if they want to capture spontaneous moments of literacy behavior for laterconsideration. Certainly, the guiding questions posed previously will help inthis decision-making. Although there are numerous forms that they might take, the followingguidelines for making Anecdotal Records are suggested. First, describe only aspecific event. Second, be objective; report rather than evaluate or interpret.That will be done later. Third, relate the event to other facts that you knowabout the child. Fourth, observe children in a variety of settings at differenttimes in the school day. Fifth, record your observation as soon as possible.Finally, choose a workable recording system for yourself. One of the easiest (and cheapest) vehicles for recording AnecdotalRecords is sticky notes. They can be carried around on a clipboard and thentransferred to a notebook that has ongoing records for each child. With theadvent of laptops and hand-held computers with handwriting-recognitionsoftware, teachers may find such devices to be a viable way of makingAnecdotal Records (depending on their availability and affordability, ofcourse). Regardless of the recording system, it is important to provide asufficient amount of detail so that someone else reading the record will have asense of what happened. At a minimum, each observation should be datedand should include key features such as identifiers of children and theassignments themselves. 3. Analysis and Interpretation. Record the event in the most value-freelanguage possible, keeping interpretive or analytical comments separate fromthe record of the event. Consider dividing your record form in half, one part forreporting the incident and the other for making interpretive comments.
Anecdotal-5In making your interpretive comments, consider the significance of the event inrelation to other observed events and how the information will inform teaching. If, for example, the teacher deems it significant that an individual childbegins to use letter/sound relationships in her writing, this moment might berecorded. The teacher would record the childs actual writing and a translationthat would allow her (or others) to read that writing in the future. She alsowould record her intervention process (showing child how to "stretch thewords" and asking the child what she did that was different). In the process ofanalyzing this particular record, the teacher would draw on her knowledge ofliteracy development to remark about what the child is capable of doing as ofthis observation, and some possible next steps for this child. In analyzing anevent, the teacher might consider the factors that make the event significantas well as the implications of the event for the future. If the teacher in the example continues to make several AnecdotalRecords over time for this particular child, the teacher might find that she isgaining facility with letter/sound relationships or that she has a problem with aparticular set of letter/sound relationships. She might be able to record themoment when the child starts to understand about word boundaries. Inconference with the child’s parents, the teacher will be able to show some richdata about the childs literacy development. Thus, three types of analysis arepossible with Anecdotal Records: a) making inferences, b) identifying patterns,and c) identifying strengths and weaknesses. 4. Use. The information from Anecdotal Records has several possibleuses, including instructional planning and generating new questions aboutchildren’s literacy behaviors. Anecdotal Records of childrens responses towritten language can help teachers plan stimulating instructional situations forthe reluctant as well as the enthusiastic reader/writer. In addition, teachers
Anecdotal-6may use them to periodically inform others, including the children themselves,about their strengths, weaknesses, and progress. Analyzing AnecdotalRecords and using them to plan instruction encourages teachers to generatenew questions that lead full circle to further assessment of children and ofteaching itself.Cautions and Comments Anecdotal Records are potentially a very important part of authenticassessment procedures because they create a picture of a childs engagementwithin a natural literacy setting, rather than the artificial setting of a test.Further, although a disadvantage to Anecdotal Records may be that they aretime-consuming to produce, they can be done within the context of childrensengaging with the activities of the school. In other words, Anecdotal Recordsdo not interrupt the childs work for the process of assessment; they areintegral to the childs work. Anecdotal Records are a form of assessment that acknowledges—and depends on—teachers’ understanding of children and ability to workconstructively with them. Unlike behavior checklists (which limit the process ofobservation), Anecdotal Records allow wise teachers who have a great deal ofinsight into children s behavior and progress to bring all their skills andinformation to bear in the process of assessment. They also can be used inconcert with many other assessment tools as well as the analysis procedures(such as rubrics) and reporting mechanisms (such as conferencing).
Anecdotal-7 As with any powerful tool, Anecdotal Records have a potential to be harmful. Judgmental language or other implicit judgments in the process of recording can be detrimental to children, particularly if these records become a part of the childs school record. Further, although teachers may be a wise people, they may not have observed the whole event. There may be another side to the story that is missing from Anecdotal Records, but one that readers of Anecdotal Records may not look for, since it is so easy to assume that teachers recorded the event accurately. In the case of Anecdotal Records about problematic events, teachers may want to invite children to record their observations and perceptions and to store the childrens records with their own records. ReferencesGoodman, Y. (1985). Kidwatching. In A. Jagger & M.T. Smith-Burke (Eds.), Observing the language learner. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.Rhodes, L.K., & Nathenson-Mejia, S. (1992). Anecdotal records: A powerful tool for ongoing literacy assessment. The Reading Teacher, 45, 502- 509.Watson, D. (1985). Watching and listening to children read. In A. Jagger & M.T. Smith-Burke (Eds.), Observing the language learner. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.