This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
One of the most important tasks that we have as teachers at the beginning and throughout the school year is to know our students. Every interaction that we have with them helps us learn the depth of their funds of knowledge, their strengths, and their needs, which gives us information about them as human beings, learners, and members of our class. The more we know about our students, the more we can help them and build the foundation of formative assessment.
There is a very effective way to know and learn our student’s strengths and weaknesses, known as Kidwatching, which occurs as a natural part of the instruction. Kidwatching is a naturalistic valid and reliable assessment. This process involves not only looking at the children, but also observing them intelligently, listening effectively, organizing a rich environment for learning, taking anecdotal notes, and analyzing the data collected. It is a direct, intentional, and systematic observation of how children learn and the goal is to use the information collected to refine our instruction as teachers. Moreover, Kidwatching is to help children build their capabilities to use language to communicate and learn. Interactions with our students as they engage in learning experiences play an important part in their growth as well.
When we start kidwatching, it can seem very tedious because we want to capture every moment of each child during the day, and by the end of the week, we have piles of notes everywhere. However, as we keep doing it we learn that the quantity of notes is not what matters, but the quality of information. We can start by writing a single sentence daily about each child and read them at the end of the week, and analyze them to see the growth in that student.
For taking anecdotal notes, a teacher does not need to set up a special place for the students to stay or to put it in the daily schedule. It is as simple as walking around the classroom at different times of the day, observing, listening, and writing at the same time. We can take notes from any subject, when students are reading alone, when they are working in pairs, or when they are working with their team. There are many ways of taking anecdotal notes like writing on Post-it notes, having a journal assigned for that particular task or write notes on a sheet of paper, or we can even record our students. Personally, I prefer to write notes, make a table with twenty cells (the number of students that I have) on a sheet of paper with the name of each student on each cell, write the date and very descriptive notes, and keep the sheet of paper on a clipboard assigned for that specific task.
Successful kidwatching builds a deep view of the students and the culture within a classroom, and provides teachers with information to understand how language and literacy develop as well.