Last week I had a conversation with a second grade teacher who was wondering about how to setup a manageable monitoring notes system. This is not the first time that a teacher has come to me to inquire about this and certainly not the first time that I have wondered about it myself! Before I continue, let’s clarify what exactly monitoring notes are. From my perspective, I see monitoring notes as a type of informal assessment that helps to document student learning and guide further instruction. Furthermore they are seemingly simple, yet deceivingly tricky. I mean, all you need to do is jot something down on a sticky note and stick it on a binder or on your desk for later right? Well, not really. That one sticky note or piece of paper can quickly turn into several and before you know it you don’t know which is which or what is where. Agh! When this happens, you quickly feel frustrated and wonder what the point of this whole monitoring thing is anyway. Well it definitely has a point. They not only serve as a documentation and planning tool, monitoring notes also play a key role when completing report cards, having high quality conferences with families, and in building a thorough body of knowledge in tracking student growth.
Each year, I have worked on revising and adjusting my monitoring system to make it more effective. In this post and the following post I will share my top two manageable monitoring systems.
Around my second year of teaching I began to wonder…”Wouldn’t student portfolios be cool!? I could use them to house and organize my monitoring notes, other assessments, and even pieces students have selected themselves to show their best work! Oh, and I could even use them for student lead conferences!” Well while I had big dreams, putting these portfolios together seemed like too daunting of a task and I just couldn’t deal. At least not that year. The following year I figured out how to put it all together. Check it out!
What will I need?
- one 1-inch binder for each student (if students didn’t bring them in with their other back-to-school supplies, I found them for $.79 each at WalMart)
- three dividers, one for each of the main subjects you teach (reading, writing, math) — I especially like the pocket dividers as you can use them to store other assessments
- three pieces of construction paper, cut to size (matching the colors with the dividers keeps it even more manageable!)
- mailing labels (I prefer the sheets that have three columns of labels)
How do I put it all together?
Label the dividers and put the corresponding construction paper folder behind them…done!
At the end of the day or the week, try to set aside a time to review your monitoring notes and use them to make adjustments to your lessons. Informed instruction = better instruction! Take the time to make monitoring student work more manageable for yourself and I’m confident you’ll be happy that you did.
As always, let me know if you have other good ideas!