Documentation for Early Childhood Teachers

  1. 1.
    material that provides official information or evidence or that serves as a record.
    "you will have to complete the relevant documentation"
  2. 2.
    the process of classifying and annotating texts, photographs, etc.
    "she arranged the collection and documentation of photographs"


It sounds boring. It sounds time consuming. Documentation sounds daunting, especially if you have a large group of children to work with.

This year, my personal goal for teaching is to improve my documenting skills. I don't just want to do better recordings of my observations, I want to enjoy doing it. 

When I started this program, I created this observation record to monitor behavior and to help write progress reports. I like the form, but it is clinical. It is a great tool to record behavior and social/emotional observations for students that may need additional support. I also found that it did not provide a lot of information to help write the narrative style progress reports that I provide for families. 

In order to better utilize my observations, I had to think of a simple way to record a burst of activity for each child happening each day. I did not want to carry a clip board everywhere and I wanted to make sure that I was still engaging with the children for the majority of their play time. 

If you are recording data, like in the observation record listed above, then it tends to be filed away for summary at a later time. I wanted to make the children's interest and learning more visible for themselves and their families. Keeping tally marks of who does what and how many times they do it is not interesting and does not give a fair representation of the whole child. So, I decided that the observations should be done in a way that it could become part of their portfolio that goes home at the end of the year. 

Knowing that I wanted to be able to continue engaging with the children and get a picture of the whole child, I developed these two pages to add to their portfolio:


The narrative observations by subject are done monthly. By recording an observation according to subject matter, it makes learning visible for the parents. I am able to record in a way that does not interfere with the child's play and it documents their abilities. Since I am only doing on subject matter each month, making a narrative record for each child takes very little time.

The calendar is filled in daily. During our morning activities (the longer block of play where children can really become immersed in what they are doing), I watch to see what activity the child is most engrossed with. I record their most prominent play scheme of the morning or a special event that they participated in. I also ask families to share special events that happen at home on non-school days, so that they can also be added to the calendar.

Setting up a "music dance show."
This is month two of recording observations in this style. I really like it. It is much more informative than previous styles for planning activities that are based on the children's interests and abilities. Plus, using a calendar format allows the children to be involved while using a calendar in a meaningful way.

For those interested, children over two also have a writing sample and self portrait in their portfolio for each month. Additionally, I share photo documentation with families weekly of the activities. I think this combination of documentation styles and sharing really helps to capture the whole child and their individuality. So far, I'm enjoying watching the interests develop and getting to know each child a little better than I did before.

*I did not record where in the internet I found the images included in the documents. They are not my original design. If you are the creator or know where it came from, please leave a comment so that I can give the proper credit.