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Structure of Anecdotal

Records at the Child

Development Lab
University of Illinois

Know Child DevelopmentAges and

7 areas of development
Social, Fine motor, Large motor,
Emotional, Cognitive, Language, and
Take time to review age-appropriate
skills, objectives, and benchmarks in
the age range of the children in your
classroom in all seven developmental

Be Objective
Objectivity in documenting childrens
activities must be learned, practiced, and
When writing anecdotes we must resist the
urge to interpret childrens feelings and
motivations for behaving as they do.
Write exactly what happened without
assumptions or judgments. Explain what
happened, how it happened, and what
happened afterwards

Dont Assume
The following example makes
assumptions that may not be
accurate about how Toby felt and
generalizes his actions:
Toby was feeling mean and cranky all
morning. He knocked over Annies
block building and had a tantrum.

Do Explain
This anecdote shows us exactly what happened
without assumptions or judgments. We see what
happened before the blocks were knocked down,
how it happened, and what happened after:
Toby frowned as he watched Annie stack red foam blocks. Teacher Jen
showed Toby the unused blue blocks on the shelf. Then she went to
assist other children at the water table. Toby looked again at Annies
block building saying, Want red. He reached for a red block,
knocking all of the red blocks down. Both Toby and Annie dissolved into
tears. Jen returned and soothed both children, offering each of them
space to build with red and blue blocks. She rubbed Tobys back
saying, Next time lets ask Annie first before taking her red blocks.

Dont Generalize
Another caution pertaining to
collection of anecdotal information
involves the use of phrases like,
Ellie enjoys art, or Art is Ellies
favorite activity.

Do Describe
Instead, describe Ellies specific actions:
Ellie went to the easel as soon as she arrived at school.
She smiled and chatted with Paul on the other side of the
easel as they traded paint colors and looked at each
others paintings. She used yellow, red, black, and purple
paint, filling her entire page with paint. She asked for
Debbies help to place the finished painting on the drying
rack. As teacher Debbie helped manipulate the large
painting, Ellie commented, It looks like fireworks!

Dont Compare
Avoiding comparison is another very important
factor in achieving objectivity in documenting
childrens activities.
Maggies language development is so far ahead
of the rest of our class! She used full sentences
to retell the store, Are You My Mother? today.
She can do all the puzzles on our shelf without
help even the alphabet puzzle. Shes just the
best at everything she does!

Do Provide Details
Details on how Maggie accomplished the
completion of the alphabet puzzle without
gushing about her being the best at everything
will provide a more useful tool for planning
future curriculum to meet Maggies needs:
Maggie picked up the alphabet puzzle and
brought it to the table. She worked individually,
finding all of the edge pieces first. After
assembling those, Maggie filled in the center and
completed the puzzle without assistance.

Accurate Documentation of Childrens

Communication and Language
Jot down childrens exact words and use
quotation marks to clarify when children
are speaking. Pay attention to exactly
what they say.
Resist the temptation to correct the
childrens speech and language use in
writing documentation. This could hide
developing problems with speech and
language or cover evidence of
developmental progress.

Positive Language and

Accurate Reports
A collection of anecdotal records is meant to
portray a record of the childs typical behavior and
daily activity, which when continuously recorded,
provides a picture of development over time.
Teachers must be careful to include all types of
activities and incidents, from the unusual to
mundane daily routines.
In addition to reporting incidents professionally, be
sure that the total sum of anecdotes shows a fair
and accurate representation of a childs activities,
not just his strengths or just his immaturity.

Suggested ResourcesChild
Development Ages and Stages
1. Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers (Gonzalez-Mena
and Widmeyer-Eyer, 2001)
2. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early
Childhood Programs (Bredekamp and Copple, 1997)
3. The Whole Child (Hendrick, 2001)
4. Reaching Potentials: Appropriate Curriculum and
Assessment of Young Children (Bredekamp and
Rosegrand, 1992)
5. Reaching Potentials: Transforming Early
Childhood Curriculum and Assessment (Bradekamp
and Rosegrand, 1995)
6. Creating Environments & Curriculum For Infants
and Toddlers: Connecting the Pieces (Gilbert,