Wisdom Begins with Wonder

The power of observation

taking notes

Sometimes teachers (especially in an inquiry-centered classroom) can get so caught up in running around the room helping students, that we miss the big picture.

What would happen if you just observed your students and took notes?  No talking, no running around putting out fires, just watching and listening.  What would you learn about your class – about the people who make up the class?

Key things to watch/ listen for:

  • What do they do when they enter the room?
  • How do they interact with each other?
  • What are they talking about?
  • Are they helping each other?
  • If they are helping each other, are they collaborating and assisting or are they just giving answers?
  • Does anyone step up and show leadership in the absence of your voice?

Sometimes you can learn a lot when you shut your mouth, slow down and pay attention to the details.

photo from the flickr stream of natashalcd


  • #   John on 10.20.10 at 7:06 pm     

    I like this, and need to remind myself to do this more. I’ve been using a note taking app on the mac (Notational Velocity) which syncs with a notetaking app on my phone (simplenote) to create quick notes about each kid that are linked, and I can then email out quick bits of encouragement/advice. It made comment writing so much easier.

  • #   Mr. Rice on 10.21.10 at 6:03 am     


    I’m struggling to find a notetaking method that I like. I’ve mostly been using a google spreadsheet this year but I need something more portable. I’m tempted to break down and get an iPad.

    I think its really valuable to observe the class as a whole to help you identify problems before they become big ones. It may also be that you recognize a positive that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

    Once in while, I like to just sit silently in a student seat and see what the class does. Do they get started without my prompting? Do they got through class opening routines?

    It can be fascinating!

  • #   John on 10.21.10 at 6:07 am     

    If you’ve got a mac, I’d say give notational velocity a try—it’s free. What I love about it is that it is lightnight fast. You essentially create a note by searching for a kids name, if you don’t find anything, you press enter to create a new note. I have notes on all my kids, with date entries, and can switch from kid to kid (and search) all with keyboard commands. And since it syncs with simplenote on iOS, I can read (and type, painfully on iphone) notes on the go.

  • #   Laurie Verdeschi on 10.21.10 at 7:13 am     

    “You can observe a lot by watching.” Yogi Berra

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