Anecdotal Records

Ideas for taking Anecdotal Records (or Observational Notes) in Pre-K and Preschool. Find more assessment ideas.

Anecdotal Records in Pre-K and Preschool


Making supplies easily accessible is important. I have a chair pocket at both small group tables and baskets in the room to store my anecdotal supplies. Sheets of labels can be attached to a clipboard, and the clipboard can be placed in a chair pocket or basket in different areas of the room, such as the large group meeting area, small group tables, or near centers. After writing them, you can drop them back in the basket or chair pocket, and collect them later to sort onto each child’s anecdotal record sheet. You can also put the labels in file folders with a pen clipped to it. To keep up with which children you’ve written anecdotal notes on, you can write their names on a calendar each day you take notes.

Free printable calendars: Calendars That Work.

Update: As of 2012, I changed schools and now use Work Sampling System Online. I no longer use the labels or sheets for notes listed below. I just jot notes into a notebook and type them into WSO.

Anecdotal Records for Assessment

I use 2×4 inch mailing labels. When I take an anecdotal record, I write the child’s name and an abbreviation for the month. I jot down an abbreviation for the time of day: SG for Small Group, LG for Large Group, C for Center time. Several children’s notes can be written on one sheet of labels. I wait until later in the day or week when I have time to peel the labels off and attach them to each child’s anecdotal record sheet. I have a sheet for each child in a notebook.

Pre-Printed Labels

Pre-printed labels are great for observing a planned activity, such as a small group activity. For example, if we are using Unifix cubes to make an AB pattern, I pre-print labels that say “Making an AB pattern.” At small group time, I write each child’s name on a label. If a child needed help with that activity, I write an “H” on the label. If a child did not need help, I put a check. If a child was absent, I write “absent” on it. These labels are also peeled off and attached to each child’s anecdotal record sheet.

Anecdotal Record Sheet for Labels

Anecdotal Records for Documenting Children’s Work

To document children’s work, I use a form with space to write down the materials the child was working with, my observations of what they did, and what they said while they were working (quotes). I use these mostly during center time. Sometimes, I add these to the child’s portfolio along with a photo. A copy can be made to send home for parents to see what their child has been doing at center time. These anecdotal records are useful in making documentation panels and chronicling a child’s work for their portfolio or newsletters (which are like a weekly journal). Voice recorders are also very useful for documentation.

Anecdotal Records Form


  1. Robin Ceasar says

    Thanks for having your website. It is awesome to have such great ideas. I’m a VPK. Teacher and always looking for ideas for the benchmarks. ..

  2. says

    Wow Karen! I didn’t know what I’d been missing. These ideas are fabulous and will be most useful for the preschool teachers I train. Keep the ideas coming!

  3. Olivia says

    What do you and your assistant do during center time since you said you like the students to have uninterrupted work time during centers?

    • says

      We write observational notes and interact with the kids, help them take their artwork off the easel and carry it to the drying rack, assist them as they resolve conflicts, tie shoes — we’re available to assist them with whatever they need.

      • Arlexia Jennings says

        Question: I am getting overloaded with WSO because I don’t always have the time to put it in. How often do you put in WSO so you don’t feel overwhelmed with it?

        • says

          Hi Arlexia,
          Just the mention of WSO makes me break out in hives. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I don’t know a teacher in GA anywhere who isn’t overwhelmed with WSO. I have tried and tried to make it easier to implement and be less time consuming, but the reality is we have 22 students times 73 indicators. Plus, we’re supposed to have more than one piece of documentation per indicator per child. It all takes up way too much time. What I do: I wait until the end of the week to enter all of the matrices for that week. If I have time, I enter some notes, and if not, I save that for another day. I enter samples whenever I can fit that in (since they take more time than anything else.) I also print out the list of WSO indicators and mark the ones I know I’ve taught in small or large group (and have entered), so that I can see what I have left to do. Then, I’ll plan my lessons accordingly. I hit as many indicators as I can in a week in my lesson plans, even though to be honest, this feels like “teaching to the test” in a way. That’s the only way to hit all those indicators in a semester, especially since you spend the first month of school trying to get the kids settled. I still try to make it fun and enjoyable for the kids, but it sure stinks. No other way to say it.

  4. MrsBusima says

    I’m from the US but live in Uganda where class supplies are at a BARE minimum to say the least. I’ve put together curriculum for preschool classes but need some ideas of activities and crafts that don’t include taking the children to an ant hill or to a dirty toilet to test their sense of smell. Yes, these silly and harmful ideas are in the actual Ugandan preschool curriculum! I would love to hear some simple learning tools you’d use aside from role play and having the children copy straight from a black board, which is all the schools are doing here. Thanks in advance for your input!

    • says

      Hi, I have several years’ worth of activities on this site — just be sure to browse the different categories by using the navigation bar at the top. Many of the activities could probably be adapted to your situation.

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