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NYC Helpline: How To: Get Started
How to Write an Anecdotal Report Allison Demas

Chances are that you have a student in your class who displays less than exemplary behavior. The student may sense that you are a new teacher (students have an uncanny way of knowing) and is simply pushing the envelope. On the other hand, the child may have legitimate difficulties and require special assistance. In either case you should keep an anecdotal record of student behavior. 

An anecdotal report records student behaviors, both proper and improper. Screaming during an activity might be an improper behavior. So is non-participation in an activity. Positive behavior should be noted as well. The purpose of an anecdotal is not to get a child in trouble. It is a tool which should be used to help a child. Inappropriate behavior is frequently a call for help. By keeping an unemotional, all-encompassing account of a student’s day or week or month you are providing a picture of that student which may show a pattern. This can determine how the child can be helped. It is important to remember that an anecdotal record is about the student - not about you.There are certain guidelines for keeping an anecdotal report which should be maintained. It is important to keep your perspective and maintain objectivity. As Sergeant Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts.” An anecdotal entry should read as a detached and unemotional accounting of an incident. All entries should include the date, time, activity and the specific event. 

The activity might be “walking to the lunchroom” and the event might be “John ran away.” You need to keep emotional comments and subjective comments out of the report. Do not try to interpret the behavior (i.e. “Rebecca was acting out her anger about ...”). You should simply report the behavior witnessed (i.e. “Jane threw a book across the room.”). Describe the action, what precipitated the incident and your response to it.

Your emotions should not be apparent to the person reading this report.This is a confidential record on one student. It should include that student’s name and the names of any adults involved. It should not include the names of other students. If Johnny threw a book at George you would identify George only by the first initial of his name (i.e. “G”). The record should be kept in chronological order. Obviously you can not sit down and write up a situation while the situation is occurring. However, if you jot a few notes down, after the situation, it will help you go back and write it up in a dispassionate manner at a later time. It is advisable to keep a notebook or an anecdotal form handy in order to facilitate this. Here is a sample of an anecdotal form:

Student's Name _________________

Date  Time  Activity  Event/Incident 

Remember to be specific when describing an incident. Don’t assume that your definition of “disruptive” is the same for everyone. Avoid using generalizations, such as “always fighting” or “never prepared.” Be sure to include the specifics about the activity, the requirements, other participants and the particular behaviors demonstrated by the student. 

Perspective is very important. I once had a student transferred into my class because he was a “behavior problem” in another class. His “problem” was that he kept getting out of his seat in his former class. This was not a problem in my class since I did not require my students to stay in their seats. In an environment that was conducive to his needs he ended up having a productive and successful year. More importantly, he was happy and he learned.


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