Document, Document, Document…

We hear it every year, but what, how, and when we should document is sometimes unclear. I recently…


We hear it every year, but what, how, and when we should  document is sometimes unclear.  I recently had the privilege to lead a professional development class in my district on Guided Math Groups in the Middle School Classroom, more to come on that session later.  The big question I received in every session was, “How do you document what you do for every student?”  I stumbled with this question because I have tried to document in notebooks, file folders with sticky notes, pieces of paper that I was going to file for every student, and they were all epic fails.  I have over a hundred students, so documenting the success of every student in my small group is impossible. I started thinking, do I really need to document every student?  My final answer was that I already document for every student.  Here’s how.

Documenting for Every Student

The question, “How do you document what you do for every student?” is simple.  We all create lesson plans, and that shows my plan for every student in my class.  That is what I am doing to measure their success daily.  Lesson PlanningProof of them mastering the lessons that I have taught are reflected in my gradebook.  Did the individual student master the concepts that I taught?  Look at your gradebook.

That lead me to start thinking of when should I document, what should I document, and how can I do this quickly and effectively?

When and What Should I Document

Of course we have to document for  IEP and 504 purposes, but I would also want to document certain students who continually seem to struggle with areas in the content that I teach.  For example, if I have a student that counts on their fingers to calculate in middle school and doesn’t seem to be able to complete tasks during the small group, that is worth documenting.  It is hindering his ability to be successful.  Sleeping StudentAnother example, I have a student that sleeps during my class and is failing because they are unable to stay awake and focus, that is worth documenting.  If a student has attended tutorials for three weeks and they are still unable to be successful, document.  Students that are struggling with reading the problems and understanding what is needed, or that seem to have a language barrier you should document.  This documentation is needed to support the student and notify parents/administration of your concerns for the student’s success.  These scenarios and others can not be reflected in the lesson plan for each individual student.  You need the information and it will be supported by the student’s results in your gradebook.

How Can I Document Quickly and Effectively

I think this is the real question teachers are wanting answered when they ask this in trainings.  We are told to document, document, document, but there is not a standard form that we all fill out as teachers that just seems to be appropriate for every situation and that is actually beneficial for every campus.  On my campus, we have an online program to document behavioral concerns, contact to parents when a student is failing, and any other documentation that links to all of a student’s teachers.  It sounds fantastic and is a great concept, but with only certain fields that you can edit, and not every imaginable concern listed in a drop down box, it is not the most beneficial tool for me to use.  I update it as best  I can, but in the classroom it doesn’t offer me very many benefits.

Like you, I need to know specifics for what I am doing and how to help the student in my class.  This year I plan to keep a OneNote notebook for my classes that I can easily add to during a small group lesson with my students.  I don’t need to have every student that I teach in my notebook, just those who I have IEP’s, 504’s, and notable concerns about.  This could change throughout the year and that’s okay.  stock-footage-portrait-of-caucasian-young-female-teacher-networking-on-tablet-computer-in-college-libraryI update that student if I need to, but if they have been successful and I don’t have any concerns, no documentation is necessary.  I have a tablet or my phone handy, and I update it during the small group.  No need to transfer notes later or try to file a million little post it notes in folders.

As teachers, we sometimes stress out and put to much extra work on ourselves.  Sometimes we are not clear on what is being asked of us, and instead of seeking clarification we stress and try to do it all.  It’s in our nature, but after reflecting on this topic, I can see a little stress falling off my shoulders this year.  Goodbye stress of documentation, I will not miss you!

Hope you find this helpful.  Please comment and share below.



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