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6 Smart Ways to Efficiently Track Student Progress Throughout the Year

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Photo of Emma (Teach Starter)
Updated | 5 min read

Tracking student progress enables teachers to

Are you looking for a #teacherhack to organise and fast track record keeping of student progress? Don’t get caught out with last-minute data collection at the end of term!

Anecdotal notes are a fabulous way to keep track of your thoughts and observations in regards to student progress over the course of the term. They are concise, objective notes on a student’s skills or abilities at a point in time. When compiled over the course of the term, they add up to be an accurate snapshot of a child’s progress and understanding. By the time report writing rolls around, you will be ready to collate your notes and have your report card comments done in no time!


Methods of Anecdotal Note Taking

The wonderful thing about anecdotal notes is that you can write them in whichever way suits you best. Don’t forget, however, that your notes need to describe what each child is capable of in plain, objective and detailed language.

For example:

  • Don’t write “Johnny doesn’t know the planets of the Solar System”
  • Do write “Johnny can recall that there are eight planets in the solar system, however, he can only name four of the planets – Earth, Mars, Venus and Jupiter”

In the above example, Johnny understands that there are planets in the solar system, but he cannot name them all. See how this is more helpful? When it comes time to write your report card comments, you’ll know exactly how Johnny progressed, and what he is capable of. Just make sure to keep the comments up to date!

Sticky Notes

Carrying around a packet of sticky notes to create your anecdotal notes is a sure-fire way to get things done fast!

How to Plan for Report Cards - save time with sticky notes!

Simply use your sticky notes to jot down your observations. Place them either in a student’s book for further marking or on an area of your work station. At the end of the day, collate your sticky notes in your office and record your observations more long term on your laptop or in your student files.

What’s even better about sticky notes is that you can colour-code them to show a student’s understanding! Blue sticky notes for great understanding, yellow for getting there, and orange for needs more help.

To make sure you haven’t missed any students, put together a manila folder like this one! Simply print off any of our editable Name Tags (I used our Pastel Dots – Desk Name Tags in mine!) and place them inside a manila folder. Read more about this method of observation in Holly’s blog Clever Tips for Keeping Track of Student Observations.

How to Easily Plan Your Reports - Manila Folder

One-off Skill Observation

Often, when teachers are marking they are taking in a whole lot of information. They are assessing a student’s understanding, as well as their ability to coherently explain their thoughts. At the same time, you may be marking spelling, punctuation, neatness and a whole plethora of other information!

Make life a little easier by taking the time one lesson a week to assess just one skill in a student’s work. What this is, is up to you!

How to Easily Plan Your Reports - Checklist

Instead of marking a piece of daily writing for language, sentence structure, handwriting, grammar and punctuation, focus on ONE of those and see how much faster your marking will happen. If necessary, flick back over a student’s work for the week to get a more accurate snapshot. You can revisit the work next time you want to mark another skill.

Take A Photo

One of the easiest methods of note-taking is to save the evidence in a photo!

Taking photos of student work isn’t always appropriate (zooming in on a 3-page essay doesn’t sound like my type of fun!) but for visual work, it is an amazing way to keep track of student knowledge and understanding.

Next time your students create a diagram, diorama, or model take a photo to keep on file. If you take the photo on your phone or tablet, you can also easily add a comment or note by either drawing on the photo or creating a caption of your observations!

If you aren’t allowed a mobile phone in your classroom during lesson times, you can easily put work to the side of the room and quickly sort through and snap pictures when you have planning time.

Diary Notes

Perhaps the most common form of anecdotal note-taking, diary notes are a tried-and-tested method of saving time when assessing student work!

Keeping your class diary or planner on hand for a quick jot down of observations can help you flick back over the term and see exactly when and where a student began to develop an understanding of lesson content (or didn’t!).

How to Easily Plan Your Reports - Diary Notes

Something as simple as a ‘got it’ and ‘didn’t get it’ list next to a lesson in your diary can do wonders – especially when it comes to influencing your future lesson planning. Why not use sticky notes again to keep things clean and remove them later when you collate your notes?

Colour-Coded Grading

The other great way to use a diary page is to include one of our many beautifully designed class lists, and colour code skills to easily demonstrate student understanding.

How to Easily Plan Your Reports - Diary Notes

Collate your class’s grades, and colour-code based on grade levels of percentages. This way you can easily see how a student is tracking over the term at a glance!

Check List of Demonstrated Knowledge and Understanding

So, what do you do when there’s nothing to take a photo of? No work to attach a sticky note to?

Create a checklist of the knowledge and understanding that you want to assess in a particular lesson, of course!

Providing a student with a checklist when they are completing a piece of work gives them a great tool to self-assess their work, and empowers them to own their progress. It also gives the teacher something to check against when marking said work!

Take a look at some of our literacy checklists below:

Image of Informational Report Writing Checklist

teaching resource

Informational Report Writing Checklist

Now your students can make sure that they have everything they need in their informational report.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: F - 7
Image of Historical Recount (Factual) Checklist - Structure, Language and Features

teaching resource

Historical Recount (Factual) Checklist - Structure, Language and Features

A checklist for students to use when proofreading and editing their historical recounts.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: 5 - 6
Image of Simple Recount Writing Checklist

teaching resource

Simple Recount Writing Checklist

A checklist for students to use when proofreading and editing their recount writing.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: 1 - 4
Image of Biography Writing Checklist

teaching resource

Biography Writing Checklist

Now your students can make sure that they have everything they need in their biography.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: F - 7

Alternatively, take a look at these checklists to help you assess guided reading:

Image of Guided Reading Groups - Comprehension Checklist (Individual Profile)

teaching resource

Guided Reading Groups - Comprehension Checklist (Individual Profile)

A checklist to help keep track of your students' reading progress and comprehension skills.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: F - 4
Image of Guided Reading Groups - Reading Strategies Checklist (Individual Profile)

teaching resource

Guided Reading Groups - Reading Strategies Checklist (Individual Profile)

A checklist to help keep track of your students' reading progress and the strategies they use.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: F - 4
Image of Guided Reading Groups - Progress Tracker

teaching resource

Guided Reading Groups - Progress Tracker

Use this resource to track the progress of students during your guided reading groups.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: 1 - 4
Image of Guided Reading Groups - Comprehension Strategy Tracker

teaching resource

Guided Reading Groups - Comprehension Strategy Tracker

Use this template to easily track the comprehension strategies your students use during reading.

Teach Starter Publishing1 pageYears: 1 - 4


When it comes time to collate these notes and write your results, make sure you download our Teacher Report Writing Checklist so you don’t miss a thing!

Happy report writing!

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