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5 Note-Taking Tips Guaranteed to Help During CLASS® Observations

16 Jan 2020 by Cierra Johnson

Have you ever wished for a magical power that helped you take notes super effectively while conducting CLASS observations? The kind of magical power that paints an exact picture of what happened in the classroom without actually being there? Yeah, me too!

The truth is that there is no magic that can transform you into a better note-taker. Luckily, note-taking is a skill that can be mastered with practice. Once mastered, you might still find yourself scratching your head and thinking, “What in the world did I just write?” The truth is that taking notes can be challenging, but the suggestions below can help you master the art of note-taking, especially for CLASS observations. 

1. Be confident 

Say this with me: I have taken notes before, I have taken notes before, I have taken notes before. Yes! Almost all of us have taken notes in our life. Remember in the 7th grade when Mr. or Mrs. Such and Such made you take notes? What about the time when you sat in a high school or in a college course capturing the lecture in your notebook? Or what about the anecdotal record you wrote on a student to capture progress? We have all taken notes before, so when we take a CLASS training, we are not learning how to take notes, we are simply learning how to take notes on CLASS-related behaviors. Once you realize that you have done this before, you will have more confidence.

2. Avoid scripting

True confession: I learned to take notes by scripting. A college professor told me that in order to catch everything that was happening in a classroom, you must write every single thing down. So that is what I did, I wrote every single thing down (or “scripted”).

Here is an example of scripting a classroom observation: Teacher walks to sink. Picks up child. Takes right hand and turns off faucet. Looks at child. Smiles at child. Puts hands and child’s hands under water. Turns sink off. Tells child, "Okay Callie, we are all done, I am going to put you on the floor." Puts child down.

Although this may be effective note-taking for certain observations, it is not the best method for conducting CLASS observations. Only about half of the notes are useful because the other half covers structural features of the classroom. When I condense my previous list to include only CLASS-related behaviors, it looks like this: Looks at child. Smiles at child. Tells child, “Okay Callie, we are all done, I am going to put you on the floor.”

Be careful not to script everything, only note the CLASS-related behaviors. This might seem hard at first, but over time, it gets easier to identify what needs to go down on paper (and what is irrelevant to CLASS).  

3. Learn the power of shorthand!

I am proud to say that I have mastered the art of short-hand. Never will I write the word “teacher” or “child “again! “T” and “C” is good enough for me! Short-hand is great because it allows you to write quickly what you saw and heard and doesn’t take up a lot of room. Be cautious, though. Short-hand means nothing if you can’t understand or remember what the letter or word references. 

4. Just take notes

Say this with me: I am not a CLASS expert…I am not a CLASS expert! One day you will be, but not two days after your first observation training and maybe not after a year of being certified. It's okay if you can’t take notes and sort at the same time. The truth is many people struggle with taking notes because they are trying to do too many things at the same time, including sorting, judging effectiveness, assessing quality, etc. Be easy on yourself and just take notes. The sorting and evaluating comes after the observation is complete. After all, you have 10 minutes after a CLASS observation to take your time to sort and assess. 

5. Visit Chapter 2 in your manual! 

Chapter 2 is my best friend! I love me some Chapter 2! I suggest going back and reading it, especially the "Observing Settings with the CLASS" section. Chapter 2 has saved my life and has really helped me to be a more effective CLASS observer and notetaker. If you haven’t read Chapter 2, you are missing out on some great stuff, my friend.

There you have it, my ingredients to the art of note-taking. Don’t be hard on yourself! You’ve got this. Sometimes it’s just a matter of realizing that you have to re-adjust your ingredients or add some additional flavors to get the right mix. Remember: note-taking is a skill and just like every skill, it has to be practiced.

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