Running Record Observation Essay

Child Observation Essay

The task of observing a child in a natural setting seemed relatively simple. As an unmarried uncle with plenty of free time, I am frequently asked to observe and look after my twin ten year old niece and nephew. Most of the time I watch the children at my house or at my brother’s house, which for the most part is as natural a setting as can be found. The task of observing the children is reduced to just another enjoyable evening watching television, snacking on junk food and sitting around with the kids.

When the task involves observing a child who for the most part is unknown to us, in a natural setting which is unfamiliar to us, the activity becomes significantly more difficult. In order to observe and remain objective in our findings and conclusions we must observe on a scientific level which involves planning, set guidelines, and discipline. A basic understanding of accepted methods for observing and recording the observations is required in order to make the best use of time. In addition, a certain amount of common sense must be exercised so as not to give the wrong impression to the children and most importantly any adults present in the area while observing. Some consideration must even be given to one’s appearance in this situation. As most would agree, an observer in a park observing some unknown young children, wearing a long trench coat and sunglasses is probably destined for trouble. The final and probably most important consideration is finding an acceptable setting for observing the child.

After considering my options, I decided that observing a young student attending day-care at a local school would be an ideal setting for accomplishing this assignment. As a substitute teacher as well as softball coach on occasion at Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac School in Temecula, I am familiar with the day-care staff and school procedures. I notified the day-care staff and arranged to observe in day-care on Wednesday afternoon. The day-care hours begin at 3:00 and end at 5:30. Due to the day-care environment and time constraints, I decided to observe and record my observations in a running record. Using this method of narrative recording allowed me to keep a sequential record of behavior as it occurred while documenting individual situations that had influenced the behavior. I chose a student who attends day-care on a daily basis and is picked up at 5:00 consistently, thus assuring me that the child is familiar with day-care and would be observed in as natural a setting as possible. I selected a boy of around 10 years old for my observational study. For purposes of identification throughout this exercise, I will refer to the observed student as the Boy.

A Running Record of Observed Behavior

3:05 The Boy arrives at day-care escorted by home room teacher and is checked in along with 12
additional students of varying ages.

3:10 After several minutes of standard check-in confusion, all students are asked to take seats
and begin...

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RUNNING RECORDS

What is a running record

Writing a running record requires the educator to act like a video camera, recording all significant behaviours and interactions as they happen. Whereas anecdotal records are written after the fact, running records are written as the action is unfolding. If you were to read one out loud, it might sound a bit like the running commentary of a sports event: “Cournoyer passes the puck to Savard. Savard carries the puck down the boards, over the blue line. He winds up, he shoots, he scores!” 

 

Why use running records?

A running record involves writing down everything that is happening, in the order that it happens. Observers limit the amount of editing they do as they record. Instead, the idea is to record as much raw data as possible. Using this rather open-ended method means that educators can gather a lot of information in a relatively short period of time. As such, these are a popular choice for professionals in the field.

 

How do I write a running record?

Running records are written as the action is unfolding in front of you, so use the present tense when writing them (click here to see an Exercise that will help you – the 3rd set of questions will help you practice your verb tenses).

 

Being positive and objective, and using descriptive language are also important things to keep in mind when writing your anecdotal records. Click here for related exercises.

 

Give yourself a tentative time frame for writing a running record. For example, decide ahead of time that you will observe the children at the sand box for the first 15 minutes of Free Play. The process of writing a running record can be quite tiring. It also requires the educator to step out of her active role in order to record her observations on the spot. This is referred to as the spectator-observer role. Getting organized ahead of time is key.

 

Sample running record  - see clip

Annette kneels down next to Maya and begins wiping her face with a wet cloth. As Annette starts to wipe Maya’s right hand, Maya grabs the cloth with her left hand and yanks it away from Annette. Annette asks, “You wanna do it?” Maya starts wiping her mouth and tongue, clutching the cloth tightly in both hands. Annette smiles, claps her hands together and exclaims, “OK! Good job!” Annette reaches out and begins to lift Maya’s bib over her head. Maya transfers the wet cloth to her right hand, then, as the bib is lifted up and over her head, grabs it with both hands again. She wipes the cloth across her cheek and mouth, then vigorously swipes at her tongue four times.

 

Click here for exercises to help practise writing running records.

 

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