Thursday, September 4, 2008

Monitor Notes . . .

What are monitoring notes? In my opinion, this is a new buzz word that is making its way into teachers’ vocabulary. To make it simple, monitoring notes are a way for you to quickly assess your students’ understanding of a certain skill or strategy that they must be able to demonstrate at grade level. I learned of monitoring notes through my AP who was giving me next steps.

What does this mean? Let’s take a GLET from the 7th grade Reading Pacing Guide. Standard 4c says, “Students will be able to infer information not directly stated in text.” Ok, so my students need to be able to show that they can “read between the lines” when reading and comprehending texts. In my class, we are reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and in Chapter 2, students should be able to infer why Papa brings Mr. Morrison home. My content partners and I feel that being able to infer is an essential skill that will allow students to reach proficiency. So we posed the question, on a handout, “What can you infer about why Papa brought Mr. Morrison home?” A response that reflects proficiency will include the idea that Papa brought Mr. Morrison home because he wanted to make sure his family was protected from the night riders. Mr. Morrison is a large, muscular man and, therefore, threatening. This information is not directly stated in the text.

What about the other 100 GLET’s I have to teach in this unit? The assessment above took about 10 minutes total from start to finish. I was able to peek over my students’ shoulders and check for understanding. I can tell you that this particular class did not comprehend the inference so I was able to go back and discuss with my students the meaning by asking higher-level questions that made them synthesize the text immediately. I will go back and re-teach this skill, as it needs to be repeated in order for mastery, but I know where my students are without having to guess or await test results. Please understand, my daily activities do include more than one GLET and I do assess for understanding in different ways but when I’m taking monitoring notes, I am taking a snapshot of one GLET that my partners and I have decided to focus on.

How do I keep track of these monitoring notes? This is a great question with a personal answer. I don’t know how you like to collect data but I’ll tell you what I do. I print out a blank spreadsheet from Infinite Campus. I put the GLET at the top along with the date and put three different marks indicating proficiency. If a student does not understand the GLET, I mark a 0 next to their name. If the student kind of understands (and it’s a GLET that allows for that), I put a check mark, and if a student fully understands, I give them a +. There is no “right” way to take a monitoring note so try different things until something finally works for you.

Does this mean more work for me? Let me be honest, at the beginning, yes, this means a little more work in the respect I find myself taking more student work home. However, I can tell you that I have been using these notes for the last few weeks and have no clue as to how I survived without them. I feel like I know my kids better now than when I just knew their MAP and CSAP scores. I can modify my instruction fully knowing what my kids struggle with, I can pull small skills groups to explicitly teach the skill to those who have no understanding, and I have a body of evidence on each student, which, let’s face it, is essential in this day in age.

I encourage you to try monitoring notes if you are at all interested in the concept. Our school has moved to a monitoring note system to enhance our progress monitoring (weekly assessment of student achievement). We are working hard to move our kids to out of unsatisfactory and partially proficient to proficiency and advanced placement and to do so, we have to dig deeper to increase student understanding. I have attached a few links, courtesy of my Assistant Principal. The last one contains actual monitoring notes for math.


Jeff Lewis said...


Thanks for this, I have always struggled with creating a systematic way to make sure I am addressing the GLETs with all of my students. I followed your lead and have created a monitoring notes sheet for the fourth grade using the Curriculum Framework that is available online ( I opened the Word file and deleted everything except the standard and the GLET and created columns for my student names along the top. Is this what you did? I will publish my example to this blog soon, thanks for creating this spark.

Joseph Miller said...


Extremely interesting way to stay on top of what students are doing. If The District settled on a set of monitoring notes or we had examples from all over I bet we could find a way to incorporate in TAAT (no promises). Once in TAAT your student names could be pre-populated prior to printing (again, no promises). Even more interesting to me would be if we collected the data from the notes in some central repository using a mobile device (e.g. PDA, blackberry, laptop, or iPhone). This has really gotten me thinking about systemic ways to get going on this process. Joe

Stewart said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Nicole. I am definitely going to use your system to help me with monitoring notes. I feel like I do it informally anyway, but this would produce actual documentation without much more time and I would probably have much more accurate data than my informal methods. I will share this will my department.