Reading Recovery: The Importance of Notetaking

Lesson records are a vital piece of our planning during a Reading Recovery series of lessons. In her article, What Do Lesson Records Have to Do with Effective Reading Recovery Teaching?, Sharan Gibson explains that the purpose of lesson records is “to ensure that our instruction is tailored to each student’s needs” (p. 24). Detailed and complete lesson records:

  • Allow us to see the student’s strengths and needs which in turn helps us to plan for the next lesson
  • Help us to notice patterns over time with the student’s processing (student progress monitoring)
  • Help us to notice patterns over time with our teaching (monitoring of teacher behaviors)
  • Aid us in updating our predictions of progress
  • Help us to check daily on assumptions and make any necessary adjustments (our notes should always be tentative)
  • Allow us to see if our instruction is working
  • Aid us in working for strategic behavior intentionally which will tell us what to call the child’s attention to and what to let go
  • Allow us to see the “moment-by-moment victories” made by the child (Gibson, p. 30)

We do not want our lesson records to interfere with our teaching so it can be helpful to use some shorthand to write our notes during the lesson. It pays off to take another 5 minutes after the lesson to complete our lesson notes. It can be hard to remember important details of the lesson if we have to wait too long after the lesson to complete our notes.

When adding to our notes we can think about:

  • How did the child approach problem-solving?
  • Was the child showing signs that they were monitoring his/her reading?
  • Was the child able to self-correct his/her errors?
  • How did the child take on the scaffolding you set them up for them during the book orientation?
  • How fast, efficient, and independent was the child during the letter sort, word work.
  • How did the child sound when they read their familiar books?
  • How does the child problem solve when assembling the cut-up sentence.
  • How independent is the child with using sound/letter boxes?
  • Is the child generating more and more complex sentences over time?

Gibson provides notetaking and future planning exemplars created by an experienced Reading Recovery teacher.  For this blog post, I would like to provide examples of my own notes and thoughts on planning for future lessons. I do not consider my examples to be exemplars but rather a means of sharing my learning while I work on improving my notetaking skills.

~Just to be completely transparent, I did rewrite these lesson records so that they would legible. My notes written in pencil were written during the lesson. The notes written in red were written after the lesson.~

Familiar Reads

Future work:

  • Bring attention to punctuation marks, setting her up for the variety she will see in upcoming books.
  • Make connections between how she is reading and the punctuation marks on the page

Letter/Word Work

Future work:

  • Include “q” in a letter array amongst other letters she knows (although known do not include “p” yet).
  • Continue with the same word work principal using different words


Future work:

  • Look for more evidence of independence with sound boxes (on her way to letter boxes)
  • Work on “s” reversal
  • Make “down” more well-known

New Book

Future work:

  • No longer need to scaffold for the language structure “he said” (she took that on easily)
  • Reinforce how our voice sounds at a question mark
  • Reinforce further visual searching behaviors.
  • Teach/prompt for “slow check” to confirm reading

We often talk about self-efficacy in regards to our students but Gibson relays that importance of self-efficacy in regards to ourselves as teachers. The children we work with can be quite “tricky”. Some days, if we are struggling to get a shift, we might feel like pulling our hair out or giving up. Self-efficacy requires us to take responsibility for our teaching decisions and evaluate how well those decisions worked out. Our teaching decisions are what is most important when it comes to whether or not our students discontinue. That can be a hard pill to swallow but if we see a lack of progress and lay the blame with the child the goal of discontinuing will be minimized.

Gibson includes an explanation of the cycle that will help us to internalize Reading Recovery theory and procedures.  We can see how our notetaking is a key piece of this cycle.

The Path to InternalizingReading Recovery Theory& Procedures

The Path to Internalizing Reading Recovery Theory & Procedures

Recently, on the Reading Recovery Facebook Group page, this question was asked.


Many Reading Recovery teachers replied and shared their favorite “shorthand” for taking notes. While you need to use a system that works best for you I thought it was interesting to see what others included on their lesson records.  Here are the suggestions made by group:

notetaking shortcutsnotetaking shortcuts2

Notetaking shortcuts

While we want to be careful that we are not allowing notetaking to get in the way of our close observing, teaching, and prompting, we need to have a system for taking complete and detailed notes.  These notes will be important to support us with planning lessons that reflect the daily changes in our student’s learning.  Clay writes that “these records will inform your thinking and assist you in making the best teaching decisions (p. 35).



Clay, Marie.  Literacy Lessons Designed for Individuals, 2nd edition.  Portsmouth:  Heinemann, 2016. Print.

Gibson, Sharan. “What Do Lesson Records Have to Do With Effective Reading Recovery Teaching?” Journal of Reading Recovery. Fall (2010): 24-33. Print.

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