When you're lucky enough to be in a room with a dozen young children every day, you learn that sometimes the tiniest detail can be the most important-like the first time a child figures out those black squiggles are actually words or takes that courageous first trip down the slide. Your challenge is to recognize the significance of these events and then to document them for each child's records.

Can technology help in this process? You bet. But I've learned firsthand that technology can also complicate your life. A new gadget is only useful if it helps free you up to focus on the children and not on the object itself. Here are some handy tools for record keeping, from low to high tech.

Sticky Notes

They don't use batteries-but they are a great way to document key moments over the course of a day! Keep a few in your pocket or on a nearby shelf. To draw a parent's attention to something specific, stick them on a newsletter or note going home.

TIP: Write a sticky note to parents about something positive their children did each week. Attach the notes to children's cubbies on Friday afternoons, so parents can retrieve them at pick-up time.

Cassette Tape Recorders

Did you know that there are small voice recorders you can carry in your pocket? They make it easy to keep notes on what a child does, including first attempts at reading, singing, counting, or telling a story. For children learning English as a second language, a tape recorder is a great way to track their emerging verbal abilities.

TIP: Track verbal growth over time by asking a child to describe the same object or picture at different points in the year. You can play the tapes back for parents at conferences, more effectively demonstrating the strides their children have made.


These under-utilized devices have many assessment possibilities, including making quick copies of a child's artwork for storage in a portfolio or documenting early writing attempts. You can also make multiple copies of a class newsletter. TIP: Make a child's day by taking a small section of her writing and using a photocopier to enlarge it for display. Cameras

A picture IS worth a thousand words when it comes to tracking a child's developmental growth. There are many cameras, ranging from $10 disposables (great for field trips) to $400 digital cameras.

TIP: Snap a group picture using a cement block or brick wall as the backdrop. The lines of the wall are great for showing children's changing heights. Shoot pictures every few months. At the end of the year; develop the film and post the pictures in the classroom.

Digital Cameras

They're just like regular cameras but they don't use film. Instead, you plug them into a computer and download them for immediate viewing.

TIP: You can print the pictures with a color printer. Digital photos are great for posting on a class Web site.


The camcorder is a powerful tool for documentation. Not only can you record a child's first attempts at reading, but you can also capture children's reactions to the sights and sounds of spontaneous events such as that very first snowstorm. Tapes can be shared at parent meetings and conferences.

TIP: Circulate tapes to parents so they can copy and keep them. Remember to remove the tab from the back of the tape to protect it from being accidentally erased.


These operate just like a photocopied except the pictures end up on your computer instead of on a sheet of paper Once a child's work is scanned, you can e-mail it to parents or send it home on computer disc. TIP: Kids love to see their work appearing on the computer screen as it is being scanned. Keep one folder on your computer desktop for each child, so you can store his work (an electronic portfolio).

Computers and Software

There are several software programs that measure a child's abilities in the areas of early reading, math, and logical thinking. JumpStart Preschool and Kindergarten (Knowledge Adventure $19.95), Reader Rabbit Preschool (The Learning Company $19.95) and Clifford Reading (Scholastic Inc., $19.95) all keep records of children's skills. Teachers can check a child's progress at any time and print out reports.

TIP: Younger children can type in their names independently if you keep them on nametags near the computer.