Data collection in preschool can be difficult. Unlike 10 year olds, therapy with a 3-year-old is likely way more fast paced, often on the floor, and usually play-based. So how do you collect data, keep a 3-year-old at the table, help him activate a dancing Elmo toy, and model on an AAC device at one time? It’s not easy, that’s for sure! First of all, give yourself a break. You can do this! Here are a few strategies to help.
My best and most helpful tip for data collection is to limit the goals you keep data on each day. Pick one goal to assess per child. In a group of three this is still three different skills to track which is a lot for your brain to manage while also monitoring and instructing.
Next, pick your materials with data in mind and present the materials in a mindful manner. This sounds simple but consider toys that will get you many trials. If you’re working on using AAC, use toys like wind-up toys or race tracks. These toys give you many trials to elicit and model but are really engaging for your student. If you’re doing a preschool craft, pick a simple one where you use dot markers to color a rainbow. You can elicit an articulation trial for each dot. This is more functional than making an origami flower that has 10 different folding steps! When using other toys such as little people farm toys, just start with the barn out on the table. Put all the animals, the farmer, and the tractor in a bin with a closed lid. Withholding these items allows you to elicit a sentence, a targeted sound, or a social interaction before the play even begins. While mid-play think about presenting toys in trials of 5 or 10 to make the math easier on yourself.
If you’re going to be a part of the classroom or on the floor where you won’t have your data handy, utilize a strip of tape on your knee. Collect data as needed (hello, pen in my hair) and transfer it back to your data sheet later.
Even if you’re working on a table-top activity remember that your first job is teaching and instructing your students. Data collection in preschool (or at any level!) should only be a portion of your therapy time. Spend 15 minutes with teaching and learning and just collect data in the last 5 minutes. If you’re doing some drill work, just collect data on the last 10 trials.
I know in graduate school you were taught “data, data, data” and “if you don’t document it, it didn’t happen”. Just remember that taking data isn’t the same thing as doing therapy.
I’d love to hear your play-based data collection tricks too! Leave a comment and let me know what works for you!
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