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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I heard about this idea for data or therapy notes:
Get a pack of label stickers, whichever size best suits you-I like the 2X3, and take notes or data- one child to a sticker. At day’s end, put each sticker in the appropriate child’s folder. Stick to a piece of paper or such in the folder. Voila! All data in the same place!
What a great idea!!
I’ve used this method and love it for groups!
Jennifer Bell Smith says
The tape on the leg trick is genius! And one more reason not to lose weight-more room for notes!
This is great, Jenna! Preschool therapy is definitely not my strongest area. Very helpful.
Hi Jenna! Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I was explaining this very principle to a student observer this week who seemed to be a little “stuck” on the data collection piece. I posed these questions (nicely) “Do you want your focus on taking data? or, “Do you want your focus on therapy?” I agree with everything you said. I also like to have my students track their own data- by putting small erasers in different cups, creating categorized graphic organizers- on-topic/off-topic, correct/close/incorrect- and putting checks or Xs underneath- whatever they choose, and using dot markers or stampers. I use a “Tree Map” thinking map for data categorization- my school is a supporter of Thinking Maps. I will also take data based on the work samples my students produce at the end of our sessions. Thank you for the post!
I love student tracking too! The small erasers are great!
Jennifer Han-RivaS says
On it….so gonna buy stock in duck tape…all colors too 🙂
Masking tape is best!
Thanks Jenna!! You have the best ideas! I love the idea of working with the child first and data the last few minutes-genius! I’ve also been using labels for data and then just slapping onto my data page! My interns taught me this! ?
I use the toys/manipulative to keep my data when possible! Sectioning them off into correct and incorrect piles. I will also jot down data on my parent note for the day (clinic based) so they have something tangible to see. Love the tape idea!!
So smart Tess! I do that too!
I’m curious as to the meaning of the “+” and “-” that are circled in the photo of the data on the tape. Thanks!
I use a circle to indicate that it was prompted. Plain +/- means no prompt!
Thank you, these ideas are great. I am not working with preschoolers, but I can use these suggestions with my younger, low verbal to non verbal life skills students. I really liked the rational one therapist posted, “one more reason not to lose weight, more leg space!” for using tapes strips on your leg, Very funny!!
Bonnie Brooks says
Thanks so much:) Your simple tip earlier in the year when you were using pages from the Polar Express and took all the /s/ and phonemes was so simple that a huge light bulb went off! Now all my therapy info is pre-created with all that I need for trials. I even break down my goals into syllables, and voila! All the data is nice and neat! Thanks for your tips!
missed that post. I’ll have to go back and check it out.
“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.”
Wow! Very interesting perspective . . . I have never heard that data collection should only be a portion on your tx time.
I can see how this teaching perspective is functional for the students in a school setting and yes it is very different than what was suggested/ aka required during graduate school.
I think it’s taking a different perspective than graduate school teaches you! Of course all my actions are still data driven, but not I know it is ok to stop taking data and just work on the skills for a while!
I love the idea of tape on the leg!! Too often I’m fumbling with my papers that I usually just give up and try my best to remember how the kiddos did! I will definitely be trying this out for the remainder of the school year. I too need to make it a goal of mine to not focus too much on data, data, data and lose precious teaching time. You’re right that we often forget it’s not always about the data – how will we ever expect our students to improve if we’re constantly analyzing instead of teaching the skills. Such a simple thing, yet it slips our minds. 😛
I recently read a blog that discussed the question: “Do you notice the better your therapy session is the worse your therapy log becomes/is?” When you are really into the moment and you have light bulbs going off in those little heads and all of a sudden you think, “(GASP) I haven’t collected any data!” It makes for a bad feeling if you know it was a wonderful, well-constructed, ingenious session but what do you have to prove it was so great?” I like the last 5 minutes of data at the end with 10 trials. It’s like studying for a test, then taking the test. “First, then” 😉 Thanks for the pointers and I, too, love the tape on the leg idea 🙂
Martine Horne says
I tally +, – , P, and a star * is imitation, P for me is a cue such as gesture, phonemic or clozebtechnique. I try to keep my supply of cards or toys to 10. I play for a while, and the final minutes I tally.
Jenna, can you link to your data sheets? I love the idea of tape on your leg then transferring data but don’t like the repetition of work part. I think I will try the labels but am curious about your data collection sheets. Thanks so much!
Love the tape on the leg idea! I’ve noticed in my past experiences with working with early intervention kiddos that the therapists would ball park the data. I hadn’t noticed anyone taking concrete data, so all progress reports were based on subjective assessment of progress.
I think a ball park is okay for some goals and certainly clinical expertise comes in to play for goals like intelligibility. Our IEP goals are highly specific and include % to meet therefore objective data is required. I always try to write goals I can measure!
More great ideas, as usual…thanks so much Jenna!!!
You are awesome. I will be doing the tape on the leg thing.
BTW, are those cute leggings LuLaRoe? My uniform!
You are a world changer, Jenna. Thank you for rising up and lifting up all of us SLPs. We’re in this together.
Amy Krieger says
I’m so glad I found this site!
This is great, Jenna! Preschool therapy is definitely not my strongest area. Very helpful.
I make one sheet with all the kids goals for each class. But I think what’s helped me most with data collection in preschool has been how I write my goals. I am not a fan of accuracy percentages when I’m gathering data for that many “littles.” For me, number of trials 4/5, 2/3, 7/10 etc. is way easier when I am trying to focus on the treatment. Also, I use x per session often. Therapy itself can be data collection friendly. 30-45 minutes with the whole class and I use additional time for 1:1 at a table, during snack, or on the floor helps. I try to observe the kids for at least 15 minutes as well.
Have you found a data tracker app for iPad or android? I had one from super duper but upgraded my ipad and now the app doesn’t work..