Observations are part of every day to day life of an early childhood educator. Most child care providers understand the role of observation but do they understand why it’s important? Early childhood education [ECE] is not just about teaching children, it’s about exploration, learning, and observing play. Educators play an important role in helping children meet developmental milestones and through observation is how educators learn more about each and every child they work with.
Observation is often seen as one of the most simple, yet effective methods of assessing young children as they develop. For an early childhood educator, observing a child begins by noting how each child behaves, learns, reacts to new situations, and interacts with others. An educator then takes this information and creates activities to promote growth on skills, document the success of those skills, and then reflect and assess.
What is observation in early childhood education? 🤔
Observation in ECE is the process of tracking children’s behavior over a period of time. Through meaningful and detailed documentation, educators are able to see patterns and plan age-appropriate activities, gain insight into how a child thinks about the world, and provide opportunities for educators to change the environment to promote growth and development.
Why do we observe children’s development? 🧐
When a teacher sits back and observes a child within their care, the educator can then better understand the children’s strengths or weaknesses. Through observations, educators’ programming can help make improvements to the environment and facilitate learning.
Observation of a child’s behavior can:
- Help an educator better understand why a child might be having challenging behavior
- Identify special needs
- Better understand the child
- Allows for documentation of skills
- Shows the child’s communication style
- What their interactions with their peers are like
Observation or the process of it has a focus on how – How did the child get there vs. than the product the child used. The observation process is very straight forward: Observe and reflect, document and gather evidence, Plan and act, and finally assess. You only assess over long periods of time. Typically once every six months depending on the type of assessment you are using.
What are the types of documentation? 📋
Having evidence of skill growth helps gain better insight into where a child is at. Having meaningful interactions when a child is playing can allow for the project to continue over long periods of time and keeping the child’s interest up.
- Written observations with language samples. Example: Bobby is building with the blocks. He is stacking all the square blocks and then topping off with a triangular block. When I asked Bobby what he was creating his response was “This is my house, because it has a point at the top”
- Drawings or attempts of writing – grab that picture before it ends up in the recycle
- Pictures of constructions – Take a moment to capture that creation before tidy uptime
- Videos – Videos can be so powerful and if you are using digital documentation it’s much easier to catch those moments
- Learning stories with direct links to skills – Typically add a picture and tagged with a skill from your framework
Observations also help build on the progress reports – Typically centers will have an ongoing tracking of the child’s skills and development and report back to families. This is the step before going into an assessment.
What do educators track?🔀
Educators look to help grow the child as a whole and want to encourage growth and development of skills in all areas. The primary areas of focuses are on:
Language and literacy development
Depending on the style of teaching or curriculum there may be other areas of focus but these will always be key areas of focus. Each of these areas of development impact one another and when a child is learning and playing
Observations and assessments📓
You’ve been gathering observations, changing the environment around, and providing meaningful activities to promote growth, now what? Well as the children learn more skills and adapt to different situations, you have evidence gathered to prove this. Through pictures and written observations that you have gathered over time, it’s now time to reflect on all this hard work and assess. Assessments can’t be done without evidence and observations are a huge piece of evidence. Now there are many different types of assessments you can choose to do, but make sure you have been trained on how to assess properly. Some assessments are as simple as a checklist and some require certification. Also, make sure the assessment you use is approved to be used in your area and also ties to the values and teaching style of your center.
Connect with Parents👨👨👧
The final piece to observations is bringing this information back to parents and working with them directly to make sure the child is supported both at home and in the classroom. Having meetings with parents to not only discuss any ongoing issues or problems but also to plan what the goals are for their child and understanding the role a teacher plays in a child’s life. With a good working relationship with parents, a child can be very successful.
Tying these all together is no easy task and for many educators, it is very time consuming, but it is a very important piece. Many centers have made the switch to HiMama because of this. Within the app, teachers can tag skills, observe, reflect, and then assess using work sampling or ounce. All the while sharing updates with families! Today with COVID-19 on the doorstep, having open communication with parents is very important as many can not come within the center to observe how the classroom is growing.
Download our ebook full with extra tips on how to observe childen in the classroom!
The HiMama child care app helps to streamline your digital parent communications. Book a consultation with us today to learn how we can support your child care center during this time.
- Why Observe Children at Play?
- Types of Child Care Observation
- How to Make Health and Wellness Observations in Early Education
- Child Care Observation: How Much Documentation is Too Much?
Photo Source – University of Alaska
Originally published in January 5, 2016 by Ron Spreeuwenberg
Updated by Ria Simon