Observation is at the heart of early childhood assessment and is a key guide in how teachers support children. It includes gathering, recording, and reflecting on information about children’s progress. Quality observations communicate each child’s individuality and context: because every child has strengths, interests, and experiences connected to their unique home and community contexts, it makes sense that observations and other assessments should provide a comprehensive view of who each child is, what they know, and what they can do.
Effective teachers intentionally watch and listen to children—whether during a daily routine or a planned activity, on a particular day, and over time. Sometimes, we can tell a teacher is observing by what they say.
During our visits, we often hear a teacher share things like
- “Jamal is starting to recognize the letters in his name. Today he pointed to an A in a book and said, ‘That’s MY letter.’”
- “Marisu has incredible balance. Did you see how long she stood on one foot today?!”
- “Jacintha made up another song while she was in the dramatic play center today. She comes up with the most wonderful melodies.”
Other times, we can tell a teacher is observing by their documentation. Teachers use anecdotal records, audio and video recordings, checklists and rating scales, and other means to document children’s learning and growth. Documentation can be reviewed, reflected on, and used to make decisions, including the next steps in planning for a group and for individual children.
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