Many of us who work in early childhood do observations and collect information on what we see children doing during their school time or in their homes. It is crucial that we make objective observations. An objective observation is an observation made with no prior bias, based solely on fact. Personal opinions are not a part of a true objective observation. Analyzing information from fact based date allows us to accurately assess children’s levels of performance, track their progress, and plan appropriate activities to assure that they are acquiring the skills they need to be successful learners when they enter school-age programs.
Writing objective observations is easier said than done and it takes practice. Here are some guidelines and tips about the do’s and don’ts of writing observational notes.
- Description of actions
"Matthew rode a trike across the school yard. He used both feet to peddle it."
"While playing in the house area, Shawna asked her friend, ‘Do you want me to pour some milk for your baby?’"
- Description of gestures
"Grant walked to the kitchen, patted the refrigerator door, and looked toward his mother. When she did not respond, he said ‘Mama’."
- Description of facial expression
"During snack time, when Jayden took a drink of lemonade from his cup, he squinted his eyes and puckered his mouth."
- Description of creations
"Saige used markers and crayons to draw circles and squares on a large sheet of paper. After she put dots of glue on the paper in the middle of the shapes, she placed green pompoms on each glue dot."
"Jordan hid her face and stayed behind her mother when she came into the classroom. rather than "Jordan was shy when she came into the classroom."
"When she arrived at school Mia went to the quiet area and sat criss-cross applesauce with her back to the class." rather than "Mia was in a bad mood this morning when she got to school."
"Stanley used both wooden and colored plastic blocks to build a bridge in the block area." rather than "Stanley is very creative when he is in the block area."
"Carter took a truck from a friend who was playing beside him." rather than "Carter grabbed the truck from another child because he always wants all the trucks for himself."
"Olivia joined other girls in the book area and looked at a pop-up book." rather than "Olivia went to the book area because she wanted to be with the girls."
"At snack time Daniel was the snack helper and gave a napkin to each one of the other children at his table." rather than "Daniel did a really good job handing out the napkins at snack time."
"At snack time Isaac said to the teacher ‘Me want more cookie.’" rather than "Isaac talked baby talk at snack time."
"Bree spilled some of her juice while pouring it into her cup." rather than "Bree was very sloppy at lunch time today."
"At clean up time Todd put all the blocks on the shelf on top of the matching picture labels." rather than "Todd always put the toys back on the shelf neatly."
"When she put her shoes on, Lauren began to cross the laces as she tried to start tying her shoes." rather than "Lauren can’t tie her shoes yet."
"At the end of recess Cassidy held the teacher’s hand to go to line up with the other kids when they were ready to go inside." rather than "Cassidy wouldn’t line up with the other students when it was time to come in from recess."
- Stay neutral
- Avoid favoritism
- Don’t make assumptions
- Focus on the skill that the child is developing and what it looks like