Rosemary Curtis

HDFS 421
Fall 2014
Lab 3
Introduction
Purpose: The purpose of this observation was to observe the behaviors of two children.
For this observation, my partner and I chose to observe the children acting in the social
domain using a time-sampling method. The behaviors we observed are related to the type
of play the child engaged in during the observation period. These play types include
unoccupied or wandering, solitary play, onlooker play, parallel play, associative play,
cooperative play, teacher directed activity, or other activity. During each 30 second
interval of play, we recorded which type of play the child was engaging in during the
majority of the thirty seconds. The other category often included activities such as snack
or using the bathroom. Time sampling reports are an observation method that is useful
and organized way to record children’s play over a period of time (Mindes, 2014). It is
also a way to see what percentage of their time children spend participating in certain
types of play.
Children Observed: The first child observed will be called Victor for the purposes of this
analysis. He is a four year old boy. The second child’s pseudo-name is Elsa, she is a four
year old girl.
Classroom Setting: Ms. Colon’s classroom of four year old children. Observation
occurred on Monday, September 29th from 2pm until 3pm. During this time the students

engaged in free choice play and then transitioned at the end into large group. There were
4 adults in the classroom and 17 children.
Physical Environment: The classroom is organized into specific domain areas. There is a
block area that contains large shelves that are used to store the wooden blocks. The
pretend play area is set up as a kitchen, including cupboards, table and chairs, a
refrigerator, sink, and stove. There is a cognitive area that has a large shelf containing
manipulatives and two tables with puzzles. In one corner there is a writing area that has a
desk with a variety of writing utensils for the students to use. Near the door into the
classroom there is a large table next to a shelf with creation station supplies. The
backsides of the cognitive area, pretend play area, and writing table outline a large group
area for all of the students to gather. Here are lead teacher materials such as a stereo for
music as well as large group supplies such as attendance board and job chart.
Children’s Behaviors and Developmental Interpretation
Child 1 (Victor): The type of play that Victor engaged in most during the observation
periods was solitary play. During the total of twenty minutes we observed him, Victor
spent 9 of these minutes engaged in solitary play. Victor also spent a significant amount
of his time either in the bathroom washing his hands or at the snack table, making the
“other” category the one with the second highest number of marks. The only other type of
play that Victor engaged in a significant amount was the unoccupied/wandering category.
Child 2 (Elsa): Elsa was nearly equally engaged in five of the types of play. My partner
and I recorded her as being unoccupied or wandering for six to nine out of the 20 brief
observation periods. She engaged in solitary play for eight to eleven of the brief periods.
For six to eight of the brief periods Elsa was engaged in cooperative play. And she was at

snack for a period of time and so for five of the periods she was marked as “other”. Large
group occurred towards the end of the time when we observed Elsa and so she was
engaged in a teacher directed activity for six of her observation periods.
Interpretation
Based on the above observations, Victor engages significantly more in solitary
play than Elsa. While I recorded that Elsa engaged in solitary play for eleven periods of
time and Patricia recorded that he engaged in solitary play for eight periods of time, we
both recorded that Victor was engaged in solitary play for eighteen of the 40 periods of
time, or nine of the twenty minutes. This means that Victor was engaged in solitary play
nearly twice as long as Elsa was. I would say that Elsa is relatively well rounded in the
types of play that she engaged in during this observation time as she was engaged solitary
play, cooperative play, and teacher directed activities for nearly the same amount of time.
However, she was also unengaged/wandering or engaged in conversation with adults
(recorded as “other”) for about the same amount of time each as she was engaged in play.
I have spent time working with Victor in his classroom last year and I recall that he used
to spend a significant amount of his time wandering or unengaged in any activity, so I
was actually surprised to see that he was engaged in solitary play for so much of his play
time.
Inter-Observer Agreement
I did this participation assignment with my classmate Patricia Cudahy. While
doing the observation, we often discussed particular behaviors if we were uncertain about
how to mark them. As a result of this, we decided that in order for our tallies to be in
agreement, the number of tally marks had to be exactly the same. As discussed in class,

often times discrepancies show up when people disagree about the definitions of the play
types or disagreed on which play type occurred for the majority of the thirty second
interval. Through discussions with Patricia we were able to reach agreement based on
individual intervals in the observation about which activity the child was engaged in
longest during the interval. As a result, most of our discrepancies were a result of
deciding which category of play the child’s activity best fell into. For example, it was
often difficult to distinguish between unoccupied and onlooker behavior, or between
cooperative play and teacher-directed activity. Considering that it was often to hear what
the observed child and his or her nearby peers and adults were saying made it even harder
to distinguish what was actually happening. We observed the students for a total of
twenty minutes each at thirty second intervals. We observed Victor for ten minutes and
recorded a play type every thirty seconds, we then took a five minute break before
observing Elsa for ten minutes while recording a play type every thirty seconds. We then
repeated this process so that we observed each child for a total of twenty minutes. We
observed the seven play types described in the introduction as well as an “other” category
for activities that did not fall into any of the categories. Because we observed each child
twice, this means that we had a total of 32 boxes on our observation sheet, 8 behaviors
with two observation periods for two children. Out of these 32 boxes, Patricia and I
agreed on 26 of them, this means that we agreed 81% of the time. Overall, I feel that we
have relatively average agreement. However, it’s important to take into account our
disagreement when determining how to proceed with the information. It’s nearly
impossible to know which observer is “right” and thus we need to be cautious not to
make specific assumptions based on this ultimately general information. In this particular

case, Patricia and I have both supplemented the data from this observation with our
previous knowledge of the child when planning a learning activity.
Learning Activity
I have chosen to create a learning activity for Victor. I noticed during my
observation that Victor spent a very large portion of his time engaged in solitary play.
The learning goal that I have selected from the MSU Children’s Curriculum is listed on
page 44 of the Child Development Laboratories Family Handbook, it states that children
will be able to “join a group at play”. Based on the significant amount of time that Victor
spent engaged in solitary play, I’ve decided that a way for him to improve his social
development would be to improve his ability to join other children at play. To do this, I
would suggest that a teacher approach him at a time when he is wandering or unoccupied
and present him with play options. All of the options would be joining different children
at play. For example the teacher could say, “You can join these children building with the
blocks, or these children serving food in pretend play.” This encourages the child to
practice joining other children at play. If Victor displays discomfort with this, the teacher
can provide him with scripts to assist entering the play group.
Reflection
In completing this observation assignment, I learned that time sampling reports
can be an extremely useful tool when observing a child’s behavior. It is useful when
teachers need to see how much of a child’s time is spent engaging in particular activities
or play types. At first glance, this type of anecdotal note taking appears to be very
objective, however in completing this assignment I learned that it can actually be very
subjective. The amount of time spent engaged in different behaviors can be very different

based on the biases and understanding of the behavior that the observer comes into the
observation booth with. Overall, this is a very useful and organized tool in determining
whether or not a child’s behavior needs continued follow up.

Time Sampling Observation Sheet - SOCIAL Types of Play
Observer:
Date: 9/29/14
Rosemary Curtis
Purpose of observation:
See how much of their time children engage in a particular activity
Classroom observed, and general physical environment:
Colon
Date, time of day, and routines observed:
Free play, large group
(Pseudo) Name
Age
Gender
Child 1:
Victor
4
Boy
Child 2:

Elsa

4

Girl

Observe two children at the same time for 10 minutes; wait 5 or more minutes, then
repeat the observation with the same 2 children (in the box, indicate the time you
observed, e.g. 9:55 – 10:05)

Observation 1

For each 30 second interval observed, mark only ONE tally for each child – mark the
tally in the column representing the type of activity the child engaged in for most of the
time.

Child 1
2:00-2:10
Child 2

Observation 2

2:15-2:25
Child 1
2:30-2:40
Child 2
2:45-2:55

Unoccupied/
Wandering

Solitary
Play

Onlooke
r Play

2

3

3

3

Parallel
Play

2

Associativ
e Play

Coopera
-tive
Play

Teacherdirected
Activity

Other

1

1

10

2

10

3

7

1

6

1

2

5

5

1

6

2

1

3

15

2

3

15

2

3

4

2

2

6

5

4

3

2

4

5

Other notes:
V- washed hands and ate snack, sensory table
E- talked with teacher, large group