You are on page 1of 8

This sample chapter is for review purposes only. Copyright © The Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc. All rights reserved.

Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 53

Terms to Know 3-1

developmental milestones
anecdotal record
participation chart
rating scale
visual documentation

oung children are fascinating to
watch. Just ask any new mother, father,
or proud grandparent! A young child’s
awkward attempts to try new skills or early
efforts at conversation can be captivating.
Observing children is something everyone
enjoys doing. Children are charming,
creative, active, and emotional.
Observation also serves another purpose.
It provides vital information about each
child’s needs, interest, abilities and learning
styles. Observation is one of the oldest and Teachers observe largely through their eyes and ears.
ill be able
best methods for learning about children.
is c hapter, you w Most of what is known about child growth
dying th and development is the result of some form noticed that Ben was doing an 18-piece
After stu f assess
t. of observation. Many behaviors of children
poses o essmen puzzle. Sitting next to him was Hunter. He
v li st pu r
o n going ass cannot be measured in any other way. A was asking the teacher for help with a puzzle
initia l and ga
Observing v contr
e fac tors to con
sider in
cho osin one-year-old, for instance, cannot answer
questions orally or in writing, but the child’s
that had only four pieces. Standing at the
easel, Wyatt was printing his name across the
v list thod of assessme dvanta
ges of behavior can be observed, 3-1. top of his art project. Next to him was Wendy.
meth disa As a student of child development, She drew a circle in an upper corner of her
es and
Children: the ad vantag tools.
v list us assessment a child
much of what you will learn about children
will come from observing them. You may
work and exclaimed with a smile, “That’s my
vario nts for
a li st of conte be asked to observe the children in your Each of these children is unique. If you

A Tool for portf

v com olio.
g u idelines fo
r obser
program. At times you may be assigned to
observe a specific aspect of a child’s behavior
were the teacher in this classroom, how
would you plan a curriculum that would
marize or development. You will also be encouraged meet the needs of each of these children? To
v sum ren.
Assessment child
to observe children informally outside of
Jafar, a student majoring in child
begin the process, you would need to gather
information. This, too, involves observation.
You would need to determine each child’s
development, was assigned his first developmental stage. With this information,
observation. He was amazed at the you could then determine the group’s
developmental differences he saw within developmental status. The data gathered
Topic 6 (B) - Tools.Observation the group of three- and four-year-olds. Jafar would help you plan a curriculum that

54 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 55

was sensitive to the needs of the individual Assessment also allows you to identify assessment. Study the existing folders on
children and the group.
3-2 children who might have special needs. each child. Review home background forms.
Perhaps a child has a hearing or vision Read the notes from past parent conferences.
impairment. Maybe a child has an emotional If possible, visit each child’s home. An
Assessment or behavioral problem that requires
counseling. These needs can be identified and
alliance with families is important. Families
can give you useful information on a child’s
Assessment comes from a Latin word specialized services obtained. learning needs and interests.
meaning to sit beside and get to know. It is Through assessment, you will be able In addition to this initial assessment,
the process of observing, recording, and to find out where the children are in their you will need to do ongoing assessments on
documenting children’s growth and behavior. development. Information on each child individual children as well as the group. A
To be an authentic assessment, observations should be recorded at regular intervals. In this single assessment is not an exact assessment of
must be done over time in play-based way, you can see how each child is progressing ability or performance. It is just an indicator.
situations. This type of assessment is best in his or her development. This information Ongoing assessment may take more
because it is the most accurate. It is used to will help you make better curriculum time, but it will also provide more in-depth
make decisions about children’s education. planning decisions. It will also help you decide information. The information gained will be
Information is obtained on children’s how to set up the environment and stimulate useful in tracking each child’s progress and
developmental status, growth, and learning each child’s development. documenting change over time. It should
styles. Sometimes the terms assessment and The information gained through provide evidence of a child’s learning and
evaluation are used interchangeably, but they assessment can also be useful during parent maturation. This information will also be
are two different processes. Assessment is conferences. Parents want to know how their helpful in making decisions for enriching
the process of collecting information or data. children are progressing. You will be able to or modifying the curriculum and classroom
Evaluation is the process of reviewing the give them concrete evidence on their child’s environment when necessary.
information and finding value in it. progress. Parents will also be assured you You can gather assessment data during
know and understand their child. classroom activities. Watch children as they
Each child has unique strengths, needs, and interests. A final purpose for assessment is in work on art projects and listen to them as
Purposes of Assessment evaluating your program. Information they tell stories, 3-3. Observe children as they
obtained through assessment can help your construct puzzles or build with blocks. Listen
Information and data from assessment are their needs? Teachers who have good staff determine if your program is effective in in on children’s conversations. Discreetly
informs teachers about children’s developmental assessment skills will make better decisions. meeting its goals. take notes on individual children, especially
needs. It is important for several reasons. The Individual and classroom problems can during free-choice activities. This is when
information collected is used in planning often be identified through the assessment children are most likely to reveal their
developmentally appropriate curriculum. process. When specific examples of a child’s When to Do Assessments own personalities and development. These
Assessment keeps the teachers and the behavior are observed and recorded, behavior notes will provide important assessment
curriculum responsive to the needs of the patterns become more clear. Answers to As a teacher beginning a new year, you
will need to do an initial assessment. This will information.
children. An authentic assessment involves behavior problems can more easily be found
gathering information when children when the specific behavior is observed and provide entry data and a baseline to use for
are performing tasks in natural settings. noted. each child. You cannot assume all children Formal and Informal
Assessment should include all developmental Classroom problems can be identified of a given age are alike. Developmental
areas—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. through assessment. When a problem arises, differences will exist. Culture, economic Observation
Assessment should provide information on each plans can be made to remedy the problem. status, and home background will impact Two different methods of observation are
child’s unique needs, strengths, and interests. It To illustrate, perhaps there have been each child’s development. Therefore, used for assessing young children—formal
also charts progress over time. many instances of pushing and shoving the purpose of an initial assessment is and informal. They differ in how controlled
During the assessment process, you, as in the dramatic play area. By observing to get a “snapshot” of each child in the the conditions are for using them. Formal
teacher, gain insights into children’s learning and evaluating, you may realize that more group. Observing children and acquiring methods include standardized tests and
styles and needs, 3-2. What are their strengths classroom space should be provided for this information from the families are the most research instruments. As a result of such
and weaknesses? What does the group activity. If this is impossible, you may decide common ways to gather this information. research, developmental milestones for
know? What are they able to do? What are to limit the number of children in this area at You will want to learn as much about children have been identified. Developmental
their interests and dispositions? Finally, what one time to prevent the undesirable behavior. the children as possible during your initial milestones are characteristics and behaviors
56 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 57

training for recording data on carefully of detail you need. Another consideration is continuing until everything is witnessed. It
3-3 designed forms. Training is also needed for whether the information needs to be collected is like a short story in that it has a beginning,
analyzing and interpreting the data. for one child or the entire group. Finally, the middle, and end.
Preschool teachers usually use informal amount of focused attention required by the The process of recording the incident
observation methods to collect data. observer needs to be considered. requires a careful eye and quick pencil to
These methods are easier to use and more Some methods of assessment will capture all of the details. You will need to note
appropriate for program planning. They require more of your attention. For example, who was involved, what happened, when it
include observing children in the classroom, it is difficult interacting with children happened, and where it occurred. It needs to be
collecting samples of their work, interviewing when you are in the process of writing an done promptly and accurately. Figure 3-5 shows
parents, and talking with children. anecdotal record. Narratives need to be rich the contents of an anecdotal record.
in information with detailed behavioral When you use the narrative form of
accounts. Checklists, videotapes, and observation, your eyes and ears act like a
Choosing a Method of participation charts are easier to use while video camera. You will be recording pictures
Assessment working with the children. of children playing, learning, and interacting.
Usually teachers use a variety of methods During your observations, you will record
There are three considerations for for gathering information about the children. how children communicate, both verbally and
choosing a method of assessment. First, Since no one method is the most effective or nonverbally. You will record how they look and
the method chosen depends on the type of reveals everything, several methods are used. what they do. Physical gestures and movements
behavior you want to assess and the amount More complete information is obtained by should be noted. You will also detail children’s
using several types of assessment. Multiple interactions with people and materials. Record
3-4 sources of information also reduces the as many details as possible.
possibility of error when making evaluations.
Anecdotal Records Must Be Objective
During the observation process, it is
Assessment Tools important to record only objective statements.
To be objective, a statement must pass two
There are several types of assessment tests. First, it must describe only observable
tools that are used in early childhood actions. Thus, generalizations about the
Teachers can quickly record what they see during programs. These include anecdotal records, motives, attitudes, and feelings of the
classroom activities. checklists, participation charts, rating scales,
samples of products, photographs, and tapes.
considered normal for children in specific Teachers can also interview families to obtain 3-5
age groups. Some educators refer to these as information.
emerging competencies. Contents of Anecdotal Records
Developmental milestones will assist v Identifies the child and gives the child’s
you in comparing and noting changes in
Anecdotal Records age
v Includes the date, time of day, and
the growth and development of children in The simplest form of direct observation setting
your care, 3-4. They will also help you as you is a brief narrative account of a specific v Identifies the observer
observe young children in preparation for incident called an anecdotal record. Often v Provides an accurate account of the
your career working with young children. child’s actions and direct quotes from
an anecdotal record is used to develop
Examples of developmental milestones are the child’s conversations
an understanding of a child’s behavior. v Includes responses of other children
included in the Appendix of this book. They Anecdotal records do not require charts or and/or adults, if any are involved in the
are useful tools for assessing children’s special settings. They can be recorded in situation
developmental status. They also form any setting and require no special training.
the basis for planning developmentally All you need is paper and a writing tool to
appropriate curriculum. record what happened in a factual, objective
While formal observation methods provide Reviewing developmental milestones will help you manner. The observation is open-ended, Anecdotal records
d should
h ld include
i l d the
th it
items listed.
li t d
important information, they require specialized assess the progress of children in your care.
58 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 59

children are not included. Secondly, the something cause the child to act in this way? running record over time showing evidence
recorded information must be nonevaluative. This interpretation takes knowledge and 3-6 of a child’s growth and development.
It should not include an interpretation of why skill. It should not be attempted without a SUNSH
SUNSHINE CHILD CARE CENTER Therefore, teachers who record incidents
something happened, nor imply that what thorough understanding of how children ANECDOTAL RECORD throughout the year have a means of
happened was wrong, right, good, or bad. grow and develop. The observation itself assessing progress.
Labeling should be avoided. No judgments serves no purpose without the interpretation Child’s Name: Carrie Date: 10/9/XX There are also disadvantages with using
or conclusions should be inferred at this of behavior to give meaning to the data. anecdotal records. Because the incident
Child’s Age: 3 Years 9 Months
point. The following example is a narrative Though an observation may be factual observed is based on the observer’s interest, a
observation: and unbiased, various interpretations are Setting: Dramatic Play Time: 8:30 to 8:45 complete picture may not be provided. Records
Sally arrived at school holding her sometimes made. Since no two people are Observer: Geneva Peterson may not always be accurate. If the observer
mother’s hand. She slowly walked over exactly alike, no two people will interpret Incident: decides to write down the incident at the end
to her locker, removed her coat, and facts in the exact same way. Each person who of the day and is poor at recalling details,
interprets a child’s behavior may determine Carrie went directly to the dramatic play area when she arrived at important information may be missed.
hung it on a hook. She turned to her
mother and said, “You go to work.” different motives for the behavior based the center. She placed the cash register on a table. After this, she
on their own personal experiences. Their displayed empty food containers on a table. Tony entered the area. He
Sally’s mother hugged her and said,
personal feelings, values, and attitudes may stepped behind the cash register and said, “I want to play with this.”
“After work I’ll take you to the dentist.”
Sally looked at her mother and started also influence the interpretation of behavior. Carrie said, “No, it’s mine. I had it first.” Then using her arm Another form of assessment is the
to cry. She said, “I’m not going to the To illustrate, an observer wrote the she hit Tony and began pushing him. Tony looked at Carrie, shrugged checklist. Checklists are designed to record
dentist. I’m staying at school.” Sally’s following about Tony: the presence or absence of specific traits
his shoulders, and walked away. As Tony walked away, a smile came
mother reached out and hugged Sally. Tony picked up the pitcher of milk. He across Carrie’s face. or behaviors. They are easy to use and are
Sally continued crying and hung onto moved the pitcher toward his glass. He especially helpful when many different items
her mother. The teacher walked over hit the glass and tipped it over. The milk need to be observed. They often include lists of
to Sally and whispered in her ear. Then spilled. specific behaviors to look for while observing.
the teacher put out her hand and said, Depending on their function, they can vary
In reviewing the observation of Tony,
“Come and look, Sally. We have a new in length and complexity. Checklists may be
his behavior might be interpreted in several
friend at school today. Jodi brought her designed for any developmental domain—
new hamster.” Sally stopped crying and physical, social, emotional, or cognitive. A
v Tony was careless.
took the teacher’s hand. Together they checklist that is carefully designed can tell a
walked over to see the hamster. Sally’s v Tony was inexperienced in handling a lot about one child or the entire class.
mother watched her for a moment and pitcher. Checklists may be developed to survey
You may want to use a form such as this one to record
then left the room. v Tony wasn’t paying attention to what he anecdotal events. one child or a group of children. The targeted
was doing. behaviors are listed in logical order with
Notice that only an objective description
records over time can provide rich details. similar items grouped together. Therefore,
of the observed behavior is recorded. v Tony lacked the strength needed to lift
The records can be extremely valuable you can quickly record the presence or
The statements do not include any of the the pitcher.
in noting progress, strengths, needs, and absence of a behavior. Typically, a check
following: causes, emotions, explanations,
v Tony lacked the hand-eye coordination interests. indicates the presence of a behavior.
feelings, goals, motives, desires, purposes,
necessary to pour from the pitcher. Checklists require structuring. You may
needs, or wishes.
Advantages and Disadvantages of be able to purchase commercially prepared
To decide which interpretation is most checklists. Most teachers working in child
Interpretation of the Data accurate, you will need to observe Tony on Anecdotal Records
care centers structure their own. A typical
several occasions over a period of time. You There are advantages and disadvantages checklist for use in observing an individual
Once the narrative data is recorded, a
would also need a thorough understanding in using the anecdotal record. An important child is shown in 3-7. The developmental
second process begins. This process involves
of how children grow and develop. advantage is that it is the easiest method of milestones found in the Appendix of this
the interpretation of the data. An attempt
Figure 3-6 shows a form for an anecdotal use since it requires no special setting or book may be adapted as checklists for
is made to explain the observed behavior
record, although many teachers just use a file time frame. Anecdotal records can provide a assessing individual children or groups of
and to give it meaning. Why did the child
card or plain piece of paper. Teachers who
behave as he or she did? What might have
record incidents throughout the year have
been the child’s motives? Did someone or
a means of assessing progress. A series of
60 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 61

children. Figure 3-8 shows a checklist for Participation Chart art activities, puzzles, and other small
assessing the gross-motor skills of a group manipulative learning aids. These materials
Name: Wyatt Anderson of children. A participation chart can be developed will help advance Randy’s skills in hand-eye
to gain information on specific aspects of coordination, which will be necessary for
Program: Sunshine Child Care Center
Advantages and Disadvantages of children’s behavior. Participation charts reading and writing.
Child’s Age: 3 Years 6 Months have a variety of uses in the classroom.
Date of Observation: 2/9/XX For instance, children’s activity preferences
Observer: Sally Olm
One of the advantages of a checklist is during self-selected play can be determined. Rating Scales
that there are no time constraints in collecting See 3-9. Rating scales, like checklists, are planned
Fine-Motor Skills the data. The information can be quickly Richard O’Grady, an experienced teacher, to record something specific. They are used
Yes No recorded anytime during program hours. In uses participation charts to record the time to record the degree to which a quality or
addition, checklists are easy to use, efficient, each child falls asleep at nap time. He also
Cuts paper  trait is present. Rating scales require you to
and can be used in many situations. Data charts the length of time each child sleeps. make a judgment about the quality of what
Pastes with a finger  from checklists can be easily analyzed. He records this information several times a is being observed. Where a checklist only
Pours from a pitcher  A disadvantage of using a checklist, year. After collecting the data, he decides if a indicates the presence or absence of a trait,
however, is the lack of detailed information. change should be made in the scheduled nap
Copies a circle from a drawing  Checklists lack the richness of the more
a rating scale tells how much or how little
time. Likewise, the length of the nap time can is present. As a result, objectivity could be
Draws a straight line  descriptive narrative. Because of the be adjusted to reflect the children’s needs. hampered by the observer’s opinion.
Uses finger to pick up smaller format, only particular behaviors are noted. Sometimes teachers find that children’s
Important aspects of behaviors may be preferences do not match their needs.
Draws a person with three missed, such as how a behavior is performed
Advantages and Disadvantages of
 To illustrate, Randy has weak hand-eye
parts and for how long. Only the presence or coordination skills. A participation chart
Rating Scales
absence of a behavior is noted in a checklist. shows he spends most of his time listening Rating scales are easy to use and require
to stories and music and watching other little time to complete. Some scales contain
Checklists are efficient to use and require little effort.
children play. To meet Randy’s needs, the only a numerical range. Others define the
teacher could introduce him to interesting behaviors more specifically.
Gross-Motor Skills Group Assessment 3-9
Activity Preferences During Self-Selected Play
Henry Ed Jo Vicki Cari Deb
Catches ball with arms Bryce Tina Saul Ting Bergetta Tanya Hunter Shawn Janus Vida
9:00 - 9:10 b dp a st m dp a b st s
Throws ball underhanded   9:10 - 9:20 b dp a st m dp a b st s

Completes forward 9:20 - 9:30 b dp m m dp dp s b st s

9:30 - 9:40 b st m m dp dp b b m a
Rides tricycle skillfully      9:40 - 9:50 b m m m dp dp b b m a

Throws ball without losing 9:50 - 10:00 b m s m dp dp b b m a

a=art; b=blockbuilding; dp=dramatic play; m=manipulatives; s=sensory; sc=science; st=storytelling

Hops on one foot  

A participation chart is quick and easy to use, but can give you important information.

You can evaluate the gross-motor skills of a group of children using a form such as
this one.
62 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 63

A disadvantage of the rating scale is that can be collected and compared. To illustrate, Records may be kept in different forms. Dramatic play interactions and music
only fragments of actions are included. In Chuck could make only random scribbles Samples may be preserved by photographing, experiences can be recorded. By viewing or
order to choose a rating, the observer should on paper at the beginning of the year. When sketching, or diagramming children’s listening to the tapes, you can note progress
have a good understanding of the behavior Chuck’s teacher asked him to tell her about products. These methods are especially in language and speech. The children might
he or she is rating. Figure 3-10 shows a typical his work, he explained it. She discovered the useful for large structures such as block also enjoy viewing or listening to the tapes.
rating scale. sample showed more than Chuck’s scribbles. displays and three-dimensional artwork that Be careful that the presence of the
He said, “There is my name. That is how to cannot be stored conveniently. videocamera does not become intrusive. You
write it. I wrote my mother’s name and my may want to ask other adults, such as teacher
Collecting Samples of sister’s.” Now he is able to draw a circle. A aides or parent volunteers, to assist with the
Children’s Products comparison of the two samples shows the Using Technology for taping. This will allow you to be included in
progress Chuck has made in fine-motor and the taping. By reviewing the tape, you can
Collecting samples of children’s
work systematically over time is another
hand-eye coordination skills. Assessment do a self-evaluation of your own interactions
A child’s products can be stored in a with the children.
assessment tool. These products can provide folder or portfolio. Whenever possible, store Technology is a very useful tool for
valuable information regarding the child’s materials and items in chronological order. recording children’s development. Making
developmental status and growth. Products This will save you time when evaluating videotapes and audiotapes are excellent Visual Documentation
collected may include artwork, stories progress or sharing the materials with ways to preserve information. Tapings may You have probably heard the phrase
dictated or written, photographs, and records families. focus on an individual child, a small group “seeing is believing.” Visual documentation
of conversations. Over time, these samples of children, or an entire class. Videotapes can refers to collecting or photographing samples
preserve both action and speech. Recordings of a child’s work that portrays learning
may be made of children telling stories, and development. Visual documentation
3-10 acting out stories, or explaining their projects. provides a record that can be studied. Other
Social/Emotional Rating Scale assessment methods such as rating scales,
checklists, anecdotal records all involve
Child’s Name: Jo Ellen Date: 4/6/XX on-the-spot interpretation. This can make
Child’s Age: 4 Years 1 Months lt d it difficult to be completely objective when
Observer: Mark Zenk ae recording the children’s behavior.
The digital camera is a convenient
way to visually document children’s
Behavior Never Sometimes Usually Always Videotaping development. The camera can be used to
and Photographing photograph children engaged in creating
Shows increased willingness to
 Safety artwork, participating in dramatic play,
Be sure to consult parents, families, or taking part in field trip activities. The
or caregivers before videotaping camera can also be used to take pictures of
Is patient and conscientious  a child’s accomplishments, such as artwork
or photographing children. Many
centers require written consent to be or building-block structures. In an infant
Expresses anger verbally rather program, the camera may be used to record
than physically  on file before staff can videotape or
photograph children for educational self-feeding, playing peek-a-boo, sitting up,
purposes. Some families do not want creeping, or walking. It can be used to record
Has strong desire to please  self-help skills such as dressing or brushing
images taken of their children for
privacy reasons. teeth. It is important to date all pictures
Is eager to make friends and
 taken on the digital camera for visual
develop strong friendships documentation. A brief description should
also be recorded to show its significance.
Respects property rights of
others  The digital camera is also a convenient
way to record children’s development.
Pictures taken by the digital camera are
On a rating scale, teachers record the degree to which a quality or trait is present.
64 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 65

stored inside the camera as electronic image blockbuilding area. During self-selected play, During your observation time, avoid
files that can be downloaded to a computer. 3-11 Maria always chooses the same theme. She talking to the children, other observers, or the
Once the files are downloaded, they can Portfolio Contents dresses as a ballerina in the dramatic play staff. However, it is likely that your presence
be printed or saved onto the hard drive A portfolio may contain… area. Blake is fascinated with the hamster and will spark the curiosity of some of the
or a CD for later use. Teachers can use a rabbit. He wants to learn more about different children. A child may ask you what you are
v teacher observations and other records
digital camera to take pictures of classroom gathered through assessment kinds of animals, their eating habits, and doing. If this happens, answer in a matter-
activities. They can download and print these v developmental rating scales or checklists behaviors. of-fact manner. You might say that you are
photos for use in a portfolio. Teachers might v parents’ comments and completed watching the children play or that you are
want to feature photos on the bulletin board questionnaires writing notes on how children play.
v a dated series of the child’s artwork or
before filing them.
writing Guidelines for One of the best ways to learn about
young children is to observe them and to
v photographs of the child demonstrating
skills or engaged in activities Observing Children make note of their behavior, 3-12. By sharing
Portfolios v audiotapes or videotapes of the child
speaking, singing, and telling stories During your study of young children,
your observations with other class members,
you will be able to see children as they really
Materials you have collected as a part of v a list of favorite books, songs, and you will observe them in many situations. are. These records will help you understand
fingerplays Whether in the play yard, in a classroom, or children and become a better child care
ongoing assessment should be placed in each
child’s portfolio. A portfolio is a collection on a field trip, your behavior as an observer professional.
of materials that shows a person’s abilities, is important. Whether you are in an outside
accomplishments, and progress over time. A portfolio contains
i a wide
id variety
i t off materials.
t i l child care facility or in your school’s own
Portfolios you create for the children in laboratory, certain guidelines must be
followed. 3-12
your care summarize each child’s abilities.
A portfolio includes items that show the If Thomas built a complex and interesting Whenever you gather data about
child’s growth and development over time. block structure, his teacher might sketch or children, you must use special care. The
Documenting learning is an important skill photograph it for inclusion in his portfolio. information you collect must be kept
for teachers to develop. Likewise, teachers may record stories that confidential. This is perhaps the most
Depending on the materials collected, children dictate to them. important guideline for you to follow.
the contents of a portfolio can be stored in a A portfolio should be continually Though you can discuss a child’s behavior in
variety of forms. Some teachers prefer three- evolving, documenting evidence of a child’s your own classroom, you must refrain from
ring binders. Others prefer to use boxes or progress. Over time, this method provides doing so outside that setting. Whenever you
large folders to store the portfolio contents. a vivid picture of each child’s development. are talking, other people are listening. The
Visual documentation included in a child’s information you share could be embarrassing
portfolio is a helpful tool when conferring or even damaging to a child, parent, or
Contents with families. It should be a summary of a teacher.
child’s development. Information gained from To protect confidentiality, your teacher
A child’s portfolio needs to be carefully may request that you avoid using a child’s
evaluating the portfolio can guide teachers
planned and organized. It should be more name during classroom discussions.
in making curriculum decisions, structuring
than a file of anecdotal records, checklists, First names only are permitted in other
interactions, and setting up the classroom.
and questionnaires. Most teachers include classrooms. Both practices will help protect
Families, too, will gain from reviewing the
work samples as well. Examples include the real identity of a child. These practices
child’s portfolio with the teacher.
art projects, audiotapes of conversations, will also prevent information about a
By reviewing the portfolios of children
and child-dictated stories. Work samples particular child from leaving the classroom.
in a program, you should be able to identify
can provide evidence in all developmental While you are observing, coats, books,
unique characteristics of each child. For
areas. In addition, the portfolios include and other personal belongings should not be
instance, according to Mark’s portfolio,
summaries of parent conferences and brought into the classroom. Young children
he remains in the cooking area until the
parent questionnaires. Figure 3-11 shows the are specially curious about purses and
entire snack is prepared every day. Often he
contents of a typical portfolio. bags. Such items may cause an unnecessary
provides the teachers with other methods
Teachers include work samples for each distraction. Cosmetics and medications could
of preparing the foods. Cory develops By observing children and recording their behavior, you
child that reflect unique skills and interests. endanger their safety.
elaborate and imaginative buildings in the will become a better early childhood professional.
66 Part One The Children and You Chapter 3 Observing Children: A Tool for Assessment 67

Review and Reflect place Li

Apply and Explore ork Survey nk
1. List three purposes of assessment. W
ary area preschools,
1. Prepare a checklist for a group of children
2. What is meant by the term authentic career/technical centers,
to assess color recognition skills.
assessment? and community colleges, with
Assessment is the process of observing, 2. Interview an early childhood teacher observation facilities. What guidelines
3. Which of the following is considered a formal
recording, and documenting children’s growth about how she or he develops and uses are used during observation? Can
method of assessment?
and behavior over time in order to make portfolios. students be seen during observations?
A. Checklists. Compare findings in class.
decisions about their education. Assessment
B. Standardized 3. Develop a participation checklist for the
has many purposes, but it is primarily used
tests. use of outdoor play equipment.
in planning developmentally appropriate
C. Rating scales.
curriculum. An initial assessment is made of
D. Anecdotal records.
all children when they enter a program, but
ongoing assessment continues as long as a 4. List three considerations for choosing a
method of assessment.
Cross-Curricular Link
child remains enrolled in a program.
Most assessment methods involve Writing
5. Which of the following are objective
observing children. Formal observation statements? 1. Have each student in the class observe a
by researchers has led to the creation of A. Pours milk. child for 15 minutes and write an anecdotal
developmental milestones. Early childhood B. Rocks the doll. record of the observation. Compare
teachers usually use informal observation C. Gets even. and discuss the results. Which records
methods to collect data. D. Feels lonely. contained the most detail? Which records
There are several types of assessment contained only objective statements? Did
tools that are used in early childhood 6. Why is the anecdotal record considered the
any of the records contain interpretive
programs. These include anecdotal records, simplest form of direct observation?
statements? If so, what were they?
checklists, participation charts, rating scales, 7. Which assessment tool would you use to
2. Videotape a group of children interacting.
samples of products, photographs, and determine the degree to which a quality or
Show the tape to classmates. Have each
tape recordings. All of these methods have trait was present?
class member write a narrative of what he
advantages and disadvantages. Materials that
8. List one advantage and one disadvantage in or she sees. Compare the contents of the
have been collected during the assessment
using a checklist. narratives.
process should be placed in a portfolio for
each child. Portfolios document children’s 9. What three methods could you choose to Math
learning and development. add information on a three-dimensional
3. Using the Appendix, develop a rating scale
When observing children, it is important project to a child’s portfolio?
to assess the motor skills of four-year-olds.
to record only objective statements. Once
10. Describe how technology can be used as an
data is recorded, it may be interpreted. This Technology
assessment tool.
interpretation takes knowledge and skill. It 4. Use a search engine to find information on
requires a thorough understanding of child 11. List five items that might be included in a
the observation of young children.
development. Information you collect on child’s portfolio.
children must also be kept confidential. This is 5. Check NAEYC’s position statement in
12. Name three guidelines to keep in mind when
perhaps the most important guideline to follow. early childhood programs at the following
observing children.
Web site: