Early childhood education is as much about observing as it is about teaching. In this case we’re not talking about passively watching a child, either. Structured observation is a simple, active practice that that you can do. When used consistently, basic observations amount to a powerful method of tracking and assessment. It’s also an enjoyable process that will help you more fully appreciate how your child behaves and learns. Plus, you’ll be able to recognize areas where improvement or intervention is needed.
The observation process takes place in four segments:
- The hardest part of the process is getting started. Taking time to actively observe your child takes dedication, but YOU can do it! Remember, you are likely already observing your child interact. Structured observation simply means taking further notes during this time. The next time you are with your child take a moment to focus on the subtle nuances of their behavior. What are they doing, how are they reacting to the environment around them. The process of observation may come naturally to you or require more practice for others. Stick with it - the rewards will be worth it! Keep in mind observations can be quick and simple. So, get out there and try and make your first structured observations!
- Tracking your child’s progress. Once you commit to consistently observing your child you need to categorize the skills that you see at work: cognitive, social, physical, emotional and language, for instance. Let your child guide you to discover the types of work he or she is performing during play and problem solving. What kinds of tasks are easy? Which skills seem easier? A journal can help you stay focused and notice certain trends. Talk to your child’s teacher, they are likely aware of many of the areas your child excels or needs improvement. This conversation can help you understand where to start your observation. Teachers are the best resource for you to have in your child’s early development.
- Analyze your child’s progress. Analysis sounds clinical, but it doesn’t have to be. Rather, you’ll be looking at your child’s progress compared to suggested milestones. Teachers are an excellent source of knowledge about how your child should be progressing and can cue you in to potential issues. Your child’s pediatrician brings another important perspective. You will notice regular observation allows you to become a more confident part of your child’s “team” to help overcome obstacles and reach important milestones. As a parent, no one know your child like you do, making you that team’s MVP.
- Be practical with your observation routine. The best bet is to do what works best for you and can be done consistently. Traditional testing is a great snapshot in time, but personal observation allows YOU to gauge your child’s progress on a different level. Traditional testing tools combined with your own observations will give a more complete look at your child’s development. Your observations should be shared and discussed with your child’s teacher in order to round out the picture.
Give it a try! If you need additional tips, strategies or support, we at Child Care of Southwest Florida are here to help. Your child’s teacher applies these techniques and more on a daily basis and would be happy to talk about structured observation or answer any other questions you may have. We know that once you get a hang of this practice, you’ll enjoy it as a simple yet powerful way to improve your child’s school readiness while you get to know your child on a deeper level. Your child, too, will enjoy the positive attention and quality time with you.
For more information on early childhood observation, check out the following blog from HiMama: