• children’s ways of constructing and
expressing their knowledge;
• the skills or strategies they are using
(problem-solving, inquiry skills, higher
level thinking, strategies for reading and
• their attitudes (confidence, interest,
Educators keep in mind that the process a child
goes through to solve a problem, organize a play
sequence, or create a complex block structure is
just as important as the final product. Observing
the process can provide valuable insight into a
child’s thinking, his or her ability to sustain an
interest, and to problem-solve. Sometimes, too
much emphasis is placed on the finished work and
not enough on the process behind its evolution.
Where to Observe
Opportunities for observation exist throughout
the teaching day. For example, educators can
observe a child’s cognitive or language skills
in small groups, at specific learning centres, or
during a large group session. Observations can be
focused on children’s physical development in the
gym or outdoors on the playground equipment.
Social and emotional development can be
observed as children interact with their peers
and with other adults while in the library, on
field trips, during free play, or at snack time. The
ability to follow routines can be easily observed
during transition times, such as cleanup and
dismissal. Educators can observe their children
in virtually every daily school activity.
The classroom’s organization can help or hinder
the ‘where to observe’. If educators have clear
sight lines in the classroom, they can sit at one
centre and observe children playing at another.
It is important to be unobtrusive; sitting too
close may disrupt the natural flow of the play.
Knowing the children enables educators to decide
where to position themselves to watch and listen
effectively. That being said, at times educators sit
with the children to understand what they are
observing and to gain further information.
When to Observe
Ideally, children should be observed daily and
throughout the day. Observation is not an ‘add
on’ or ‘one more thing to do’. It is an integral part
of the planning and the schedule. Observations
can take place at different times throughout
the day, and during both regular and unusual
activities in the classroom, for example, during a
special guest’s visit or during assembly.
Observations begin at the start of the school
year. These early observations indicate how the
child is adjusting to school and transitioning into
kindergarten. These early observations are the
beginning of baseline data that shows progress