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THINKING IT THROUGH: TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO
APPENDIX 2
Suggested Observation Questions
When time is spent observing at centres that actively
engage children in learning, an educator can gather a
great deal of information about children’s knowledge,
skills, attitudes, and how they express and construct
knowledge. The following observation questions may
serve to frame observations for educators. They are
in no way meant to be prescriptive or exclusive of
others.37
Observing Oral Language at All Centres
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social/Emotional Development
• Who is using language extensively and who is
quiet in the classroom?
• When, where, and with whom does the child talk?
Cognitive Development
• How does the child communicate needs/
wants? Through words? Through nonverbal
communication such as gestures, facial
expressions, noises?
• How does the child speak? (words, phrases or
sentences.)
• How does the child use language? (to self-maintain,
direct, report on present and past experiences,
toward logical reasoning, predict, project, imagine.)
• How are the child’s ideas organized? (clearly and
logically, randomly or as disconnected ideas.)
• What is the nature of the child’s vocabulary?
Physical Development
• Can the child be easily understood? Is there a lisp,
blurred, or garbled speech?
• Are there behaviours that might indicate the child is
having difficulty hearing? (unduly watches others,
responses are consistently delayed, directions
aren’t followed, seems to work in isolation,
extensive use of nonverbal communication.)
Observing at the Book/Reading or Literacy
Centre
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social/Emotional Development
• What interest does the child show in literacy
activities during learning centre time?
• What preferences does the child have for reading
materials?
• How does the child feel about himself or herself
as a reader?
Language/Cognitive Development
• What is the child ‘noticing’ about print/ the text?
• What knowledge or understanding does the child
have about print/books? (pictures tell a story,
print goes from left to right, book is held the right
way, there is a title on the cover.)
• What information does the child recall?
• How does the child retell? (with props, pictures,
own words, in logical sequence, with detail, with
expression.)
• What connections is the child making with the texts?
• What skills or strategies does the child use when
‘reading’? (uses memory, uses picture clues,
predicts, goes back and checks for understanding,
asks a friend, knows some familiar words, attaches
sounds to letters.)
• What does the child know about letters/sounds/
words? (recognizes own name and friends’ names,
recognizes print in the environment, recognizes
similarities and differences in letters, sounds,
words, knows letters of the alphabet, and attaches
sounds to letters.)
Physical Development
• Are physical skills in place to support literacy
learning? (grasping and turning pages with
control, holding a book within comfort zone
without squinting, frowning, or excessive
blinking.)

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ASSESSMENT THAT INFORMS INSTRUCTION
Observing at the Writing Centre/Writing
Activities
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social/Emotional Development
• What interest does the child show in writing?
• Where does the child choose to write? (only at the
writing centre, in other centres.)
• When does the child choose to write? (in response
to an experience, for a social purpose, when
assisted.)
• How does the child view the task of writing? (as
an independent activity, easily frustrated, needs
constant support.)
• How does the child view his/her writing
capabilities? (I’ll show you how to do it, I can do
that, that’s too hard for me, I can’t make it right.)
Language/Cognitive Development
• What kinds of ‘writing’ does the child generate?
(pictures, labels for pictures, messages, stories,
lists.)
• What stage of writing is evident?
• What strategies does the child use when writing?
(knowledge of familiar words, using classroom
resources, asking a friend, sounding out and
stretching out the sounds.)
• How does the child organize the writing on the
paper?
• What is the stage of spelling in independent writing?
Physical Development
• How is fine motor control developing?
• Does the child hold writing tools in an efficient
manner?
• How does the child orient writing/drawing on paper?
Observing at the Science/Technology
Centre
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social/Emotional Development
• What interest does the child show in the natural
world?
• How does the child react to new experiences?
(digging in the dirt, getting hands muddy,
encountering a new creature.)
• Does the child tend to work alone or with others
in investigations?
• What strategies does the child use when working
with others?
• How does the child share materials?
• How does the child handle the materials/
creatures? (with care, with respect, with
knowledge.)
Language/Cognitive Development
• How does the child communicate observations?
(verbally, nonverbally, through drawings/writing,
building.)
• What scientific/mathematical vocabulary does the
child use? (the water is frozen, this one is higher,
it’s steep so it goes faster.)
• What is the child ‘noticing,’ paying attention to?
• What science/technology concepts has the child
developed?
• Is the child curious? How is curiosity expressed?
• What inquiry skills does the child use?
(comparing, predicting, hypothesizing, drawing
conclusions.)
• What knowledge does the child have about the
topic?
• What connections is the child making?
• What strategies does the child use for problem-
solving when engaged in inquiry or design and
technology experiences? (trial and error, uses past
experiences, tries a new idea/material, seeks help
from others.)
Physical Development
• How is fine motor control when handling
materials? Are movements becoming more precise
and controlled? (pouring from containers, using an
eyedropper.)
• How is eye-hand coordination developing?
(using a hammer and nails, a screwdriver, placing
materials when designing.)

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THINKING IT THROUGH: TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO
Observing at the Visual Arts Centre
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social and Emotional Development
• What interest does the child show in visual arts
experiences?
• How does the child view himself/herself as an
artist?
• How does the child approach the activity? (takes
time and effort, works quickly, returns to it.)
• Does the child share materials?
• Does the child show a preference for a
medium? (painting, drawing, collage work, three
dimensional, modeling or mixing media.)
• Does the child show a preference for materials?
(paint, tempera blocks, crayons, chalk, clay.)
• Will the child experiment? (with the use of colour,
shape, texture, design.)
• Does the child follow the routines?
Language/Cognitive Development
• What does the child ‘notice’ or pay attention to
when viewing art?
• What visual arts vocabulary does the child use?
(the colours are all muddy, I made a zigzag line,
that feels really bumpy.)
• What knowledge does the child have of the
materials?
• What connections does the child make to the art?
• What is the child’s knowledge of the different
elements of art? (shape, colour, texture, line.)
• What stage is the child at for drawing/painting?
• What is the motivation for the child’s art? (to
respond, to make something for someone else, to
work with a friend, to create something which can
be used elsewhere, to decorate.)
Physical Development
• Does the child demonstrate coordinated eye-hand
movements?
• How does the child use tools? (scissors, paint
brushes, modeling tools.)
Observing at the Sand Centre
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social and Emotional Development
• What stage of play does the child demonstrate
most often?
• What does the child do at the sand centre?
(explores the sand as a material and uses the
tools, discovers some math and science concepts,
talks about discoveries, begins own investigations
and engages in problem-solving, engages in
dramatic play.)
• How does the child work with others?
• How does the child share materials?
• Does the child follow the routines for the centre?
• Will the child take risks and try something new?
Language and Cognitive Development
• What mathematical and scientific vocabulary is
the child using?
• What mathematical and scientific concepts does
the child use in the play? (mass, volume, speed,
distance.)
• What does the child do with the sand? (sift, mound,
pour, create dramatizations, investigations.)
• What knowledge does the child have of sand as a
material?
• What inquiry skills does the child use at the
sand centre? (observing, comparing, predicting,
drawing conclusions.)
• What connections does the child make with sand
and the ‘real world’?
• What problem-solving strategies does the child
use at the sand centre?
• How does the child communicate observations
at the sand centre? (verbally, pictures, writing,
recording.)
Physical Development
• Is the child showing increasing fine motor control
when using tools? (pouring from measuring cups,
managing funnel and tubing.)

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ASSESSMENT THAT INFORMS INSTRUCTION
Observing at the Water Centre
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social and Emotional Development
• Will the child choose the water centre? (afraid to
get wet, take risks…)
• How does the child play? (alone, with someone
else, enter into group play.)
• How does the child follow the routines for the
centre?
Language and Cognitive Development
• What does the child do at the water centre?
(explore the materials and the water itself,
discover mathematical and scientific concepts and
use of materials, problem-solve and begin own
investigations, engage in dramatic play.)
• What mathematical and scientific vocabulary does
the child use and understand? (deeper, floats,
freezing…)
• What knowledge does the child have about the
properties of water? (takes the shape of container
it is in, has different states, water flows…)
• What are the child’s observations?
• What connections is the child making to ‘real
world’ or past experiences?
• What inquiry skills are developing? (observing,
predicting, comparing, drawing conclusions…)
• How does the child reflect on the learning?
(through showing and demonstrating, through
drawings/writings, describing a photo, sharing in
the group…)
Physical Development
• Is there evidence of controlled fine motor skills and
eye-hand coordination? (pouring water, squeezing
baster, using eyedroppers, managing funnels…)
Observing at the Blocks and Construction
Materials
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social and Emotional Development
• What interest does the child show in building?
• What social skills is the child developing? Does
the child lead or follow, adapt to the ideas of
others, voice ideas, show respect for others, use
language to express needs and follow routines?
• How does the child play? (alone, beside others,
with a partner, or with a group.)
Language and Cognitive Development
• Does the child name, label, describe, or tell a story
about the construction?
• What drama does the child incorporate into the
building?
• What mathematical or scientific vocabulary does
the child use? (higher, triangle, has more, faster…)
• What questions does the child pose?
• What mathematical, scientific concepts does the
child incorporate into play? (size, sorting, order,
shape, symmetry, pattern, stability.)
• What inquiry skills does the child use while
constructing? (observing, comparing, predicting,
drawing conclusions…)
• How does child represent learning? (verbally,
through drawings, writings, gestures, using
numbers…)
• What strategies does the child have to solve
problems? (watching others, using past
experience, trial and error, seeking assistance…)
• What connections does the child make? (to real
life - buildings need to be strong at the bottom so
they won’t fall down; to pictures - that’s just like
the one in the book.)
Physical Development
• How is fine motor and eye-hand coordination
developing?
• What size of material can the child efficiently use?
• How does the child use the physical space?

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THINKING IT THROUGH: TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO
Observing at the Math Centre
Some starting questions for observation:
Social and Emotional Development
• How interested is the child in using math
materials?
• Does the child engage with materials alone or
with others?
• How interested is the child in solving
mathematical problems? Does the child persist?
Language and Cognitive Development
• What mathematical vocabulary does the child
use? (higher, more/less, triangle, behind.)
• What is the child ‘noticing’ about numbers in
every day situations in the classroom?
• What mathematical concepts does the child
demonstrate through the use of materials? (order,
pattern, symmetry, data management.)
• How does the child use mathematics in other
areas of the program? (matching one to one
with plates for each person in the dramatic play,
measuring the height of a bean plant, making
patterns with materials at painting, sorting the
boxes at the classroom store, ordering the shells
at the science table.)
• What concepts of mathematics does the child
demonstrate with the materials? (one to one,
cardinality, stable order.)
• How does the child demonstrate evidence of
spatial awareness? (finding own space in the gym,
organizing collage materials at the visual arts
centre, establishing an area for building materials,
organizing self on paper.)
• How does the child use language? (to describe
how to solve a problem, to explain a solution, to
create a story problem, retell a number story.)
Physical Development
• Does the child show fine motor control in picking
up and placing materials?
• Is the child able to find her or his own place in
space?
Observing Dramatic Play
Some starting questions to guide observations:
Social and Emotional Development
• Does the child choose to engage in dramatic play?
(alone or with another child or group.)
• How does the child deal with social problems?
• What types of worries, emotions, or experiences
are expressed through the child’s dramatic play?
• How does the child interact with peers? (an
onlooker, solitary, cooperative.)
• What role does the child take in the play?
(initiator, follower, the baby or animal.)
• Is the child able to read the social cues of peers?
• How does the child enter the play? (asking or
engaging with others, seeing attention, with
assistance from educator.)
• How well can the child stay involved or sustain the
play?
• Is the child able to read the social cues of peers?
Language and Cognitive Development
• How does the child use language in the play?
(self-maintaining, directing, reporting on present
and past experiences, toward logical reasoning,
predicting, projecting, imagining.)
• Does the child ‘play’ with language?
• What scripts does the child develop? How are they
extended?
• How does the child use voice during the play?
(takes on voice of roles/characters, varies tone,
uses expression.)
• Can the child make himself or herself understood
by others?
• How does the child speak? (in words, phrases,
simple sentences, more complex sentences.)
• What background knowledge does the child have
to bring to the drama?
• Does the child know and use the vocabulary
associated with the role or theme of the play?
• How does the child incorporate literacy in the
play?

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ASSESSMENT THAT INFORMS INSTRUCTION
• What mathematics are used in the play? (setting
the table one to one, sorting materials in the class
store, counting out change.)
• What themes emerge during the play?
Physical Development
• How does the child incorporate movement into
the drama?
• How does the child perform the movements?
• How is fine motor control developing? (able to do
buttons on dress-up clothes, dress the dolls.)