As an early years practitioner, a huge part of your responsibility is making assessments. One of the ways of doing this is by making regular, short observations, often known as ‘wow observations’.
Many people find making wow observations a chore, but if you take steps to create an easy and efficient system to manage them, they needn’t be. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful:
Prepare yourself. As you know, children come out with brilliant / funny / clever lines all the time. Get yourself a bum bag, fill it with pens and paper and wear it throughout the day – that way you don’t get caught out without the tools to note down an observation.
Make life easier. Record observations on something like post it notes or sticky labels – something you can put straight in a child’s learning journey the easiest way possible. Once they've been written, stick them straight in! Don’t rewrite observations - it doesn’t matter if your handwriting is a mess. Just jot it down, and in it goes as evidence.
Always listen out. You don’t always have to ‘set up’ an activity for an area. Although this is a great thing to do, children are going to provide you with wow observations at the most unexpected of times, not when you choose. In particular, the areas of PSED, Understanding the World and Communication and Language are happening all the time. Another reason to be ready with that pen and paper!
Be aware of other learning. When looking for observations, don’t just look for what the activity is about. For example, if children are playing with shapes, don’t just look for comments that they make about shape. Look for evidence of PSED – are they sharing? Can they concentrate and persevere at an activity? Also, listen out for language and understanding of the world.
Write down the context. A child sitting down and counting out 10 items because you’ve asked them to is very different from a child who chooses to count out 10 donuts in the role-play kitchen because he is holding a teddy bear’s picnic. The latter shows problem solving – another box to tick.
Assessment is such a huge part of early years work that it is essential you make it manageable for you and your colleagues. You will not be effective at collecting observations if you cannot manage them, plus you will miss lots of exciting evidence if you spend too much time worrying about the format. Everybody works differently, so find a system that works for you, be ready and hopefully the observations will flow!
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About the author
Georgina Smith has had 8 years experience teaching both mainstream and special education. She has created her own website www.sensupport.com which makes learning resources to help children with Special Educational Needs. You can contact her on @sen_support on Twitter or on Facebook.