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hi

 

when do you find time to do observations we are a playgroup with 55 children 4 adults and up to 30 children each session.

 

we have been open since sept 2007 and have tried different methods of observing but our biggest problem is writing down what we see and then recording it into each childs folder

 

any suggestions on what works for you

 

angela

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Ahhh....one day someone who is going to come up with an answer to this question and be a millionaire this time next year!

 

We are currently trying to ensure that we make time for observations, easier said that done I know, but trying to ensure that children have enough time and space to get involved in an activity of their choosing so that staff can observe.

 

Another possible way of ensuring systematic observations of all children is perhaps to focus on a set number of children each week depending how you do them. So for example as I have 6 key children, I am going to try to focus on one child a week, whilst recording those small 'wow' moments from any child in the group that I happen to see.

 

I'm sure other people will be along soon with some good suggestions.

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The only way we have found that works is each staff member has post it notes and when they observe something noteworthy they make a note on the post it note and place it on the white board. These are collected by each childs key-worker and placed in the childs profile book and referenced against relevant development area. hope this makes sense (sorry should have said the staff note date time and brief ob)

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Guest Wolfie

We do the same as belle06 and also one planned observation on each child per month, where we plan to observe the child several times, at different points in the session.

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Good ideas already, I also think it's worth considering to not do observations for observation sake (if you know what I mean)

 

Yes, note down those 'Ah yes that's a definate example of .....", plan more formal obs such as tracking, language or social groupings etc. But I think most important of all is that observations are planned to show you what you don't know or what you have not evidenced, so knowing what has already been observed is important. I used to find that staff were writing the same things over and over then missing out on other information required for report writing such as transfer records.

Time given to evaluate observations and identify gaps in what you need to know/observe is just as important as getting a particular number of obs done. he keyworker can let others know what gaps their children have in their assessments as shared observations are good.

Staff are more motivated to do obs if they experience the relevance of them. And don't forget other types of evidence, photo's with a note to describe the learning/ skill/attitude it depicts, shared professional judgement, ie: if a childs achievement is mentioned at a staff meeting during general discussion, note it down in their achievement file. Parent comments, note these down too in the childs file. Even other childrens comments about each other, ie: these can happen during quiet periods such as mat time, snack or dinner times.

 

Peggy

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Observations are built into our daily planning.One staff member as resonsiblity for 'observing and recording' during each session with the expectation of a minimum of two.30 children 3 staff per session.We have a tracking chart on the wall to record who has been observed so we can spot and target 'under the radar children'.In addition we have brief observation slips for extras.

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thankyou for all your ideas we are doing post its but as peggy mentioned tending to be doing the same things all the time. We have also been trying to do an individual plan for one child in each keyperson group each week. This is working well with photos and obs in all six areas. unless you have a photographic memory it is very difficult to remember all the steppping stones so i am trying to work out how we can look at the different areas and access. the other problem is you are not going to get everyone because of different days ect in. for instance you want to know who can cope with a change in rountine this may happen once in a week. do you have someone just recording who can or cannot do this. other obs such as being able to recognise big and little can be done a circle time activity so thats not a problem. i am finding it hard to understand how you can go through all the elg's with each child.

 

sorry for waffling

 

angela

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I don't think you need to go through every single ELG, they are developmental stepping stones and as children do not develop in a linear way I think it would be impossible to identify evidence for every single one. We looked more at the developmental level each childs observations showed them to be in ie: yellow, blue, green or grey. Again this varied within each area ie: Blue in CLL and Green in Creative. For example a child who is becoming aware of initial sounds I would assume has passed the stage of 'enjoys books'.

I would go with keyworker professional judgement whether a child is able to cope with a change of routine, and many other stepping stones linked to attitude can be 'known' by a keyworker. Dealing well with a fire drill would evidence this particular attitude.

Whether a child attends 2 sessions a week or 5 sessions, each child will have an individual development level to be consolidated or extended from, it's not a case of having an equal number of observations per child.

Try and get away from the 'sytem' of doing observations and get your staff to think about the purpose of observations - to see where a child is at developmentally - from this they can decide which children in their key group they need to focus on for observations, the ones that get missed, the ones they are not sure about.

Don't plan obs as a whole group system, keyworkers need to plan for their key group, linked to their rota hours / childrens attendence patterns, additional observations from other staff will either add new knowledge or reinforce what the keyworkers have already assessed. Keyworkers need to talk to other staff about they need to know, ie on my day off the activity/experience plans are......Tommy is in and could you see if he can........ Staff meetings again where all staff talk about their cildrens achievements and needs will let all know what to look out for. Be aware though that if you are 'looking out' for something particular you may miss something just as important that you weren't looking for. :o

Complicated this seems, but it isn't its about keeping in mind the purpose of observations and not trying to set a system, children are too individual to fit a 'whole group' system approach.

 

Peggy

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Hi

I'm a new member so this is the first time I have contributed to a discussion - hope I do OK!

I work in a preschool where we have 70 children on the register, up to 25 in each session with 5 members of staff including the supervisor. We do up to 2 adult led activities each week where a different member of staff each day completes an activity aimed at a particular ELG. This allows us to work in small groups or one-to one and the observations are recorded as the children take part. This way we can make sure that certain goals are covered and it gives us an idea of the next stage of planning for each child. In addition each member of staff records observations on post-its and updates their keyworker folders regularly so that we can spot if a particular ELG needs to be covered for an individual child. i.e. we found we were not getting many obs on Mathematical Dev so planned some activities around this.

 

I've waffled on a bit now - hope this helps tho' I am probably telling you what you already know!!

 

Anne

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Exactly angelaw, keep the task of observations in perspective and within the context of the children :o

 

Hello abruton, thanks for sharing, well done on your first post and a warm welcome to the forum. xD

 

peggy

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have to say i really hate observations. we have to do about 3 (at least) every month for each key child, it has to be backed up with photo's (which is fine except the printer doesn't work brilliantly) but thats not the reason i don't like them. the reason is everyone else has 3 keychildren. i have 10. i don't get time out to update the books and we're not allowed to take them home. :o

 

i love the kids to bits but its all become too paperwork orientated

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I do what everyone else has said and completely agree not enough time and children are just too young they just need to play. I struggle to get everything done to my satisfaction and all I really want is for the child to enjoy their time at pre-school. I think as long as they are happy and safe and we are encouraging them to learn and develop their skills then we are doing our job.

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Hi BabyBee,

 

What a shame you view observations in this way - I absolutely love watching children at play! I do agree that the paperwork side of things can become unmanageable but perhaps this is a fault of the system you have at your setting. Is there any particular reason why you have so many more than everyone else? If you are finding it impossible to keep up with this number then I think you need to communicate this to whoever is in charge!

 

Shelley,

 

Observations are really important and worthwhile. I am interested that you say the children are too young and just need to play. Is this not what happens at your setting? The children should be doing exactly that and observations that adults carry out should not be getting in the way of them doing so!

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Carol

 

Of course the children play at my setting! Only I enjoy playing with them!!

 

As we are a tiny setting 10 children most sessions, working at full ratio capacity, taking children from the age of 2 its impossible to sit back and make observations. We also do not have paid time to do childrens reports apart from say 10 mins each day after we have done the cleaning and we are also meant to do planning in this time too!

 

Sounds like you make quality observations how do you do it? Do you have enough staff to allow somebody to concentrate on observations for part of your sessions?

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Sorry Shelley, didn't mean it to sound like that! I have a thing about observations and often hear people complaining about having to do them. However, once you recognise the value of them you will find you love doing them. As the others have said, these don't have to be lengthy but you do need to have an idea of what you are wanting to observe and why. I also like playing but would recommend sitting back and observing before jumping into any play activity with children. I am always conscious that well meaning adults can end up unwittingly spoiling a perfectly good game just because they didn't bother to watch what the children were doing first.

 

I have just recently stopped working at my playgroup but there were 4 members of staff working various days - some just 2 sessions a week, others more than that but on the edge of ratios for most sessions. We too had to put everything out and clear away each session, so I encouraged staff to write up their observations during the session where possible. We had an observation sheet for each child on several clipboards (clipboards were split up in terms of the ages of the children and easily identifiable from each other so that if you wanted to write something about a particular child it was quick and easy to find the right sheet.) Then we would just scribble things down as we saw things during the session, keeping it brief and to the point. Each term we had different things we were focusing on but of course this wouldn't stop us from noting other things. I think it helps if you know the curriculum inside out - as the children played I would find a list forming in my head of all the things the observation was covering. This literally takes seconds to do and in no way compromises ratios. Me and my staff all seemed to work in different ways - one liked to keep a pad of paper with her and write everything down on this and then rewrite it all at the end (not to be recommended!!), one liked to fetch the clipboard and write as she observed, I would write things down after I had finished 'playing' before moving on to the next thing - you need to find the way it works for you.

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I think observation is something "teachers" do and have always done Beau, but it is the expectations of producing copious piles of "evidence" that they find a chore and sometimes the two get confused.

"Evidencing judgements

Practitioners and FSP moderators also need to be aware that the definition of evidence is any material, knowledge of the child, anecdotal incident, result of observation or information from additional sources that support the overall picture of the child’s development. There is NO EXPECTATION OR REQUIREMENT that such evidence is always FORMALLY RECORDED or

DOCUMENTED. Although practitioners may choose to record specific evidence in order to secure their own judgements, it is their final assessment of the child, based on all the evidence they have (documented or not) that informs their completion of the FSP and it is this judgement that is moderated by the LA."

 

http://www.naa.org.uk/downloads/FSP_factsh...dation_v042.pdf

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I've recently stopped working at my preschool and I must admit one of the many things I miss is the work done on the childrens achievement files.

Shelley, I too had a small group with just 2 staff per session, children from age 2 yrs. We managed our observations by writing comments straight into the childrens files, which were set out on a table in the hall, easily accessible.

We also included photo's, art work, cuttings ( ie: when a child cut paper in different ways (during free play mainly). Often a child would make something and then get the cellotape or glue and put it in their folder ( large A3 size scrap book style).

For example, other evidence would be a photocopy of a childs hand showing how they use this programmable equipment, or some shredded paper which they had done themselves, or photographs of how a child had made a pattern sequence with beads etc. The folders were great to look at, by parents, children and staff, they really showed the 'life' of a child at preschool. They were not just reams of notes with 'curriculum' jargon next to them.

Just remembered once I talked to the children about a particular display we had on their 'pets'. I noted my questions and their comments into blank 'speech bubbles', these were put on a page in their folder with a photo of the display. The childrens observational language /comments, interaction and ideas showed so much knowledge, attitudes and even conversational skills I could have written a whole A4 sized evaluation on each child linked to CLL, KUW, PSE. But for the parents and children the most important aspect of this way of presenting the 'observation of' the childrens 'work' was how it portrayed the fun they'd had, and the way the children talked about their fun experiences.

 

We would spend, I would say an equal amount of time sitting back and watching as we did interacting with the children. In fact during my last term the children would 'lead' their own routine, group together for story, snacks or action songs, totally independent of adults, led by individual peers. Now this was a joy to watch, and when our EYAT saw this she was very impressed with the 'ownership' the children had of 'their' preschool day.

 

Peggy

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  • 2 weeks later...

I WAS HAVING THE SAME PROBLEM AS A PRESCHOOL WITH 60 CHILDREN, 5 STAFF,RUNNING 10 SESSIONA PER WEEK AND 5 LUNCH CLUBS (NO SPARE tIME TO BE PRECISE). EACH MEMBER OF STAFF IS GIVEN A WEEK ON A FIVE WEEK ROTA BASIS TO CONCENTRATE ON THIER KEYWORKER CHILDREN (20 EACH!!!!!). tHIS TIME IS USED TO OBSERVE USING TRACKING,INDIVIDUAL,TARGET AND INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS ALONG WITH TAKING PHOTOS AS EVIDENCE OF ACHIEVEMENTS. AND FILES ARE UPDATED AND RELIVANT SECTIONS HIGHLIGHTED. wHILST THIS IS GOING ON THE REST OF THE STAFF ARE DEPLOYED ON ACTIVITIES WITH THE TRUSTY POST ITS(WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT THEM) TO MAKE SHORT NOTES ON CHILDREN IN THEIR AREA AND ON STRUCTURED ACTIVITIES IE ART,CIRCLE TIME ETC A STEPPING STONE (WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR AN IMINENT OFSTED INSPECTION SO CANT USE NEW PAPERWORK YET) IS SELECTED AND EACH CHILDS NAME IS LISTED INCLUDING ACHIEVMENTS ON A SHEET OF PAPER THAT THE KEYORKER CAN THEN USE TO HIGHLIGHT IN THE FOLDERS.

wE HAVE BEEN USING THIS SYSTEM SINCE CHRISTMAS AND WE ARE ALL STILL SANE . wELL SORT OF AND ALL OF MY STAFF AGREE THAT THIS REALLY WORKS.

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Observation does not equal written necessarily. It's what you know also. Just because it's not written doesn't make something invalid as evidence of a child's progress and development.

Discussions and sharing to agree what information might be telling you about a child and what you are going to do about it are more important I think than trying to getit all written down. Of course I recorded stuff - the things I felt I needed to record to remind me later but some stuff I knew without having to write it down like the fact that x can dress themselves or enjoys reading books.

 

I also think you have to listen listen listen and capture the child's voice. The best written notes I find are those that record what the child actually said, which gets inside their thinking about an issue or concept they are trying to workout. Also those that capture the why - not just "can cut with scissors" but the why did they choose scissors for a particular purpose or material they are using.

 

Focused observations also need a purpose, and that will come from analysis of what you all know about the child and what you may identify as gaps in your knowledge about them, not necessarily gaps in their learning!

 

Cx

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Why not split all the children into groups say yellow red blue and green group and each staff member is a designated keyperson (this is statratry from sept) Then sort your routine to include group activity time say 20 mins where each key person takes there group to do a planned activity using same area but different goals for ages groups) and do observations that way as well as having a notebook with you at all time and pencil to catpure as well as each member having there cameras on hold too.Also sticky labels to stick straight into childs folder.

 

If you include this into your routine you will also find it easier to adjust and amend as well as plan for individual children within your group. then say once a month all meet up and discuss your children and achievenments and work out what needs concentrating on to use for your long/mid term planning.

Hope this makes sense.

Edited by Guest
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Hi we try to have a couple of targets each week and it is written into our plannig how we will achieve these targets ie understanding the meaning of 1 & 2 how this will happen number cards and cotton reels so at some point that week the keyworker knows they need to try and find time to do that wih their children, however this is easier said than done hardly a week goes by when we are not a staff member down due to sickness or training courses so it does sometimes feel like the impossible job!

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on observation in general - are we not observing all the time anyway, just because i don't label the time frame i am in as "observation" doesn't mean I'm not doing it! every converstaion, every engagement with a child is observation as my brain is processing info and then coming up with suggestions of what we might do next. I think we get too hung up on blocking time into "teaching" and "observing" when actually we are doing both all the time. teaching is observing, observing is teaching, if i need to record I will, if i need to focus on a child I will, i will analyse what i know to decide what my targets are in order to develop what is current and improve outcomes,I think we try too hard to box it all off and end up just getting our knickers in a twist!

 

Cx

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As supply I dont get involved in observations but as catma says, its not about making time to focus on a child and write up copious amounts of files. As supply, I just use my eyes, I see that X likes to learn through the sand tray, I see that Y likes putting things in boxes and Z is spending time in the book corner, and when I'm asked to set up a room I know what equipment will best fit with those children.

 

Most of my observation are, out of necessaity, in my head, but I talk to staff about each childs likes/dislikes, needs, abilities and prefered learning style. I pass on information that will help them in their planning in the vain hope that they will use it. When I was staff, I used to do a more focused indepth observation on children that we as staff had concerns about, but the child was linked to the ELGS/Stepping stones, not the other way around.

As Peggy says, the s/s and ELG's are not a prescriptive list of the steps a child will take, so using the ELG's to plan from wont fit what you are actually seeing in everyday life. The observations are there for you to plan from, you see something and after thinking about what you've seen you plan for the childs next step.

 

I think the key to observations is to relax, write or memorise what you see and use your skills to help the child move on. As Beau says, if you know the curriculum inside out it helps you understand what you are seeing, I used to be able to quote s/s and page number xD

The EYFS will hopefully make people more aware of the need to plan from the observations rather than write a plan that the children will fit into.

 

I heard of a nursery yesterday who have decided not to plan for the baby room. I think its a great decision and can totally see the point. I've seen settings who take a line from BTTM and use it as a focus for the week, but it wont fit most of the children there and the childens developmental needs wont be met. Whats the point in a plan thats says 'this week we are focusing on communication'? Does that mean the equipment used to aid, interest, suggest communication wont be used again after that week? In some places, yes, it does mean that. In a well resourced room everything a baby might need is there ready to be accessed as the baby requires or as the staff observe it will be useful.

 

Like Beau and Peggy, I love observing children playing, they are so interesting, and planning for them becomes a whole new experience when what we plan comes from them, not us, they are so much better at knowing what they need and how a game or interest can develop, than we are. I often used to scrap my plans in favour of theirs :o

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