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Observations - to write or not to write?


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Hi, I'm an NQT in a Nursery/Reception/Year1 class and was recently criticised during an observation for having a pen and paper in my hand when observing Child Initiated. It was my understanding that observations should be objective and that you should write down exactly what a child says. I would find this very difficult if I did as the observer said and watch for 30 mins before writing anything down. On our busy days we have 20 EYFS children in the class and perhaps it's my lack of experience but if I were to see 20 children doing different things during the first 30mins, how would I remember everything? Also, wouldn't it widen the gap between those outgoing children who do something spectacular every lesson and command attention of all adults and those who quietly get on?

Any advice welcome.

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I'm not in school...but at my more mature age if i did not write things down i would forget them!...guess it has to be a balance though...if this is taking you away from interacting with the children then i would be slightly concerned!

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I too am a mature member of staff ;) and yes I do need to write things down but I agree there does indeed need to be a balance however it is child inititiated so there may not be a need for adult interaction or may involve another adults input! I tend to scribble the main theme and dialect and write it up when i have a min.

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I'm in a school nursery, we use Tapestry so use an iPad to take photos and add observations. Sometimes I do this "in real time" if I am observing children during child initiated or doing something totally independent (and I am purely observing) however if I am interacting with the child either supporting or helping them to develop what they are doing then I might take photos and jot down key phrases they used etc... This is enough when accompanied by a photo to jog my memory. If I had no photo and no notes I would find it extremely hard to make really accurate observations including their actual choice of words etc...

I totally agree with you about the disparity between the children who seem to do something truly noteworthy and interesting every 10 minutes and those who get on quietly and don't broadcast what they are doing and what they discovered!

You don't say who it was that made the comment \ criticism. If it was your mentor or head teacher and therefore someone who you see daily I would be inclined to revisit the conversation with them and explain your concerns about what they said. It may be that they felt that writing as you observe might take you away from some of your interactions. If you explain that you would handle things in various ways in different scenarios (full write up vs brief notes vs quick photo dependent on your role in the activity being observed) they may feel that their concern has been addressed.

If it is a non school based observer I would file it under e for experience and continue with the practice you felt was best for your children.

Mel

x

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we have 31 nursery children and i jot down significant things. if it's speech i would write exactly what they say if demonstrating more complex speech than is typical for that child. and it's often language i record as it's is evidence of C+L and other areas, e.g. saying "me got more" is evidence of number language and speech. just scribbled and written up later so as not to take me away from children x

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Thanks folks, very helpful.

Mel it was an LA Advisor. I was making a note of a boy independently ordering objects he had found in the sand pit by size, and writing down the language he was using to describe the largest and smallest objects. We had done a similar activity in Maths earlier that day. I tried to show her what I was observing and she told me to put the paper down and just to watch for at least 30 minutes. She said I was missing some really good play pointing to another group of children who had built a garage and were using soapy water to wash cars. However this particular group had done the same thing the previous day. They had built a garage and I had extended their play by asking what happens at a garage and then provided the children with water and sponges to wash the cars. The children had requested the soap and sponges again at the start of the session and so continued playing their car wash game. I would describe these children as the outgoing group who's profiles are packed full of examples of them using similar initiatives in their play. However as I'd observed them doing this the previous session I made the decision to focus on some of the other children in my class.

Is this wrong? My lack of experience means that I second guess myself all the time.

Thanks x

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Thanks folks, very helpful.

Mel it was an LA Advisor. I was making a note of a boy independently ordering objects he had found in the sand pit by size, and writing down the language he was using to describe the largest and smallest objects. We had done a similar activity in Maths earlier that day. I tried to show her what I was observing and she told me to put the paper down and just to watch for at least 30 minutes. She said I was missing some really good play pointing to another group of children who had built a garage and were using soapy water to wash cars. However this particular group had done the same thing the previous day. They had built a garage and I had extended their play by asking what happens at a garage and then provided the children with water and sponges to wash the cars. The children had requested the soap and sponges again at the start of the session and so continued playing their car wash game. I would describe these children as the outgoing group who's profiles are packed full of examples of them using similar initiatives in their play. However as I'd observed them doing this the previous session I made the decision to focus on some of the other children in my class.

Is this wrong? My lack of experience means that I second guess myself all the time.

Thanks x

No. You are not wrong.

Was the boy a reception age child? Capturing his mathematical language is crucial to evidence the ELG for SSM!!

As an EYFS adviser I would be perfectly satisfied with your response. To be honest, if you just watched for 30 minutes I think I would be questioning the use of time!! You haven't got 30 mins to just watch in a N/Rec/Yr1 mixed class. Even doing a long narrative observation would just be about 10 mins max.

The point of evidence is to support your judgements. But you do not need to record everything. You decide if your observation is telling you something new and how best to capture it. Could be a photo, or a video clip, a written note or a longer observation...the choice is yours. You might need to watch a little bit to decide if this is new information about the child's learning or not.

You clearly know your children and are able to identify new learning compared to repetition and consolidation of skills.

Cx

Edited by catma
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  • 2 weeks later...

It would be great to spend that long with a child but I feel the rest of my class may have taken advantage of it!

I would write stuff down but we don't HAVE to write anything down as long as we can justify ( or remember!) our judgements... As long as I scribble a gist down I can normally remember enough to add to it later.

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