Making observations for preschool assessments is a simple and effective way to determine if your curriculum is meeting the needs of your students. It can also be used to create new goals for your preschoolers. Observations are a form of authentic assessments used in preschool classrooms.
Authentic assessments are the most developmentally appropriate method of assessing preschoolers. With authentic assessments you are able to track your preschoolers progress over time, which should inform your curriculum planning as well.
One type of observation you can use is a running record. With running records you simply choose a particular student to observe and write down everything that they say or do for a set amount of time. It is important to not engage with the child that you are observing so as to not influence their natural flow of play.
In addition to using observations to assess preschoolers, using running records to observe a child on a regular basis can be used as a useful tool in tracking behaviors. This can be particularly useful in pin pointing triggers.
Checklists are the absolute most basic observation tool. All you have to do is create a list of skills that build upon each other to reach a final goal. If you wanted to make a checklist for scissor skills you might start your list with “crumples paper” and then “rips paper using thumbs and forefingers”.
You would continue your checklist all the way down until all of the necessary skills needed in order to be able to successfully use scissors were listed. After that, you would just need one list for each child in your classroom. Then you check and date each skill off as you observe the child perform it successfully.
Photo documentation is probably the fastest method of documenting your observations. Simply snap a photo when you observe one of your preschoolers doing something noteworthy. Maybe you see one of your preschoolers writing their name.
You can quickly take a picture and then just make a note of what they were doing and the date to add to the photo later. Later, when you have taken many photo observations of the child over time, these photos become an invaluable part of their portfolio.
One particularly useful form of authentic assessment often used in preschool classrooms are portfolios. Portfolios are able to give parents and teachers a clear picture as to how their preschooler is progressing. When using portfolios to assess your preschoolers you are able to use multiple forms of observations at once.
All of the photos, written observations, and checklists are compiled into a portfolio divided into the four developmental domains. This way of using your observations to assess a child allows you to see where they were at the beginning of preschool and how they progressed throughout the year. You can clearly see what areas they need to work on the most, as well as where they excel.
As with anything in your preschool classroom, intentionality is key. In order to have effective observations you must plan. Having a set schedule for running records, including who and when you will observe, will ensure that you observe your preschoolers at different times of day and while they are engaged in a variety of activities.
Hanging clipboards in each learning center within your classroom with computer labels to quickly jot down observations (including the date) ensures that you will get those observations down. The observations that you document for your preschoolers assessments are quite possibly the most important resource you have in your classroom.