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Observation: The Key to Responsive Planning

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1 Observation: The Key to Responsive Planning
[Introduce yourself and the session.] Observation: The Key to Responsive Planning

2 Learning Objectives Explain why observation is a critical part of effective teaching. Discuss the qualities of useful observation notes and other documentation of children’s development and learning. Write objective observation notes. Identify the levels of children’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors with regard to particular objectives and dimensions. Use what you learn by observing to plan for each child and the group. First, let’s take a look at the learning objectives for today’s session. [Read slide]

3 Reflecting on Current Practices
How do you develop weekly plans? How do you choose experiences for your group? How do you make sure that you meet each child’s strengths and needs? How do you observe children? How do you assess children? Now please take a few minutes to think about to think about your practices. To help you think about how you currently observe, plan, and assess, I’m going to show five questions on the screen. Please jot down answers to these questions as you think about your practices. You will not be asked to share this information. [Read and click to reveal each question. Allow a few minutes for participants to write.] Now that you have thought about how you work with children, please examine your answers. How often did you use words of phrases like observation, goals, objectives, individualize, family input, Weekly Planning Form, or The Creative Curriculum?

4 Caring and Teaching Creating a classroom community
Guiding children’s behavior Teaching intentionally and responsively Assessing children’s learning As we begin, let’s also discuss the role of observation in caring and teaching. In The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, Volume 1: The Foundation, chapter 4, “Caring and Teaching,” is organized in the sections shown on this slide. It is essential for teachers to understand the critical role that observation plays in every aspect of intentionally promoting children’s development and learning. The close link between curriculum and assessment is apparent in the ongoing assessment cycle.

5 The Four-Step Assessment Cycle
Observe and Collect Facts Analyze and Respond Evaluate Summarize, Plan, and Communicate This is the ongoing assessment cycle that supports intentional teaching and positive child outcomes. Observation is a critical part of intentional teaching and therefore the first step of the assessment cycle. A teacher must get to know each child and the group before he or she can plan for them. Let’s talk more the cycle. Step 1 is “Observe and collect facts.” Think about how you observe and otherwise collect information about children’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors. In addition to your observation notes, you might collect work samples, art samples, photos, and videos of children engaged in classroom experiences. You probably also ask family members to contribute their observations, photos, and so on. Step 2 is “Analyze and respond.” Again, think about how you analyze and respond to the facts you collect. To help with this step, you probably sort your documentation and perhaps label it with the objective numbers so you know which objectives are related to the documentation. As you review observation notes and portfolio items on a regular basis, consider the significance of what children did and said. How do their knowledge, skills, and behaviors relate to the objectives? Step 3 is “Evaluate.” Think about how you use your analysis of the facts to determine children’s current levels of development and learning and to track progress over time. Step 4 is “Summarize, plan, and communicate.” In this step, you summarize your data and plan learning experiences for individual children and the group. On the basis of what you learned about each child, you decide which objectives to target as you continue to teach. You choose appropriate strategies and plan meaningful activities for individuals, small groups of children, and the whole class. During this step you also communicate with families and others about children’s current developmental levels, progress, and likely next steps. Think of all the people who might be interested in child outcomes: families, teaching colleagues, supervisors, directors, and funders. You also incorporate their insights as you plan. As you implement the plan, the cycle resumes. You continue to observe children to collect facts about their development and learning.

6 Observation is critical to planning and individualizing instruction.
Today we will focus on links between observation and responsive planning.

7 Collecting Facts: Observe and Document
Observe children with curricular objectives in mind. Document only what you see and hear. Observe children at different times and in different places throughout the day. 1 Collect facts Collecting facts means documenting evidence of children’s development and learning. Important sources of information are your observation notes; samples of children’s art, writing, and other work; photos of children’s activities and work products; audio clips of children’s speech; and videos of children engaged in classroom experiences. Your own observations are among the most essential sources of information about children’s interests, approaches to learning, strengths, and needs. Family members are also valuable sources of information and documentation. [Review the slide.] 4 Summarize, plan, and communicate 2 Analyze and respond 3 Evaluate

8 “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”
— Sir John Lubbock [Read the quote on the screen] Think about how this quote relates to what your observe in the classroom, both positively and negatively. We cannot and should not eliminate the personal side of observation (what we bring to the process). However, we do need to be aware of our personal values, biases, beliefs, individuality, and expertise. They shape the ways we perceive and interpret what children and families say and do. In turn, that affects our relationships and decisions. Be sure that your observation notes reflect facts rather than assumptions. We know that effective observation requires planning. You need to decide who, what, when, and how to observe. Objectives for development and learning help you know what to look for as you observe. These are part of your formal observations. We also observe children throughout the day during our daily routines and experiences. These observations are what we call informal observations, otherwise known as “in the moment” observations. In the next step of the cycle, objectives help you analyze the facts.

9 Why do you observe children?
Four reasons: I’m curious about children and want to understand them better. I want to get to know each child and build a positive relationship with him or her. I want to find out about each child’s development and learning. I want to teach more responsively. Responding to each child’s strengths and needs requires you to observe carefully and intentionally. We answer the question “Why observe?” with four reasons: Curiosity: I’m curious about children and want to understand them better. It is important to maintain an attitude of wonder about the children in your care. Ask yourself, “What is this child like? How does this child respond in different situations?” Relationships: I want to get to know each child and build a positive relationship with him or her. Observation information helps you build positive relationships with children and their families. These relationships are fundamental to helping each child develop and learn. Development and learning: I want to find out about each child’s development and learning. Observation helps you discover the current levels of each child’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors and find out how each child prefers to learn. Knowing each child’s current levels and likely next steps helps you individualize learning experiences and plan effectively. Responsive teaching: I want to teach more responsively. This is the most comprehensive reason. Observation gives you the information you need in order to respond thoughtfully to children, increasing the probability that your guidance will contribute to positive results.

10 Writing Observation Notes
Include: Avoid: descriptions of gestures and other actions quotations descriptions of facial expressions descriptions of creations labels (shy, creative) intentions (wants to) evaluations (good job) judgments (beautiful, sloppy) negatives (can’t, won’t) This slide explains what should be included and avoided as you write observation notes. Description of actions: Make sure you describe exactly what you see. What is the child doing? Quotations: This is a great way to capture facts. Write exactly what the child says. Descriptions of gestures: Again, describe the child’s actions. You could write something like, “Jennifer waves her hand back and forth over the bowl and then says, ‘It’s too hot, the soup.’” Descriptions of facial expressions: Rather than try to interpret what the child is feeling or thinking, just record what you see and hear. For example, “Jennifer takes a deep breath, frowns, looks down, and starts to cry.” Descriptions of creations: If you can’t take a photo of a child’s creation (which would be ideal), you can write a descriptive note. For instance, you could say, “Jennifer surrounded the plastic horses with rectangular blocks. When asked what she built, she said, ‘A horse pen.’” The next column shows what should be avoided in observation notes. Labels like shy or creative. Simply state what the child is doing, without attaching labels that evaluate the child. Intentions like “wants to.” If you find yourself writing “wants to,” stop and think. Record only on what you see and hear. Avoid interpretations. Evaluations like “good job.” Evaluations like this are subjective and don’t really describe what the child is doing. Judgments like “beautiful” or sloppy”. Again, judgments like this tell what you think of the child’s work, not what the child is doing. Your notes must be objective, not subjective. Negatives like can’t or won’t focus on what the child is lacking. We want always to think about what the child CAN DO and DOES. Focusing on the positive encourages you to think about the strengths on which you can help children build. When writing documentation notes, remember that you want to be as objective as possible. Think of yourself as a scientist, recording only what you see and hear. As characters on an old TV show used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

11 Evaluating Observation Notes
Objective June 5 Luis put plastic tortillas on a plate and said, “Now they’re ready.” Then he handed the plate to Joanna, who was sitting at the table in the dramatic play area. Now we’ll take a few minutes to read a few observation notes and determine whether they are objective. Keep the previous slide in mind. [click to reveal the observation note. Read the note] What do you think? Is this an example of an objective or subjective observation note? [allow participants to enter responses] Okay, let’s see…[click to reveal the word, OBJECTIVE]. Those of you who said that this is an objective note are right! The teacher simply describes the child’s actions. Let’s try another one.

12 Evaluating Observation Notes
Objective and Subjective June 5 During choice time, Sara was trying to write her name at the writing table. I asked her to name the letter I pointed to (the A). She shrugged her shoulders. I asked her whether it was an A or a B. She said, “A.” [click to reveal the observation note. Read the note] What do you think? Is this an example of an objective or subjective observation note? [allow participants to enter responses] Okay, let’s see…[click to reveal the word, OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE]. This is a tricky one. It starts off subjectively, with the teacher’s telling us what Sara is TRYING to do. However, she also explains objectively what she asked Sara and how Sara responded. How could this note be improved to make it completely objective? [allow participants to write responses] That’s right, the first sentence could be rewritten to say “During choice time, Sara was at the writing table, writing letter-like forms on a sheet of paper.” Let’s try another one.

13 Evaluating Observation Notes
Objective June 5 Today during breakfast, Christopher sat at my table and said, "I go to Wilson’s and buy new shoes. Look, do you like them? Brandon no get new shoes.” [click to reveal the observation note. Read the note] What do you think? Is this an example of an objective or subjective observation note? [allow participants to enter responses] Okay, let’s see…[click to reveal the word, OBJECTIVE]. If you think that this is an objective note, you’re right! The teacher simply records what the child did and said. Notice that the teacher didn’t correct the child’s English as she wrote. She recorded what the child said. Let’s try another one.

14 Evaluating Observation Notes
Subjective June 5 Wyatt politely asked May to give him a chance to use the plastic phone. May angrily gave Wyatt the phone and stomped away. Here’s the last one. [click to reveal the observation note. Read the note] What do you think? Is this an example of an objective or subjective observation note? [allow participants to enter responses] Okay, let’s see…[click to reveal the word, SUBJECTIVE]. Those of you who said that this is a subjective note are right! In this example, the teacher interpreted and judged the situation. We might ask, “How do we know that May was angry?” This note doesn’t really help us visualize what happened. To make this note more objective, how might it be rewritten? [Allow participants to respond. Either read a couple of examples from participants or say the following] We would need to include direct quotes of what Wyatt said. For example, maybe he said “Can I please use the phone?” We’d want to write exactly what he said. Next, we’d want to describe May’s actions. An example might be “May looked at Wyatt, looked at the phone, frowned, and pushed the phone toward him. She turned away and walked to another area of the room.” These examples show the difference between objective and subjective notes. Do you have any questions? [Respond to any questions or say:] Let’s move on. Now you’re going to have a chance to write observation notes and practice identifying the objectives and dimensions that relate to what the children did and said.

15 Writing Observation Notes
Watch the video. Write a brief observation note. Select an objective/dimension related to what the child says and does. Read the progression of development and learning for that objective/dimension. Select the level of the progression that describes the child’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors. Okay! Here we go! For this activity, you’ll need Volume 5: Objectives for Development and Learning, some paper, and something to write with. [allow a few seconds for participants to gather their materials] We’ll watch a few short videos so you can practice. You only need to write a brief note for each video. Select at least ONE objective or dimension that relates to what the child says and does. For one of the objectives or dimensions you identified, select a level. I will tell you the child’s name and age. [ESC out of the PPT and navigate to the videos listed below: -OKRT_01_4_jonathan.wmv: In this video, we’ll see Jonathan, who is 3 years old. He is stacking cups. OKRT_02_1_eliana_draws.wmv: In this video, we’ll see Eliana, who is in a preschool 3 class. She is drawing at the writing table. OKRT_12_3_adam.wmv: In this last video, we’ll see 4-year-old Adam. He is playing with a manipulative. [Show each video, allowing participants time to write their note, select at least 1 objective/dimension, and choose a level for that objective/dimension. After each video, ask participants to tell which objectives/dimensions they noted as well as the levels on the progressions they selected. Review their answers, pointing out that several objectives and dimensions are relevant to each clip. Then introduce the next video. When the last video has been shown, return to the PowerPoint®, advancing to the next slide]

16 Identifying Levels of Development and Learning
Review the progression of development and learning. Watch the video clip. Rate the child’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors as they relate to that progression. Now let’s watch and discuss more short videos. This time, we will look at more than one video clip of a child. I will tell you which objectives to keep in mind. After you take notes and identify the level on the relevant progression, we’ll compare your ratings of the child’s performance with the master rating. [For each video, tell the objective/dimension to keep in mind as they watch the video. Allow time for participants to take notes and select a level for the objectives/dimension. Once everyone has finished, review the master rating and justification. ] The first two videos focus on Shalia, who is in kindergarten. In these videos, he is wearing a green long-sleeved shirt with blue stripes. -GP_Shalia_works_with_a_group.wmv: 9b (Master rating: Shalai’s speech is understood by his teacher and classmates. He pronounces many words correctly, but he also mispronounces some words. This is described by the level 6 indicator.) -GP_Shalia_journal.wmv: 10a (Master rating: Shalai stays on topic and engages in conversations with at least three exchanges when he talks with the teacher about his picture. This is described by the level 6 indicator.) The next three videos focus on Grace, who is 5 years old. Keep in mind that Grace has an IEP. -GP_Grace_with_instruments.wmv: 2c (Master rating: While Grace initiates, joins in, and sustains interactions with children (Level 6), she does so with only one child at a time rather than with small groups of children. Grace demonstrates an emerging ability to initiate, join in, and sustain positive interactions with a small group of two to three children (level 5). -GP_Grace_with_drill.wmv: 3a (Master rating: Grace takes a toy from another child and gives it back only with a lot of teacher prompting. This shows Grace’s emerging ability to take turns (level 3). -GP_Grace_arriving.wmv: 8b (Master rating: Grace follows directions to get the pin and pin her name up with assistance from her mother. This is described by the level 6 indicator.)

17 Observing to Teach Responsively
Observation is essential to responsive planning and teaching. Before you develop responsive plans for individual children and the group, you need to draw conclusions about their development and learning. Those conclusions inform your immediate response and your later planning decisions. [read slide] We teachers constantly make adjustments based on our observations. When we see a child struggling with a particular skill, we respond by offering support and giving the child more time to practice it. Observation and analysis inform our planning for individual children as well as for the entire group. Remember that we are always observing children’s development and learning, either through formal observations or “in the moment” observations.

18 Putting It All Together
Responsive Plans Observe purposefully. Respond in supportive ways. Think about what you learned about each child. In your daily work with children, you continually observe and think about what you see and hear. In addition to responding immediately, you use what you learn to plan experiences that promote children’s continuing development. As you think about what to teach and why, you also consider how to teach. As you plan, think about the range of approaches and instructional strategies. What works to introduce, reinforce, and extend learning in one situation may be less effective in another. In addition, the various skills and concepts that children are to learn require different teaching approaches. Because children have unique learning styles, strengths, and needs, you also need to consider where and when to teach, that is, to determine the best setting or context for particular learning. Sometimes it is best to promote child-initiated learning in interest areas during choice time. Other skills require small- or large-group instruction. Still others can be supported during routines and transitions. A skill or concept introduced during large- or small-group time can be practiced and applied during child-initiated experiences.

19 What is responsive planning?
Teachers must observe children purposefully, think about what they learn about each child, and respond in supportive ways. You must always be open to following children’s interests and to addressing their strengths and needs. [read slide] Do you agree with these statements? Do you disagree? It’s important to plan for a child or a group of children on the basis of what you know about that child or group of children. When you review the progress of the class as a whole, you may find that focusing on particular knowledge and skills will benefit everyone. Think about when and where to teach them and whether to teach them in large-or small-group settings. Observation will also help you identify ways to individualize instruction and offer opportunities for children to apply knowledge and practice skills. Information collected by observing will help you plan differentiated support, and it will help you decide how to respond when unplanned teaching opportunities arise.

20 Responsive Planning includes the learning environment,
includes the structure of each day, addresses content area learning, includes a range of teaching approaches, and includes input from families. [read slide] Once you know each child and the group well, you use that knowledge to adjust the classroom environment and learning experiences. You make changes in materials and displays, the schedule, your interactions, the content of learning activities, and ways to help children explore. The information you gather by observing children throughout the day informs your decisions about how to respond to classroom situations and interact with children and family members. For instance, you might notice that children are not spending much time in the library area of the classroom. Think about how you can enhance the area. What changes should you make? (possible responses include making the area more inviting by adding cozy lighting, pillows, etc; adding interesting books that are related to the study topic; staying in the library area during choice time; introducing books to children during large- and small-group time; etc.)

21 Resources for Planning
The information that you gather about each child and the group is only meaningful if you link it to teaching decisions. Several resources—in print and online—are useful as you plan for individuals and groups. This slide shows print and online versions of the “Weekly Planning Form” for preschool. On the printed form, the first page is used to record plans for the group. Plans for individual children are recorded on the second page.

22 Observation: The Key to Responsive Planning
As we come to the end of our session, let’s review what we discussed. We looked at what makes a strong observation note, compared objective and subjective notes, and written observation notes. We analyzed the notes; evaluated children’s knowledge, skills, and behaviors; and compared our ratings with those of master raters. Then we talked about the importance of using what we learn about children to respond to and plan for each child and the group. Would anyone like to share an “Ah-ha!” moment from today? I’d like to have a quick closing conversation. What are three things that you liked about the information we covered today? What are two things that you are going to try? What is one thing that you are going to investigate further? [Thank the attendees for their participation.] Observation: The Key to Responsive Planning

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