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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Informal observation is more valuable for assessment when joined with more formal, planned, and documented observation. With written records of things witnessed, of what children said and did, you can build a case about each child. You can share this evidence with others, using it to support your conclusions about the child’s development. Formal, planned, and documented observation ensures that no child is missed, no area of development is neglected, and ap- propriate next steps are planned. When observing to assess a child’s development, you can think in broad terms, trying to understand the child’s cognitive stage of development observed most frequently as he participates in deep, meaningful play experiences, or his general competencies in the so- cial and emotional areas. Or you can observe for instances in which the child shows his skills and capabilities. These specific observa- tions can then be tied to early learning guidelines or developmental checklists that include cognitive, physical, social, and emotional information for specific age groups. By turning to such sources to evaluate your observations, you are comparing the child’s perfor- mance to reasonable expectations for children his age. Choosing reputable and respected sources for such information is a crucial part of the process. In chapter 2, we discuss ways to use early learning guidelines as you observe and document. And in chapter 5 we dis- cuss in depth how to observe and document for assessment purposes using early learning guidelines, various developmental checklists, and other resources as references. Observing to Plan Curriculum The purpose of observing and identifying children’s developmental capabilities is not for accountability or reporting purposes alone. It also helps you plan curriculum that meets the children’s needs. Iden- tifying each child’s present performance gives you a place to start, a baseline. Then you take the all-important step of deciding what materials, activities, adult interactions, and peer involvement will be most effective in meeting a child’s present level of performance and supporting her movement toward higher-level skills and capabilities. Observing with curriculum in mind can be spontaneous and in- formal or more focused and planned. You may respond automatically to a child’s request for a different material or immediately act on your COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Why Observe Children? 5 Robin S: All of my teaching is based on observations. I differentiate my instruction, and this is done through observations. I learn the strengths of each child and build on those strengths through the strategies I choose to teach various skills.