realization that more chairs are needed around the playdough table.
You may lift an infant out of his seat as you notice his beginning
agitation and carry him across the room so that he can see what the
other children are doing. These are all spontaneous curricular deci-
sions. You are responding to something you have seen and making
changes in materials, environment, or interaction with the child.
Being more focused and planned often involves identifying areas
of the classroom to observe more closely. You may see that parts of
the play area are hardly used by the children, while other areas are
overcrowded. Room rearrangement may be necessary to improve
traffic flow. Or you may notice that the toddlers are especially fasci-
nated with the fish in the aquarium this week. Figuring out ways to
follow up on their interest will help you be responsive to the children
and develop their engagement and understanding. Sometimes you
may need to communicate with your colleagues to decide who will
observe specific activities or watch for the children’s demonstration of
certain skills. Some teaching teams plan ahead to watch for children’s
demonstration of their fine-motor skills by providing the children
with a variety of stringing beads and pegs and pegboards so that they
can collect information related to that skill.
Determining goals for the observation will help you collect
information that can contribute to a later discussion or a change in
plans. And documenting, or writing down what you notice as you
observe an activity or area, will help you remember more clearly
what was seen and make more effective decisions for change. In
chapter 7, we offer more in-depth suggestions about using observa-
tion and documentation for curriculum planning.
If a child has identified special needs, you will use your observa-
tions to adapt activities so that the child can be successful. You will
pay attention to the identified individual family service plan (IFSP)
or individualized education program (IEP) goals and document ways
that the child is working toward those goals. While observation and
documentation cannot be used to diagnose a child’s disability or
determine placement, they can be used to improve teaching strategies
and implement individualized curriculum.