Improving Observation Skills

Writing the Observation

The improved observation

To observe Jason's gross motor skills during outdoor play.
The first attempt was not specific.

I observed Jason today, the 3rd November 2000 between 10.40 am and 10.50 am, during outdoor play. Jason is 5.4 years old. He is male. He attends a Reception Class of a Primary School.
Now we know who is being observed.

Observing outdoor play will give me an opportunity to learn more about gross motor skills in 5 year old children. The wet weather earlier this week prevented the children from playing outside so I took advantage of the fine weather today to complete this observation. I decided to observe Jason because he appears to be a confident child who is taller than many of the other children in his class. He enjoys outdoor play and shows this by smiling as he moves quickly in a controlled way. The method of observation is a written narrative of the 10 minutes of observation as it happened. This method is easy to use spontaneously because it requires no specialist equipment; only a pen and paper. There were sufficient members of staff supervising outdoor play so I was able to concentrate on observing Jason without intervening to direct his actions.
This gives a reason for choosing to observe Jason's gross motor skills and reasons for the choice of observation technique.


I observed Jason walking. How did he walk? Where was he walking? What was he doing? Try to write the observation as if you are describing what is happening NOW.
The present tense is active and gives a picture of this moment in time.
Jason puts on his coat and hat. He walks quickly out of the cloakroom and into the school outdoor play area. In this school the reception class children have their own outdoor play area so they can use large equipment safely. Jason has a confident upright posture and moves easily.

Jason can also run. How? and Where? and Why?
He looks towards the climbing frame and sees there is no one there. He runs quickly and lightly on his toes. He laughs as he runs and seems excited. His movement is well co-ordinated and purposeful. He swerves easily to avoid another child who is running towards him. Jason seems to enjoy moving quickly. He reaches the climbing frame and stops moving. He shows good control as he stops suddenly. Jason looks at the climbing frame and starts to climb the bars using alternate feet, placing one foot on each step.

There is no member of staff near the climbing frame. I move nearer to supervise him climbing in case of an accident. Jason grins to me as he reaches the top and easily climbs over the rail on to the slide. He sits down on to the slide and lets go of the sides. He laughs as he slides down. At the bottom he jumps off the slide and runs around to climb up again. He repeats this several times.

Jason can also play with a ball. This is limited and boring. It is far better to tell the story of what happened and how it happened.
After a while, he notices some other children playing with a large ball. He walks towards them and asks if he can join their game. They are in a circle with one child in the centre who is throwing the ball to named children around the circle. Each child in turn tries to catch the ball and throw it back to the child in the centre. It is a game the class had played earlier in the week in PE.

The children nod to agree Jason can play with the ball and make a space for him in the circle. A child named Tom who is in the centre shouts "Jason" and throws the ball to Jason. Jason watches the ball and holds out his arms ready to catch the ball. He catches it easily and laughs as he throws it back to Tom. He shows good ball control as he throws it underarm towards Tom. Tom catches the ball and grins at Jason.

He runs and climbs. This tell us so little about Jason's stage of physical development. Is he an athelete? Is he confident? Does he run fast? What and how does he climb? The detail makes all the difference.
When the class teacher says there is 5 minutes of playtime left, Jason runs towards the climbing frame. He spends the time in climbing and sliding down the climbing frame. This time there are other children using the equipment so Jason has to wait his turn. He smiles and chats to the other children. As playtime ends, Jason is slightly breathless and smiling as he jumps from the slide and runs to join the line of children waiting to go back into school. He waits quietly with the other children until it is his turn to go in.

Can you see how the extra detail gives a clearer picture of Jason's development?

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