Observational Assessment in Early Years

Throughout ‘continuous provision’, observation forms a fundamental aspect of the pedagogy of EYFS at St Francis of Assisi C of E Primary School.

At St Francis of Assisi C of E Primary School, we aim to develop a thirst and love for learning. In both Nursery and Reception, our “teaching” is delivered through ‘in the moment planning’ where teachable moments are discovered through the child’s play. This unique way allows us to develop each child at their own individual pace working with their interests. It is all about capturing the moment of engagement and running with it to make sure the children progress.

Observation and responding to children’s thinking inform our planning of experiences and opportunities, how we create our environment for thinking, the strategies the adults use to extend learning (modelling, scaffolding, questioning, discussion, shared sustained thinking) and how we capitalise knowledge of children’s interests to ensure high levels of engagement. All adults record ‘Wow!’ moments – when a child does or says something that demonstrates progress or skill in a particular area.

Alongside the use of observation as an assessment tool we also rely upon the pioneering work of Professor Ferre Laevers (1980s) to understand how focused and comfortable the children are in our setting. The scales of well-being and involvement act as a measure of deep learning and of the effectiveness of the learning environment. This has an empowering impact on our planning and can help to develop the huge potential of the children.

After listening to the story of Noah’s Ark the children had began building their own ark and acted the story out.

Child 1 said,
“We need some animals”.
T suggested they could get some from the construction area”.
Child 2 said,
“We need two of each animal”
Child 3 said,
“I’ve got 2 Zebras”.
Child 4 and Child 5 collected more animals.
Child 4 said,
“The farm animals can stay here”.Child 5 said,
“I’ve got the cows”.
The children continued retelling the story using the animal characters.

The children realised they needed some food and went to the home corner to collect some.
Child 2 said,
“They’re on the ark a long time”.

Child exclaimed, “I’m making a candy machine.”

T wondered if it was the one, he told me about that was in Turkey when on his holiday. It was.

“This is the decoration and this part is where the candy comes out, you need to press this button.”

T wondered whether Child could label this with on and off. T resourced stickers for him. As he wrote the words, Child asked the question.

“Is it f as in fish or ff as in coffee?”

T explained it was ‘ff as in coffee’

Child started a conversation with his friend about trains, explaining that his brother had an electric train at home for his birthday.T wondered how an electric train worked.

Child explained that it had batteries, so the electricity made it work when it was turned on.

Child exclaimed that he wanted to add some electricity to his candy machine to make it work.
T resourced some pipe cleaners. Child persevered trying to join the pipe cleaners. T modelled wrapping these round each other to join them.

T questioned how this would work?
“This is where you switch the battery on, the electricity would then move along here (pointing to the pipe cleaners). The electricity would then make the candy shoot out of here.”

Child was playing in the woodwork area.T approached and encouraged Child to use equipment such as “Nails, hammers and spanners.”

Child wasn’t sure on using this equipment, so T modelled how to use it, using the correct hand grip.

T encouraged Child to start off by using his hands to use a screw.

Child enjoyed buttering his hot cross bun, he held the knife in his right hand and spread the butter around holding the knife flat rather than at an angle. T modelled how to hold the knife at an angle to spread the butter more evenly. We enjoyed eating our hot cross buns at snack time with our milk.
Child knew all about planting flowers in pots. She said,
“You have to put the soil in the pot and then put the flower in.”T wondered,

“How do you help the plant grow?”

Child said,
“We have to water it with a watering can”.
T encouraged Child to water the plant. Child showed control in pouring water from the spout.

T wondered,

“Should we put it in a sunny place or a shady place?

Child responded,
“It needs some sunshine”.
Child showed T where to move the pot to.