Observations, jottings, anecdotes
When you undertake the observation of a child, you are expected to present yourself
to others in a professional way. You need to present as a child care professional so
what will you wear? How will you behave when you meet the Director? How
important is being punctual? What about confidentiality ? All these are important to
Here is a step by step guide on what you need to do for this part of the assignment:
1. Select a child for your observation.
The child must be in the age range of 24 - 60 months, attending child care or pre-
school. This means that the observations must be done in a professional
setting by agreement with staff and the parents of the child. You need to make
the necessary arrangements and ensure that you present clear and accurate
information about your reasons for requesting the observation session. Make an
appointment with the Director, explain who you are and what you need and see if
they are willing to assist. Remember that you will be seen as a representative of the
Note: you may not use your own child as the subject of this observation.
2. Arrange for the parents of the child or the Centre Director to complete the
official Consent Form.
You must gain ‘informed consent’ from the parent/s of the child or the Centre
Director as you are organising an official University activity. You need to allow
some time for parents and the Centre Director to consider your request so try to
make your arrangements with them early. It is not a good idea to place them under
pressure because you are running out of time. That is unprofessional behaviour.
You must provide a copy of the information letter to the Director when you make your
first request for access to the child. Directors need to know what they are agreeing to
and have a chance to reflect and say „no‟ if they need to. The information letter also
provides information for the parents/guardians about what, how and why you want to
observe their child, how they can gain more information and that they can withdraw
at any time. It also addresses the issue of confidentiality by telling them who will see
the assignment, and how the child's identity will be protected.
Use the example of the official "Information letter" to develop your own letter for the
parents and the Centre Director in the Course Information. There is also an example
of the official consent form in the Course Information that parents or the Centre
Director must complete . It is important that you get your signed copy from
them before you begin your observation.
Take care that the parents/ Director understand exactly what you need to achieve through the observation session
and any special conditions that apply. Note: You are not permitted to redo this step of the project.
3. Observation session
To make the most of the observation setting you will need to have developed a very
clear understanding about the sorts of behaviour you could expect from your child
given your topic area. Try to predict what will happen so that you are well prepared.
During the observation all you do is watch, listen and take notes.
Do not initiate interaction with the children - but if a child approaches and speaks
to you, give a friendly but minimal response.
You have three specific tasks to complete in the observation session. Be sure
that you have a clear idea of how to approach each task before the session
commences, otherwise your jottings and anecdotes may not give you the type or
quality of information required for this assignment. In other words, be well prepared
for the observation by anticipating what might happen and what your tasks will be.
Jottings are written in the present tense. It is important to record detail about facial
expression, gestures, body language, language, child's responses to others and
other's responses to the child in the jottings. All these details provide information
about social and emotional development. Your task is to select what tell you about
the child's social-emotional development for your jotting and not to write down
everything the child does. You will need a substantial number of jottings on which
to base your analysis. It is better to have too many than too few. The jottings you
make should be detailed enough to provide you with sufficient information to
analyse. You also need to be objective and not to interpret what you see: only write
down what you see or hear the child doing or saying. Describe the behaviours (facial
expressions, posture and words etc) but do not try to explain what you think those
#1.Suzie (4.0) enters the room. She clings tightly to her mother's leg and pushes her face into
the mother's coat. Her mother gently lifts her onto the chair beside her and tells her that she is
going to work soon but will be back after Suzie has had afternoon tea.
#2. Suzie & her mum begin to work on a puzzle at the table and they discuss where each
piece might go in the puzzle. A girl sits down on the other side of Suzie and asks if she can
work on the puzzle too. Suzie smiles, nods her head and asks, “When did you come, Sally?‟
Sally says that she just came.
#3. Suzie and Sally begin to discuss the puzzle pieces. Suzie tries several times
unsuccessfully to find where one piece goes. The fourth time she tries the piece it slots neatly
into the puzzle. Suzie sits up, shoulders backs, eyes sparkling, and says “Look, I did it!”
smiling broadly. Sally leans over to look at the puzzle, claps her hands and says, „Yes, you
found the right spot.”
#4 Suzie‟s mum says,” I have to go now darling. You‟ve got Sally to help you with the puzzle.”
She leans over, gives Suzie and hug and a kiss. Suzie stands up, wraps her arms around her
mum and says, “Bye, mum”. Mum walks out of the room.
Comment: Notice the use of present tense (now).Also notice that just the facts are recorded.
An anecdote recounts an incident after the event so should be written in the past
tense. It is the record of an event from the beginning to the end, that is, it tells a little
story. The anecdote should also tell you something significant about an aspect of the
child's social and/or emotional development.
Rhiannon was playing with Susie and Miriam in the dramatic play area. Tom and Sam walked in
and said they were Power Rangers. They started leaping about and kicking the furniture and the
girls, including Rhiannon. Rhiannon said, “Get out! This is the house. You can‟t come in here”.
The boys walked off but came back about a minute later and told the girls that they were
champion wrestlers and dads. And started wrestling one another on the floor. Rhiannon said,
“The dads have to go to work. We‟re staying home to look after the babies”. The boys left and
went to the block corner and Rhiannon continued to play in the dramatic play area with her
When you have completed your observation session, you need to notify staff that
you are finished and thank them for their assistance.
Also look at the examples and discussion about anecdotes, describing facial expressions, jottings etc which are
available in the Observation folder on the Course webpage.