Maria Montessori developed specific components of the Montessori classroom (ie. materials, multi-age groupings, presentation of lessons) based on countless hours of observation of children. She observed how the children worked with various materials, how they interacted with other adults and children, how they had an innate need to “do it for themselves.” Observing children in the classroom environment is still a highly valued practice, both for teachers and for parents. However, it is important to reflect on some key factors that will make the observation most useful.
We encourage all observers to try their best to simply be “a fly on the wall.” As a parent observer, it is important not to participate in conversation or work with your child or other children. Be mindful to not get up to help or assist if there is a spill or if a glass breaks (no matter how tempting this may be)! To do so, you are then changing the dynamics of the environment, rather than just observing it as if you were not there.
During your observation, you will have curious and friendly children trying to engage with you. You can politely remind them, “I’m doing my work and observing, I’m sorry I cannot talk right now.” The “seasoned” children understand this well, and the new children are learning the role of the observer–so to give them this gentle reminder will help them learn about the role of the observer.
When you are observing your child’s class, there will be so many interesting things to bring your attention to: materials, conversations, adult interactions. It is helpful to be aware of discerning your observations in two ways: 1. what is “fact” and observable, objective data versus 2. what feelings were provoked and what are your subjective thoughts or opinions.
Here are just a few suggestions to help guide your observation…
- Is the child able to choose work independently? If not, who suggests the work, a teacher or another child?
- What order does she retrieve materials? Are the materials used for their intended purpose? If not, did the child discover something new with the material? Did the child have all the needed materials easily available to her?
- Does the child move purposely or are her movements random?
- What stage of development is the child in – is he practicing with a new material or has he mastered the material and is now extending the lesson?
- Is the child able to concentrate (for how long)? Is the concentration broken by disturbances in the classroom? Can concentration be regained after being broken?
- Does the child demonstrate care for the environment? If so, how?
- Do children feel free to work together? Who chooses the work partners, the teacher or the children themselves?
- How do the children decide who does which part of the work? Do they share the work equally or does one child do more than another?
- Can you find examples of the children collaborating together? Do you see them competing with each other? Is there something that stimulates cooperation or competition?
- Do the children in the room find their own source of help (a reference book, control card, or another child), or do they often rely on the teacher?
- Do any of the children show leadership qualities? How are these demonstrated?
NNM Parent observations are typically scheduled on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. On the day of your scheduled observation, please stop in the main office to pick up your observation clip board and read over the guidelines before entering the classroom.
Parents in the Toddler Community can begin classroom observations starting November 4th.
Parents in 3-6 can begin observing starting October 20th. For parents of children new to a class, we recommend scheduling your observation for a date after your child’s Harvest Breakfast (11/10 – 11/19). Parents of 3rd year children (“stay-uppers”) have the option of signing up for a morning or an afternoon observation. If you are choosing an afternoon observation, you will need to schedule this through our receptionist Pat Daniels (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For morning observations, you can schedule this online now, following this link and the steps below: Book a Parent Observation.
- Scroll down from this page to find your teacher’s name.
- Click on the teacher’s name, and you will be brought to a calendar displaying Tuesday or Wednesday dates. You can click on available dates and follow the next steps to book the observation.
- On the day of your observation, your child’s teacher will meet with you for about 20 minutes either before or after the scheduled time and he/she will confirm this conference time with you.
Enjoy your observations!