This technique is primarily aimed at children who are not accessing the curriculum due to language difficulties. You should, however, also be aware and take note of the child's propensity/ability to make appropriate use of peers for support and assistance as this may contribute to the evidence gathering process shedding light upon areas such as approach to learning, social skills and self esteem.
Usually I prefer to observe a child before they know who I am. This technique is usually used after some assessment which has lead to a hypotheses of some difficulty. At the very least it may be that the child is not comprehending the verbal learning environment very well for a range of reasons such as specific or general language problems. You could use this technique for a child that has difficulties concentrating by being very overt and telling them that you are going to be looking to see how many questions they can answer if they concentrate. Similarly this may be used just before a review is due to gather information to compare with a base line specified prior to your intervention.
You will need the observed session to have a strong verbal component; carpet time is often suitable. You will be keeping one eye on the child and noting their behaviour, but you will also be noting down questions that can be asked about what is being taught, the story that is being read out etc.
You will then be left with a series of age appropriate questions that relate to the 15 to 20 minute session that they have just taken part in. You will also have some notes on the presenting behaviour. Was it restless? Helpless? Actively involved? Below is an example layout with example questions:
|Question||Appropriate Answer||Child's Answer|
|Who was asked to come to the front and talk about an award they got?||Ben and Tom||Ben and Tom|
|What did thy get the award for?||Football||Reading?|
|Your teacher read you a story, what was it about?||Harry Potter||looks at me for a clue no answer|
|Your teacher asked you all to tell your parents some things about sports day. Can you tell me something she asked you to tell your parents?||Next week on Wednesday, white shirt, will get letter later this week with details.||They can come?|
Naturally you would have a few more questions but you should get some ideas about their behaviour. The little boy in this example is confirming our hypothesis gained from assessment or professional judgement: he has real difficulties processing the spoken word into usable information or remembering it once he has processed it. You are now able to illustrate in your report the scale of the child's difficulties by detailing the questions asked and the responses. You may wish to ask other members of the class the same questions to develop a contrast between the target child and peers.