Looking Closely at Children

Indicator Checklists

How can early educators train their eyes to see the emergence of key abilities in every child in all this mayhem?

It doesn’t take long for educators to learn how widely different children are and how varied are the times abilities appear. Experienced educators notice the new things emerge and smile. It’s cool. Over the years, they have learned to keep an eye out for those little indicators of important abilities, while unskilled educators usually problems. New teachers are more likely to see things that are wrong, while experienced teachers see the little rights. These four checklists are here to help. They are a fast way to improve practice.

I’ve worked at creating lists of key abilities ever since I first worked with children, building what you see here. Once I had it visible this way, I used it regularly, coloring it in over the school year. It seems to me that it takes two groups, two years, of children to train the eye. because the second year gang is so different from the first. After that amount of time, I stopped checking off all the children. I did keep checks going on the few I was most concerned about, because I wanted accurate data when I talked to their families.

Like everything one learns, systematic practice helps you find out what you don’t know you don’t know. The ability to see emergence of all these things is a step up in professionalism. I invite you to try it out and see if you become more of the educator you would like to be.

Social, Cognitive, Motor, and Expressive Abilities

I offer four sheets of indicators in four areas of growth from toddlerhood to common school age. One could use them for assessment, but that’s not what they are for. These are simple lists of abilities I found significant, bunched in categories that make sense to me, independent of developmental timelines or particular ages. Whether a child masters an item or not is beside the point. When you check off a box that indicates a child demonstrated the item, you can mark the known and turn your antenna in the direction of the unknown.

“Ruby jumped over that bucket.   Eight children are left that I haven’t seen jumping.”

A missing checkmark indicates either (1) the ability has been unseen or (2) the ability is not present so far.  Empty boxes are an indicator of the need for further attentiveness.

“Mary Elizabeth has almost all her boxes checked, but Johnny has only two. I’ll watch him like a hawk.” 

No check mark here!

When you know what to attend to, you can somehow create the conditions that might allow that ability to emerge and be observed.

“Johnny’s greets others with words and a smile box is empty. I am going to make sure I greet everyone today especially when Johnny is around.”

Maybe Johnny will start several weeks or months from now. Maybe not. You get to decide whether that is important. If not, you can choose to leave it blank. You know Johnny and his family, so you get to make that decision. At least you’ll notice it when the time does come. The lists are yours to use the way you want. I have felt free to check off all the items for the incredible Suzie, because I just know she’s that way.

The Indicator Checklists have taught me a lot about who to look for and what to look for, with the lovely side benefit of enjoying the differences in children and focusing on the positive. By working at it systematically one gets the hawk eye.

I changed the color of the checkmark(summer) about every 3 months (fall), so I could provide better (winter) information to the family (spring).

The individual PDF pages open by a click on the image. The PDF for all of them in one document: All Indicator Checklists PDF


cognitive motoric

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