It is that season of the year when we look carefully at our own students and new students coming into the program to check on their development. We are a school that takes child development very seriously and have designed much of how we implement the curriculum based on knowing what children can accomplish at different stages.
Arnold Gesell studied child development and set up a child study center at Yale. He designed an interview process, called the Gesell Developmental Observation
, which we have used since the early years of our school. Most of our teachers are trained in this process, and each year we interview all four-year-olds who are planning on attending kindergarten in the fall. This is the same interview that we give to incoming kindergarten and first grade students.
The student is asked to complete a number of tasks and the teacher observes what the child does as well as how the child approaches the tasks. Based on this observation, we see a cluster of behaviors that lead us to determine a child’s developmental age. Knowing this bit of information helps us know how best to challenge but not overwhelm a child in his work and play at school.
The Gesell Developmental Observation does not look at intelligence or aptitude or achievement. It simply identifies trends in development for each child. This assessment works along with observations from classroom work and experiences and will help teachers have a well-rounded view of a child’s growth, strengths, and challenges.
Not all children grow at the same rate of development. Some tend to be a half year ahead or a half year behind their chronological age and targeted grade level. Being ahead is never a difficulty in our school, but being a half year behind often means that a child is not ready for the tasks of that particular grade level. While we mix ages in classes, we want a common baseline for all children entering their grade level, and we want all children to experience success. We want them to know they can meet the challenges that stretch their abilities and build their confidence.
In the next weeks, all children who were four or five before September 1 will spend time with a teach completing these activities. If concerns come up about a child’s development in any area, teachers will contact you to begin a conversation about what we have noticed.