by Heike Miethig


Rachel (name changed) is in my colleague’s group. Since I spend part of my working hours taking care of management, I don’t know the children of this group quite so well. Therefore I set out for an intensive, compressed observation over a period of two weeks. During this time I observed Rachel daily for several hours. At the same time, I used these periods to once again witness more of the group’s activities and to get to know the other children in this group better.

Rachel attracted my attention early on with her independence and her concentrated and sustained playing behaviour. Her quick comprehension and solution-orientation she emphasizes in the linguistic, cognitive, fine and gross motor skills and especially in the creative area.

… in a nutshell…

The author has described the little girl in great detail in section A — „General Characteristics“ — of the observation chart. In the course of this work Rachel’s lingual aptitude became clearer. Furthermore the author has extended her account to encompass the field of „Linguistic Intelligence“ (section C of the observation chart). Subsequently Rachel was offered special activities to advance her skills.


On the other hand, I find it striking how closely she pbserves the other children within the whole group, for example durimg project work in the circle – how she waits for their reactions, adopts their comments and repeats them.

I found this behaviour in the context of targeted content activities on the one hand and her self-confidence in free play as well as in playful activities on the other hand very inconsistent. which resulted in a set of tasks.


I want to find out:

– What skills does Rachel have in the various areas?
– How does she deal with increasing degrees of difficulty?
– Does she have differing talents in different areas?
– Does she have special interests?
– Why does she take such a cautious and conformist stance when acting within the group in the context of project work?

Task definition:

I would like to offer Rachel games that are more in line with the performance of a 6-year-old and thereby find out how she deals with the difficulties that may arise (= provoking observation).

A 1 General Developmental Lead, Great Interest in Letters and Numbers

1. Recognize, Name and Handle Basic Geometric Shapes

I have chosen a game that contains the basic shapes square, circle, triangle and rectangle in different sizes and colors. With these come contour pieces of a house, a tree or a locomotive, for example. The basic shape pieces can then be fit into the contour pieces. I explain the game to her, and she immediately grasps and performs the task.

I ask her which basic shapes she knows and whether she can name them. She names square, triangle and circle. Rectangle is a word she does not know yet. I name the rectangle and declare that it has two long and two short sides and four corners like a square.

Rachel says: „Then it’s a long square.“

(She drew this picture all on her own and without assistance.)

I ask her what contour she would like to lay out. She chooses a house and works quietly and concentrated. Within three minutes she has laid out the house with the geometric shapes. She doesn’t speak during that time. Her second choice of a template is the locomotive. This locomotive could very easily be done with the larger variant of the shapes. Rachel, however, opts for the smaller basic shapes. Upon my remark that she could also use the larger pieces, she replies: „But I don’t want to.“

While working on the second picture, she is just as concentrated and corrects herself when laying out the chimney by removing the two squares she has already laid and replacing them with a rectangle. Again she doesn’t speak and finishes it after three minutes. It seems to me that she knows the basic shapes (except for the rectangle) well and that dealing with them is easy for her. Her spatial imagination is apparently well developed.

Then she begins to lay out a car and a house without using a template – all on her own and without me having to suggest this to her. She succeeds just as quickly and effortlessly.

2. Numbers and Letters

When I ask her to show me how far she can count, Rachel begins counting joyfully. She counts up to twenty, making no mistakes until she reaches 14, then she begins confusing numbers. She is obviously enjoying this. When I ask her to take 10 pearls out of the box, she does so effortlessly by counting. Then I ask her to remove five pearls. She does so and says: „That leaves five pearls.“

My next remark: „If I snatch two pearls from you now – how many pearls do you have left?“ She thinks briefly, looks straight at me and names the number 3. Now I actually take away the two pearls. She looks at the other pearls, then at me and says: „See, I said so.“

We repeat this a few more times. This shows that she can safely manage the number range up to 5 (without counting).

In the number range over 6 she starts to count down and seems insecure. Here I change the task because I have the impression that she is becoming increasingly insecure, afraid of mistakes and wanting to withdraw. Since I don’t want to leave Rachel with this feeling (nor do I want to quit), I spontaneously change to a more playful level. I’ll ask her which one of us is bigger or smaller. She knows the answer right away. Then I tell her to try to be taller than me, and simultaneously I try to be shorter than she is. I squat down and she immediately understands what is meant, steps onto a chair and shouts joyfully: „I’m taller!“

Then we select objects from the room and compare them with each other, whether they are larger, smaller, thicker or thinner. Now she looks very confident again and can easily name the differences.

Because I had got the impression that Rachel’s fear of failure or making mistakes comes up very quickly even in a one-on-one setting, I put together a small group of four children aged 4 to 5 and three children aged 5 to 6 the next day.

With them I played small mathematical games up to the number 7. If 5 children stand in a circle and 1 hides – how many remain? Or 3 objects are in the room – how many must have been hidden if the total is to be 5?

Rachel was very active here, she freely shouted out the results. She visibly felt comfortable in the small group. She laughed and was very light-hearted. When we reached the number 7, I noticed that her attention for the other children was growing.

She now began to observe the children and again oriented to the older ones, reassuming her observant stance. However, she took part in the search for objects and in other tasks. She laughed with the other children and was happy when she found something. But for all the tasks that went beyond the number 5, she did not make any contributions of her own, instead she repeated the statements of the other children.

Rachel (4;6) seems very interested in letters and language in general. Here I wanted to find out which letters she already knew and how she deals with them. I chose a letter puzzle, in which the letter (initial sound) is to be matched with the corresponding picture, for example A with apple; only then the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

I first take the cards with the pictures aside, just spread them across the table and ask Rachel to find out which letters she already knows.

She begins selecting the letters: A, O, K, T, M, N, I, S, L, F, each with the words: „I know this, I know this …“ Meanwhile, I look for the matching pictures. Then I ask her to try and match the picture cards with the letter cards.

Together we select the first card for the letter L – as in Leo –, and Rachel puts it together. She says: „There is also an L in my name!“

Rachel immediately understands the task itself.

But it is difficult for her to match the other letters with the pictures, so that I help her by pronouncing the letter very clearly and naming the respective pictures. I do so three times. She then selects the images and puts letters and images together. I ask her to look for the next term on her own. She looks at the confused letters and picture cards and says: „I don’t think I can do it.“ I encourage her and tell her to try again, otherwise we would end it together.

She takes a very close look at the cards and begins. She goes by the shape of the puzzle pieces and puts the cards together in a short time, and I have the impression that the letters are now completely uninteresting. She wants to put the cards together. I am fascinated by how she finds a solution by herself (going by the shapes of the cards) to complete it on her own.

Then she says, „That’s a K as in Karen.“

While we are putting the game back to the box, she notices the letter Q and asks what kind of letter it is. I tell her.

She says, „I think it’s beautiful!“ I ask the reason and she says: „Because it is round and has a straight line.“

The next day she draws a picture. The picture is very beautiful, and she has written her name and her age (4) on the sheet in many bright colours. I am astonished because she has written her age on it and I ask her whether she would like to write down the numbers she already knows. She answers: „Of course!“ She starts on her own.

When I check in on her a few minutes later, she has written numbers and the letters she knows on the sheet. Among other things, the letter Q. I ask her if she has memorized the letter Q from the day before. She says: „No, my father always uses the letter at home.“

A 2 Quick Comprehension, and Curiosity

Actually, in many situations of everyday life and also in targeted activities, it becomes clear how much interest and curiosity there is in Rachel. She is always interested in what other children are doing, especially preschool children. She stands by and observes and participates by giving hints and helping. For example, a preschooler is having problems with a geometric puzzle. Rachel observes this and says very nicely: „I know how to do that, want me to help you?“

The other child just nods and they finish the puzzle together. It is also clear here that Rachel very quickly understands the system of the puzzle and strategically implements it by always arranging the different pieces parallel to each other. Everyday routines as well as new routines she masters with ease.

She is generally interested in everything new, the areas vary. She can quickly grasp and perform different tasks during games or activities.

Her ability to memorize becomes particularly visible when learning lyrics and songs. When introducing a new song, for example, upon having heard a verse for the third time, she is able to reproduce the lyrics and melody without errors. Once she volunteered to sing the song to us all by herself. She was the only one who made it without any mistakes. Rachel enjoys performing at church services, festivals and celebrations, when people sing and read poems. While doing so she appears very self-confident and secure. She is very successful in intoning the contents with emphasis.

A 3 Orientation to Older Children and Adults

Rachel often watches the older children and has no inhibitions to make contact with them, nevertheless being cautious. Yet, she prefers playing with children of the same age, where she often assumes a leading role. She rarely seeks contact with adults, and she does not seem interested in their conversations.

A 4 Amazing Memory

As already mentioned, Rachel seems to have an extraordinary memory. In my opinion, this applies in particular to the use of language (lyrics, songs, etc.).

But she can also recall everyday situations, such as the course of conflicts, even days later.

A few days ago she was witnessing a conflict between two school children. It was about one child taking away the toy from another child. This was followed by a verbal confrontation with wrangling and even physical assaults. Rachel watched the conflict from a distance until it was resolved.

Two days later a similar situation arose. Together with the children I solved the conflict, and Rachel approached me and said: „It was like with Mark and Luca“ (names changed) and began to describe their conflict in detail. She even repeated some of the children’s exact words. That does seem very extraordinary to me.

A 5 Long Attention and Strong Intrinsic Motivation

Her attention seems inexhaustible in the lingual and creative field. When stories are told or read aloud – even over a longer period of 30 minutes – one hardly notices a sign of unrest with Rachel. Her eyes are almost exclusively on the narrator.

She pays the same attention when playing. During laying games which are intended for 6-year-olds she works with enormous concentration, recognizes the system very quickly and sticks with the matter until she has successfully finished it.

Once, there was great unrest at the table where she was working on a puzzle. Two younger children were playing very loudly next to her. A third child came along and reinforced the spectacle by a loud: „Give me that!“ Rachel would not be disturbed at all, she showed no reaction to this really massive disturbance. She completed her puzzle calmly and with full attention to her work. When she had finished, she immediately chose a new one and continued. At that moment I admired Rachel, personally, I certainly would not have managed to stay so calm and focused!

I see a high degree of intrinsic motivation in her work, especially in the field of art. Aside from doing puzzles, painting is one of her greatest passions. When she starts to paint a picture, you get the impression it’s already finished in her mind. She paints purposefully with a precise idea of where something is to be placed in her picture. The details come with just the same sense of intention. Her pictures turn out clear, concrete and structured, they are colourful and cheerful.

I would like to point out that Rachel has a lot of motivation of her own. I have rarely seen her not busily occupied with something, she is always looking for an activity. I cannot recall a sigle instance in which she was bored or just could not come up with something she would joyfully occupy herself with.

A 6  Self-Critical Attitude towards One’s Own Performance – High Demands on Oneself

I think Rachel is quite capable of her own assessment of her performance. In targeted activities, she seems to deliberate whether or not she could succeed. For example, when asked in a circle whether she wants to take the lead in a game, she answers very clearly: „Yes, I can!“.

If she comes to the conclusion that she might not succeed, she just as determined and clear in her refusal. I think she has the expectation to do everything „right“. For example, she wanted to show me a roll-over on the climbing pole that she normally masters very well. In this instance, however, she slipped and fell to the ground. She started crying. I asked her if she had got hurt and she replied: „No, it’s because I didn’t get it right!“ I encouraged her to try again, which she refused at first, but then did. This time she succeeded, she was beaming and said: „I did it before.“ And there have been other situations which suggested that she quickly develops a fear of failure.

A 7  Preference for Complexity, Degree of Difficulty when Dealing with New Tasks

I have made no observation of Rachel opting for either the most nor the least difficult variants.

A 8  The Urge for Independence and Self-Reliance

Rachel was already very independent at the beginning of her kindergarten days. She could already get dressed and undressed on her own.

She also realised her playing interests independently at an early stage. It was also important for her to go to the toilet on her own. When she is offered help, for instance when closing the zipper or when carrying playing materials, she always says: „I can do it on my own!“

She also tries to resolve conflicts on her own. When a boy tried to steal a truck from her and she was physically attacked by him, she defended herself by pushing the boy away and lying down on the truck with her entire body weight. She steadily fended off the boy’s attacks until he finally gave up. I had the impression that she would only have given up the truck under extreme pressure. Only in an emergency does she turn to the kindergarten teacher. Smaller problems in everyday life she usually solves without assistance. For example, if the painting table is not ready yet, she simply begins to put the tablecloth on the table and gets the necessary materials.

The self-reliance also gives her a high degree of independence. When playing she shows that she is always happy to take the lead. This is particularly evident in the doll’s corner, where she usually dominates the game. She decides on the theme and plot of the game, for example: We’re invited to a wedding. Then she chooses the clothes and jewellery for the other girl and tells her where to place herself. She shortly rejects the game suggestions contributed by the other child. She continues her game unperturbed and says briskly: „I’m setting the table now!“ Further attempts by Vera (name changed) to intervene in the course of the game fail in a similar manner – sometimes with discussion, sometimes without, but never resulting in anything but Rachel getting it her way.

Her independence is also shown by the fact that she very rarely courts play partners (which she also rarely needs), since she can always occupy herself independently, has game ideas and makes game suggestions, which the other children like to join. Overall, she seems to me to be very solution-oriented and decisive.

A 10  Desire for Early School Enrolment

Rachel has not yet expressed a desire to go to school. She is interested in the tasks for the school children, she observes the children and occasionally asks whether she could also get such a task. Most of the time, however, she is limits herself to observation.

A 11  Quality of Questions and Examples

I have noticed that Rachel makes many comparisons. For example, when we were planting apple seeds that later grew and became small apple trees, Rachel said: „I once planted a prune, but it didn’t work out.“ She also likes to make comparisons between stories, picture books and everyday incidences, either concerning her domestic environment or her own experience.

A 13  Innovative use of materials – artistic originality

Rachel draws a lot. Her pictures are imaginative and detailed.

(A ‚dream image‘: „I’m flying through the air with the sandman and the balloons.“)

The people she draws are laughing and they are wearing colourful clothes; all parts of the body are there, the proportions are right. Her characters have haircuts. Rachel’s works are always representational and very structured. Everything is to be in its „right“ place. She effortlessly handles the limitation of space set by the boundary of the sheet she is working on.

Rachel also likes to do handicrafts. She cuts out steadily and correctly. The given handicraft tasks are completed surprisingly quickly and efficiently. After one sigle explanation, she does the handicraft work independently and without assistance. She remembers exactly how to assemble the parts. Here, too, she attaches great importance to her independence.

In order to find out how she handles different materials, one morning I prepared the drawing table with the following items:

    • different kinds of paper
    • peas
    • beans
    • corks
    • small plastic eggs
    • springs
    • shells
    • different fabric flowers
    • adhesive
    • wool
    • thick cardboard

Rachel took a very close look at the individual items, she knew all of them. She began to glue individual pieces to the sheet without any visible pleasure. She kept glueing one piece next to the other.

After a short time she said: „I don’t feel like this any more.“

I asked her if she had glued anything in particular. She said, „Nah, I was just glueing.“

I was under the impression that she could make much of this somewhat abstract form of design or that she needed more guidance at this point.

A14  Sense of humor and puns

Rachel is a cheerful child who likes to laugh. For example, when funny stories are told she will make funny comparisons herself and relate them very happily. Funny rhymes, such as „Ilse Bilse, keiner will se. Da kam der Koch und nahm se doch“ [Ilse Bilse, nobody wants her, but then came the cook and took her anyway] Rachel finds hilarious and says: „He married Ilse“. Great conclusion! I think she takes a lot of pleasure in puns. She takes up ironic remarks in everyday life, smiles, but does not comment on them.

C 1  Linguistic intelligence, large vocabulary

In an interview with Rachel it becomes clear that she can communicate her needs and concerns very well by means of language. She speaks clearly and fluently. Her great vocabulary has also been confirmed by the teachers of the language school, who regularly visit our school to determine whether the children have speech delays or speech impediments. All the pictures presented to her were correctly named by her and she even elaborated on details. At that time she was 3;7 years old. For example, the word „band-aid“ was to be used: There was a picture of a kid with a band-aid on its cheek.

Rachel said, „That’s a band-aid, that kid got hurt.“ In this manner she described many of the pictures in more detail.

When narrating a given picture story she was able to grasp the situations very quickly. She described the course of events in detail, and the picture description was extensive. She said, for instance: „A grandfather lives in this house, and that’s is his dog. The two children are afraid of the dog and they’re scared to climb over the fence“ etc. Fluently, with main and subordinate clauses, she described the situation in the picture with ease. She was even able to tell the mood the picture conveyed immediately. So she said, „The boys are scared.“

I think that a great eloquence can be seen here.

C 2 Fast Acquisition of Foreign Languages

English as a subject has been offered in our facility for six years. Rachel took part in a trial lesson at the beginning of her kindergarten time. According to the teacher, it was easy for her, she was having a lot of fun with it. However, the parents decided against the English course, so that I cannot judge whether she would have enjoyed it o the long run.

C 3  Good Verbal Skill and Expression

Rachel speaks fluently and coherently. Her remarks appear to be rather thought-out. Her sentence structure is consistent. She has been using main and subordinate clauses for a long time. She uses past tense forms correctly. Since she can understand texts very well in terms of content, she succeeds very well in emphasising correctly. She can also recount contents and core statements very precisely and aptly. She recognizes different letters and begins to put them together. She cannot quite read yet.

E Inter- and Intrapersonal Intelligence
E 1  Particularly Good Observation and Perception

Rachel’s middle name might as well be „Observation“. It is particularly noticeable when the whole group is together. She is very attentive during factual discussions or when picture books are being discussed. At the same time, I have the impression that she is watching the children very closely and waiting for their reactions. She pays great attention to the children’s answers to the nursery school teacher’s questions. She waits for the answers and then repeats them. In activities with the whole group, this behavior is standard procedure for her. For example, in one story, a child yawns. The nursery school teacher asked Rachel if she would like to demonstrate yawning. Rachel absolutely wouldn’t, yet, when the other children started yawning, she yawned along joyfully.

Rachel always repeats the answers of the others to the nursery school teacher’s questions about content. I have the impression that she does not dare make her own contributions in the whole group.

She behaves completely differently when games are played in a circle in the whole group. Here she is very happy and joyful and also likes to take on a leading role. Here she is by no means reserved or careful. At this point she gives up the position of the observer.

Rachel draws a lot. She also watches the children joining her at the drawing table. She then pauses, looks at the children and, without comment, continues working after a while.

E 2  High Aptitude for Social Adaptation

I would describe Rachel’s behavior in the group as inconspicuous. Within the group she does not stand out with respect to reluctance or aggressive behaviour. She complies with the existing rules and almost never opposes them. She often tries to show the „desired“ behaviour, which, according to her mother, is also very important in the family environment.

She also reprimands other children if she thinks they have behaved wrongly. I have not yet been able to see that she intentionally made mistakes. In new groups or situations, she initially behaves cautiously, but then quickly finds her way into the new situation.

E 3  Leadership

On a playful level, Rachel clearly shows that she has leadership qualities. She takes the lead by defining what is to happen in the game, by selecting players and structuring her own game and that of the others. She usually also gets the necessary materials or commissions another child to do so. She sets the rules. Especially when playing in a circle or in the doll or building corner.

E 4  A Strong Sense of Justice – High Sensitivity

Rachel solves almost all her conflicts independently and verbally. She rarely asks for help. She will only do so if she is physically attacked in such a way that she can no longer defend herself. Sometimes she offers compromises to the children, but in most cases she insists on her own point of view. She also accepts that the children will turn away and end the game. Rachel is very sensitive to criticism. She is ashamed immediately and then breaks into tears very quickly. She must then first be calmed down so that a conversation can take place. In the conversation itself, she says little, but repeats again and again: „I didn’t want that.“ Criticism can upset Rachel very quickly.

You can read more about Rachel in:

Rachel (4;6) and Her Letters and

„I Made up a Story, and Now We Want to Show it to You.“


Date of publication in German: 11.9.09
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.

Translation: Arno Zucknick