How to assess preschool learners using the NCF guidelines

If you are a teacher of 2-5-year-olds, it’s essential to evaluate your learners at least twice a year. A child’s development is much more than their physical growth. Development is observed in how they play, learn, speak and behave.

Introduction to learner assessment webinar replay

We recently hosted an online webinar, “Introduction to Learner Assessment,” to assist teachers with the assessment process and show them how to use the free assessment tools we have available in our app.

This video recording of the webinar includes:

  • The process of recognising and accurately defining the milestones for children’s development per age group.
  • The use of the milestones in the assessment process.
  • The purpose of doing learner assessments.
  • The assessment process and how to put it into practice.  
  • Our free assessment tools, resources and training which is available in our ECD app.

Please view the full webinar (40 minutes) here: 

GROW Webinar – introduction to learner assessment and free tools and resources for preschool teachers

NCF: Observation and Assessment

In the NCF (National Curriculum Framework) the emphasis for assessment is on observing children in an ongoing and planned way, during their daily routines, structured and free play activities.   

Observation means watching carefully and listening carefully to each young child each day.  

The NCF guide to assessment is based on the six early learning areas and the suggestions for assessment for each.

NCF states that assessments must include all 6 of the ELDAs

ELDA 1:  Well-being

ELDA 2: Identity and Belonging

ELDA 3: Communication

ELDA 4: Exploring Mathematics

ELDA 5: Creativity

ELDA 6: Knowledge and Understanding of the World

Developmental Milestones

A child’s development is more than just physical growth! Development is observed in how they play, learn, speak and behave.

Developmental milestones are predictable behaviours or skills that children can do by a certain age – it demonstrate a child’s growth in a number of areas. 

Developmental milestones offer important clues about a child’s developmental health.

Examples of developmental milestones: 18-24 Months

  • Walking unaided
  • Crawl up stairs, walks up stair with help
  • Throw and catch ball
  • Thread beads on string
  • Use paintbrush to make strokes/handprints
  • Roll playdough and use a mould to make shapes
  • Use a spade and put the sand into a bucket and tip over
  • Identify themselves, body parts familiar objects by pointing to them in books/pictures/photos
  • Dance and sing to songs
  • Enjoy reading books
  • Do 2-4-piece puzzle/pincher puzzles
  • Start to say words-lots of babbling – normally only the parent care giver can make out what they are saying
  • Start to say 2 words together or repeat one word over and over, e.g. ‘No’, ‘Go’, ‘me run’,’ me sit’, ‘go way’, etc.

Examples of developmental milestones:2-3 years

  • Move by themselves on a wheeled toy (scooter)
  • Kick a ball
  • Throw a ball
  • Catch ball
  • Turn the page of a book
  • Make circular motions on paper
  • String 2-6 large beads by themselves
  • Know main body parts
  • Put on and take off shoes
  • Wash their hands and face
  • Tell you if they have dirty nappy/want to go to toilet
  • Start to put simple sentences together/can make themselves understood

Examples of developmental milestones:3-4 years

  • Move objects/themselves around obstacles in the way
  • Push and pull large items
  • Hop on 1 foot
  • Throw, catch and kick balls
  • Climb stairs
  • Trace and copy shapes
  • Build towers, bridges, trains use blocks of various sizes and shapes
  • Name 3-5 colours
  • Sort, sequence objects/colours
  • Complete 6-12-piece puzzles
  • Play in groups of 2-3
  • Show awareness of numbers/quantity (more/less)
  • Is familiar with daily routine – know what is happening next
  • Engage in imaginative play
  • Start to put simple sentences together/can make themselves understood
  • Repeat what you’ve said – ask lots of why questions

Examples of developmental milestones:4-5 years

  • Copy shapes and letters
  • Colours in 1 direction and within lines
  • Can dress themselves
  • Can recall a story
  • Can sing songs – know songs
  • Tap to rhythm
  • Plan and build construction
  • Use greater fine hand control/ finger opposition
  • Make conversation
  • Repeat questions, answer questions
  • Recall stories and sequence of events

How do we use milestones?

  • We use developmental milestones to guide our assessment because all children grow and develop, at their own pace.
  • The milestones have been established, based on what most children can do at a certain age.
  • These milestones are a guide or a framework of what we want to observe.

Why do we assess learners?

Observing and documenting a child’s work and performance over the course of a year allows a teacher to collect a record of the child’s growth and development.  

The teacher uses the assessment information to plan the daily educational activities that are at the right level for the child.

The teacher is also able to see each child as an individual with their own abilities and challenges.

It helps the teacher to notice early if a child is consistently not reaching their milestones as expected. This should concern teachers, and a referral might be needed.  

Example of an assessment checklist

Need checklists such as these? Detailed assessment checklists per age group can be downloaded from our app.

The process of assessing a child