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Laura – Event sample

Laura is a 3 years 9 months girl who has been attending the nursery in the afternoons for 4 weeks. The staff were concerned because she didn’t speak or answer them when they tried to talk to her and she also seemed to be very withdrawn not seeming to socialise with the other children. Staff had even begun to wonder if she was deaf. The sessions are mainly free play and the children are free to choose from the available activities. There are 20 children and 2 staff.

Good for looking at

  • Observation techniques - event sampling
  • Choosing a technique fit for purpose
  • Withdrawn, shy, quiet child

Observation aim

  • To see if Laura speaks or socialises with adults or children and if so how.


  • Every interaction where Laura was spoken to, or spoke herself, was recorded.

Example observation

  • Find the example event sample observation in the ‘further reading’ section


What did your observation tell you? Have a go at interpreting your observation in light of the original aims.

You can see an example observation and interpretation in further reading.

Laura – Event Sample Interpretation

Although Laura takes herself to an isolating position behind the counter in the home corner, there are lots of occasions when others approach her giving her opportunities to socialise. When the teacher asks Laura what she wants to play with she wrings her hands indicating that she feels very agitated and nervous. However in all cases Laura makes eye contact and often smiles giving the impression that she does want to socialise.

When other children do approach Laura she doesn’t extend any of the contacts of her own initiative and this results in the other children leaving her quickly to find more receptive playmates. Laura often copies what the other children do in their playing, tending to indicate ‘I want to do this with you’ (e.g. ironing and phoning). But this doesn’t work as a way of encouraging others to stay and play because she leaves it too late – the potential playmates have already moved on.

Laura does talk. Several times she speaks into the telephone. She also offers others information when she thinks she has something useful to offer. “There’s the cup, over there” shows she can speak clearly and hear and understand what’s going on very well. Towards the end of the free play session she ventures out from behind the counter and begins to enter into the make believe game of serving dinners. She doesn’t speak in the presence of the teacher even when encouraged, although she appears keen to please. She complies with all requests made of her by adults and children.

Laura – Event Sample Conclusion

The observation reveals a girl who gives all the signs of wanting to interact with other children. There are no indications of any hearing defect – in fact quite the contrary. She doesn’t show any real signs of distress and future observations by teachers could check that Laura does gradually gain in confidence and doesn’t remain or increase in isolation.

Comparison of the two observations

The time sample did show how Laura typically spent her time. It also gave us some information about her social behaviour but we still couldn’t say whether Laura talked to people or not. The event sample on the other hand didn’t give us a picture of the way Laura spent so much of her time on her own in an isolating position but it did tell us a lot about the range of her socialising and confirmed that she could talk well and hear what was going on.


Laura event sample 1 Download
Laura event sample 2 Download