As early childhood programs across the state adopt evidence-based curricula, often designed primarily for four-year-olds, and more programs seek to blend programs and practices in order to provide more inclusive opportunities, the task of determining “who needs to learn what” across the developmental continuum becomes increasingly important, yet more complex.
An Instructional Continuum
Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) teachers are highly skilled at individualizing interventions to meet the needs of students, across multiple disability categories. While teachers of general education preschool programs, such as the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and Head Start, design instruction to meet the universal needs of students in order to make progress towards common standards and curricular objectives.
Aligning these perspectives is critical to answering the question “who needs to learn what” in blended programs and those ECSE classrooms balancing the needs of individual children with the implementation of a one-size-fits-all curriculum. One framework, a tiered model of instruction, organizes “what” each student needs to learn based the type of outcome (Grisham-Brown, Hemmeter, & Pretti-Frontczak, 2017). Each tier then aligns with an instructional strategy matched to intensity of the need.
Sorting and Prioritizing Outcomes
By organizing “who needs to learn what” across the tiers, ECSE and general education preschool teachers can easily see how students may have needs in each tier and the distribution of needs across all students.
- Common outcomes are those that all preschool children work towards (e.g. early learning standards), including skills that are developmentally appropriate based on their age (e.g. identifying colors, learning letters in their name, or counting).
- Additionally, some may struggle with a component of a more complex skill or the quality at which they preform a new skill and need more targeted support and opportunities to practice (e.g. generalizing a skill across environments or routines).
- Finally, there may be a few students who require individualized, intentional, systematic instruction to make progress on foundational or pre-requisite skills (e.g. expressing wants/needs, establishing joint attention, turn-taking).
Matching Outcomes with Instruction
Organizing “who needs to learn what” is an important first step in the process of meeting the needs of diverse learners in all preschool settings. Matching those needs to instructional strategies and monitoring student performance to determine if interventions are having the intended effect are covered in a new series of modules due to be released by T-TAC ODU in the coming months.
- Watch Blended Practices author, Dr. Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, explain the concept behind Starting with “What”.
- Check out these related books from the T-TAC ODU Library
- Blended Practices for Teaching Young Children in Inclusive Settings
- Assessing Young Children in Inclusive Settings
- Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Young Children
- Building Blocks for Teaching Preschoolers with Special Needs
- DEC Recommended Practices Monograph Series: Instruction
- Make Early Learning Standards Come Alive
- Individualized Child-Focused Curriculum
Grisham-Brown, J., Hemmeter, M.L., & Pretti-Frontczak, K. (2017). Blended practices for teaching young children in inclusive settings (2nd 3d.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.