Action Step and Orientation

L4. Provide instructional leadership and support for evidence-based language and pre-literacy instruction.

In this lesson, you and your site/campus-based leadership team will consider how to follow best practices when providing instructional leadership for your staff.

In Part 1, you will learn about your role as an instructional leader in supporting staff as they implement evidence-based best practices.

In Part 2, you will learn how to provide ongoing leadership and support for your staff as you implement your site’s data-informed plan for improving language and pre-literacy instruction.

To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Review the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.

Part 1—Providing Instructional Leadership to Teachers and Providers Based on Best Practices

As a leader, one of your tasks is to provide instructional leadership to the staff and other providers. You will support them by showing them how they can use best practices when working with infants, toddlers, and prekindergarten-age children.

First, you must ensure that teachers understand what “best practices” means. Best practices are evidence-based, developmentally appropriate instructional and caregiving practices that lead to the greatest gains in children’s development.

Best practices are implemented during care and instruction of all ages, including infants and toddlers. Although the staff working with infants and toddlers will focus much of their energy on caring for the physical needs of children (e.g., feeding, changing, and cleaning), best practices designed to promote children’s development (language, thinking, social, and emotional) should be employed throughout the day. These practices include attending and responding warmly to children’s communicative signals, talking, singing, reading, asking questions, encouraging vocalization, and imitation. Responsive caregiving and language opportunities can be planned for infants during “tummy time,” “outdoor time,” “sensory experiences,” “book reading,” or “music and movement,” as well as during feeding and changing times.

As children progress to the older toddler stage, more specific language learning activities can be planned since children are able to maintain interest for longer periods of time and can start to participate in more group activities. At this time, more language and vocabulary building, early literacy (pre-reading), and pre-writing activities should be planned and implemented daily. For more information about promoting vocabulary and pre-literacy skills in young children, see lessons in Standards-Based Instruction: SBI 2–Vocabulary, SBI 3–Receptive language skills, and SBI 4–Expressive language skills.

As an instructional leader, your classroom observations and debriefings with staff are one of the main ways you influence instruction at your site. When you visit classrooms at your school, consider what specific practices you have identified that must be in place to support your site’s data-informed plan. State guidelines can be a key resource for you in setting expectations for staff and communicating what you will observe in classrooms. Broadly, your expectations for staff should include responsive teaching in a language-rich environment. More specifically, in planning for your classroom visits, remember the key predictors of school readiness:

  • Book reading
  • Vocabulary building
  • Listening and phonological awareness
  • Letter knowledge and early writing

Instructional leaders should monitor, observe, and evaluate the instruction taking place at their site. Your classroom observations are a key way you support teachers’ professional development. Teachers grow as they receive immediate, targeted feedback from their leaders. You and your team will need to research which tools, forms, and evaluation plans will be most helpful for classroom visits. These planned visits will help you determine what needs exist at your school that can be addressed with ongoing classroom professional development, coaching, or other resources.

icon for Next Steps

NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in implementing ongoing instructional leadership to support the goals of your data-informed plan, you may want to consider some of the following next steps:

  • Plan for administrators to attend professional development in instructional leadership.
  • Allocate time for administrators and staff to attend professional development on language and pre-literacy instruction.
  • Develop a plan for observing language and pre-literacy instruction and for providing feedback and support.
  • Conduct regular meetings with instructional staff to review children’s progress and the impact of the initiatives in your data-informed plan.
  • Share the best practices for teaching children age 0 to school entry.
  • Encourage the staff to use best practices with their children.

Part 2—Creating a System for Ongoing Leadership Support

Identifying and setting expectations for best practices (see Part 1) is the first step to ensuring that appropriate and enriching language and literacy teaching practices are carried out in the classroom. Once identified, best practices will need to be presented, modeled, and sustained using a system that must be developed by your team.

Your staff may need to increase their knowledge of best practices in language and literacy development. Specific needs of your staff can drive your professional development training, but it is also important to consider what research says about the critical areas of knowledge teachers need. Planning Effective Professional Development provides further guidance on using research and data to inform the training you give to staff, as will as guidance on delivering effective professional development.

When planning professional development, you need to provide appropriate training for staff that addresses the ages of the children they support. Using a developmental milestones checklist to monitor the youngest children’s progress will help your staff meet the planned goals for these children. For preschool children, relying on the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015) and The Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines or other curriculum tools will support staff in providing instructional best practices.

Leaders should either participate in the targeted professional development or lead the training when appropriate. Effective leaders also provide feedback to staff who are following up on professional development and are implementing best practices, and they formally recognize those staff members’ efforts. Supporting staff might also involve ongoing coaching. In an early childhood classroom, some effective coaching strategies are as follows:

  • Model lessons.
  • Do side-by-side modeling of a lesson where both coach and teacher are involved.
  • Observe lessons and then debrief and reflect with staff after observation.
  • Help with scheduling or lesson planning.
  • Help with the classroom environment and curriculum materials and resources.
  • Provide literature or websites that support early literacy.

As you build a system for implementing best practices to support your data-informed plan, you will need to develop and communicate to staff the procedures of observations at your site. It can be helpful to show staff the checklist you will use during your observations. This is another opportunity for you to emphasize best practices and support staff in working toward them. Staff can use the checklist as a self-check, or they can use it to set personal goals. After initial observations, site leaders can use a modified checklist for follow-up observations to ensure that best practices are consistently carried out.

An example of an observational checklist for children age 3–5 can be found by clicking on the following link: “Classroom Observational Checklist.”

(Note: Due to the developmental differences between infants/toddlers and prekindergarten-aged children, two different sets of criteria should be used.)

Based on your observation notes and other data that tells you about best practices in your classrooms, you may determine that some staff require more professional development. You will need to integrate your plans for professional development into your data-informed plan.

In the scenario that follows, the director of the Early Childhood Development Center is visiting Ms. Morgan’s classroom of three-year-olds during the month of October. The previous year, the students in Ms. Morgan’s classroom had low letter-knowledge scores at the end-of-year assessment. Ms. Morgan has received professional development training on using strategies to improve letter knowledge. The director is visiting the classroom to evaluate the learning environment, observe the instructional strategies, and examine whether the letter knowledge activities are engaging and effective. She wants all staff to support the data-informed plan goals of increasing early literacy skills.

Scenario: Ms. Rosario (the director) asks Ms. Morgan (the teacher) what date during the following week would be a good time to come for a classroom visit. Ms. Morgan checks her schedule and shares that Tuesday would be a good day. The visit is set for Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.

Before the visit, Ms. Rosario reviews Ms. Morgan’s current daily schedule and lesson plan. She copies a form called “Classroom Environmental Checklist” and also a “Glows and Grows” form that will be used during the classroom observation. She gives a copy of each of these to Ms. Morgan with a note explaining that she will be using these two forms to gather information during the visit. She also explains that they will conference after the visit to reflect on the goals of the lessons and the successes and challenges Ms. Morgan encountered.

On Monday, Ms. Rosario reminds Ms. Morgan about the observation and tells her that she is looking forward to the visit.

When Ms. Rosario arrives on Tuesday morning, Ms. Morgan is conducting a large-group, circle-time activity. Ms. Rosario sits at the back of the area and has the current lesson plan in front of her. She quietly observes the teaching strategies and engagement of the three-year-old children. She smiles and takes a few notes during the lesson.

The children are dismissed to center time. Ms. Rosario notes that there is a lack of organization and preparation as the children transition to centers. She also watches as children explore the centers and sees that the centers and shelves are not labeled and that the children seem to lack focus.

During center time, Ms. Morgan gathers a group of four children to join her in a small-group lesson. She has a tote with the needed materials at the table and engages the children in a productive alphabet/letter knowledge activity. The activity supports the goals of increased letter knowledge opportunities, which in turn supports the goals of the data-informed plan.

Ms. Morgan finishes the small-group lesson, and Ms. Rosario goes around the room and makes notes on the environmental checklist. She targets several areas to discuss with Ms. Morgan at the follow-up meeting.

After 45 minutes, the classroom visit is complete. Ms. Rosario smiles and thanks Ms. Morgan. In her office, Ms. Rosario reviews her notes and completes both forms. She and Ms. Morgan plan to meet during the children’s nap time later that day.

At the follow-up meeting, Ms. Rosario compliments and validates Ms. Morgan’s classroom setting and her large- and small-group work. She asks Ms. Morgan how she felt the morning visit went and builds on Ms. Morgan’s comments. Ms. Morgan states that she has challenges with transitions and would like to get her room more organized.

Ms. Rosario reviews her notes and “Glows and Grows” and suggests two action items. The first is to label all centers, and the second is to have a specific procedure for transitioning the children to centers. Ms. Rosario explains that by labeling the centers, the children will have more opportunities to see meaningful print and letters. She also says that by having a planned way for the children to move to centers, they will have clear expectations. She gives Ms. Morgan a few ideas about using transitions, including the use of songs, props, and name tags. She compliments Ms. Morgan’s very effective small-group lesson. They agree on the goals and set a two-week time frame for completion. They discuss what resources are needed and end the meeting with a plan to review the goals in two weeks.

The director in the above scenario had developed a system for ongoing staff support. As you work on your team’s long-term plan for strong instructional leadership, having systems for classroom observation, evaluation, and follow-up discussion will strengthen your program and improve outcomes for staff and children. It will also assist you in building sustainability and meeting the goals of your data-informed plan.

icon for Learning more

TO LEARN MORE: Review the following resources to learn more about instructional leadership, classroom observation, and best practices for preschool.

The Children’s Learning Institute’s web page “Welcome to the 2008 Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines” has an interactive online introduction to the guidelines. Although this resource refers to the 2008 guidelines, the content is still relevant to the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015) and can be helpful to your instructional staff.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Developmentally Appropriate Practice website discusses appropriate best practices for teachers of children age 0–8 years.

The Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines provides child behaviors and strategies to support them for children age 0–48 months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contains helpful information about developmental milestones for young children.

Literacy Resources for Principals contains additional leadership information for principals.

Early Childhood Investigations Webinars provides a list of archived webinars by national experts and practitioners in the field of early childhood education.


L4. Provide instructional leadership and support for evidence-based language and pre-literacy instruction.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step L4 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.

TSLP Implementation Status Ratings 0-SE

In completing your assignment with your team, the following resources and information from this lesson’s content may be useful to you:

  • Refer to Part 1 for information about your role as an instructional leader in supporting staff.
  • Refer to Part 2 for information about creating a system of support for staff through training, observation, and feedback.

Next Steps also contains suggestions that your site or campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.

To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for this lesson and follow the instructions.