Action Step and Orientation

SBI 1. Provide all children access to developmentally appropriate language and pre-literacy instruction that is aligned to state guidelines.

In this lesson, you and your team will learn about the state guidelines for early childhood education and how you can support your teachers’ use of them to create developmentally appropriate learning experiences for all children at your school.

Part 1 of this lesson describes the state guidelines for early childhood education for children ages 0–school entry (SE).

Part 2 defines developmentally appropriate instruction and shows an example of how children’s language behaviors develop over time.

In Part 3, you will learn how to find and choose a curriculum and materials for your early childhood education site. In addition, there are suggestions for supporting teachers and staff in using appropriate sequence (order) and pacing (rate, or how much time is spent on a skill or idea) and in addressing targeted goals for individual children.

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—State Guidelines for Early Childhood Education

The Standards-Based Instruction component of the Texas State Literacy Plan (TSLP) calls for early childhood educators to provide children with language and pre-literacy lessons that are aligned to state guidelines. The state guidelines for early childhood education support instructional staff in helping children reach social, emotional, physical, language, pre-literacy (early reading and writing), and cognitive (thinking, reasoning, and understanding) developmental goals.

The guidelines describe the behaviors teachers might see in children at different stages of development. With each behavior is an instructional strategy that supports children in learning the behavior. The guidelines are research based and reflect the most up-to-date understanding of how children develop and learn. They are a valuable resource in helping you and your team make informed decisions as you develop or put in place a comprehensive language and pre-literacy curriculum at your school.

There are two sets of early learning guidelines:

1. Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines are for children age 0–48 months.

You and your team will find valuable information in the introduction, including an explanation of how the guidelines are organized. You will also find information about responsive caregiving, which is paying close attention to children’s needs and responding to them in a caring way (Children’s Learning Institute, 2013). You will learn how responsive caregiving supports learning, as well as ways your staff can be responsive to the children in their care. In addition, you will find information about caring for young children with disabilities or special needs and caring for young children from different cultural backgrounds.

The guidelines are divided into four developmental domains, which are further broken down into components:

  • The Physical Health and Motor Development domain addresses children’s physical growth and well-being and the movement of their large (gross motor) and small (fine motor) muscles.
  • The Social and Emotional Development domain addresses children’s trust and emotional security (attachment), self-awareness, self-regulation (of emotion), and relationships with others.
  • The Language and Communication Development domain addresses children’s listening and understanding, communication and speaking, and emergent literacy (early reading and writing skills).
  • The Cognitive Development domain addresses children’s thinking, reasoning, and understanding including exploration and discovery, problem solving, memory, and imitation and make believe.

Each component is made up of a set of indicators. An indicator is a child behavior and a teacher strategy for encouraging and supporting the behavior. The indicators describe behaviors often seen during four different age groups: 0–8 months (infants), 8–18 months (older infants), 18–36 months (toddlers), and 36–48 months (three-year-olds). The early learning guidelines can help you and your teachers understand the skills children are generally developing at each age group. However, it is important to keep in mind that children develop and grow at different rates and that each child will follow his or her own developmental path.

All of the developmental domains are important for healthy child development, and they are related. For example, children who are healthy, well fed, and connected to their teachers will be well supported in developing cognitive and language skills. On the other hand, children who are physically unwell or do not have healthy relationships with instructional staff may be slower to develop cognitive and language skills.

The indicators that are most relevant to this course are found in two domains: Language and Communication Development and Cognitive Development.

What the guidelines are NOT

  • The guidelines are NOT a developmental checklist
  • The guidelines are NOT an assessment tool
  • The guidelines are NOT a curriculum
  • The guidelines are NOT permanent and unchanging
  • The guidelines are NOT exclusive—other documents offer excellent information as well

(Children’s Learning Institute, 2013, p. 5)

2. Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015) describe behaviors that might be observed in four- and five-year-old children by the end of prekindergarten, as well as instructional strategies to support children in learning the behaviors.

In the introduction, you will find a wealth of information for your teachers, including

  • using effective, responsive teaching practices;
  • developing an effective learning environment, including organizing prekindergarten classrooms and setting routines for a structured learning environment;
  • monitoring each child’s learning and development throughout the year, including screening, progress monitoring, and diagnostic assessments (of children’s abilities and needs);
  • using a developmental approach that promotes kindergarten school readiness;
  • supporting English learners (ELs) in developing a broad range of skills;
  • developing an instructional plan for each special needs child in your classroom; and
  • using professional development opportunities to thoroughly understand the guidelines and how to use them to plan instruction.

The prekindergarten guidelines are divided into ten skill domains, which include developmental goals, examples of behaviors you might see in children, and possible instructional activities to promote these behaviors.

Three domains are most relevant for the development of language and pre-literacy instruction: Language and Communication, Emergent Literacy Reading, and Emergent Literacy Writing. The instructional strategies found in these domains will help children develop foundational skills in speaking, listening, vocabulary, reading, and writing.

Both sets of guidelines are intended to provide support and information. They are excellent resources as you choose a curriculum, and you should set an expectation that teachers use them to plan and deliver instruction in the classroom. However, the guidelines are not intended to be rigid sets of instructions that cover all the behaviors you will see in children and when you will see them. They should be among many resources that you and your teachers consult as you develop language and pre-literacy instruction.

The guidelines stress that there is a lot of variation in how and when young children develop and learn. Therefore, you should use the guidelines as helpful examples rather than rules to be strictly followed. You will find they are an excellent starting point for lessons, which can then be adapted to help individual children meet development goals in their own time.

Part 2—Supporting Developmentally Appropriate Instruction

The state guidelines support a developmental approach to learning. Developmentally appropriate instruction reflects what is known about how young children develop and learn physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively. It acknowledges that children grow and learn at different rates, and it includes both short-term and long-term goals for each child’s development. In this approach to learning, teachers know how children generally develop, and they stay aware of each child’s developmental goals during instruction. A child’s age is one of many considerations used to decide what is developmentally appropriate for each child (National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2009).

The abilities, needs, and interests of the child inform developmentally appropriate instruction. Lessons are fluid and interactive, meaning that teachers adapt instruction to support each child. Children are presented with challenging but achievable activities that are appropriate for (or adapted to) their stage of development. Developmentally appropriate instruction has been shown to be more effective than rigid instruction that expects the same outcomes from all children (NAEYC, 2009).

Developmentally appropriate instruction also takes into account that as children age, they are able to perform more challenging tasks and think in more complex ways (NAEYC, 2009). Note how children’s development over time is reflected in the following language indicators from the state guidelines. The indicators are examples of developmentally appropriate language skills for infants through four-year-olds. Together, they show how language skills generally progress over time.

  • At ages 0–8 months, infants might begin to imitate sounds like “da” when caregiver says “da.”*
  • At ages 8–18 months, older infants might try to name familiar people and objects, like “mama” and “dada.”*
  • At ages 18–36 months, toddlers might use new words in everyday experiences (“books in box”).*
  • At 36–48 months, three-year-olds might use more abstract words to understand their world (use words like “think,” “know,” guess”).*
  • By around 48 months of age, the child uses new words while engaging in child-initiated play. (This is an example of a child behavior from standard II.D.I.)**

( *Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines, 2013, pp. 54–55 and **Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines, 2015, p. 53 )

The guidelines provide valuable information about child development and age-appropriate behaviors. You and your team should familiarize yourselves with the guidelines and developmental milestones and then read and discuss them with your teachers and staff. Stress that understanding how children generally develop is important for providing developmentally appropriate instruction. Teachers can use this understanding as they plan and present lessons.

You will also need to explain, however, that the guidelines are a jumping-off point rather than an unchangeable set of expectations for all children in a class. Teachers should be flexible in their expectations of each child. Children of different ages and levels of development will have different abilities. This means that an activity that may be developmentally appropriate for four-year-olds may be inappropriate for many three-year-olds (Texas Education Agency, 2015).

In addition, each child learns and develops at his or her own pace. Children of the same age may have significantly different learning paces and styles. Children also learn different skills at different rates (NAEYC, 2009). For example, a child may develop motor skills more quickly than he or she develops language skills, or some language skills more quickly than others. Support your teachers in being aware that the children at your school are at multiple development stages, regardless of their closeness in age.

By keeping children’s different developmental stages in mind, teachers can plan and, if needed, adapt language and pre-literacy lessons to support all the children in their class. Encourage teachers to welcome diversity in the classroom and to see children as unique individuals with different backgrounds, abilities, needs, learning styles, and interests.

When you observe and monitor teachers, your focus will be on helping them understand and use the guidelines. As teachers gain more experience, you can use monitoring to create accountability. However, you will need to keep in mind that the main goal of observation and monitoring is to support your staff, especially when they are using the guidelines to inform instruction for the first time.

The following are additional suggestions for supporting your staff in using the guidelines:

  • You and your team should know the guidelines and developmental milestones and use your knowledge to support teachers and other instructional staff in using them.
  • You and your team should meet with teachers to discuss the language and pre-literacy guidelines.
  • Teachers should share examples of children’s work or developmental growth (based on guidelines or other milestones) with you and your team and with parents and families.
  • You and your team should use lesson plan reviews, checklists, walkthroughs, and observations to monitor lessons to ensure they address developmental milestones and align with state guidelines.
  • Teachers should be trained on what assessments and checklists to use, when to administer these tools, and how to use data to inform instruction. (See the Assessment module for more information.)

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TO LEARN MORE: To learn more about child development and developmentally appropriate instruction, you may want to review the following sources:

The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s position statement Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Programs Servicing Children from Birth through Age 8 includes the “12 Principles of Child Development and Learning.”

The Child Development section of the Center for Disease Control’s website provides research and articles on health and development, as well as information on developmental milestones and screening.

ZERO TO THREE, from the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, provides information to parents and families, instructional staff, and policymakers about young children’s development. The website offers literature and podcasts on behavior and development and provides support for staff in nourishing relationships between parents and their children.

Parenting Counts offers educational materials and tools and hundreds of videos and articles that explore child developmental from 0 to age five. The website has valuable videos showing parents working with their children to support them in learning developmentally appropriate skills.

Part 3—Curricula and Resources That Align with State Guidelines

The Texas Education Agency provides a list of approved materials for prekindergarten children. These materials are aligned to the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015) and are listed on page 1 of the Instructional Materials Adoption Bulletin put out by the Texas Education Agency each year.

There is no such list of approved materials for younger children; however, there are many excellent early childhood curricula and materials available. You and your team can use the following guiding questions to help you choose a curriculum and materials for your early childhood education site:

  • Does the curriculum address most of the language and pre-literacy skills presented in the Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines?
  • Is the instruction developmentally appropriate? Does it address goals for different developmental stages? Does it acknowledge that children develop at different rates?
  • Does the curriculum provide strategies for adapting lessons to address different abilities, needs, and interests?

Even the most carefully chosen curriculum and materials may not address all of the behaviors in the state guidelines, particularly as guidelines are updated. Encourage teachers to look for gaps in the curriculum and help them brainstorm alternatives for meeting the guidelines. You and your teachers should come up with activities that would help children develop the behaviors described in the guidelines. Then you should develop lessons and create or buy materials that will help children engage in these activities.

Once you have chosen or developed a curriculum, you and your team should support teachers in using an appropriate sequence (order) and pacing (rate, or how much time is spent on a skill or idea). Set the expectation that teachers will use the sequence and pacing suggested in your chosen curriculum. However, be aware that while good instructional planning is important, research findings by several sources show that how teachers interact with children in the classroom has the most impact on children’s learning (NAEYC, 2009). Support teachers in adapting sequence and pacing during lessons to meet the strengths, needs, and interests of individual children. Teachers should learn how to respond to children’s moment-to-moment needs in the classroom (NAEYC, 2009). Support your teachers in developing these skills:

  • An understanding of child development and learning
  • Knowledge about the order in which children generally learn concepts and skills
  • Knowledge of many effective teaching strategies that teachers can use for adaptation (NAEYC, 2009)

Give teachers access to professional development and other instruction to provide them with a toolkit of teaching strategies. Teachers can then choose from these strategies to adapt instruction and make ongoing choices about sequence and pacing in response to each child’s behavior during lessons.

Teachers can also adapt the sequence and pacing of instruction based on pre-determined targeted goals for each child. Targeted goals address the individual strengths, needs, and interests of each child. They take into account that children develop and learn at different paces. For example, during a lesson in which children complete puzzles, a teacher could slow down to address one child’s targeted goal of turning puzzle pieces in different ways to complete a puzzle. The teacher might sit with this child and model how to turn a puzzle piece and then remind the child verbally while manipulating a different piece.

In addition to developing individual targeted goals, teachers should identify instructional goals for activities in the classroom. For example, when a teacher reads a book to children, he or she should have a specific instructional goal in mind, such as to introduce new words, to make connections between pictures and vocabulary, or to connect an element of the story to another subject (such as mathematics). These kinds of instructional goals will help teachers be more effective in developing children’s language and pre-literacy skills.

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TO LEARN MORE: To learn more about the state guidelines and using them in your early childhood site, you may want to review the following sources:

The Children’s Learning Institute’s web page “Welcome to the 2008 Texas Pre-Kindergarten Guidelines” has an interactive online introduction to the guidelines that breaks down domains, has links to videos, and provides other support for using the guidelines at an early childhood site. While this resource refers to the 2008 guidelines, the content is still helpful and relevant to the updated 2015 guidelines.

The Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines, available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, are for children age 0–48 months.

The Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015) are for children ages 4 and 5.

Early Childhood Outcomes & Prekindergarten Guidelines Alignment, listed after the guidelines at this page, provides instructional support for children with special needs.

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NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in providing developmentally appropriate language and pre-literacy instruction aligned to state guidelines, you may want to consider the following next steps:

  • Read and discuss the state guidelines and additional resources about developmentally appropriate instruction.
  • Provide the guidelines to your staff and meet with them to review the guidelines and discuss expectations for their use.
  • Assess needs for and plan professional development on the state guidelines, the language and pre-literacy programs or curriculum, and additional resources.
  • Begin or continue conducting research to find language and pre-literacy curriculum and materials that align with the guidelines and the needs of the children at your site.
  • Plan, create, or revise a process to observe, monitor, and support teachers’ use of the guidelines.
  • Identify additional resources and help teachers create lessons that address gaps in the language and pre-literacy programs or curriculum.
  • Review or develop the sequence and pacing of the programs. Provide additional resources to help teachers learn how to adapt sequence and pacing to meet children’s individual needs.


SBI 1. Provide all children access to developmentally appropriate language and pre-literacy instruction that is aligned to state guidelines.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step SBI 1 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:

  • Part 1 of this lesson describes the state guidelines for early childhood education for children ages 0–school entry (SE).
  • Part 2 defines developmentally appropriate instruction and gives an example of how children’s language behaviors develop over time.
  • Part 3 explains how to find and choose a curriculum and materials for your early childhood site. It also explains how to support staff in using sequence (order) and pacing (rate) and in addressing targeted goals for individual children.

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.


Children’s Learning Institute at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. (2013). Texas infant, toddler, and three-year-old early learning guidelines. Retrieved from

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 [Position statement]. Retrieved from

Texas Education Agency. (2015). Texas prekindergarten guidelines. Retrieved from