Action Step and Orientation

L2. Ensure that all children receive language and pre-literacy instruction that is aligned to their individual strengths and needs.

In this lesson, you and your site/campus-based leadership team will consider the diverse needs of the children at your school and how to best address those needs so all children are successful.

In Part 1, you will consider how to identify the diverse needs of the children you serve.

In Part 2, you will consider ways to address the diverse needs of children through the care and instruction at your site.

In Part 3, you will learn about how to provide support for children with special needs.

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—Identifying the Diverse Needs of the Children You Serve

The goal of this lesson is to guide you in establishing successful leadership practices for meeting the diverse needs of children and to support you by connecting you to the other TSLP components you will use along the way.

Children’s Diverse Needs

Effective leaders are well informed about the strengths and needs of the children they serve. As you know, exciting development takes place as infant, toddlers, and preschoolers develop and learn. Given the amount of growth and development that occur during early years of life, it is no surprise that children of different ages and developmental stages have very different needs.

In addition to differences in learning and development, children bring diverse home and community experiences to their learning environments. Children may hear and speak a language other than English at home and participate in diverse cultural practices in their homes and communities. As a leader, part of your role is to ensure that care and instruction at your site are responsive to the language and cultural needs of the students you serve.

You and your team will need to plan ways to educate your staff so they can recognize and respond to children’s different learning and developmental needs. You will need to guide teachers in planning care and instruction for children who are linguistically diverse or accelerated in their learning, as well as children who show developmental delays and special needs.

Identifying Diverse Needs

The first step in successfully meeting the diverse needs of children is identifying those needs. This calls for an assessment system—a way to collect information about children that can help identify their strengths and needs. You and your team will play a critical role in establishing effective assessment practices. Your staff will look to you for guidance in using assessment data (information collected on children) to plan quality instruction that meets their needs. In establishing strong assessment practices, you may start by discussing the following questions with your team:

  • What types of assessments do we currently use to identify the needs of children (such as developmental checklists, screeners, written observations of children, home surveys)?
  • Do our current assessments give accurate and adequate information about children’s needs?
  • How do the leaders at our site share information from assessments with instructional staff?
  • What professional development do we need to provide so that teachers know how to use the data to understand the different needs of the children they serve?

If you and your team need to focus on establishing these core assessment practices, you can find further guidance in the Assessment module of the TSLP online course.

Lesson 1–A1 and A2: Observation and assessment and Lesson 2–A1 and A2: Appropriate assessment tools provide detailed guidance in establishing an observation system for infants and toddlers. There are few classrooms or programs that have standardized assessments for infants and toddlers, so there are many factors to consider when determining the best way to assess babies and toddlers. These lessons provide guidance on identifying the specific developmental needs in this age group.

These lessons also guide you in selecting and using assessments for children age 3–5. Assessments can include developmental screenings, which can indicate if children are having difficulty adjusting to the environment and experiencing learning challenges. In Lesson 3–A3: Assessment to inform instruction, you will find resources and information about supporting teachers in using data to provide instruction that meets the diverse needs of children.

Finally, as you identify the needs of all children, consider how assessments might differ for children who speak a language other than English at home and are developing English as a second language. You will need to ensure that the specialist or assessment administrator uses dual language assessments to assess an English learner (EL) child. This is important to correctly determine whether the child has true language delay or simply has limited English proficiency. You want to be able to inform staff about the true needs of English learners and ensure that no students are mistakenly identified with language delays. Knowing the differences between language differences and learning delays will allow your staff to provide the specialized language support and language instruction that is appropriate to the identified need.

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TO LEARN MORE: The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition has videos, webinars, and articles to help you understand the needs of English language learners. You may also want to review the following resources:

The Publications section of the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center has many useful documents. Scroll down the page to download the guide “Developmental Screening and Assessment Instruments with an Emphasis on Social and Emotional Development for Young Children Ages Birth through Five.”

The Early Childhood Outcomes and Prekindergarten Guidelines Alignment is a downloadable document that provides modifications and adaptations for children with special needs. It also includes a developmental continuum for teachers.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website contains valuable information about speech or hearing delays.

The National Association for Gifted Children website contains information and links to other sites that are helpful for staff working with gifted children.

The Council for Exceptional Children website contains information about all types of special needs and makes suggestions and articles to support you.

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

Part 2—Serving the Diverse Needs of All Learners

A solid understanding of children’s diverse needs will drive instructional planning. Your staff will look to you and your team for guidance in meeting each child’s needs through the care and instruction they provide.

Some of the key elements to guide the instruction at your site include

  • creating language- and literacy-rich learning environments;
  • implementing developmentally appropriate practices for different age levels and stages of learning;
  • designing schedules that allow time for extra reinforcement or accelerated learning opportunities;
  • focusing on children’s cognitive development;
  • providing blocks of time for small-group and individualized instruction;
  • using data to guide small-group and individualized instruction; and
  • working within different 0–SE schedules (e.g., half-day vs. full-day) to include these principles in instruction.

All of these elements need to be in place for all children to achieve success. You and your team will want to consider how you can provide support and leadership to staff in implementing these elements. You may discuss what types of professional development are needed among staff, as well as leaders, to increase knowledge in these areas. Part of your teamwork may also center on gathering and sharing resources with staff as needs arise.

Action Step L4 of this component gives you further guidance in providing instructional leadership to your staff through observation and feedback. Also, as you work on establishing a framework for meeting the needs of all children, keep in mind that the Effective Instructional Framework module of the TSLP online course provides more detailed information. Lesson E1–Data and instruction, specifically, guides you in establishing a “recognition and response” approach to meeting the unique needs of each child in your care.

Part 3—Providing a Network of Support for Children with Special Needs

The key elements of instruction listed in Part 2 of this lesson provide the foundation by which each child’s learning needs are met. Effective staff will need to be skilled in creating rich learning environments, implementing developmentally appropriate practices, and delivering small-group and individualized instruction. You can provide leadership to your staff in meeting those expectations.

In some instances, wider networks of support are needed to meet the needs of children, particularly children identified with developmental delays or special needs.

As leaders, you play an important role in supporting the identification of developmental delays or special needs. This is part of serving all children at your site. In the Assessment module, Lesson 4–A4: Special learning needs guides you in understanding your role in this process and in supporting your staff in understanding their roles as well.

Once delays or special needs are identified, you and your team play a key role in coordinating different resources and/or specialized services. Later in the Leadership module, in Lesson L6–Community partnerships, you will learn more about specific steps you can take to create partnerships with different community resources. One important resource for your children and families is Early Childhood Intervention Services, which provides resources and support to help families of young children with developmental delays meet children’s goals. In addition, you may find several other resources and more information about the different services your school can collaborate with in Lesson 4–A4: Special learning needs in the Assessment module, which focuses on the identification and support of children with special needs.

As you and your team begin to think about the systems in place for serving children with special needs, it will be helpful to consider your current procedures for ensuring that support is comprehensive and of high quality. You may discuss the following questions with your team:

  • As new children enroll throughout the year, how will our program quickly identify any need for extra support?
  • Do we have a system in place so that special services can be provided within a short period of time?
  • Who will ensure that any additional resources are provided?
  • Who is in charge of ensuring that appropriate training is delivered to staff?
  • Do we have a system in place to discuss feedback about children's development, especially those who are delayed or have advanced abilities?

Strong teams regularly reflect on their systems and procedures. By continually evaluating the needs and challenges of all the children in your program, you are implementing an effective and sustainable system.

When you click on this scenario, you can read an example of how an early childhood program providing services for birth through age four supports a family and their special-needs daughter.

In sum, as you and your leadership team work to enhance your process for serving the diverse needs of all students, you can take key steps to achieve your goals. Those steps are (1) learning about children’s needs, (2) seeking resources and collaboration with specialists in the community, (3) making adjustments for each child with an identified need, and (4) following up to monitor the child’s progress. Throughout the process, you and your staff are in communication with the child’s family.

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NEXT STEPS: Depending on your team’s progress with this Action Step, you may want to consider the following next steps:

  • Identify and review assessment data that gives information about the diverse needs of the children you serve.
  • Review other relevant lessons in the TSLP online course, such as Lesson 4–A4: Special learning needs, Lesson E4–Outside collaborations, and Lesson L6–Community partnerships.
  • Identify needs among instructional staff with regard to meeting the diverse needs of children; plan and deliver professional development accordingly.
  • Help staff locate resources to support English learners and bilingual children.
  • Support staff in making modifications to their learning environment and in using instructional strategies to meet special needs.
  • Identify community resources and services that provide support to children with special needs.


L2. Ensure that all children receive language and pre-literacy instruction that is aligned to their individual strengths and needs.

With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step L2 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 guidance in identifying the diverse needs of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
  • Refer to Part 2 for information on addressing the diverse needs of children through the care and instruction you provide at your site.
  • Refer to Part 3 for information about creating networks of support for children with developmental delays and special needs.

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.