During Mrs. Silva’s classroom project on community helpers in the neighborhood, the children take a walk around their neighborhood and discover a small branch of the public library right down the street from their school. The children ask Mrs. Silva if they can visit the library to talk to the librarian and see what kinds of books are available. Mrs. Silva contacts the librarian and arranges for the class to visit the next week. The children prepare a list of questions. On the visit, Mr. Chung brings a digital camera to take pictures and short videos of the trip.
During the visit to the library, the children have a chance to ask their questions. The librarian, Sue, takes them on a tour and shows them the books, the computers, and the play area with a puppet theater. She also tells them about different ways library staff can help them (e.g., looking up information on a computer, finding a certain type of book).
At the end of the visit, Mrs. Silva asks each child to identify and describe one important object or person in the library. She records their dictations on a notepad. As she does this, Mr. Chung tries to take some pictures to represent the children’s answers (e.g., if a child says, “The librarian reshelves books when people return them,” Mr. Chung takes a picture of the librarian reshelving a book).
After the children return from their visit to the library, Mrs. Silva prepares the children’s dictations for a large group lesson. She prints each of Mr. Chung’s photos on a piece of paper. Beneath each photo, she types the corresponding child’s dictation and name. This creates an artifact from the trip for each child.
Mrs. Silva plans to use children’s artifacts from the library visit during a large group lesson to help children organize, represent, and analyze information using concrete objects, pictures, and graphs. We will show how Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung facilitate this activity while integrating the targeted benchmark.
Throughout the school year, children have had multiple opportunities to conduct investigations for their project work. They are familiar with revisiting photographs and dictations to discuss what they have learned about a topic.
Mrs. Silva has also exposed children to the concepts, such as more than, less than, and equal to, needed for this graphing lesson.
About the Classroom
Mrs. Silva and her teaching assistant (TA), Mr. Chung, are responsible for developing learning activities that meet the needs of diverse learners and address the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS). Mrs. Silva knows that the majority of children in her class will meet the standards and benchmarks. However, she will have to make adaptations for those children who need more individualized instruction.
Mrs. Silva is the state-licensed head teacher in a monolingual classroom of 20 children (all 4 years old) with diverse learning needs. There are 17 typically developing children with age-appropriate skills and behaviors in the class. These children act as peer models for the remaining children in the class. Of the 20 children in the class, five children speak a language other than English at home. Languages represented in the classroom include Spanish, Arabic, and Polish. These children are all dual-language learners who started school with a varied understanding of English. Mrs. Silva recently obtained her English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement to teach young children who are learning English. Three children in the class have diagnosed special needs requiring an individual education program (IEP).
- Aiden has a diagnosis of hearing impairment and has a moderate hearing loss both ears. He wears two hearing aids. His parents have elected for him to receive speech-only instruction, and he is not being instructed in American Sign Language.
- Olivia has a diagnosis of developmental delay and has Down syndrome. Most of her needs are related to cognitive skills and self-help skills.
- Reggie has a diagnosis of autism. He has advanced verbal skills but has trouble staying on task for even brief periods of time. He is very directive in play situations with peers and is resistant to change in routine.
On occasion, some children exhibit challenging behavior during small group lessons. Mrs. Silva would like to implement strategies to address challenging behavior in the classroom.
In Mrs. Silva’s classroom, the children are working on project about community helpers in the neighborhood surrounding their school, which is in the downtown area of their community. Their project’s guiding question is, “Who are the community helpers in our neighborhood?” So far, the children have walked through the neighborhood and discovered a post office, a fire station, and a small public library. To prepare for the project, Mrs. Silva has gathered the materials needed to turn the dramatic play area into a post office, a fire station, and library. She plans to convert the dramatic play area into each of these places as the project evolves and children focus more intently on specific community helpers.
Mr. Chung has visited the school library and the local public library and gathered a variety of books about community helpers; these will be placed in the classroom’s book center. Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung have also set aside planning time each week to brainstorm ways that project work can be incorporated into other classroom centers (e.g., to represent the post office, they will add packages to the math and science center to be measured and weighed; to represent the library, they will add library “check out” cards and a date stamp to the writing center).
Mrs. Silva’s district uses a state-approved developmentally appropriate curriculum. Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung perform universal screenings three times per year (fall, winter, spring) for preschool children.
This lesson addresses a primary benchmark. A secondary benchmark is included to offer ideas for addressing an additional benchmark within one lesson. Teachers are encouraged to be creative in thinking of ways to address multiple benchmarks within one lesson.
Using artifacts that children gathered on their field trip to the library, Mrs. Silva will guide children in organizing, representing, and analyzing information using pictures (artifacts from the trip) and a graph (a large bar graph on chart paper).
- Artifacts from field trip to the library (one photograph and accompanying dictation for each child)
- Chart paper (for creating a graph)
- Marker (to write on the chart paper)
- Post-it notes in various colors (to create the graph)
Mrs. Silva gathers the children together for a large group time on the carpet. She passes out the artifacts so that each child is holding his or her picture and dictation from the library visit.
Mrs. Silva leads a discussion to help the children organize their artifacts into categories. Here is an example of what she might say:
Mrs. Silva: Reggie, tell us about your picture.
Reggie: This is a picture of the librarian. She can help you find books.
Mrs. Silva: Thanks, Reggie. Does anyone else have an artifact that tells us about the librarian?
Kate raises her hand.
Mrs. Silva: OK, Kate. Tell us about your artifact.
Kate: This is a picture of the librarian. She reads stories at story hour.
Mrs. Silva: Great! It looks like we have two artifacts that are about librarians. Let’s put them in a row on the carpet.
Mrs. Silva creates a row with these two artifacts, placing them end-to-end. She continues to ask for volunteers and/or prompts specific children to share their artifacts until she has collected all artifacts about librarians and placed them in one row on the carpet. Next, Mrs. Silva helps children to identify a new category of artifacts.
Mrs. Silva: Who else wants to share an artifact?
Noah: I do. Mine is about computers. You can play PBS Kids on the computer at the library.
Mrs. Silva: Thanks, Noah! Let’s start a new row for artifacts about computers.
Mrs. Silva asks for volunteers and invites individual children to share their artifacts until she has formed a row for all artifacts about computers.
Mrs. Silva repeats this process until each child has identified the main idea from his or her artifact (e.g., librarian, computer, books) and the children have helped organize all the artifacts in rows on the carpet.
This lesson targets the secondary benchmark because as children share information about their artifacts, they are describing information from observations and investigations.
Mrs. Silva helps the children count the artifacts in each category.
Depending on the amount of time it takes for children to describe and categorize their artifacts, Mrs. Silva may complete steps 2–4 during a follow-up large group meeting—later that same day or on another day—so children are not sitting on the carpet for extended periods of time.
In this step, Mrs. Silva helps children compare information. Here are some examples of questions and comments that facilitate comparison:
- Which category has the most artifacts?
- Which category has the fewest artifacts?
- “I think these categories have the same number of artifacts, because the rows are the same length.”
After children have identified categories and counted the number of artifacts in each category, Mrs. Silva helps the children transfer their information onto a graph. She writes the name of each category along the bottom of a piece of chart paper. She also draws a small icon next to the name of each category to help children recognize the word. For example, she draws a simple line drawing of a computer next to the word “computer.”
Mrs. Silva invites the children to the paper, one at a time, to assist them in creating the graph. She asks each child to place a Post-it note on the graph, forming in a column above the name of the corresponding category. Depending on the category, the teacher hands the child a certain color Post-it note (e.g., purple for computer, blue for books). Here is what she might say:
Mrs. Silva: Noah, come on up here. Tell me the name of the category for your artifact.
Noah: Mine was about computers.
Mrs. Silva: Great! You can have a purple Post-it note. Stick it in this column, for computers.
Noah puts his square on the paper.
Mrs. Silva repeats this process for each child. As children add squares to each category, they build a bar graph. When all children have placed their Post-it note on the paper, the teacher helps them count the totals for each category. She writes the numbers along the top of the paper to complete the graph.
Mrs. Silva helps the children analyze the information on the bar graph by asking some basic comprehension questions about graphs.
Mrs. Silva: What does this graph tell us about our visit to the library?
Tim: That we learned about computers, librarians, books, and the play area.
Mrs. Silva: What topic did we learn a lot about?
Kate: Librarians! There are lots of squares in that line.
Mrs. Silva: Is there anything we learned about that is not on our graph?
Reggie: Yes. We learned about videos, but we don’t have an artifact for that.
In this step, Mrs. Silva helps the children compare information from different categories on the graph. Here are some questions she might ask:
- Which bar on the graph is the tallest?
- Which bar on the graph is the shortest?
- Which category has the most squares?
- Which category has the fewest squares?
Mrs. Silva asks Mr. Chung to take anecdotal notes during the large group discussion. He records information about whether children are able to describe their photo and identify the category for their artifact. He also records dictations as children participate in discussion about the graph.
Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung review these notes at their next planning meeting. They identify the children who could benefit from additional activities related to categorizing and graphing.
Ideas to Extend Children's Learning
Mrs. Silva continues to address this benchmark by helping children organize, represent, and analyze information using concrete objects, pictures, and graphs throughout the school year. Here are a few examples of how she might address this benchmark:
- Children organize their books about community helpers by sorting them into piles on the carpet (e.g., piles for books about libraries, fire stations and, post offices).
- Children choose a new topic of investigation by taking a vote between two topics and representing the outcome of the vote using a bar graph.
Individual Adaptations for Children in Your Classroom
This lesson was written in the context of Mrs. Silva’s preschool classroom. We now offer some general suggestions of adaptations you may want to use in your own classroom.
Individual adaptations for a child with developmental delays
Child is able to use simple vocabulary and short phrases to describe his artifact (e.g. “Books. Take books home”). He has difficulty identifying the category that best matches his artifact.
Child is able to successfully count objects and pictures up to 10 but has difficulty answering comprehension questions about the graph (e.g., “Which category has more artifacts?”).
When children are describing their artifacts, the teacher expands upon the child’s language to help him identify the correct category. Here is a potential exchange between teacher and child:
Teacher: Tell us about your picture.
Child: Books. Take books home.
Teacher: That’s right! You can take books home from the library. Your artifact is about books!
When children are analyzing the graph, the teacher draws upon the child’s counting ability to include him in the lesson.
Teacher: Help me count the squares in the “books” column.
Child (and peers): One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Teacher: Help me count the squares in the “computer” column.
Child (and peers): One, two, three, four.
Teacher: Eight is more than four, so our “books” column has more artifacts than our “computer” column.
Individual adaptations for an English-language learner
Child has receptive understanding of directions (e.g., describes his artifact to the class when prompted) but uses a combination of English and his home language to express his answer. He uses his home language most often for specialized vocabulary related to libraries (e.g., card catalog, librarian).
The teacher and her assistant learn to pronounce and put into print some key vocabulary words in the child’s home language. The teacher validates and encourages the child’s use of home language (e.g., “Thanks for telling us about your picture!”). She models key vocabulary to the child in his home language and in English (e.g., “This is a picture of a librarian. She is using the card catalog.”).
Individual adaptations for a child with autism
Child has advanced verbal skills but has trouble staying on task. During the activity, this child interrupts other children as they are describing their artifacts and tries to be the first person to identify the correct category for each artifact.
Teacher talks with child before the large group lesson, reminding him to talk during his turn and to wait quietly while other children are having a turn.
At the start of the large group lesson, the teacher gives this direction: “Each of you will get a turn to tell us about your artifact. We are all excited to hear what you have to say when it is your turn. Be sure to listen to all of your friends when it is their turn.
Teacher gives this child his turn near the beginning of the lesson so he does not have to wait too long to share his information.
Teacher also provides the child with a visual support by letting him hold a “quiet waiting” card while he waits for a turn to speak.
She also gives him a “My turn to talk” card when it is his turn to share. It may be ideal to have a teaching assistant sit by the child to hand him the cards during the lesson.
Individual adaptations for a child with a hearing impairment
Child wears two hearing aids and is receiving speech-only instruction. The child reads lips as a receptive language skill.
Teacher faces the child whenever she gives instructions to the group or to this child. She encourages peers to do the same. The teacher also has the child sit close to her (proximal seating) during group activities.
Individual adaptations for a child exhibiting challenging behavior
Throughout the activity, child has trouble handling materials. She tears at the edges of her artifact and tries to take artifacts from the children next to her. When the teacher starts to arrange the artifacts into rows on the carpet, this child moves to the center of the circle and rearranges the papers.
Teacher uses preventative strategies with the child, preparing her for the activity by explaining what is expected during the activity (e.g., “During this activity, you will each have a turn to share your artifact. You can hold your artifact in your lap, but be careful not to tear the paper.”
Teacher may provide the child with strategies for channeling her physical energy during large group activities (e.g., offering her a stress ball or other fidget toy).
Teacher may also invite children to sit on carpet squares around the edge of the circle, providing more a more concrete seating arrangement.
Teacher may also use the strategy of proximity. The teacher or teaching assistant sits near this child and provides verbal redirection for the child to manage materials appropriately and stay seated during the large group activity (e.g., “Hold your fidget toy. Your paper will be right here in front of you.”).
This lesson plan was supported, in part, by a leadership grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (Project BLEND, H325D110037) and a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education for the Illinois Early Learning Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (D6548). Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.