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Language Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 1.C.ECa

Since the beginning of the school year, Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández made an effort to engage children in meaningful conversations throughout the day. Children have had multiple experiences talking to the teachers and to each other during large and small group activities, at snack time, and during project work. Ms. Jones knows children are excited to answer questions about themselves, their belongings, and their experiences.

Ms. Jones has also made an effort to teach children to use the classroom independently. At the art center, children have become competent choosing art supplies, doing an art activity, and cleaning up.

About the Classroom

Ms. Jones and her teaching assistant (TA), Ms. Hernández, are responsible for developing learning activities that meet the needs of diverse learners and address the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS). Ms. Jones knows most 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.

Ms. Jones is the state-licensed head teacher in a monolingual classroom of 15 children with diverse ages (3–5 years old) and learning needs. There are 10 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. Three children, Raúl, Luis, and Esther, are dual language learners whose home language is Spanish. They started school with little understanding of English. Ms. Jones’ TA, Ms. Hernández, is bilingual and uses both Spanish and English in the classroom. Two children, Joey and Hailey, have special needs requiring an individual education program (IEP). Joey has significant speech delays and is learning to use an adaptive and augmentative communication (AAC) device. Hailey has cerebral palsy (CP) resulting in significant motor delays, especially on the left side of her body. She uses a wheelchair for mobility. On occasion, some children exhibit challenging behavior during small group lessons. Ms. Jones would like to implement strategies to address challenging behavior in the classroom.

In Ms. Jones’ classroom, the children are working on an ongoing project about shoe stores. They have the dramatic play areas of the classroom set up as the Shoe Store, with a cash register, money, bench, shoes, shoe boxes, and shopping bags. Children often use pennies in the Shoe Store to “buy” shoes, which have been labeled with prices such as “2.”

Ms. Jones’ district uses a state-approved developmentally appropriate curriculum. Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández perform universal screenings three times per school year (fall, winter, spring) for preschool children.

Lesson Activity

Facilitating discussion and artistic representation during a small group art activity. Ms. Jones does this by leading a conversation about the children’s shoes, their homes, and who helps children with their shoes—all while children create paintings of their shoes.

This is a 10- to 12-minute activity without cleanup procedures.


  • Child’s own shoe
  • Paper
  • Easel
  • Paint (variety of colors) in containers
  • Paintbrushes (variety of sizes and textures)

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.

Step 1

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
1.C.ECa: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail.

To introduce the shoe art activity, Ms. Jones models the activity during large group time. Ms. Jones removes one shoe and talks about it. She describes her shoe, saying, “I get my shoes from my closet each morning. My shoe is black and has laces. I have to tie my shoe to put it on. I put my shoes on all by myself in the morning.”

As she introduces the painting, she says “I’m going to choose the black, brown, and red paints to create my shoe.” She paints a picture of her shoe on the easel. She shows it to the children, describing her work: “This is my shoe. It is black. Look, I painted the sole of my shoe here; it is brown. Here are the laces. They are red. You will have a chance to paint pictures of your shoes at small group time this week.”

Secondary Benchmark

The Arts
25.A.ECd: Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.

Children will have the opportunity to explore various ways to use visual arts, such as using painting materials.

Step 2

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
1.C.ECa: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail.

Ms. Jones dismisses children to centers.

Step 3

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
1.C.ECa: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail.

Art shelf with supplies

Ms. Jones facilitates the small group painting activity for four children. Each child has an easel and gets a piece of easel paper from the shelf. The child clips the paper to the easel. Each child also chooses four prefilled containers of paint (whatever four colors he or she would like) and puts them in the tray at the easel. Each child takes four paintbrushes from the art shelf, one for each paint container.

Secondary Benchmark

The Arts
25.A.ECd: Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.

Children will have the opportunity to use a variety of visual arts materials independently (e.g., get out paper, paint, and paintbrushes to create a painting).

Step 4

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
1.C.ECa: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail.

Each child removes one shoe and places it near the easel where he or she can see it. Children use their shoes as models and begin painting pictures of their shoes. Ms. Jones encourages the children to discuss their paintings as they create them and asks children followup questions to facilitate further descriptions and additional details.Here are some examples of questions Ms. Jones asks:

  • What color are your shoes?
  • Where do you keep your shoes at your house?
  • Did someone help you put on your shoes this morning? Who helped?
  • Where did you get those shoes? At the store, or maybe from a friend or family member?

Secondary Benchmark

The Arts
25.A.ECd: Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.

Children have the opportunity to use the visual arts to represent a person, place, thing, or event (e.g., their shoe). Children also have the opportunity to use details to accurately represent some details of objects, people, places, or things (e.g., their paintings of shoes include soles and laces).

Step 5

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
1.C.ECa: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with teacher assistance, provide additional detail.

As each child finishes a painting, he or she brings the dirty paintbrushes to the sink and washes them. The child brings the clean paintbrushes and the paint containers back to the art shelf. The child then brings the completed painting to the drying rack.

Monitoring Progress

Ms. Jones uses anecdotal records to jot down vocabulary words and descriptions of events and people as children express them. Ms. Jones uses photographs in conjunction with the anecdotal records to document children working on and discussing their paintings.

Anecdotal record of a child’s work

Ideas to Extend Children’s Learning

Ms. Jones provides children with more opportunities to describe places, persons, and events during other large- and small-group activities. Throughout the day, she asks questions and provides conversation prompts (e.g., “What happened over the weekend?” “Tell me something about your sister,” or “What did you like about our field trip yesterday?”).

Individual Adaptations for Children in Your Classroom

This lesson was written in the context of Ms. Jones’ preschool classroom. We now offer some general suggestions for adaptations that you can use in your own classroom.

Individual adaptations for a young 3-year-old

Photos of setup and cleanup directions

Child characteristics

Child can do tasks independently but has difficulty following multistep directions.

Teacher action

The teacher places a visual direction card at the top of the child’s easel. The card has photo icons with individual steps for setting up the activity (e.g., get paper for easel, get four paint containers from art shelf, get four paint brushes from art shelf). A similar card for cleanup is presented at the end of the art activity. This card has photo icons of individual steps for cleaning up the activity (e.g., wash paint brushes, return paint brushes to shelf, return paint to shelf, put painting on drying rack).

Individual adaptations for an English-language learner

Child characteristics

Child speaks Spanish at home and can describe his shoe in Spanish. He has limited English vocabulary. He can follow one- or two-step directions in English when the procedure is modeled for him.

Teacher action

See adaptation for a young 3-year-old to provide visual supports for this child during setup and cleanup of the activity.

Teacher continues to model basic English vocabulary needed for the activity (similar to modeling done at large group) and uses some Spanish words (e.g., “zapato negro—black shoe”). As the child creates the painting, the teacher uses the painting process to provide appropriate vocabulary (e.g., as the child uses black paint to create his shoe, the teacher says, “black shoe”).

Individual adaptations for a child requiring mobility supports

Child characteristics

Child uses a wheelchair and has no use of her left hand but some use of her right hand.

Wheelchair tray for materials

Teacher action

Teacher encourages child to use the tray on her wheelchair as a place to gather materials (e.g., paint, paint brushes, paper). Teacher places child’s easel in an accessible location (e.g., there is room for the wheelchair to get by and there is room for the child to use her right hand for setting up materials and painting).

  • Teacher provides child with a few choices for attaching paper to the easel:Ask a friend for help (the friend provides as little assistance as possible so that child can have maximum ownership of the task).
  • Teacher provides Post-it note easel paper with sticky backing so clips are not necessary to attach paper to the easel.

Individual adaptations for a child requiring communication supports

AAC device with icons

Child characteristics

Child has significant language delays and uses an AAC device to communicate. This can be programmed with up to four words and images at a time.

Teacher action

AAC device option: Teacher programs the AAC device with vocabulary about shoes. This way the child can successfully respond to questions about the painting and shoes using the AAC device. (e.g., teacher asks, “What part of your shoes did you paint?” and the child responds with “laces” by pressing the icon for laces on the AAC device.)

Low-tech option: Teacher provides a laminated card with 10 pictures of words related to the lesson (e.g., shoe, laces, sole, toe, heel, black, brown, blue, red, home). The child can point to the icons on the card to participate in the conversation. Other children in the group can use the card as a visual prompt to include more detailed information in their responses.

Icons with words and pictures

Individual adaptations for a child exhibiting challenging behavior

Child characteristics

Although the child willingly paints his shoe, he shows resistance to participating in the language activity by responding to most teacher questions with answers such as “No” or “I don’t want to tell you.”

Teacher action

Teacher ignores behavior and focuses on positive verbal responses from other children in the small group. Teacher also models appropriate responses to questions about shoes and home (e.g., “At my house, I keep my shoes in the closet. Where do you keep your shoes?”). When the child with challenging behavior responds appropriately, even in a small way, teacher acknowledges the child enthusiastically (e.g., “Thank you for answering! It’s great to know more about who helps you with your shoes in the morning!”).


This lesson plan was supported, in part, by a leadership grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (Project BLEND, h225D110037) 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.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2013