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Language Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 4.D.ECa

A couple of weeks into the school year, Ms. Jones adds several signs and labels throughout the classroom to address this benchmark. This affords the children the opportunity to practice these skills during the entire school year. Here are some examples:

  • Labelling the centers using words and photographs: “Shoe Store,” “Blocks,” “Art,” etc.
  • Implementing a sign-in procedure for centers using the children’s names on Velcro-backed cards. (We will show how Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández walk through the process of designing the sign-in to centers activity while integrating the targeted benchmark.)
  • Providing an area for children to sign in as they enter the classroom.
“Blocks” center label
Classroom sign-in

Ms. Jones has been introducing letter sounds and letter names in a variety of ways, such as pointing out letters during big book read alouds, pointing out letters to children as they dictate sentences about their project work, and referring to an alphabet poster on the wall when children name new vocabulary words related to their shoe store investigation.  Ms. Jones has also introduced the concept of uppercase and lowercase letters, and children are familiar with looking for uppercase letters at the beginning of names and titles.

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.

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.

Lesson Activity

Sign in to centers. Children take a card with their name on it at the beginning of center time. Each center has a sign-in poster with three Velcro spaces for name cards (indicating that three children can be at the center). Children place their name card at their chosen center while they are working there.


  • Sturdy or laminated cards with children’s names and children’s photos (optional) printed on them with Velcro on the back.
  • Small poster boards for each center (art, shoe store, blocks, etc.) with name and photograph of center and three Velcro spaces
  • Easel to display all the name cards
“Blocks” center sign-in

Step 1

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.D.ECa: Recognize own name and common signs and labels in the environment.

To introduce the new sign in system, Ms. Jones models the procedure during large group time. She finds her name card “Ms. Jones” from all the name cards on the easel.

Secondary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.B.ECb: Recognize and name some upper/lowercase letters of the alphabet, especially those in own name.

Ms. Jones describes the strategies she uses to find her name card. “I know that Ms. starts with an ‘M’ and Jones starts with a ‘J’ so I’ll look for an uppercase ‘M’ and an uppercase ‘J.’

Step 2

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.D.ECa: Recognize own name and common signs and labels in the environment.

Ms. Jones chooses a center. She brings her card to the chosen center and places it on the poster board for that center.

Secondary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.B.ECb: Recognize and name some upper/lowercase letters of the alphabet, especially those in own name.

Ms. Jones models her choice and strategy: “I feel like playing in the block area today. I know blocks starts with ‘B’ and has a ‘k’ near the end. So I’ll look for those letters in the poster. Yes, here it is.

Step 3

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.D.ECa: Recognize own name and common signs and labels in the environment.

While still at large group, Ms. Jones chooses three children to demonstrate finding their name cards and choosing centers.

Secondary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.B.ECb: Recognize and name some upper/lowercase letters of the alphabet, especially those in own name.

Ms. Jones chooses Sammy to get his name card. She asks the group, “What letter should Sammy be looking for?” Ms. Jones chooses Jacob to get his name card. After he chooses the right card, she asks him, “How did you know that was your name?” Jacob replies, “I saw the uppercase letter ‘J.’

Step 4

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
4.D.ECa: Recognize own name and common signs and labels in the environment.

Ms. Jones dismisses children one at a time to find their name cards and choose centers. (In later weeks, as children gain experience with this procedure, Ms. Jones will dismiss them 2-3 at a time.

Monitoring Progress

During dismissal to center time and when children switch centers, Ms. Jones uses a checklist to assess whether children can find their name card independently. If children need help during this process, type of assistance is noted (e.g., first letter pointed out, child offered a choice of two name cards).

Ideas to Extend Children’s Learning

Ms. Jones implements the name recognition activities in her classroom by providing each child with multiple turns to identify his or her name and peers’ names (e.g., Ms. Jones offers a child the chance to put a newsletter in his own cubby and a classmate’s letter in her cubby).

During other parts of the day, Ms. Jones creates additional opportunities for children to practice reading signs and labels. (e.g., creating a menu to follow for snack center, “1 banana and 2 crackers,” with pictures).

Snack menu

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

Child characteristics

Child can respond successfully to, “What is your name?”, but has trouble finding his name card from among 14 other name cards.

Teacher action

Teacher isolates a small set (2 or 3) name cards on the side of the easel, including this child’s name card. She then asks the child to find his name card from the subset.

Subset of name cards

Individual adaptations for an English-language learner

Child characteristics

Child speaks Spanish at home and can recognize her name, but she has trouble understanding instructions in English in the large group.

Teacher action

Teacher learns several phrases in Spanish from her bilingual assistant. Teacher gives instructions, “Find your name card” in English and Spanish during dismissal of group to center time.

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.

Teacher action

Teacher ensures that the easel is at an appropriate height for the child to maneuver her wheelchair to it and reach for her name card with her right hand.

This child may need a thicker name card using cardstock or cardboard (to be easier to grasp). If this is the case, all name cards should be made out of this material.

Card stock name cards

Individual adaptations for a child requiring communication supports

Child characteristics

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

Teacher action

Teacher encourages child to participate with the entire class. Child will be able to choose his name card from the easel independently.

  • AAC device option — Teacher programs child’s AAC device with the letters in the child’s name. Using the AAC device, the child can participate in answering questions about his name (e.g., “What letter does your name start with?”).
  • Low-tech option — Teacher provides a laminated card with the first letter in the child’s name along with the first letters from other children’s names. All children can use the card to identify the first letter in their names.
Programmed AAC device
Low-tech adaptation

Individual adaptations for a child exhibiting challenging behavior

Child characteristics

When child is not able to join a preferred center because it is full, she will grab other children’s name cards and hide them

Teacher action

Teacher offers child two choices that are available at that time (e.g., “You can choose writing center or dramatic play right now”).


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.

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