TSR Connect

October 2019

relevant research

Starting the Year Right with Just Right Activities

To begin the school year with intentional instruction helps set the foundation for purposeful learning. “Intentional teaching is the opposite of teaching by rote, or continuing with traditions simply because things have always been done this way” (Early Years Learning Framework, 2009).

Prioritizing intentional teaching to best target a child’s skill development is crucial. As we plan accordingly to best meet the needs of individual students, we have the ability to change child skill outcomes!

Intentional Planning + Intentional Teaching = Targeted Outcomes!

Although the internet has lots of sites to look for creative ideas (Pinterest, Instagram, various blogs, etc.), one needs to identify specific activities that are “just right” for the student’s skill development. Using formative assessments such as the CIRCLE Progress Monitoring System or the Texas Kindergarten Entry Assessment, which both include immediate results with recommended intervention activities, allows you to plan for intentional teaching.

The Children’s Learning Institute has a multitude of online tools that support teachers in being intentional with their instruction. One of the main tools that can be utilized to support “just right” skill development is the CIRCLE Activity Collection on the CLI Engage platform. These collections allow teachers to translate research into practice in a fun, playful and yet planned and purposeful way.

With these collections, you can plan accordingly by choosing the targeted domain and the teaching setting – this allows the option to use the activities with children during whole group, small group, and one-on-one instruction.

Activities include a full lesson plan that is scripted for gradual release with a child friendly introduction, modeling, guided practice, and a summary. Teaching tips for upper and downward scaffolds are also included. 

Once directed to a selected activity, you have the option to switch from English to Spanish. Culturally and linguistically appropriate activities are provided in Spanish for all of the domains.

Activities can be saved to make your own personal collection! For example, if you have a child that needs more targeted focus on letter knowledge, you have the choice to select from a variety of activities that are specific to that domain and add favorites to your personal My Activities collection.

One of the most convenient features about the CIRCLE Activity Collection is that you also have the option of sending home activity links directly to families from the assessment tool. This helps with enhancing and extending learning outside the classroom to reinforce learning in the classroom in a fun way.

By utilizing the CIRCLE activities to their full extent, teachers have the ability to build a stronger foundation for school readiness.

But how do you know what to teach if you don’t know what the children know?In order to understand where to begin with a child, let’s take a look at the Assessment & Teaching Cycle.

First, we need to assess the children and collect the necessary data about the children’s knowledge to determine what areas need more support.

The data from the assessment should be analyzed by reviewing results and available reports. Take time to evaluate and reflect on what is needed to help you determine next steps.

After the assessment portion is completed and the data has been evaluated, it is time to plan for instruction. By determining the learning objective, you can then choose the supporting activity, gather the appropriate materials, and determine the instructional approach.

This cycle allows you to make adjustments in teaching and learning for individual students.

In addition, progress monitoring is a great way to respond to the children’s changing needs throughout the entire course of the school year. The teacher is able to monitor the child’s progress, document changes over time, and most importantly, make informed and intentional instructional decisions.

As teachers, you unconsciously instill in children different ideas about concepts and appropriate behavior through everyday normal routines. Since these routines are blended into classroom and instructional time, we don’t think about it much. However, when teaching becomes intentional, notes can be taken on the child’s development in order to plan for activities that enable them to move onto the next stage. By scaffolding up (or down), teachers can successfully provide children with a deeper understanding by meeting them where they are and building on the information that they already know. This is important because it allows the teacher to gauge where the child needs more help to learn a skill.

As the school year begins, utilizing these concepts will create an environment that establishes and reinforces both child and educator-guided learning experiences.


(2009) Belonging, Being and Becoming. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/documents/belonging-being-becoming-early-years-learning-framework-australia

teaching tips

  • Activities provide a fun and engaging opportunity to reinforce children’s learning. Teachers or coaches should think through where students need extra support and then seek developmental activities that support those key areas. An easy way to identify areas of need is through the small grouping tool provided in the CIRCLE Progress Monitoring System.
  • Implementing activities into your lesson plans does not require exhaustive research or extensive planning. The CIRCLE Activities Collection offers filters for fast searches and allows you to save your favorite finds in your personal My Activities collection. CIRCLE activities also provide scripted suggestions on how to lessen or increase difficulty to meet your students where they are now.
  • The CIRCLE Family Collection on CLI Engage provides lots of options using items found in most households. Employing an array of activities need not be expensive. Many readily available materials can be deployed in different ways than their intended use to support instruction.
  • Share suggested activities with your students’ families to further support the skills taught in the classroom. This is now easier than ever due to the recent relocation of the CIRCLE Family Activity Collection to our public web pages. Now family members can access a specific link or search for skill-based options themselves by going to https://cliengagefamily.org without having to create an account nor login.
  • Assessment is instrumental in pinpointing where children are striving and where they are thriving. Before testing it is utterly important that you familiarize yourself with the operation of your assessment tool and the best practices related to its use. Those using the CIRCLE assessments should review the user guide and consider taking advantage of the practice area—a replicated environment where teachers can practice administering the measures before conducting assessments with children.  
  • Learning how to get the most out of your collected assessment results is the key to improving your planning and providing more impactful instruction. To gain insights on how to best decipher CIRCLE data, watch our webinar recording that takes a closer look at understanding and using this important information.

notable news

  • In an effort to provide resources for educators to use with children in the aftermath of natural disasters, a collection of lesson plans was developed by instructional experts and child psychologists at the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) at the McGovern Medical School, a part of UTHealth. These lessons are designed for use by classroom teachers, education specialists, social workers, administrators, and other trusted adults who work with children. Teachers and other trusted adults are paramount in creating a safe and welcoming space for students at the beginning of any school year, but are particularly important after experiencing the dangers of flooding. To help children after nature disasters, please access our featured activities for things you can do to help your impacted students recover.
  • To further improve the integration between CLI supported early childhood resources, a new section was added to the CLI Engage dashboard that provides direct access to the Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS). The new banner and buttons on the dashboard will only be visible to CLI Engage users who opted in to receive a free Texas Workforce Registry (TWR) account on the TECPDS platform. Teachers and directors who did not opt in originally can still get a free account and take advantage of the direct link between platforms simply by following these instructions
  • A family engagement tool kit was recently released that helps families better understand their child's development while engaging in fun, developmentally appropriate activities that build skills and strengthen family bonds. Included is an administrator’s guide that provides support on planning how to fold CLI resources into district-level family engagement plans. Teachers can use the new checklist to set goals for practicing family engagement strategies.

recommended resources

CLI Engage Website

Texas School Ready Website

Children's Learning Institute Website

Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines

Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines

Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS)


connect with us at:




for more information, visit us at texasschoolready.org

Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth
7000 Fannin, Suite 2300, Houston, TX 77030

© 2017-present The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
All rights reserved.