The Principal's Primer
Research-Based Supports for Early Learning Classrooms
This bi-monthly newsletter is designed specifically for Principals and Assistant Principals with early learning classrooms on their campus. In an effort to strengthen your understanding of instructional strategies and developmentally appropriate perspectives, the Children’s Learning Institute is pleased to provide you with the latest research, best practices, resources for supporting early learning on your campus, and innovations in technology that support collaborative leadership. Past issues can be viewed in the archive on CLI Engage.
February 2021

In this issue:

CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum
  • Webpage
  • Videos
  • Professional Development
  • And More
Curriculum Core for Pre-K Programs

Prekindergarten curriculum has gained much needed attention within the past year. Prior to the upset of educational systems due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) was already focused on the statewide adoption of pre-K curricula for the 2021-2022 school year. Through their issuance of Proclamation 2021, publishers across the country prepared proposals highlighting their programs and resources. School districts, in turn, began to narrow their focus on the educational needs of today’s youngest students.

Early childhood educators agree that prekindergarten instruction forms the foundation upon which future learning and skill development is based. The early years in a student’s schooling should provide children, regardless of their individual circumstances, with an equitable opportunity to learn and thrive. Quality, age-appropriate instruction can firmly root children in the skills they will need and build upon for future academic success.

As pre-K programs consider numerous choices, they develop their own parameters and objectives for selecting a curriculum. The choice of a curriculum will have a long-lasting impact on daily instruction because the selection process and cost of purchasing a curriculum and supplemental materials prevents change or replacement for years to come.

The Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) is well-acquainted with the struggle many schools experience in finding the tools that best support the needs of their children. For many years, CLI has received requests from educators to produce a pre-K curriculum. Uniquely positioned as a provider of a plethora of free resources across the state, and feeling the timing was right to embark on this opportunity, the experts at CLI combined their knowledge and research findings to develop a prekindergarten classroom curriculum: the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum.

As a leader in early childhood education, CLI is well-versed in the latest research regarding teaching practices. Operating as a research-to-practice entity, keeping research at the core of the curriculum design was paramount. Research suggests that a high-quality curriculum needs to align with established early learning guidelines through its instructional framework. Individualized learning should be incorporated so that the needs of each individual student can be addressed and met. Teachers must be equipped with effective teaching strategies that promote quality interactions with children. In addition, child-initiated activities should be included to balance direct instruction and allow for meaningful learning experiences.

The quality of any curriculum is largely determined by the quality of the lessons that comprise it. For CLI, the widely utilized and time-tested CIRCLE Activity Collection was the ideal beginning point for building a comprehensive curriculum for use throughout the entire school year. Through an extensive enhancement process of reviewing and refining existing lessons, authoring more than one hundred new lessons, mapping skills to learning domains, and sequencing skill development, the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum took shape.
Characters conducting an assessment
Classroom math activity using pom poms
In November of last year, CLI was honored to have the English and Spanish curricula adopted by the State Board of Education for use in Texas. Today, the online CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum is free and available for use by prekindergarten teachers through the CLI Engage platform. Electronic versions of all components are accessible directly from the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum button located on the CLI Engage dashboard. Included are all the resources needed for 35 weeks of instruction, comprehensively covering each learning domain and in alignment with:
  • Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines
  • English Learners Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines
  • Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework

Each piece of the curriculum works together to provide a complete package of instructional materials, setting the stage for successful student learning. A weekly Scope and Sequence provides sequenced lessons planned across learning blocks for continuous meaningful instruction during whole group, small group, center time, and transitions. Daily opportunities are built-in to differentiate learning by scaffolding support or spiraling back to review past skills. Supplementing the Scope and Sequence are ten flexible Theme Guides that can be used in any order to engage students in playful, purposeful learning opportunities. Components are also available for purchase in convenient bound print editions. Optional available print components include:
  • Start-up Guide
  • Teacher’s Manual
  • Scope and Sequences
  • Theme Guides
  • Theme Library
  • Supplemental Materials

Regardless of the curriculum your program uses, it is essential to incorporate elements of family engagement. Learning does not start and stop at school. Providing family activities that support weekly classroom instruction reinforces children’s learning and honors the family-school partnership that is always important, and is especially critical now. The CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum integrates selected weekly activities for sharing with families. In addition to these suggested weekly activities, a full suite of family engagement resources is always available on CLI Engage to strengthen the essential relationships between schools and families. 
We invite you and your teachers to explore and review the new materials from CLI.
 
Should you have any questions regarding the curriculum, our staff is here to assist. Contact us: circleprekcurriculum@uth.tmc.edu
CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum components
CLI Engage is part of the Children's Learning Institute at UTHealth