Learning Leader

Enhancing Early Childhood Opportunities Through Curriculum

February 2021

Relevant Research

The 2020-2021 school year is like no other with its unprecedented challenges. You have probably read plenty of quotes, famous and otherwise, that connect challenge with opportunity–because it is true! Think of the professional challenges you have experienced just this year: global pandemic, virtual learning, remote assessment, work-from-home parental involvement, and a historic winter storm. Each challenge has brought forth new opportunities to adapt practices and try different approaches to achieve tasks. As the world awaits the end of COVID-19 and families look forward to the return to in-person schooling, even more opportunities are on the horizon.

Though we do not know what the future will bring, we do know that children are the future. They deserve the best possible start as they enter school and begin their journey of lifelong learning. Teachers have a tremendous impact on even the youngest students as they start down the academic path toward gaining knowledge, building skills, and practicing what they have learned.

Strong foundational skills prepare prekindergarten students for school readiness and contribute to success throughout their school years and beyond. Lessons taught in the early years create a base that teachers build upon with subsequent instruction. What is taught and how it is taught impacts teacher effectiveness. For this reason, ongoing teacher professional development and use of a high-quality curriculum is essential to produce the best possible outcomes for students.

Driven by a goal to advance learning outcomes for all children, the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) focused the past year on development of a research-based prekindergarten curriculum to be available to teachers throughout Texas. A team of CLI experts conducted a thorough review of findings from early childhood education research with the goal of incorporating proven practices into the curriculum. By employing this insight in combination with established research principles and high-quality classroom lessons, the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum was created.

The new curriculum in English and Spanish is now available in a free digital version that can be accessed online directly from the CLI Engage dashboard. It is also available in a purchasable print version along with an optional Theme Library of children’s picture books, and supplemental materials that support a structured classroom learning environment.

Curriculum materials in a classroom

Several CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum components work together to provide a complete system of classroom instructional materials that are easy to implement, aligned to state guidelines, and comprehensive in covering pre-K learning domains. Implementation can be accomplished using only online components, bound print versions, or a combination of both for added convenience and robust instruction.  The CIRCLE Curriculum components include:

  • Start-up Guide
  • Teacher’s Manual
  • Scope and Sequences
  • Theme Guides
  • Theme Library (print only)
  • Supplemental Materials (print only)

Thoughtfully designed, the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum provides all the resources needed to support weekly planning and delivery of prekindergarten instruction. At the core of the program, Scope and Sequences ensure carefully sequenced skill progression over the course of 35 weeks. Usable throughout the year, 10 Theme Guides offer flexibility in providing meaningful and relevant experiences for students that build background knowledge and language. Beginning this summer, the curriculum website will provide sample weekly lesson plans with a day-by-day presentation of lessons and activities. These lesson plans will include suggestions for: instruction across content areas, weekly theme topics, and whole groups, small groups, centers, and transitions. Whether using the online or print version, the curriculum includes many features.

  • Comprehensive coverage of skill domains supporting cognitive, social, and emotional development
  • Balance of teacher-directed lessons and child-initiated activities
  • Daily playful and purposeful experiences across whole group, small group, and center time
  • Lesson scripting that follows a teaching and learning cycle
  • Scaffolds and teacher tips for differentiation
  • Authentic videos of lessons in action (digital only)
  • Sample, complete and customizable lessons plans for all weeks of the school year (coming soon)

Hosted on CLI Engage, the curriculum is integrated with other resources on the platform. Full integration with the widely used CIRCLE assessments establishes a uniquely strong connection between prekindergarten assessment and instruction, aiding both teachers and students. Weekly selections of family activities are aligned with skills taught in the classroom to engage families in supportive learning at home. The CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum is enhanced by incorporating direct links to time-tested and popular lessons in the CIRCLE Activity Collection.

Every week of the school year is detailed with instruction comprehensively planned across pre-K learning domains. Weekly lessons are sequenced and presented in a well-organized and clear color-coded system with easily identifiable icons for notations. Soft scripting of individual lessons makes them easy to implement, while the research-based cycle of teacher modeling followed by guided practice ensures instruction is explicit and effective. Daily opportunities are built-in to differentiate learning by scaffolding support or spiraling back to review past skills. This flexible lesson structure allows teachers to meet the unique needs of each student for added support or increased challenge. Incorporating the Theme Guides provides rich opportunities for children to make lasting learning connections through engaging experiences. Weekly lessons are provided for each of the following categories:

  • Target Lessons: use with all children to ensure skill coverage and progression
  • Step It Up!: use as optional lessons for children who may benefit from more challenging tasks
  • Additional Lessons: use previously taught lessons for ongoing practice, review, and re-teaching, or to address a greater range of skills
  • Theme Lessons: use in partnership with Scope and Sequence to organize hands-on experiences around a theme

You are invited to explore and use the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum and Currículo CIRCLE de prekínder to support your students’ skill development and enhance learning opportunities. Learn more by visiting the curriculum webpage. Contact us with questions or inquiries at circleprekcurriculum@uth.tmc.edu.

Curriculum activity with pre-K children

Teaching Tips

How to Access
The digital version of the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum is available to anyone with a CLI Engage account. New users can quickly gain access to the CLI Engage platform from their school’s representative or by using the sign up option. Active users can follow these simple steps to access the curriculum online at any time.

  • Login to CLI Engage using your Google ID (or Clever)
  • Scroll down the dashboard until you see the blue “Activities and Materials” bar
  • Click the box labeled “CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum”

How to Navigate
Watch the video on navigating the curriculum to learn how to easily find teacher resources in English and Spanish. This 13-minute introduction provides a walkthrough of the digital curriculum components and numerous helpful tips.

Video opening screen and play button

How to Use
A variety of professional development resources provide prekindergarten teachers with the tools needed to implement the curriculum and take full advantage of the resources that it offers.

  • Start-up Guide: a concise curriculum overview and support for lesson planning
  • Teacher’s Manual: expanded descriptions of each learning domain and explanations of specific skill sequences and instructional approaches
  • Lesson Planning: downloadable tools that include a 6-step planning process, reusable template, and completed sample lesson plan
  • Training: a series of three modules that begin with an introduction, progress through lesson planning, and conclude with facilitated professional learning communities (PLCs) coaching teachers through application and integration

How to Order
While the digital version is freely available online, some teachers appreciate having hard copies when implementing lessons. Should you be interested, convenient print version curriculum materials can be purchased separately and are available in English and Spanish.

Recommended Resources



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