Opening the World of Learning™ (OWL) ©2014 offers learning experiences and materials that develop language and early literacy skills in the context of content areas, such as math, science, and social studies. The curriculum is organized around eight thematic units that include daily lesson plans for whole group activities, small group activities, and learning centers.
Last Updated: March 25, 2019
Summary of Curriculum Review
- Promotes research-based teaching practices in all Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) domains, especially in the domains of Language and Communication, Literacy, and Mathematics
- Provides a sequence of learning experiences that progressively builds children's knowledge and skills in some of the ELOF domains, including Language and Communication, Literacy, Mathematics, and Scientific Reasoning
- Specifies developmentally appropriate learning goals throughout all curriculum activities
- Provides specific guidance for monitoring, documenting, and reflecting on children's learning
- Provides a range of strategies and resources to support family engagement
- Offers comprehensive standardized training and materials to support implementation
- Provides specific guidance on how to establish a well-organized, engaging indoor environment
- Provides specific guidance on how to individualize learning for all children, including children who are dual language learners (DLLs) and children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs
- Promotes individualization based on children's strengths and needs
- Moderately aligns with the ELOF but lacks adequate guidance in the following subdomains: Initiative and Curiosity; Relationships with Adults; Relationships with Other Children; Emotional Functioning; Sense of Identity and Belonging; Gross Motor Development; and Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Provides minimal guidance and few strategies for communicating with families
- Lacks ample opportunities for child-initiated play, activities based on children's interests, and activities that promote open-ended exploration
- Provides limited guidance on how to fully integrate children's and families' cultures and home languages into interactions, the learning environment, and learning experiences
- Lacks guidance on how to plan learning experiences that build on children's interests
Cost of Curriculum
OWL©2014 Comprehensive Kit English-Only Teacher’s Guides and Components: $3,100.00
Cost of Professional Development
Costs for on-site and online professional development are not publicly available on the publisher's website.
Contact the publisher for the most updated information on costs of the curriculum and current professional development offerings.
Availability in Other Languages
OWL 2011 Comprehensive Kit in English and Spanish: $3,300
OWL 2011 Comprehensive Kit in Spanish with manipulatives: $3,400
Center-based preschool programs for children 3–5 years old
Curriculum Materials Reviewed by Raters
All materials from the OWL©2014 Comprehensive Kit English-Only Teacher’s Guides and Components were purchased in late 2017 and reviewed in early 2018. These materials included:
- Planning and Assessment: Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook
- Eight Thematic Teaching Guides
- Literature to Read Aloud
- Teaching Cards and Posters
- CD-ROM Collection (e.g., Ollie's Resources for Teachers and Families, learning games)
- OWL online Pre-K offerings provided by the publisher
Evidence Base for Child Outcomes
Evidence from research demonstrates that the curriculum has been associated with children's positive learning outcomes. The curriculum has been implemented and directly studied in early childhood programs, and the research showed significant, positive effects on children's developmental outcomes. Evidence of effectiveness has been obtained in rigorous research studies, such as randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs. Research studies on the curriculum have optimally included multiple, diverse groups of children and teachers.
At the time of this review, several studies have evaluated OWL. The following selected studies contributed to the rating. The Enhanced Language and Literacy Success (ELLS) study investigated the impact of OWL as part of an Early Reading First Program, with additional curricular supports for emergent writing and DLLs (Wilson, Dickinson, & Rowe, 2013). The Boston Public Schools (BPS) preschool studies used OWL as the language and literacy curriculum and Building Blocks as the mathematics curriculum (Weiland, 2016; Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013). Thus, the results should be interpreted with caution because it is impossible to separate the effects of the OWL curriculum from the other curriculum materials included in the evaluations. In addition, evaluations of the Georgia Summer Transition Program investigated six-week summer transition programs for children entering pre-kindergarten that used the English or the Spanish-English version of OWL (Maxwell, Yi, Kraus, & Hume, 2013; Early, LaForett, Kraus, & Hume, 2016).
Rigorous Research Design: The ELLS and BPS studies each used a regression discontinuity design, which is a rigorous quasi-experimental design. The Georgia Summer Transition Program evaluations each used a pre-post descriptive study design without a comparison group.
Sample and Generalizability: The samples in these studies were ethnically and racially diverse and included low-income children in public preschool classrooms.
Fidelity of Implementation: Teachers in the ELLS study participated in a two-day summer workshop, cross-site professional development meetings, school-based teacher study groups, and weekly coaching focused on implementing OWL and supporting emergent writing and DLLs. The ELLS study assessed fidelity during two classroom observations per year, and fidelity ranged from 60 to 90 percent by the second year of the program. Teachers in the BPS studies were in their second year of using the curriculum. They were offered five days of training in their first year of using the curriculum, and two days of training in their second year. In addition, teachers received weekly to biweekly coaching both years. The BPS coaches were trained on a fidelity instrument, and fidelity was moderately high. Teachers of the dual language Georgia Summer Transition Program participated in a one-day workshop that included an overview of OWL and training on culturally competent approaches to supporting DLLs and their families. This study did not report any measures of fidelity of implementation. Teachers in the Georgia Summer Transition Program that used the English version of OWL received training and support on arts education and activities. Information on fidelity of teachers to the curriculum was not provided.
Child Outcomes: The ELLS study of OWL with additional curricular supports found positive effects on some language and literacy outcomes for English speakers and DLLs. In the BPS evaluation, participating in public preschool classrooms that implemented the OWL and Building Blocks curricula was associated with positive child outcomes for language and early reading skills, emotional development, executive function skills, and mathematics. Similar positive effects resulted for children with special needs in the BPS study. Children who participated in the Georgia Summer Transition Program using the English version of OWL had statistically significant higher post-test scores than pre-test scores on nine measures of language and literacy development, color identification, and number naming, but not on counting. Similarly, in the Georgia Summer Transition Program that used the Spanish-English version of OWL, children had statistically significant higher Spanish and English vocabulary skills, but not mathematics skills.
Early, D. M., LaForett, D. R., Kraus, S., & Hume, K., (2016). Evaluation findings from Georgia’s 2015 Rising Pre-Kindergarten Summer Transition Program. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute.
Maxwell, K., Yi, P., Kraus, S. and Hume, K. (2013). Evaluation Findings from Georgia’s 2012 Pre-K Summer Transition Program. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
Weiland, C. (2016). Impacts of the Boston prekindergarten program on the school readiness of young children with special needs. Developmental Psychology, 52(11), 1763–1776. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000168
Weiland, C. & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Impacts of a Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Mathematics, Language, Literacy, Executive Function, and Emotional Skills Child Development, November/December 2013, 84:6, Pages 2112–2130
Wilson, S. J., Dickinson, D.K., & Rowe, D.W. (2013). Impact of an Early Reading First program on the language and literacy achievement of children from diverse language backgrounds. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
The curriculum provides research-based content and teaching practices to support children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum is consistent with research on how children develop and learn. Specifically, it provides rich content, teaching practices, and learning experiences that research has shown to be effective in supporting children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum focuses on domain-specific, developmentally appropriate content and skills that contribute to children's long-range development in each domain.
Approaches to Learning: OWL promotes some research-based teaching practices to support the development of children's executive functioning skills and emotional and behavioral self-regulation. The curriculum provides guidance on classroom organization (e.g., predictable schedules and tips for transitions) and classroom management strategies (e.g., establishing classroom rules and using visual representation of a daily schedule). Children have daily opportunities to choose learning centers. Activities in the centers support children as they learn to regulate their behavior. However, the curriculum lacks ample opportunities for child-initiated play, activities based on children's interests, and ones that promote open-ended exploration, all of which research shows are important for supporting children's attention, persistence, curiosity, and creativity.
Social and Emotional Development: OWL promotes some research-based teaching practices in this domain. The Teacher Guides provide weekly guidance focused on promoting social and emotional development, an intentional approach to a sequence of learning experiences in this domain, and ways to support children as they learn to regulate their behavior. The Social Emotional Handbook offers 10 "Let's Talk About It" lessons that address specific social and emotional learning goals. Collectively, these structured activities support children as they learn to regulate their emotions, help teachers use language intentionally to support social and emotional development, and guide children to use social problem-solving. However, the curriculum provides limited guidance on establishing an emotionally supportive environment, building secure, trusting adult-child relationships, and using culturally and linguistically responsive practices.
Language and Communication: OWL consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's language and communication. For example, the daily routines and activities described in the Teacher Guides provide children with a variety of formal and informal opportunities to engage in rich oral language opportunities with adults and peers. "Make Every Moment Count" prompts include specific questions and prompts for teachers to facilitate conversations with children during daily routines (e.g., mealtime). The Teacher Guides and Story Time Cards describe ways to engage children in daily, interactive read-alouds that allow children to hear, use, and understand complex language. To support children's vocabulary development, each unit in the curriculum provides weekly lists of oral vocabulary words (e.g., concept words and academic vocabulary), intentional strategies, and visual supports (e.g., vocabulary cards) for teaching these words within the context of the unit.
Literacy: OWL consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's literacy development. It integrates varied, meaningful reading and writing learning experiences throughout each unit of the curriculum. The Teacher Guides and Story Time Cards offer research-based teaching practices to support literacy learning during daily read-alouds, such as asking various types of questions, connecting the story to children's lives, and retelling to aid comprehension. "Today's News" integrates additional research-based teaching practices, such as engaging in shared writing, examining concepts about print, and building alphabet knowledge.
Mathematics Development: The curriculum consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's development of mathematical concepts and skills. Intentionally planned, daily math learning activities are offered through Math Small Groups, the Math Learning Center, and other routine activities (e.g., transitions, circle time). The curriculum provides detailed guidance on how to introduce children to key mathematical concepts and offers many opportunities to practice mathematical skills and concepts. Additionally, the curriculum consistently introduces children to the language of mathematics. Concept word and academic vocabulary lists include relevant mathematical terms, and guidance is provided for teachers on modeling and facilitating math talk with children.
Scientific Reasoning: The curriculum provides some research-based teaching strategies to support children's development of scientific reasoning. OWL provides science experiences through the Science Lab Center, science circle, and demonstrations that facilitate the development of inquiry skills such as making observations, asking questions, and gathering information. Throughout these experiences, children are encouraged to document and share their findings. A limitation is that science activities, even within the science center, are only teacher-directed, leaving little room for teachers to build on children's previous experiences and interests or facilitate open-ended investigation.
Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development: OWL promotes a few research-based teaching practices to support children's Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development. The curriculum frequently engages children in a variety of movement experiences, such as "Sing and Move" activities during morning meeting. It also supports fine motor development through daily experiences in the art and writing centers. However, the curriculum lacks consistent guidance on using intentional teaching practices to support the development of physical and self-care skills and personal safety knowledge. In addition, the curriculum lacks guidance on creating a safe outdoor environment that encourages physical activity.
Scope and Sequence
The curriculum includes an organized developmental scope and sequence to support children's development and learning. A scope and sequence outlines what the curriculum focuses on and how the plans and materials support children at different levels of development. The scope refers to the areas of development addressed by the curriculum; the sequence includes plans and materials for learning experiences that progressively build from less to more complex, with the goal of supporting children as they move through the developmental progressions. A content-rich curriculum ensures that sequences of learning experiences include multiple, related opportunities for children to explore a concept or skill with increasing depth. Sequences of learning experiences should be flexible to respond to individual children's interests, strengths, and needs.
Scope: OWL clearly identifies 10 developmental domains: Social and Emotional Development, Language and Communication, Emergent Literacy: Reading, Emergent Literacy: Writing, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Technology, and Physical Development. Each Teacher Guide provides detailed guidance for daily lesson plans and learning activities to support children's development in these domains. The Social Emotional Handbook provides additional activities for social and emotional development.
Sequence: OWL provides a sequence of learning experiences that progressively builds children's knowledge and skills as they move through the developmental progressions in the domains of Language and Communication, Literacy, Mathematics, and Scientific Reasoning. In addition, the curriculum consistently provides suggestions (e.g., "Make It Easier!" and "Make It Harder!") on how to individualize the sequence of learning experiences based on children's individual strengths and needs. However, for some aspects of Approaches to Learning, Social and Emotional Development, and Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development, it is unclear how the sequences of learning experiences gradually build children's skills as they move through the developmental progressions. In these domains, the curriculum lacks a variety of experiences necessary to provide children with ample opportunities to progressively build a skill in a particular area.
Alignment with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF)
The curriculum is aligned with the ELOF. Aligning a curriculum with the ELOF identifies the extent to which ELOF domains and sub-domains are addressed in the curriculum. Curricula that are fully aligned with the ELOF are comprehensive and cover all areas of children's learning and development described in the ELOF.
Alignment with the ELOF: A thorough review of all the curriculum materials in relation to the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) domains and sub-domains indicates that OWL is mostly aligned with the ELOF. The learning experiences described in the Teacher Guides support children across the majority of ELOF sub-domains. The learning centers (e.g., Science Lab, Math Center, and Art Center) also provide opportunities for children to practice domain-specific skills. Even so, the following sub-domains are not fully covered in the curriculum: Initiative and Curiosity; Relationships with Adults; Relationships with Children; Emotional Functioning; Sense of Identity and Belonging; Gross Motor Development; and Health, Safety, and Nutrition.
Learning Goals for Children
The curriculum specifies learning goals for children. The curriculum's learning goals are objectives for children's development and learning across domains. Learning goals should be measurable and developmentally appropriate. Measurable learning goals focus on skills, behaviors, and knowledge that are observable; developmentally appropriate learning goals are consistent with well-established developmental progressions. Teachers should be able to use a curriculum's learning goals to individualize learning experiences for all children, such as children from diverse cultures, children who are dual language learners (DLLs), children who are tribal language learners, and children with disabilities or other special needs.
Learning Goals: The Planning and Assessment Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook lists measurable, developmentally appropriate learning goals organized by the domains of learning and development. Each of the learning centers and small and large group activities specifies the learning goals supported in the activities. Overall, most of the learning activities support children in making progress towards these learning goals. However, the curriculum lacks guidance on how to use the learning goals with diverse children or how to use the learning goals to individualize for all children.
Ongoing Child Assessment
The curriculum provides guidance on ongoing child assessment. Ongoing child assessment is a process of gathering information to understand and support children's development over time. Information gathered through observation and documentation helps inform curriculum planning, teaching, and individualizing for all children. Ongoing child assessment can also be used to periodically complete standardized and structured assessment instruments to evaluate children's developmental progress.
Ongoing Observation and Documentation: The curriculum provides specific guidance embedded throughout the materials for teachers to monitor, document, and reflect on children's development. The Annotated Lesson includes "Review and Check: Monitor Progress in OWL." It guides teachers to use progress-monitoring assessment tools, observation checklists, and prompts that monitor children's oral vocabulary development. For each week, the Teacher Guides provide an overview of which "success predictors for kindergarten" (e.g., letter sounds, recognize and compare lengths, vocabulary words) will be monitored. Lesson plans for small group, literacy circle, and story time have "Monitor Progress" prompts that guide teachers around what language, literacy, and math skills to assess and how. For example, after introducing a concept word (e.g., "hospital") during literacy circle, the curriculum provides questions to assess children's understanding of the word (e.g., "Why do people go to a hospital?"). In addition, the curriculum gives specific guidance on how to use assessment information for curriculum planning. While the curriculum provides structured tools and checklists for monitoring children's progress, it lacks guidance on how to observe and document children's development and learning as part of everyday interactions and routines (e.g., anecdotal records, work samples).
Standardized and Structured Assessment Instruments: OWL describes and provides a handful of structured assessment tools, such as a screening, observation checklists for each domain, progress monitoring assessment tools, and an end-of-the-year assessment. The curriculum encourages programs to use these assessment tools. However, the tools are not standardized (e.g., valid or reliable), and there is no guidance in the curriculum on how to select and use standardized and structured assessment instruments.
Parent and Family Engagement
The curriculum promotes parent and family engagement. Parent and family engagement is a collaborative and strengths-based process through which early childhood teachers, families, and children build positive and goal-oriented relationships. It is a shared responsibility of families and staff that is built on mutual respect for the roles and strengths each has to offer. The curriculum provides culturally and linguistically responsive strategies to communicate with families and to engage families in children's learning.
Communicating with Families: The Planning and Assessment Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook mentions that children learn best when home and school work together. However, the curriculum provides minimal guidance and few strategies for communicating with families. The CD-ROM, Ollie's Resources for Teachers and Families, provides letters for families about the curriculum's learning experiences. The curriculum provides little guidance on how to learn from families about children's development. While the newsletters and take-home books for families are translated into Spanish, there is no further specific guidance on how to communicate with families in culturally and linguistically responsive ways.
Engaging Families: The curriculum provides multiple resources to support parent and family engagement in their children's learning and development. For example, the "Family Time Newsletters" (available in English and Spanish) not only explain what children are learning in school, but also provide some activities to do in the home to extend children's learning. The curriculum also provides "Take-Home Books" for parents to read with their children, as well as guidance for "Family Workshops" to help parents support their children's learning at home. While the resources on parent and family engagement are plentiful, there is no guidance on how to engage parents from diverse cultures, parents who speak languages other than English or Spanish, and parents with disabilities or other special needs.
Professional Development and Materials to Support Implementation
The curriculum offers professional development and materials to support implementation and continuous improvement. Professional development includes gaining the knowledge and skills required for effective implementation of a curriculum. Standardized training procedures include initial and ongoing training to support education staff as they learn to implement a curriculum with fidelity. Standardized training procedures provide consistent content and delivery methods across training sessions. Curriculum materials to support implementation include resources that come with a curriculum to help education staff understand how to use it. The materials may also include resources to help education managers and coaches support education staff to implement the curriculum effectively.
Professional Development: OWL offers both one- and two-day in-person Product Implementation trainings at an additional cost. Ongoing professional development and trainings feature a range of courses, including half-, full-, and multiple-day courses offered in person for an additional fee. The publisher provides free online webinars on topics such as modeling positive behaviors. Coaching and Modeling, Lesson Study, and Consultative Services are also available at an additional cost.
Curriculum Materials to Support Implementation: OWL includes a comprehensive set of materials to support implementation. The Planning and Assessment Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook provides an overview of the curriculum components, such as the Teacher Guides, Units 1–8, literature to read aloud, digital resources, teaching cards and posters, and manipulatives (optional for purchase). It includes information on setting up the learning environment, schedules and routines, and designing learning centers. The Teacher Guides provide daily lesson plans for each theme that describe the content and strategies for implementation (e.g., goals for the activities, vocabulary, and scaffolding strategies).
- Fidelity Tool: OWL does not include a fidelity tool.
Learning Experiences and Interactions
The curriculum promotes rich learning experiences and interactions to support development across domains. Rich learning experiences support and extend children's knowledge, understanding of concepts, and skills across domains. As children actively explore their learning environment by manipulating objects and investigating concepts, teachers interact with them to extend their exploration, thinking, and communication. The curriculum offers children ample opportunities to engage in hands-on exploration and provides teachers with guidance on how to extend children's exploration, thinking, and communication. Rich learning experiences should be culturally and linguistically responsive and inclusive of children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.
Active Exploration: The Planning and Assessment Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook describes the importance of hands-on exploration for children's learning (e.g., children experiment, explore, and engage in purposeful and playful learning experiences, and develop academically, socially, and emotionally). A limitation of the activities described in the Teacher Guides is they do not provide children with ample opportunities to actively engage in open-ended, hands-on exploration. All activities, including learning centers, are structured and give specific directions about what children are to do in the center. Children have little opportunity to engage with materials in open-ended ways or create and experiment with materials.
Interactions that Extend Children's Learning: The curriculum's learning activities do not provide guidance on how to use interactions to extend children's learning. While the "Questions of the Week" are open-ended (e.g., "What are desert animals like?"), there is no guidance on how to extend children's thinking and communication around these topics. The learning experiences are didactic and do not include open-ended questions or prompts to help children make connections to their own experiences. For example, children are provided with concept word cards related to the desert. Pairs of children are asked to talk about which animals listed in the word cards are desert animals and if they also live in the jungle. Then, a few children share, "What was on your card? Does it live in the jungle, too?"
Individualization: The curriculum provides specific guidance on how to individualize learning experiences for all children. Many of the learning activities provide suggestions to "Make It Easier!" or "Make It Harder!" and include scaffolding strategies to support children who are DLLs. The curriculum provides "Make It Easier!" prompts as well as guidance in Adaptations for Children with Special Needs to support children with special needs in specific activities and during each part of the daily schedule (e.g., morning meeting, center time, small groups). In addition, the curriculum includes "English Language Development" lessons with supports for children who are at various levels of English language proficiency. There is no guidance on how to incorporate children's cultures throughout learning activities or learning centers.
Learning Environments and Routines
The curriculum provides guidance on how to set up rich learning environments and developmentally appropriate routines. Rich learning environments are nurturing spaces that support the development of all young children. The curriculum provides guidance on how to design developmentally appropriate schedules, routines, and indoor and outdoor opportunities for choice, play, exploration, and experimentation. Learning environments include age-appropriate equipment, materials, and supplies. They also reflect home cultures and are flexible to support the changing ages, interests, and characteristics of a group of children over time.
Environment: OWL provides guidance on how to design a well-organized, engaging indoor environment that supports all children's development in the ELOF domains. For example, the Planning and Assessment: Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook includes a sample floor plan for setting up the indoor physical space and learning centers with tips on creating a print-rich environment and center management. There is no guidance on how to set up the outdoor learning environment. Adaptations for Children with Special Needs provides some information on using visuals in the physical environment to support children with specific disabilities or special needs but lacks specific guidance on ensuring the environment is accessible. The curriculum does not provide guidance on how to include children's home languages and cultures in the physical environment.
Learning Materials: For each unit, the Teacher Guides provide lists of "materials to gather from home and classroom" and suggestions for using the provided and recommended learning materials in specific activities and learning centers. The OWL Manipulative Kit is available at an additional cost. While some of the included learning materials (e.g., Take-Home Books) are provided in Spanish, the curriculum lacks guidance on how to select learning materials that authentically represent the cultures, ethnicities, and home languages of children in the program. There is limited guidance for ensuring the learning materials meet the unique needs of children with disabilities and other special needs.
Schedule and Routines: The curriculum provides guidance on how to establish a daily schedule and developmentally appropriate routines. The Planning and Assessment: Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook provides sample daily schedules for part- and full-day programs. The resource describes the various parts of a typical day: morning meeting, literacy circle, center time, small groups, story time, science and social studies circle, math circle, and management routines (e.g., clean up, wash hands). The organization of the Teacher Guides reiterates the suggested schedule. However, the curriculum lacks discussion on how to adjust schedules and routines based on children's needs and backgrounds.
The curriculum supports cultural responsiveness. Cultural responsiveness is a strengths-based approach to teaching and caregiving rooted in respect and appreciation for the role of culture in children's learning and development. A culturally responsive curriculum prompts teachers to learn about each child's strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests as developed within the child's family and culture. The curriculum provides guidance on how to modify and enhance curriculum plans and materials to build on these strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests with the goal of incorporating each child's culture into the classroom.
Interactions: The Planning and Assessment: Teacher's Guide with Professional Development alludes to the importance of incorporating knowledge of family and home culture into the curriculum. It includes a section on "Common First Languages." For some languages, there is reference to "culture clues" that may influence communication (e.g., "Korean has a complex system of honorifics, so it is unusual for Korean students to use the pronoun ‘you’ or call their teachers by their first name."). However, the curriculum does not provide more specific guidance or strategies on how to engage in culturally responsive interactions with diverse children and families.
Learning Experiences: "Daily Team Talk" and "Turn and Talk" activities provide opportunities for children to share information about themselves and their families. In addition, the "Connecting with Families" section of the Planning and Assessment: Teacher's Guide with Professional Development briefly reminds teachers to encourage family members to visit and share cultural traditions, a practice that acknowledges diverse cultures and ethnicities. However, the curriculum lacks specific guidance on how to modify or plan learning experiences that authentically build on children's cultures.
Learning Environment: The curriculum provides some learning materials that reflect diverse children and families (e.g., books), but it does not provide guidance on how to select and use learning materials that authentically represent the cultures and ethnicities of children and families in the program.
The curriculum supports linguistic responsiveness. Linguistic responsiveness refers to teaching practices that support the learning, development, and engagement of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. It includes supports for continued development of children's home or tribal languages by authentically incorporating children's languages into the learning environment. Furthermore, linguistically responsive practices can facilitate English acquisition. The curriculum provides scaffolding strategies to support children at any level of English knowledge to fully participate in the curriculum's learning experiences.
Scaffolding Strategies: The curriculum provides specific, research-based scaffolding strategies. They are embedded throughout the learning activities in the Teacher Guides to support the development and learning of children who are DLLs. In addition, the curriculum provides weekly "English Language Development" lessons with scaffolding strategies for children at beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high levels of English language proficiency. Finally, the Planning and Assessment: Teacher's Guide with Professional Development Handbook includes an "Introduction to Linguistics," information about common first languages, and a chart comparing consonant sounds in English and other languages.
Home and Tribal Languages: OWL provides some classroom materials translated into Spanish, such as Take-Home Books, Amazing Word Cards, Concept Word Cards, and Learning Strips for Classroom Routines. In the context of English language development lessons, teachers are guided to use the children's home language to support the development of English. However, the curriculum lacks guidance on how to authentically incorporate home languages into learning experiences and environment. Tribal languages are not addressed.
Individualization for Children with Disabilities, Suspected Delays, or Other Special Needs
The curriculum provides guidance on how to individualize for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs. Individualization for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs includes providing more specialized supports for children to access and participate in learning, social experiences, and activities. The curriculum's guidance for specialized supports includes specific teaching practices and ways of interacting with children, as well as adaptations to daily schedules, learning activities, and the learning environment. Individualizing for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs enables all children to access, participate, and thrive in early learning settings.
Teaching Practices and Interventions: The curriculum provides guidance on how to embed teaching practices and other interventions in daily routines and activities to support the learning of children with disabilities or other special needs. Each unit includes several "Make It Easier!" prompts that provide guidance on how to differentiate instruction and scaffold learning for children who have special needs. In addition to general classroom suggestions (e.g., provide extra scaffolding, adjust motor activities, and utilize visual supports), Adaptations for Children with Special Needs also provides strategies throughout the daily routine to support children with specific disabilities or needs. This includes suggestions for adapting circle times, center time, and other parts of the day for children with cognitive delays, language delays, and children on the autism spectrum, as well as for children who have motor delays and sensory needs.
Learning Environment: OWL provides some guidance on how to ensure the physical environment and learning materials are accessible to children with disabilities, suspected delays, and other special needs. For example, Adaptations for Children with Special Needs provides a few strategies to ensure the physical environment and learning materials are accessible to children with specific disabilities during certain parts of the daily routine (e.g., using a visual schedule, adding photos to text labels). However, the curriculum lacks overall guidance on how to ensure the physical environment is accessible to all children (e.g., universal design principles) and more specific examples of how to adapt learning materials embedded throughout the curriculum activities and learning centers.
Individualization Based on Interests, Strengths, and Needs
The curriculum offers guidance on how to individualize based on children's interests, strengths, and needs. Individualization is a process of planning and implementing learning experiences that are responsive to each child's interests, strengths, and needs. Teachers reflect on their observations of each child and then plan the most effective ways to support each child's learning and development. When learning experiences are tailored to children's interests, they are more engaging and meaningful to children. Because children may vary in their developmental progressions, it is also important that the curriculum supports teachers in planning learning experiences that are responsive to individual children's strengths and needs.
Individualization Based on Interests: OWL does not offer guidance on how to plan learning experiences that build on individual children's interests. While children may select their center time activities, all learning experiences, including centers, are pre-planned, without guidance on how to modify them based on individual children's interests.
Individualization Based on Strengths and Needs: The curriculum provides a variety of strategies to make learning experiences responsive to individual children's strengths and needs. For example, Teacher Guides provide ways to individualize learning through "Make It Easier!" and "Make It Harder!" prompts for different lessons across the units.