Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

RP Products by Type: Practice Guides for Practitioners

ECTA Center was charged with assisting the WWW: DEC and WWW: DEC Commissioners to revise the WWW: DEC Recommended Practices and with developing products that would promote the use of the Recommended Practices, and with providing intensive TA to assist states in implementing evidence-based practices.

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These Practice Guides for Practitioners are intended primarily for practitioners working in group settings and for sharing with other practitioners in community programs (see PDF: Elements of Practice Guides). The Practice Guides are formatted for print as well as for viewing on mobile devices. The Practice Guides are listed below by the DEC Recommended Practices topics:

Environment Practice Guides for Practitioners
  • Everyday classroom activities provide children many different opportunities for learning. Increasing children's participation and learning in these natural learning environments involves providing children activities that are interest-based, paying attention and noticing how children participate in the activities, supporting children's use of existing abilities, and encouraging new skills.

  • Children learn best by being active participants within their everyday environment—whether it’s watching and listening to a wind chime blow in the wind, or learning the steps to handwashing. The more opportunities children have to actively participate and interact with their environment, the more opportunities they have to practice existing skills and explore new ones. Make sure that all children can access materials and activities within their daily environments.

  • Active toddlers are busy discovering how their bodies move and do interesting things - clapping hands, stomping feet, rolling a ball down a hill, pushing a riding toy, and more! Be sure there is plenty of space for such experiences both in and out of the classroom.

  • Activities outside the classroom are sources of many different kinds of learning experiences for young children. You can support children’s learning by providing opportunities for them to participate in community activities that match their interests, by responding to them in ways that support their participation, and by helping them do new things.

Instruction Practice Guides for Practitioners
  • Embedded instruction involves multiple, brief teaching interactions between a teacher and child during everyday classroom activities. By identifying functional behavior targets, selecting classroom activities best suited for embedded learning opportunities, and using planned and intentional instructional strategies, teachers can help children learn new behavior needed for participating in the classroom throughout the day.

  • Naturalistic instruction practices are used during everyday classroom activities to support and encourage child engagement in activities, child-initiated behavior and learning, and child behavioral elaborations. Teachers can promote child participation and learning in everyday classroom activities by providing interest-based activities, responding positively to children’s initiations, and interacting in ways that encourage children to build on and expand their current capabilities.

Interaction Practice Guides for Practitioners
  • The very first sounds infants make are the beginnings of social communication. Encouraging infants and toddlers to use vocalizations and words to express their needs and desires can help them become social partners in everyday interactions. By noticing and responding to children’s attempts to communicate, you can promote their language learning.

  • At an early age, infants and toddlers learn and use gestures and signs to communicate their desires, needs, and preferences. You can help young children interact more easily with others, and facilitate their later language learning, by supporting their use of nonverbal gestures and signs during everyday classroom activities.

  • Peer interaction is important to children’s learning and development. Children learn new skills by observing and interacting with other children during everyday classroom activities and routines. By paying close attention and responding to what children are doing while playing and interacting with others, adults can support and enhance their interactions.

  • Throughout the preschool years, young children continue to acquire and use new and more complex language abilities as part of interactions with other children and adults. You can boost children’s language learning by increasing their opportunities to engage in conversations and by both encouraging and supporting their language use during everyday classroom interactions.

  • Using rhymes during interactions with toddlers helps them explore the sounds and purposes of language. Songs, finger plays, and rhyming games provide opportunities for toddlers to have fun during interactions with adults while building skills for understanding and using language.

  • Adult-child shared reading experiences provide rich opportunities for mutually beneficial teacher and child interactions. When teachers spend time reading with young children in ways that encourage their active participation, they help children strengthen their listening skills, develop their language abilities, and increase their knowledge about the world.

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Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email:

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

  • FPG Child Development Institute
  • OSEP's TA&D Network:IDEAs that Work