Playful Immersion

Centers and Activities Reinforce Emerging Knowledge and Skills

CKLA Preschool kits come with an array of materials to infuse language-, vocabulary-, and knowledge-building opportunities throughout the various centers and activities typically found in a high-quality preschool setting. The materials include trade books, posters with nursery rhymes and songs, big books, and image collections, as well as detailed teacher guides to show how all of the materials work together. A sample of these materials is shown here; to see the complete program, download it for free.

Trade Books

Familiar trade books are read aloud throughout CKLA Preschool. These books reinforce content covered in the domains and familiarize students with the conventions of print and book reading. The books shown below are read during the "All About Me" domain to highlight what makes people similar and unique, the parts of the body, and the five senses.

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Learning Center Cards

CKLA Preschool includes two types of Learning Center Cards, as shown below: reference guides for adults and visual guides with labels for students. In
"Doctor's Office," for example, students use their knowledge of body parts and descriptive words from "All About Me" as they engage in dramatic play. Meanwhile, the quick-reference poster for teachers and classroom volunteers reminds adults of key content and vocabulary as they facilitate the Learning Center.

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Activity Pages

Activity Pages for use at home and in school provide a springboard for adults
to facilitate conversations that reinforce domain-related concepts and vocabulary. Two examples are below. The one on the left, from the "All About Me" domain, asks students to point to illustrated body parts. The one on the right, from the "Animals" domain (which comes about halfway through the school year), reinforces code-related knowledge and skills in a developmentally appropriate way. Teachers have students count the number of syllables in the names of the animals. Students then record the number of syllables in each word by coloring in the corresponding number of empty squares.

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Transition Cards

Transition Cards are provided to assist teachers in reviewing and reinforcing concepts and skills as they move students from one activity to another. For example, the Transition Card shown below is designed for reviewing code-related skills taught in small groups. At the beginning of the school year, for example, a teacher might hold up two visually and phonetically distinct capital letters, such as M and P, and ask, "Matteo, which of these letters is at the beginning of your name?" Later in the year, a teacher might hold up the card shown here and ask what sound is at the beginning of "mittens," "monkey," "moon," and "man."

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Carolyn Gosse is the Core Knowledge Foundation's lead developer of CKLA Preschool. She received her PhD in Language and Literacy Development and Disorders from the University of Virginia, where she worked on a research project evaluating the effectiveness of a preschool curriculum designed to enhance young children's language and literacy skills. Lisa Hansel is the communications director for the Core Knowledge Foundation. Previously, she was the editor of American Educator. Portions of this article are adapted with permission from "What Really Matters Most?" by Lisa Hansel, which was published on the CUNY Institute for Education Policy blog, IdeaLab.

*To learn more about Core Knowledge Language Arts, see "More Than Words: An Early Grades Reading Program Builds Skills and Knowledge," in the Fall 2012 issue of American Educator. (back to the article)

To learn more about Core Knowledge Language Arts Preschool, see the general overview. Download the entire CKLA program, preschool through third grade, for free, here. (back to the article)

For more of E. D. Hirsch Jr.'s work, see American Educator's authors index. (back to the article)


1. Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, "Don't Forget Curriculum," Brown Center Letters on Education, Brookings Institution, October 2009.

2. Matthew M. Chingos and Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, Choosing Blindly: Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2012).

3. Daniel T. Willingham, "Ask the Cognitive Scientist: What Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?," American Educator 32, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 34–39. See also Daniel T. Willingham, "Do We Underestimate Our Youngest Learners?," RealClearEducation, March 11, 2014; Deborah Kelemen, Natalie A. Emmons, Rebecca Seston Schillaci, and Patricia A. Ganea, "Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention," Psychological Science 25 (2014): 893–902; Caren M. Walker and Alison Gopnik, "Toddlers Infer Higher-Order Relational Principles in Causal Learning," Psychological Science 25 (2014): 161–169; and Emma Flynn and Robert Siegler, "Measuring Change: Current Trends and Future Directions in Microgenetic Research," Infant and Child Development 16 (2007): 135–149.

4. To read more from Jena Peluso, as well as quotes from other teachers using Core Knowledge Language Arts, see

5. Heidi Cole, "Children Are Curious and Capable—and Teachers Should Be Too," Core Knowledge Blog (blog), September 26, 2013,

6. E. D. Hirsch Jr., "Sustaining the American Experiment," in Knowledge at the Core: Don Hirsch, Core Knowledge, and the Future of the Common Core, ed. Chester E. Finn Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, 2014), 7–14.

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American Educator, Summer 2014