Unpacking the Pyramid Model… as It Heads to College (Guest bloggers: Dr. Michaelene M. Ostrovsky and Dr. Tweety Yates)

Have you heard the exciting news? Illinois has recently joined more than 30 other states in becoming a “Pyramid Model state” with collaborators from child care, Head Start, state-funded preschool, early intervention, home visiting, and higher education working together to infuse a strong focus on promoting social emotional competence in every aspect of our work with young children. The Pyramid Modelis a conceptual framework of evidence-based early childhood practices that promotes young children’s social emotional competence and addresses challenging behavior (https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-itm-001&hsimp=yhs001&hspart=itm&p=you+tube+pyramid+model#id=1&vid=294fbd416f386a7c5646ab9243ed5043&action=click). The Pyramid Model was initially developed by two federally funded centers: The Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) and Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Youth Children (TACSEI). Higher Education faculty and staff can take advantage of the many resources available about the Pyramid Model to strengthen coursework and the preparation of future early childhood professionals. In this blog we briefly describe the Pyramid Model and point readers to several free resources they might consider using in their courses. These materials are but a small sample of those available on the following websites that focus on the Pyramid Model (http://www.pyramidmodel.org/; https://challengingbehavior.cbcs.usf.edu/; http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/).

The Pyramid Model framework is organized as three tiers of practices (Hemmeter, Ostrosky & Corso, 2012; Hemmeter, Ostrosky & Fox, 2006). The first tier (the blue layers) focuses onuniversal strategies for establishing responsive and nurturing relationships and designing high quality early childhood environments. It includes strategies such as responding to children’s conversations, building relationships with families, and helping children understand expectations. The second tier (the green layer) focuses on the promotion of skills for children with social emotional delays and the prevention of challenging behavior. It includes strategies such as supporting peer relationships, handling conflicts, and regulating emotions. The third tier (the top layer) focuses on intensive individualized interventions for a small percent of children who continue to engage in persistent challenging behavior, even when the practices highlighted in the other tiers of the Pyramid Model are in place. This top tier includes the development, implementation, and monitoring of a behavior support plan.

For each of the tiers we have described two free resources below that might be useful in higher education courses, and we have provided the link for finding these materials.

Tier One:

1) https://challengingbehavior.cbcs.usf.edu/docs/Communicating-with-Families.pdf This resource provides helpful suggestions for communicating with families and for offering opportunities for families to share information about themselves and their child. Many suggestions are given for communicating with families about program happenings, relationship building, progress reports, developmental supports as well as including family input into each of these areas.

2)https://challengingbehavior.cbcs.usf.edu/docs/backpack/BackpackConnection_routines_visual-schedules.pdf  The Backpack Connection Series was created to provide a way for teachers and parents/caregivers to work together to help children develop social emotional skills and reduce challenging behavior. The Backpack Connection resource shared in the link above describes how to use visual schedules to help children understand expectations. Topics covered include: why visual schedules are important, how they can help reduce power struggles and give children confidence and a sense of control, ideas for parents/caregivers to try at home as well as how visual schedules can be used at school.

Tier Two:

1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVqjF7BDsnw&feature=youtu.be This 28-minute video highlights strategies and approaches that can be used to systematically target social emotional supports that build children’s skills in a variety of areas including making friends, problem solving, asking an adult for help, talking about feelings, and managing emotions. The strategies rely on a 3-stage approach to supporting children’s social emotional development by (1) introducing and practicing a skill, (2) building fluency and competency with a skill, and (3) ensuring there is maintenance of a skill. The video demonstrates how to introduce a skill using a variety of tools, practice a skill through planned and unscripted activities, and maintain the skill by recognizing children for using the skill independently.

2) https://csefel.vanderbilt.edu  Book Nooks provide ideas for linking social emotional development and literacy. Each Book Nook focuses on one children’s book and provides examples of activities that can be embedded across everyday routines and schedules. For example, activities might include using rhymes to talk about being friends or making emotion masks to help children learn to identify and talk about different feelings. A great assignment is to have students create their own Book Nooks using their favorite children’s books(Book Nooks can be found under Practical Strategies on the website listed above).

Tier Three:

1) https://www.pyramidmodel.org Module 3 in the Infant Toddler and Preschool Training Modules focuses on Tier Three content. The training modules provide scripts, powerpoint slides, videos, activities, handouts and resources that can be used in building student’s knowledge and skills(Training modules can be found under materials for Trainers and Coaches on the website listed above).

2) https://csefel.vanderbilt.edu The What Works Training Kits are based on the What Works Briefs topics. These short training packages on focused topics include powerpoint slides with accompanying note pages, activities, and handouts. There are several training kits that relate to Tier Three. For example, What Works Training Kit No. 10provides a short training on Positive Behavior Support: An Individualized Approach for Addressing Challenging Behavior

(What Works Training Kits can be found under Training Kits on the website listed above).

 If you have any trouble locating these resources as you make plans to embed the content in your higher education courses, send us an email and we will help you!


Michaelene M. Ostrosky, PhD is Grayce Wicall Gauthier Professor of Education and Head of Special Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Throughout her career, Dr. Ostrosky has been involved in research and dissemination on the inclusion of young children with disabilities, social emotional competence, and challenging behavior.

Tweety Yates, PhD is retired from the Special Education Department at the University of Illinois. She has continued to work on grant-funded projects at the University of Illinois and Vanderbilt University. Dr. Yates’ primary focus has been on parent-child interaction, social emotional development and early literacy.