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Early Childhood Developmental Skills

The primary focus of the Justice Pre-Kindergarten Program is to provide an effective learning environment through which the following skills will be achieved by every child prior to entry into Kindergarten.  Children who are able to attend the Justice Head Start and Pre-Kindergarten Programs have had two years of structured assistance in the steps toward mastery of the important benchmark skills provided below.

Developmental Learning Skills - 4 Year Old


Creative Skills
By completion of the school year, the child:

  • Engages in spontaneous imaginative play.
  • Descriptive Statement: At block center, uses blocks to build a castle for pretend play.
  • Participates in dramatic play by assuming a variety of roles. May also assign some roles to others.
  • Descriptive Statement: This could be during center time or outside play.
  • Substitutes items and pretends when real things are not available.
  • Descriptive Statement: May substitute a block for a car or a stuffed animal for a baby.
  • Works creatively with art material and tools.
  • Descriptive Statement: Does not depend on or use patterns, models or mimeographed material for inspiration.
  • Uses a variety of self-expressive mediums.
  • Descriptive Statement: These include such material as clay, paint, scissors, crayons and collage.
  • Makes increasingly recognizable forms when using self-expressive material.
  • Thinks of new uses for familiar material.
  • Descriptive Statement: Pretends a cardboard tube from a paper towel roll is a telescope.
  • Moves freely in response to music.
  • Expresses thoughts and feelings through creative movement.
  • Descriptive Statement: Tiptoes when the music is soft and stomps when music is loud.
  • Uses simple musical instruments.
  • Descriptive Statement: Plays instruments as accompaniment or as a special effect rather than the "creation of noises."


Language Arts

Listening Skills
By completion of the school year, the child:

  • Recognizes and responds to own name.
  • Understands and responds to simple directions.
  • Descriptive Statement: Follows two directions in sequence, "Please wash your hands and then sit down."
  • Talks and listens while in a large group of ten to twenty children.
  • Descriptive Statement: Can usually control the impulse to speak out until there is an opportunity to do so without interrupting another person. May need reminding.
  • Recognizes and names common environmental sounds.
  • Descriptive Statement: Can identify without seeing the sources horn, barking dog, pencil sharpener, etc.
  • Discriminates different sounds.
  • Descriptive Statement: Can label sounds as soft/loud, and same/different. Has difficulty discriminating between high/low.
  • Imitates and repeats simple rhythm.
  • Descriptive Statement: Able to reproduce an auditory pattern of two or three beats. May have trouble with a pattern of four.
  • Recognizes some sounds that rhyme.
  • Descriptive Statement: Loves nonsense poetry.    


Speaking Skills
Uses language to communicate desires and needs to an adult.

  • Descriptive Statement: Says "I am cold."
  • Names objects rather than pointing.
  • Descriptive Statement: "I want the car."
  • Refers to self in the first person.
  • Descriptive Statement: Says "I will do it." not "Me do it."
  • Gives a relevant answer when asked a question.
  • Descriptive Statement: In response to "Who took you to the library?" Answers, "Mom took me." not "I got a new book."
  • Asks simple questions using who, where, what and why.
  • Descriptive Statement: "Where is the tub of tiles?" "Whose turn is next?"
  • Expresses ideas in complete sentences of four or more words.
  • Descriptive Statement: "I want to play."
  • Uses past and future tense and forms plurals correctly.
  • Descriptive Statement: May still be confused by irregular verbs such as saying "goed" for "went."
  • Carries on a conversation with adults and peers.
  • Descriptive Statement: Loves to chat; able to take turns during a conversation.
  • Begins to put ideas and events in correct sequence when relating a personal experience.
  • Descriptive Statement: Tells a story about going to the park with a friend. "Sunday Mom took us to the park. We played on the rocket slide. Jeff got scared at the top. Mom helped him down."
  • Retells a familiar story or recites nursery rhyme in the correct order.
  • Descriptive Statement: May confuse facts.
  • Participates in simple fingerplays and songs.
  • Descriptive Statement: May need repetition in order to join in.


Literacy Skills

  • Recognizes his or her first name in print.
  • Descriptive Statement: Selects his or her name tag from several.
  • Names six basic colors.
  • Descriptive Statement: Names appropriate color when shown an object.
  • Holds book right side up and begins at the front.
  • Begins to develop an awareness that print moves from left to right, top to bottom and front to back.
  • Descriptive Statement: Imitates teacher's behavior of tracking print when using big books.
  • Arranges picture story cards in sequential order.
  • Descriptive Statement: Does this with a sequence of three or four cards.
  • Interprets pictures verbally.
  • Descriptive Statement: Tells a story when shown a picture.
  • Dictates simple stories for his or her teacher to write down.
  • Descriptive Statement: May use experience, imagination or picture as source. Story may ramble.
  • Identifies and matches identical items.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses lotto games or flannel board activities for this purpose.
  • Identifies some letters of the alphabet in random order.
  • Descriptive Statement: May be in context of child's name, familiar signs, and so forth.
  • Prints own first name.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses medium, such as chalk, easel, unlined paper for this purpose. Letters may be reversed.
  • Prints some random letters.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses felt pens, crayons and unlined paper for this purpose.


By completion of the school year, the child:

  • Names basic geometric shapes.
  • Descriptive Statement: Basic shapes are circle, square and triangle.
  • Counts objects to five in a one to one correspondence.
  • Recognizes numerals from one to five.
  • Demonstrates relationships between the number of objects and the numerals.
  • Descriptive Statement: Puts two objects by number two, three objects by number three..
  • Compares and recognizes items that are more, less or the same in size.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses the words "more" "less" and/or "same" to define the relationship between the objects.
  • Participates in measuring activities and names units of measure.
  • Descriptive Statement: For example, speaks of "three spoonfuls," "three jars," or "four hands long."
  • Participates in simple graphing activities.
  • Descriptive Statement: Participates in an activity that shows how many children have shoes with buckles, ties or velcro .
  • Continues a simple pattern.
  • Descriptive Statement: Arranges green and red blocks in alternating order.
  • Demonstrates knowledge of spatial relationships.
  • Descriptive Statement: Points to or places objects on, under, beside, behind, in or out on request.


Motor Skills
By completion of the school year, the child:

    Gross Motor

  • Runs easily and stops quickly.
  • Descriptive Statement: Moves in a coordinated manner.
  • Walks up and down stairs
  • Descriptive Statement: Alternates feet when ascending and descending stairs.
  • Walks forward on a broad balance beam or a four-inch-wide line.
  • Descriptive Statement: Places one foot in front of the other.
  • Jumps the distance of two feet or more.
  • Descriptive Statement: Keeps feet together while jumping.
  • Balances on one foot.
  • Descriptive Statement: Balance on one foot for approximately three to five seconds with eyes open.
  • Attempts a one-footed skip.
  • Descriptive Statement: Performs a hop, step movement.
  • Performs basic gallop.
  • Descriptive Statement: This should not be confused with even-paced skipping which is usually too difficult.
  • Peddles and steers a tricycle.
  • Identifies and reproduces the following motions with his or her own body when asked: walk, run, march, hop, jump, crawl, roll on mat, bend and turn.
  • Claps and marches to music.
  • Responds appropriately to different tempos.
  • Descriptive Statement: Can change from fast to slow tempos.
  • Catches a large ball with two hands.
  • Tosses a ball to a partner overhand.
  • Climbs on jungle gym or other climbing apparatus.
  • Descriptive Statement: Evaluates risks but loves taking chances.

    Fine Motor

  • Grasps small objects with thumb and forefinger.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses pincer grasp with small beads for art projects.
  • Uses tools such as hammer, saw, mixer, peeler and shredder.
  • Holds crayons with two fingers and thumb grasp.
  • Controls a paint brush.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses large strokes.
  • Manipulates scissors.
  • Descriptive Statement: Cuts around large objects.
  • Carries a medium size container of liquid without excessive spilling.
  • Descriptive Statement: Container is no more than three quarters full.
  • Turns objects with hand.
  • Descriptive Statement: Can turn a door knob, lid or eggbeater.
  • Completes an assortment of manipulatives with skill.
  • Descriptive Statement: For example: strings 1/2 inch beads, stacks one-inch cubes, uses sewing cards, etc.
  • Completes a ten to twelve piece puzzle.
  • Descriptive Statement: The puzzle is contained within a frame.
  • Copies a circle, cross and attempts a square on unlined paper.
  • Descriptive Statement: Circle starts from top; cross lines intersect near middle; one side of square may be curved.
  • Uses small muscles for self-help skills.
  • Descriptive Statement: Zips or buttons clothing. Pours without spilling.


By completion of the school year, the child:

  • Develops an awareness of seasonal changes and weather conditions.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses words such as cloudy, sunny, windy, etc., to identify weather conditions.
  • Observes plants and animals and knows about their care.
  • Descriptive Statement: Tells what the class pet eats and how to care for it.
  • Names some human body parts.
  • Uses senses to explore the environment.
  • Descriptive Statement: "What do you do with your eyes?" "Ummm, I like peanut butter cookies.
  • Names some facts about the physical properties of objects.
  • Descriptive Statement: Hot, cold, rough, smooth, soft, hard.
  • Groups items according to their common properties.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses classifications such as sorts food, according to fruit or vegetable; animals according to whether they live in water, on land or in air.
  • Participates in the scientific method with the teacher's direction.
  • Descriptive Statement: Makes observations, thinks of reasons why things happen, tries out reasons and possible causes, observes results and draws conclusions.
  • Asks questions about his or her world.
  • Descriptive Statement: "What are clouds?" "Why is the sky blue?"
  • Demonstrates a beginning awareness of life cycles.
  • Descriptive Statement: Observes seed to flower, caterpillar to butterfly, egg to chicken.


Social Skills
By the completion of the school year, the child:

  • Takes care of personal needs.
  • Descriptive Statement Uses toilet independently; washes hands unassisted; blows nose when reminded; dresses self for outdoor play with some assistance; may lace shoes but does not tie; demonstrates adequate table skills (pours from small pitcher; spreads soft materials with knife).
  • Begins to anticipate risks and takes precautions to protect self from dangerous situations.
  • Descriptive Statement: Child pauses and looks both ways before crossing the street.
  • Chooses activities without teacher's help.
  • Descriptive Statement: Selects center to use during free choice time.
  • Separates from parent without undue stress.
  • Descriptive Statement: After saying "goodbye" is ready to interact with peers and teachers.
  • Plays cooperatively and interacts with other children without constant supervision. Only requires occasional help.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses words to express a need without hitting or pushing another child.
  • Deals with own feelings in an age appropriate way.
  • Descriptive Statement: Temper tantrums are rare or nonexistent; can sometimes say how he or she feels instead of sulking or crying.
  • Identifies and labels some of his or her own feelings.
  • Descriptive Statement: Recognizes major feelings such as sad, happy, angry or hurt.
  • Demonstrates confidence in self.
  • Descriptive Statement: Tries unfamiliar equipment such as balance beams and slides. Attempts new tasks with enthusiasm.
  • Responds to other children's need for help.
  • Descriptive Statement: May show another child how to do something or help them to be successful.
  • Begins to understand and respect the property of others.
  • Descriptive Statement: Leaves other children's and teacher's possessions alone.
  • Stands up for his or her rights.
  • Descriptive Statement: Holds on when he has something first; resists being bullied.
  • Takes turns and shares with assistance.
  • Descriptive Statement: Often conforms to rules about sharing, particularly if his or her rights are protected.
  • Develops relationships with adults other than family members.
  • Descriptive Statement: Is friendly with bus driver, teacher, cook and/or principal.
  • Participates in large and small group activities.
  • Descriptive Statement: Shares the attention of the teacher with other children.
  • Knows and observes the rules and routines of the classroom.
  • Descriptive Statement: Rules are few and become internalized for most children; others may need reminding.
  • Makes choices and stays with an activity for a reasonable length of time (10 to 15 minutes) once a choice is made.
  • Descriptive Statement: Activity must be age appropriate and interesting if attention is to be sustained. Such long-term involvement most probable when activity is based on play.
  • Completes activity most of the time.
  • Descriptive Statement: May need encouragement; the activity must be appropriate.
  • Takes good care of material.
  • Descriptive Statement: Uses equipment carefully, does not waste supplies and puts material away when finished.
  • Returns material to correct place when finished with an activity.
  • Descriptive Statement: May need reminding.
  • Contributes to classroom responsibility.
  • Descriptive Statement: Wipes tables, picks up trash, waters plants, feeds classroom pet, etc.


Social Studies
By completion of the school year, the child:

  • Shows his or her curiosity about the world outside the home by asking questions.
  • Descriptive Statement: Enjoys simple walking tours to observe leaves, trees, etc.
  • Gives personal information such as name, gender and age.
  • Names significant family members and recognizes different family structures.
  • Descriptive Statement: Includes mother, father, siblings, and grand-parents. May have difficulty himself or herself in more than one role, such as realizing he or she is a son and a brother or a daughter and a sister at the same time.
  • Gives the name of his or her town.
  • Identifies different school personnel.
  • Descriptive Statement: Points out secretary, principal, custodian, etc.
  • Locates specific places in the school setting.
  • Descriptive Statement: Places may include cafeteria, classroom and principal's office.
  • Describes people's job and what is required to perform them.
  • Descriptive Statement: Job may include police, firefighters, doctors, farmers, etc.
  • Aware of simple cultural differences.
  • Descriptive Statement: For example, may notice the color of skin, hair, eyes, language and customs.
  • Aware of technology and its use in the classroom and at home.
  • Aware of how people positively affect the environment.
  • Descriptive Statement: Participates in a recycling project or picking up litter from a local area.


Thinking Skills and Problem Solving
By the end of the school year, the child:

  • Attempts to solve problems before asking for help.
  • Descriptive Statement: May negotiate with another child or remind another of the rule before seeking teacher assistance.
  • Proposes a possible solution when confronted with a problem.
  • Descriptive Statement: Typically produces only one solution; additional children will contribute other solutions.
  • Uses more than one method to acquire what he or she wants.
  • Descriptive Statement: May utilize asking, borrowing, bargaining, or trading, but often needs instruction and support from teacher.
  • Identifies groups and names of items that have a common property.
  • Descriptive Statement: Groups objects or pictures according to color, shape, size, number of legs, hair or hairless, etc.
  • Arranges three to four items in graduated order.
  • Descriptive Statement: Arranges objects from small to large, rough to smooth, soft to hard.
  • Identifies and names missing parts in models and drawings.
  • Descriptive Statement: Points out a body part that is missing or a truck without a wheel.