Our Approach

At both of our schools, we believe parents are children’s first teacher and the primary influence in the direction of their development.  Our purpose is to guide parents in their efforts to provide for their children’s needs and develop the resources to meet their own self-determined goals. The program and parents – together – create a positive partnership toward achieving child and family outcomes.

Clayton Early Learning serves families who qualify for public funding sources, as well as those who pay tuition.

Family Engagement Agreement

Engaged parents support children’s development across all domains - physical, social/emotional and cognitive. Child Family Educator’s work collaboratively with families to build the strong and lasting relationships necessary to encourage parent and child growth, learning and development. Clayton sponsors onsite parent education forums to keep parents connected and informed including educational and literacy focused workshops, parenting and nutrition classes and support groups. Child Family Educators assist families in locating and accessing community resources.

Individual Child Curriculum Plan

Parents and staff partner to support all aspects of a child’s development and individualized learning plan. This individual learning plan becomes part of a written document that outlines the child’s goals, steps to achieve these goals, and steps to review the child’s progress in meeting these goals.

Language and Literacy

Teachers at Clayton use a variety of tools to develop children's oral language, alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness and understanding of print. In the classroom, teachers implement a variety of research-based curricular approaches to ensure that children are progressing along a well-defined continuum of literacy development. Through extended projects, teachers support children in developing a deep understanding of concepts and embed literacy, math and science into a variety of experiences that children find engaging and meaningful. Through coaching, teachers reflect on their ongoing interactions with children in an effort to create teacher-child interactions that are most supportive of later literacy outcomes. Teachers use data from ongoing and standardized assessments to individualize literacy instruction and scaffold children's language skills. In collaboration with parents, teachers provide easy and engaging language and literacy activities for parents to do with their children at home. Teachers also facilitate "family fun nights" during which parents interact with their children around the key predictors of literacy.

Multiple Language Acquisition

The goal of the language acquisition plan of Clayton Early Learning is for all children to successfully develop English language skills while preserving and strengthening their home language if it is not English. Clayton has a Language Plan grounded in solid research-based principles of second language acquisition for early childhood (Tabors, 2008). Its focus is on building sound foundations in oral/aural language through comprehensible input in order to scaffold pre-literacy skills for children with limited English proficiency. The plan recognizes that limited English proficient students (LEPs) come to educational settings with varying English proficiency levels.  It incorporates a four-stage developmental sequence described by Tabors and Snow (1994) for second language acquisition in young children learning a new language after the age of three:  1) Home Language Period in which the child is just becoming aware of or is still learning that more than one language exists; 2) Observational/Listening Period; 3) Telegraphic and Formulaic Communication Period; and 4) Productive/Fluid Language Period.  Clayton Early Learning equips teachers to use a variety of tools, including authentic observation, standardized assessment and family report to determine each child's stage of acquisition.


Children are naturally curious about their world. At Clayton Early Learning, we weave science, math, engineering and technology content into play-based classroom experiences that are intrinsically engaging and impactful to children. We want every child to be a scientist, engineer, techie and mathematician! By building on children’s early STEM competencies through the intentional use of questions that promote higher-level thinking, we support children in learning the skills they need for later academic success.

At Clayton Early Learning, we are focused  on supporting children’s school readiness and we spend a lot of time thinking and learning about what teachers can do to really make a difference for kids. We are understanding more about the specific ways in which teachers can facilitate children’s thinking during play that have been shown to correlate with academic outcomes in first grade and beyond. These ways of questioning and interacting with children can be used across content areas, but they work very well to support STEM activities. Teachers at Clayton...

Focus on helping children understand concepts – “Why doesn’t this shape (rectangle) belong with the other shapes (triangles)?”

Encourage children to use analysis and reasoning skills – “Why do we need to wear a coat outside today when we didn’t need one yesterday?”

Support children to link concepts across activities – “Remember when we looked at and touched different types of rocks yesterday? Today, we’re going to make some guesses about how heavy or how light those rocks are.”

Help children apply concepts to their everyday world – “Let’s make a graph to show how each of us got to school today. Bring your picture up and put it next to the bus, the car or the walking feet”.

Spark children’s creativity about ideas – “Let’s brainstorm all the ways we might get from the door to the playground. How would you get there?”

Support children to observe and evaluate their ideas and conclusions – “Would you want to live in the house that we built out of straw or would you rather live in the brick house?” “Why?”

Help children to think about their own process of thinking by asking questions like – “How did you know that?” or “How did you figure that out?”

Use academic language to expose children to 21st Century skills – “What are your observations?”, “Let’s document what we find by drawing a picture.”, “My hypothesis is that it will grow one inch. What is your guess?”, “When we finish graphing our data, let’s see which one is bigger.”