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ELM Curriculum: Birth - 36 months3 - 5 years

The Early Learning Matters (ELM) curriculum, developed by Purdue University, promotes positive outcomes in all areas of development from birth to age 5 years. It is based on the latest research on child development and best practices in early education and care. ELM offers a comprehensive, developmentally appropriate approach to meaningful learning for all children.

  • Whole child focus on skills that bolster school readiness and life success
  • Developmentally sequenced activities that embed strategies for individualizing
  • Evidence-informed, friendly-to-use resources for classroom staff and families
  • Training tools to support direct care staff with different professional backgrounds

At the heart of the ELM curriculum are activity plans that build on children's pathways of development in five infant/toddler areas and eight preschool areas. The plans support growth and development with a range of active learning opportunities that include careful attention to differences in children's abilities and interests.

Getting Started

New to ELM? For a quick overview of the ELM Curriculum, scroll to the About ELM section on this page. For an in-depth look at ELM, read the ELM Curriculum User Guide below that pertains to your child age group. Users of the ELM Curriculum are urged to become familiar with User Guide information and then pursue online training lessons. There are three lessons for direct care staff and three lessons for training & curriculum specialists and managers.

Activity Plans and Resources

About ELM

Classroom Resources

Fully-developed, flexible activity plans support children’s engagement in learning across the entire year. Each activity plan includes: a model of high-quality use of the plan; scaffolding tips for providing extra support or enrichment to children; a related center (interest area) activity; and ways to adapt the plan in family child care. Plans for infants and toddlers also include “What to Look For” guidance in responding to children’s experiences.

In addition to comprehensive activity plans, ELM’s classroom resources include: planning forms for adapting activity plans and supporting individual children; printable classroom materials and lists of materials used in each set of activities; Guides for Observing and Individualizing that help staff observe and plan follow-up supports focused on foundation skills promoted by ELM; and an ELM Snapshot of Child Progress for summarizing observations and results of progress assessments.

Family Engagement Resources

Supports for engaging families include: What Children Will Learn This Week (for preschool), a list of skills and classroom activities emphasized in a given week; Readiness Starts Early, a set of parenting tips that families can use to reinforce and extend their child’s classroom learning; and examples of portfolio entries that describe a child’s progress in important developmental areas.

Staff Training Resources

User Guides for infant/toddler and preschool versions of the curriculum describe each of the developmental areas promoted by the curriculum; summarize research evidence on best practices used in the curriculum; include a chart of the sequence of foundation skills throughout the year; offer guidance on planning the daily schedule and using activity plans, including transition activities; and provide suggestions for promoting a developmental area beyond the activity plans.

Six online training lessons focus on specific aspects of the curriculum, such as how to individualize children’s experiences. Three lessons are for training & curriculum specialists and managers, and three lessons are for direct care staff. The trainings span infant/toddler and preschool ages.

ELM Activity Observation Checklists help trainers and managers identify strengths and opportunities for growth in a classroom’s use of ELM. There are separate checklists for infant/toddler and preschool classrooms.

How ELM Was Developed

Purdue University Distinguished Professor Douglas R. Powell led the development of ELM at Purdue based on an exhaustive review of research and in collaboration with curriculum specialists and prominent experts in child development, early learning, developmentally appropriate practices, and military families. The testing of activity plans included extensive piloting in military and civilian child development classrooms plus expert reviews.