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What is the Pyramid Model?

The Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children is a conceptual framework of evidence-based practices developed by two national, federally-funded research and training centers: The Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) and TACSEI. These centers’ faculty represent nationally recognized researchers and program developers in the areas of social skills and challenging behavior. Based on evaluation data over the last eight years, the Pyramid Model has shown to be a sound framework for early care and education systems. Extensive training materials, videos, and print resources to help states, communities and programs implement the model have been developed.

Take a Visual Tour!

For an in-depth overview, please take a few moments to watch a visual tour of the Pyramid Model.

(NOTE: You may need to download the latest version of Adobe Reader for the pdf documents.)

Pyramid Model

What are the Parts of the Pyramid Model?

The Pyramid Model builds upon a tiered public health approach to providing universal supports to all children to promote wellness, targeted services to those who need more support, and intensive services to those who need them.

We depict our tiered approach as a pyramid with a:

  • Yellow Foundation: The foundation for all of the practices in the pyramid are the systems and policies necessary to ensure a workforce able to adopt and sustain these evidence-based practices.
  • Blue Tier : Universal supports for all children through nurturing and responsive relationships and high quality environments.
  • Green Tier : Prevention which represents practices that are targeted social emotional strategies to prevent problems.
  • Red Tier: Intervention which is comprised of practices related to individualized intensive interventions.


Preliminary results from the first randomized study examining outcomes associated with the Pyramid Model were presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in New Orleans, April 2011, and the Third Conference of the International Society of Early Intervention in New York, May 2011. The study was conducted within public school classrooms enrolling preschool children with disabilities in Florida and Tennessee.

  • Teachers in the experimental condition who received training and coaching demonstrated statistically significant differences in their implementation of Pyramid Model practices.
  • Children enrolled in the experimental classrooms implementing the Pyramid Model demonstrated statistically significant differences in their social skills.  
  • Target children in the experimental classrooms had statistically significant reductions in problem behavior.

The presentation announcing these findings was given at the Third Conference of the International Society of Early Intervention, May 5, 2011 in New York, NY. Powerpoints presented at this conference are provided below.

Symposium Title - Professional Development to Support Use of Recommended Practices in Inclusive Early Childhood Classrooms
Organized by Susan Sandall


Pyramid Model StoriesWould you like to hear directly from individuals who have implemented the Pyramid Model and have seen the benefits for themselves?

Listen to their stories!

Demonstration Programs

Demonstration ProgramsWould you like to see how other programs have implemented the Pyramid Model? Beginning in 2008, TACSEI worked in partnership with several demonstration sites to develop and evaluate models for implementing the Pyramid Model within classrooms and programs. The valuable lessons learned through these partnerships have helped to refine models for the implementation of the Pyramid Model in a variety of settings. During this process, TACSEI worked with these sites to create and collect video, photos, and documents in an effort to gain a better understanding of how each unique program was implementing the Pyramid Model at every level. These materials are ready for you to explore, organized by site and level of the Pyramid Model.

Explore Demonstration Program Materials


  • Pyramid Model HandoutPyramid Model Handout
    This handout illustrates the various levels of the Pyramid Model in a format that is easy to print and ideal for distribution.
  • The Pyramid Model for Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Infants and Young Children Fact SheetThe Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children Fact Sheet
    This four-page fact sheet provides an overview of the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children. Specifically, this fact sheet describes the three tiers of intervention practice: universal promotion for all children; secondary preventions to address the intervention needs for children at risk of social emotional delays, and tertiary interventions needed for children with persistent challenges. Additionally, six key assumptions that were made during the design process about how the Pyramid Model would be implemented are outlined.
  • The Teaching Pyramid, Young Children July 2003"You Got It!" Teaching Social and Emotional Skills
    Published in Young Children, November 2006
    In this article we look at the secondary level of the teaching pyramid, which emphasizes planned instruction on specific social and emotional skills for children at risk for developing more challenging behavior, such as severe aggression, property destruction, noncompliance, or withdrawal. Children who may be considered at risk for challenging behavior are persistently noncompliant, have difficulty regulating their emotions, do not easily form relationships with adults and other children, have difficulty engaging in learning activities, and are perceived by teachers as being likely to develop more intractable behavior problems.
  • The Teaching Pyramid Article from Young Children, July 2003The Teaching Pyramid: A Model for Supporting Social Competence and Preventing Challenging Behavior in Young Children
    Published in Young Children, July 2003
    This article describes a conceptual framework for change that guides the work of TACSEI. Specifically, this model maps out how to proceed in a systematic fashion and helps us decide where immediate attention is it most necessary regarding children’s social emotional issues and challenging behavior.


The videos described below are available on DVD and can be ordered through CSEFEL by completing and submitting this order form.

  • Promoting Social Emotional Competence VideoPromoting Social Emotional Competence was designed to provide a foundation for understanding the Teaching Pyramid as a framework for promoting young children’s social and emotional development and preventing and addressing challenging behavior. This 22-minute video is a perfect way to be introduced to and become familiar with the pyramid framework and is available with both English and Spanish open captioning. View this video online at the CSEFEL website.
  • Practical Strategies for Teaching Social Emotional SkillsPractical Strategies for Teaching Social Emotional Skills. This 28-minute video highlights strategies and approaches that early childhood personnel and families can use to systematically target social emotional supports that build young children’s skills in a variety of areas including making friends, problem solving, asking an adult for help, talking about feelings, and managing their emotions. The strategies rely on a 3-stage approach to supporting young 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 provides multiple examples of early childhood personnel demonstrating 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 on their own. View this video online at the CSEFEL website.


  • Pyramid Model Overview
    This PowerPoint presentation with audio and captioning provides a comprehensive overview of the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children. (September, 2008)
    In order to view this file, you may need to download Adobe Flash Player.
    Pyramid Text Transcript

Useful Links