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What are Cognitive IEP Goals for Preschool?

iep cognitive goals

What are cognitive goals for preschool?

While the number one goal for preschool, in my mind, is social skills, self-regulation, self-advocacy, and learning through play, there are some solid IEP cognitive goals that are quite useful and help students prepare for Kindergarten. Many of the goals in the resources may be a little “high” for preschool, so keep that in mind, too. I created them from an ABA assessment I used for students of all ages, so some of these may be advanced for preschool, but I include them, anyway, because hey! There's nothing wrong with a list of good IEP goals!

IEP Goals for Preschool

One important note (before sharing some ideas) is to remember that IEP stands for INDIVIDUALIZED Education Plan. This means that getting ideas as a jumping point is great, just remember to ALWAYS work it like playdough to fit your actual student! Massage the heck out of it until it's the right shape! Read up on how to write a great IEP goal or this post on how to write the Progress Report

The following are some ideas for Cognitive IEP goals for preschoolers and Kindergarten students. 

Do you struggle with the time-consuming task of writing IEP goals for your Preschool Special Education students? Or finding the correct wording to create specific, meaningful goals to meet the needs of your early intervention and Pre-K students? This resource is perfect for busy teachers looking to save time and simplify the task of writing IEP goals.

This resource is the BUNDLE that includes a 311-Goal Bank for Preschool and the 168-goal KINDERGARTEN Common Core Standards IEP Goal Bank. Additional grades will be added soon, so check back!

“This is one of the best purchases I've made! Great goals, user friendly, so helpful for teacher writing goals for IEP. If you need examples to get you started, this is amazing!”

Visual Skills

Visual skills are really good to use in the IEP for cognitive goals. Especially for our early learners, gaining visual skills will help them navigate their environment, communicate, and are very much a bridge to teaching So. Many. Skills!

Goals may include different levels of puzzles, block designs, tangrams (great pre-math skill!), patterning and sequencing. I probably use matching and sorting pictures the most, though! So much you can do with that from identical matching to non-identical to matching feature, function, class, to matching associated items, and so on.  

Here is a sample IEP goal to target visual skills:

Match associated pictures

When given an array of three items or pictures, STUDENT will match an item that is associated with one of the items in the array (e.g., match a bat to a picture of a ball) improving knowledge of associations from BASELINE to matching at least 2 related pictures for 20 or more items as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.


Here’s an example of a visual skills for Associated Pictures

data tracking

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Reading Goals

Now when you think of reading for preschool, think PRE-reading skills. Most preschoolers are not ready for reading reading. Some are, but most aren't. But if you want to target some good reading skills for preschool, try identifying letters in their name, phonemic awareness, reading functional words like words around the room, colors, number words, and so forth.

Here is a sample IEP goal to target reading for preschoolers:

Names letters in words reading left to right

When given a word and the request to name the letters in the word, STUDENT will name the letters reading left to right across the word improving reading from BASELINE to pointing to and naming the letters of 5-letter words in 4 out of 5 opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Here are a bunch of alphabet activities in digital and print form that are great for this age group.

Writing Goals

Writing goals are mostly targeting early motor skills for preschool. At this stage, preschoolers are just gaining function in their hands, learning to manipulate small items, holding utensils, and so forth. Goals in this domain may relate to coloring a small area with purpose, dot-to-dots, tracing, copying (a different skill than tracing!), and beginning printing (especially focusing on their name). 

Here is a sample IEP goal to target Writing:

preschool writing iep goals

Trace lines and shapes

When given a paper with lines and shapes in either highlight or path form to trace, STUDENT will accurately trace improving writing skills from BASELINE to tracing lines and curved and straight-lined shapes within 1/8 to ¼ inch of the sample including circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval, crescent, star, and random lines in 4 out of 5 opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Find some great digital and print activities to teach tracing letters and numbers

Spelling Goals

Now spelling is not really something we think about for preschool, but there are definitely some pre-spelling skills we can work on! Think about spelling their own name, matching letters on a word card, or filling in a single missing letter of a well-known word. My favorite activity is to get small clipboards and Scrabble™ tiles, using Velcro™ and having students put their own names together at the beginning of each day. This can be done with backwards chaining or modeling or anything to scaffold the learning!

Here is a sample IEP goal for Spelling:

Match letters to word card

When given a picture of an object and the written word, STUDENT will be able to match individual letters to the letters on the word improving spelling from BASELINE to at least 10 words of 5 letters in length when given extra letters, some of which are similar (e.g., e and a) across three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

preschool spelling iep goals

This is a simple spelling activity that includes easy and well-known words to start your student off!

Math Goals

And lastly, pre-math skills (as opposed to math-math) are likely your focus in preschool. They don't need to be doing Calculus just yet (or ever!). At the same time, I've found that preschoolers LOVE math activities! Even my most supportive needs students make great progress in math compared to other domains. Goals in the math domain may include colors and shapes, one-to-one correspondence, rote counting, naming numbers, matching numbers to the number of objects, counting out items out of a larger group, math terms, and the most basic picture addition and subtraction (real world stuff is best!). 

Here is a sample Math IEP goal:

preschool math iep goals

Match number with same amount of objects

When given a field of objects and a written numeral, STUDENT match the number with the same number of items (and vice versa) improving math skills from BASELINE to numbers and groups of objects to 30 (and vice versa) across three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

Develop preschoolers' math skills by matching numbers to quantities and counting objects. Enhance foundational math knowledge in a fun and interactive way with these math games and task cards. 

Really, the most important part of preschool is play and fun, and there is ALWAYS a way to incorporate even the more challenging cognitive goals into your day! 

Ever wished there was an easier way to do IEP goals and objectives tracking for young Special Education and Life Skills students? These Cognitive IEP goals and data collection sheets include puzzles, math games, worksheets, and more plus token boards, positive reinforcement, and the full IEP goals and objectives with data tracking for your data binder! 

Or grab the FREE data collection forms!

Preschool Assessment and Data Tracking PreK, Special Education

⭐ This DIGITAL & Print Preschool/Pre-K Assessment with data sheet is perfect for assessing and collecting data on student academic skills for colors, shapes, numbers, counting, and letters as well as other readiness skills across 6 domains.

Includes bonus NO-Prep BOOM Cards that make student assessment and data collection simple. With increasing levels of difficulty, this assessment is divided into 3 parts to allow for quick and easy administration.

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