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ESE504 : The Class : PEPSI : Lesson

Online Lesson: 'PEPSI' as a Screening Tool

J'Anne Ellsworth

The model or lens we choose to look through often determines what we will see, and of those things we see, what we will pay attention to or value. In assessing a child, particularly a special needs child, our lens is a crucial factor. During the 20th century, great progress has been made in determining the normal sequence of growth across many areas of child development.

This change in perspective and added understanding of the nature of growth and development has not yet translated into a change of focus in education. This knowledge could make it feasible for us to educate the whole child. What a powerful and essential opportunity for us to incorporate these tools into lives of the children we teach.

Education is still the crux; teacher and student still the main players, but cognitive learning assumes its proper perspective. It is a significant part of the learning process. Acquisition of knowledge is easily measured, a crucial part of the developing child -- perhaps a vehicle for moving other developmental tasks forward. The ability to learn, after all, has fueled much of our distinctions of who needs special services. However, in perspectives, it can be recognized as a part of the process of educating humanity, and not pursued as the only primary outcome.

Viewing the child

To help teachers change to a more whole child approach,especially beyond the primary grades, it is important to have ways to recognize more dimensions in the child, to have more knowledge about the development of the child, and to have ways of showing and discussing the child in a more whole manner. The PEPSI model provides that kind of container for teachers and for parents.

The concept of a PEPSI screening devise came about through recognition of the importance which child development has in assisting us to identify patterns in child behavior, and perceived misbehavior. Important as the concepts are, there is little instructional time or educational energy devoted to training teachers in developmental concepts. Further, there is such a mass of information available for study and consideration that it is difficult to manage and utilize it effectively with respect to individual children even when development is studied. The schema of developmental delay also suggests the need for a simple format for screening a child's potential strengths or delays across several dimensions.

The PEPSI model has been developed to assist in viewing the child across five areas of development. As shown in the following materials, the five charting areas are: Physical, Emotional, Philosophical, Social, and Intellectual. It works as a teacher's "hands-on" device, showing guidelines for recognizing and confirming a pattern of child behaviors and providing insight into child needs. By using detailed charting which is provided as a reference guide, the teacher effort is enhanced, increasing the ability to pinpoint levels of development in any (each) of the five progressing areas and then discern a child's individual pattern of growth or delay in those established areas.

Once the educator ascertains the components in a student's PEPSI it is possible to help the child enhance behaviors in less developed areas. The individual PEPSI may also serve as a visual signal to remind educators and parents that the child is developmentally delayed in some areas but not in others, thus helping to alter inappropriate expectations or mediate unnecessarily high demands which are beyond the child's current repertoire of behavior choices. It will also be possible to highlight student strengths and utilize them for the child's progress.

A case study example of using the PEPSI model follows:

In a First Grade classroom we recently observed a student with a set of behavioral problems which led the teacher to refer the child to special education services. The teacher reported a belief that the child was retarded and emotionally disturbed. The child appeared infantile and vindictive in a setting of responsible and motivated students. In an informal observation a cursory PEPSI was developed. By charting the child's behaviors and reactions and then comparing them to developmental sequences it was possible to recognize that the child was operating in patterns typical of a 4 1/2 year old socially, morally and emotionally. The child's chronological and physical age of 7 effectively masked the educator's ability to recognize immaturity as the real reason for the child's apparent dysfunction.

Looking at the child's work habits and report card history were good clues to the real issue or cognitive capability. That is frequently the case when a child is viewed as being at risk.

In summary, the PEPSI screening process can be learned in a brief period of time. The information base is well established and objective. The use of the information is more subjective. As the educator practices the model, reliability will increase. The ability to recognize behavior patterns will become sharper with increased familiarity in using the factors and dimensions of development. The PEPSI screening tool can be useful, even during the learning process. Appropriate use comes in recognizing the basic assumptions inherent in the tool.

Philosophical Understandings

These are included once again, to underscore the importance of seeing this process from a positive, "understanding students" mode and not as a labeling process:

  1. The PEPSI assessment model is based on an humanistic philosophy, a belief in health and positive growth and maintains a child-centered focus.
  2. The basic concepts from the wealth of research in developmental literature.
  3. The screening procedure is informal, partially intuitive and instructive, with a PEPSI for a child being viewed as a starting point for assisting in recognizing patterns of behavior and general levels of child growth.
  4. The PEPSI model is not intended as a set of criteria for labeling or diagnosing in any setting or with any child.
  5. The PEPSI is intended to be a flexible tool which can be adjusted to meet individual teacher needs.
  6. Viewing the child through a PEPSI model may provide adult awareness of areas which can be strengthened and nourished in the child.
  7. Once a PEPSI is constructed for a child there may be a visible image of strengths, weaknesses and areas of developmental progress which can assist in production of the IEP and which may be included in a child's portfolio.
  8. PEPSI can be self help tool when taught to adolescent students to assist them in developing self awareness and setting personal goals for growth.

It is essential, in reading developmental charts to remember that development is nearly always sequential but it is not necessarily age-specific to each individual. Thus the "norm" or general guidelines for sixes will actually be accurate for approximately 68% of children who are six. The other 32% of the class will be beyond those guidelines or will not have reached them. Theoretically, with a class of 30 students and five differing areas of development, one or two students would be developmentally appropriate in all levels and the other 28 students would probably fall above or below the guidelines in at least one area. Given this understanding of children and their growth, the teacher, rather than label the child as abnormal, might see the goal for progress in the slower area and guide the child to enjoy and more fully utilize personal strengths.

The following charts provide an age specific overview of common patterns of behavior for children in the age group specified.

Remember! Few children will be right at the behaviors given in all areas. Most of us are working at our own level, based on our hereditary endowments and the environmental opportunities we encounter.

Remember! Almost all children develop physically at a pretty normal pace, but in every other area, the development is much less rigidly fixed. Nearly everyone matures physically, but many of us do not seem to mature as naturally or in as orderly a fashion in other areas of development.

Remember to take social and cultural expectations into account. Gender, place in the family, family expectations and social and cultural scripts contribute strongly to social, philosophical and emotional development.

Remember that schools may use a narrow definition of intelligence when looking at cognitive development of children and when testing for competencies. A student with highly developed nonverbal intelligence may actually look learning disabled, based on school expectation; a student with strong kinesthetic intelligence may not be able to learn to read in the same way as other students and may appear to have dyslexia until someone combines the student's learning strengths with a specific teaching technique. These examples suggest that we look carefully at many factors before determining that a student is intellectually developmentally delayed.

PEPSI Screening summary

    a) Gather information about the child.
    b) Compare the child's behaviors with the age charts supplied.
    c) Draw out the PEPSI chart for a "typical" child.
    d) Diagram an illustration of the findings for the individual child.
    e) List strengths and weaknesses which are apparent from the profile.
    f) Review suggestions list for enhancing safety and increasing individual student growth options.


. . . And now, to view specific age and stage charts, click on the links to view the desired ages. Remember to look at charts that are representative of one age above and one age below the student you are observing. If you believe a child has serious developmental delays, try matching reading age with the charts you are looking at if the age charts near the student's age do not match. If you find one area, for instance emotional, and cannot locate a match, go backward, one year at a time until you begin to feel there is a fit. (Printing out the charts may facilitate the task).

Age Charts

One year old Two Three Four
Five Six Seven Eight
Nine Ten Eleven Early adolescence
Late adolescence


Optimizing growth

Once the teacher recognizes a delay, an IEP goal can be generated to address growth. The teacher will be able to facilitate the most progress through increased safety and structure in the educational environment. Student energy can be enhanced by showing pleasures in the student strengths as well as focusing on concerns. Provide practice in missing skills which would be likely to next, according to the indications from the charting. Remember to reward close approximations rather than focusing on errors for development at an optimal level.

In Summary

IF development of the physical body is our only societal imperative then current schooling is pointless. If the intellectual development is the only sphere of concern, then teaching the basic "3-R's" is justifiable. If, however we are preparing the person for life, for entrance into society, and for acceptance of self as a unique and special person, then we must teach the WHOLE PERSON. If we are in the midst of building a world community and hope to foster peace and understanding, then we must teach the WHOLE PERSON.

We do that by first recognizing the component parts of each student, then learning the developmentally appropriate sequencing of the human growth and then we assist in optimizing the environment and energizing the child to take on the process for enhancing individual development and acceptance of special gifts and strengths as well as weaknesses.


Sample Inservice for Teaching a PEPSI

Developed by Glenna May Steiner

PEPSI Sample Lesson Plan for a parent meeting


1) Describe the importance of teaching the whole child.

2) Increase awareness of typical developmental behavior.


Anticipatory Set: Upon arrival to my classroom, parents will receive a Pepsi to drink. I will have up on the overhead projector, or as a power point presentation, a picture of a Pepsi can with the letters P E P S I appearing vertically on one side of the can. After inroductions and parents are attending to the meeting, I will discuss how this P E P S I is different from the Pepsi I just gave them.

Steps to Lesson:

1) Define P E P S I and write what each letter stands for next to the letter on the screen.

P hysical

E motional

P hilosophical

S ocial

I intellectual

P E P S I refers to five areas of progressive and continuous changes in the human essence that make up a developmental perspective of growth.

2) Discuss philosophy of teaching the whole child. Have displayed on the screen the following information:

Teachers Who are Loved

attend to the whole child.

understand interplay of areas of development.

understand student needs.

understand effect of all areas of growth on child's ability to become an educated, self controlled, contributing member of society.

3) Discuss PEPSI as a didactic tool for helping teachers accumulate and utilize developmental knowledge in learning about students. Have displayed the following information:

PEPSI works as

hands-on device

shows guidelines for recognizing and confirming a pattern of child behaviors

provides insights into child's needs

the teachers efforts are enhanced by being able to pinpoint levels of development in any 5 progressing areas

a pattern can be discerned which helps explain student actions

can recognize a child's strengths and weaknesses

4) Show steps in a PEPSI screening.

a) Gather information about the child. Interview child, family, friends, previous teachers, and school nurse. Look at previous school records

b) Compare youth's behavior with the age charts supplied. I will display 8 year old chart, assuming I'm teaching 3rd graders.

c) Draw out a PEPSI chart for a typical age mate as an example. I will do this as part of power point presentation.

d) Hatch in each area to illustrate the individual student's current profile. I'll use an imaginary student so comparisons can be made.

e) List strengths and weaknesses that are apparent from profile. I will enlist comments and involve parents in the discussion so I know they can see the information from the charts.

f) Review suggestion list for enhancing safety and increasing individual student growth options.Together we will discuss what plan would be best for this child.

5) Discuss connection between effective teaching and knowing ages and stages of child's development. Have displayed: If we are truly preparing youth for life, for entrance into society, and for acceptance of self as a unique and special person, then teaching the whole child will reap benefits.

Conclusion: Have displayed and go over the knowledge a teacher gains about children if teaching the whole child and also the benefits to the child, teacher, classroom when the teacher does in fact teach the whole child.

Knowledge of Child

recognition of component parts of each child.

learn developmentally appropriate sequencing of human growth

assist in optimizing the environment

use time valued roles to energize student to take on the processes for enhancing individual development

acceptance of special gifts and strengths as well as weaknesses

build enough relationship with the student so that he/she captures the magic in vision and truly celebrates self. Benefits of teaching the whole child:

free flowing, stimulating and friendly classroom

master teacher matches the nature and development of the students with the content and expectations

valuing individuality of each person

establishing and teaching healthy community and group process

process and relationship being revisited and valued

intensify quality of time spent on interactional critical thinking

clearly develop student perception that learning is a life long joyous pursuit

self control

child taught responsibility for self as well as personal freedom.

You should now:

Go on to Building a Pepsi
Go back to PEPSI

E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at

Web site created by the NAU OTLE Faculty Studio

Course developed by J'Anne Ellsworth


Copyright 1998 Northern Arizona University