Definitions of Domains

By Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D., Tracey West, Ph.D., & Margaret Gillis, Ph.D.

The Early Learning and Observation Rating Scale (ELORS) addresses seven domains of learning with 10 observable skills and behaviors for each domain.

Perceptual and Motor

Perceptual and Motor Domain includes fine and gross motor skills, coordination, integrating motor skills and vision (e.g., eye-hand coordination), sensory integration, visual memory (e.g., recalling visual details), and tactile defensiveness (e.g., exploring materials of different textures, such as play dough and finger-paint).

  1. Speed and agility
  2. Balance
  3. Eye hand coordination
  4. Large muscle coordination
  5. Holding a pencil or spoon
  6. Sense of direction
  7. Copying with a pencil
  8. Drawing simple shapes (e.g., circle, square)
  9. Exploring materials of different textures (e.g., paint, sand, clay, glue, dough)
  10. Dressing skills (e.g., zippers, buttons, shoes, socks)


The Self-Management Domain includes self-regulation skills (e.g., paying attention), delayed gratification, impulsivity, understanding consequences of actions, self-help skills, remembering routines, seeking help when appropriate, attentive behaviors, work habits (e.g., organization, distractibility, perseverance/diligence), and response to learning situations.

  1. Adjusting to changes in routine
  2. Following the daily classroom or home schedule
  3. Transitioning from one activity to another
  4. Consistency of behavior or mood
  5. Understanding the consequences of behaviors (e.g., sharing, hitting another child)
  6. Using planning prior to activities
  7. Persisting on difficult tasks
  8. Paying attention during group activities
  9. Using words to solve problems with peers
  10. Concentrating for brief periods of time

Social and Emotional

The Social and Emotional Domain includes social interactions, friendships and play, turn-taking, reciprocal play, self-expression and emotions, interpreting emotions of others, cooperation, and participating in group activities.

  1. Making friends
  2. Playing cooperatively with other children
  3. Participating in social activities
  4. Using turn-taking in play
  5. Labeling emotions of others (e.g., angry, happy, sad)
  6. Expressing anger appropriately
  7. Expressing frustration appropriately
  8. Functioning independently of adult attention
  9. Maintaining friendships
  10. howing a range of emotions (e.g., happy, worried, sad)

Early Math

The Early Math Domain includes quantity comparison (e.g., more, less, equal), one-to-one correspondence, concept of attribute, recognition of simple patterns and sequences, spatial orientation (e.g., up, down, beside), concept of time (e.g., yesterday, today, tomorrow), counting, concept of number, number recognition, and number naming.

  1. Naming numbers
  2. Counting in proper sequence
  3. Showing understanding of one-to-one correspondence (e.g., one cookie → one person)
  4. Counting objects accurately
  5. Determining which of two groups of objects has more or less
  6. Determining which object comes next in a sequence
  7. Determining which shape comes next in a repeating pattern
  8. Showing understanding of basic time sequences (e.g., before, after)
  9. Showing understanding of basic time concepts (e.g., yesterday, today, tomorrow)
  10. Showing understanding of basic spatial orientation terms (e.g., under, over, up, down, beside)

Early Literacy

The Early Literacy Domain includes emergent literacy skills related to awareness of letter sounds, syllables and rhymes, alphabet knowledge, interest in and knowledge of books and print, pre-writing skills, decoding (e.g., letter and sound relationships), and word recognition.

  1. Interest in reading activities
  2. Interest in writing his/her name
  3. Identifying words (e.g., “STOP” on stop sign)
  4. Remembering names of letters
  5. Learning letter sounds
  6. Determining if two letter or word sounds are the same
  7. Clapping out the number of syllables in a word
  8. Showing an understanding of which words rhyme
  9. Knowledge of parts of a book
  10. “Reading” from left to right, top to bottom

Receptive Language

The Receptive Language Domain includes skills in hearing and understanding sounds (e.g., recognizing common sounds), listening comprehension, recognizing and discriminating environmental sounds, completing sound patterns (e.g., in repetitive books or rhymes), shifting auditory attention (e.g., redirecting attention from one speaker to another), and auditory sequencing tasks.

  1. Paying attention to speech in the presence of background noise
  2. Recognizing common sounds in the environment
  3. Discriminating speech sounds
  4. Responding to verbal requests
  5. Recalling spoken instructions
  6. Requiring repetition of spoken communication
  7. Requiring rephrasing of spoken communication
  8. Following simple 3-step directions
  9. Requiring modeling or demonstration along with verbal directions
  10. Completing sound or word patterns (e.g., in repetitive books)

Expressive Language

The Expressive Language domain includes skills in talking and conversation including vocabulary, syntax (e.g., using correct word order in sentences), pragmatics (e.g., using language for different purposes, and making adjustments for different listeners and to convey different types of information), articulation, verbal memory, word retrieval, and spoken communication.

  1. Expressing wants, needs, and thoughts verbally
  2. Using language to interact with peers
  3. Size of vocabulary
  4. Length of typical sentences
  5. Retelling details of a story
  6. Using parts of speech such as pronouns (e.g., “he,” “I”)
  7. Understanding the order of words in sentences
  8. Using tense appropriately to describe events
  9. Using speech that can be understood
  10. Using appropriate words rather than filler words (e.g., that “thing”)

Suggested Tip!

Be Ready for Reading

Bring a book to your child’s next doctor’s appointment to ease the wait.  And, leave a book where you keep your reusable shopping bags to make the shopping cart a rolling reading room
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