2018 Call for Proposals: Breakout Sessions

The First Things First Early Childhood Summit is one of the nation’s premiere conferences focused on early childhood development. This year’s Summit is scheduled for Monday, August 27 and Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to an exciting lineup of keynote and featured speakers, the 2018 Summit will include a wide array of breakout sessions focused on important early childhood topics.

First Things First is seeking proposals for breakout sessions – each 90 minutes in length – that will engage, inform and inspire Summit participants. 

Why submit a breakout session proposal?

You must submit a proposal in order to be selected to present at the Summit. And presenting at the Summit is a unique, prestigious opportunity to share your knowledge, experiences, research and ideas with a large audience of interested early childhood professionals and stakeholders. The Summit is a platform to present best practices, success stories and solutions to issues you have faced in your area of expertise. You will also have the opportunity to network with and learn from colleagues and experts in the field.


Call for Proposals Opens
January 16

Submission Deadline
March 27 • 5:00 pm AZ time

Review of Proposals
March 28 – April 27

Notification of Selections


Contact Dave Ryder at
or 602.568.6277

Who attends the Summit?

The Summit is attended by a diverse array of participants including:

  • Early care and education professionals
  • Family support providers
  • Health professionals
  • First Things First regional partnership council members
  • Faith based providers
  • Policymakers
  • School administrators and teachers
  • University and college faculty
  • Business professionals
  • Tribal departments
  • State agency personnel 

Criteria for selection

All proposals will be evaluated by a panel of reviewers including First Things First staff, council members and community partners. It is a highly-selective process. Proposals are rated for their overall quality, qualifications of the presenter(s), alignment with the selected topic areas, relevance and importance of subject matter, and quality/feasibility of accomplishing learning objectives. Sessions are also selected to provide a balanced program with a wide variety of topics. 

First Things First is looking for interactive and compelling breakout sessions that:

  • Share and demonstrate best practices
  • Provide innovative and evidence-based approaches
  • Explain research and how to apply it in daily practice
  • Engage attendees with opportunities for interaction, discussion and active participation

Topic Areas

Summit breakout sessions provide participants a diverse set of topics related to early childhood development and health. Recognizing early childhood as a component of the education continuum, we encourage proposals that focus on engaging diverse, target populations, effective coordination and alignment with K-3 education. 

The breadth of topics may range in depth from beginning levels (introductory) such as awareness of concepts through expert levels (advanced) for those who advocate for and support development of other professionals.

Child Health and Development 

Sessions focused on the healthy development of children ages birth to 5. Health is broadly defined to include physical, social, behavioral and oral health. Subjects of particular interest include: 

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
  • Neuroscience of brain development in early childhood
  • Oral health, prevention of early childhood caries 
  • Immunizations and well-child visits
  • School-based health services and interventions
  • Early screening and identification of developmental concerns, including autism, and connections to services and interventions
  • Health systems and health policy: Medicaid (AHCCCS), CHIP (KidsCare), health reform (state and federal), IDEA and corresponding implications for early childhood health
  • Health care issues affecting pregnant moms and perinatal women
  • Social determinants of health: factors that influence health in the home and community
  • Care coordination for children with special needs
  • Hearing and vision screening
  • Rural and tribal children’s health
  • Nutrition, physical activity and obesity programs
  • Early childhood behavioral health

Early Childhood Systems Building 

Early childhood systems building is the process of organizing a cohesive system that coordinates and aligns a broad array of services to improve outcomes for children and families. Sessions may focus on successful examples and potential strategies to achieve collective impact that benefits young children. Subjects of particular interest include:

  • How to leverage and blend funding from multiple sources for greater impact
  • Creative collaboration and partnerships and system coordination efforts that directly or indirectly impact services for children, families, caregivers and professional caregivers
  • How to share and integrate data for a greater understanding of what is happening in the system
  • Effective cross-sector service delivery in rural or tribal communities
  • Cross-sector approaches to meeting individual needs of children, families and professionals
  • How to build and strengthen the capacity of non-profits to deliver services
  • How to identify and change public policy to advance outcomes for young children
  • How to engage the faith community, k-12 education, business, philanthropy and other stakeholders as a system partner

Early Language and Literacy

Sessions focused on early language and literacy development of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. These sessions should provide the information and foundational skills to support the development of reading and writing. Subjects of particular interest include:

  • Continuum of language and literacy development – typical development, red flags
  • Strategies that adults can implement to support early literacy development of young children such as:
    • Sing, talk, read
    • Self-talk/Parallel talk
    • Back and forth conversation exchanges/dialogue
    • Extending and elaborating on children’s communication
    • Using open-ended questions
    • Connecting communication and language to real world experiences
    • Connecting communication and language to social-emotional experiences
    • Oral motor development
  • Indicators of developing emergent literacy such as:
    • Receptive language understanding
    • Expressive language and communication skills
    • Vocabulary
    • Phonological awareness
    • Alphabet knowledge
    • Comprehension
    • Early writing, processes and writing application
    • Concepts of print
    • Fine motor development - book handling skills and behaviors
  • Instructional practices that support the literacy development of young children that are aligned with:
    • The Program Guidelines for High Quality Early Education: Birth through Kindergarten
    • The Arizona Infant Toddler Developmental Guidelines
    • The Arizona Early Learning Standards
    • The Continuum of Effective Early Literacy Practices

Early Learning

Sessions focused on quality early care and education experiences for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, in both center and home-based settings that help prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond. Subjects of particular interest include:

  • The impact of brain development on a child’s ability to learn
  • How to use assessment tools and practices to evaluate early care/education programs for quality
  • Evidence-based curriculum
  • How to monitor children’s progress over time and use that data to inform instructional practices and curriculum planning
  • Interconnectedness of developmental domains, instructional practices and learning environments
  • Instructional practices that support the development of young children and are aligned with:
    • The Program Guidelines for High Quality Early Education: Birth through Kindergarten
    • The Arizona Infant Toddler Developmental Guidelines
    • The Arizona Early Learning Standards
  • Best practices in educating and caring for:
    • Infants and toddlers
    • Children with special needs, including special health care needs
    • Children who have experienced trauma
    • Dual language learners
  • Prevention of expulsion
  • Promising practices to support quality in Family, Friend and Neighbor care
  • Professional development and retention of highly qualified early care and education professionals
  • Culturally responsive instructional practices, family engagement and policies for early care and education providers

Organizational and Personal Development

Sessions designed to enhance and expand leadership and team building skills at all levels of the early childhood system; and/or interpersonal (people) skills, work place issues or self-care for early childhood professionals. Sessions of particular interest include:

  • How to create positive work environments, addressing organizational culture
  • How to engage/motivate employees, team building, rewarding/recognizing employees, providing feedback
  • Assess and address organizational effectiveness
  • Common errors by new managers
  • Managing employee performance
  • Tips for recruiting, coaching and retaining millennials and everyone else
  • Mentoring in the digital age
  • Work-life balance – avoiding burnout, managing stress
  • How women leaders can set themselves up for success
  • How to effectively collaborate
  • Presentation skills, listening skills
  • Coalition building, achieving collective impact

Public Awareness and Engagement

Sessions focused on building public awareness of the importance of early childhood, including strategies for engaging the public to take action on behalf of young children in their communities.

  • Marketing/communications planning
  • Digital marketing, including email, social media, websites and content
  • Public relations and media relations
  • Grassroots engagement
  • Understanding public policy
  • How to engage elected officials to back programs that support vulnerable and at-risk families

Strengthening Families

Sessions are focused on how to support parents and families with the tools and information they need to provide stable, nurturing environments that help their young children reach their full potential. With the understanding that parents are their children’s first and best teachers, sessions may include general awareness and education on topics such as early brain development and literacy, positive parenting practices, and the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on children’s development. More in-depth concepts may include implementation of evidence-based programs and innovative solutions associated with positive child and family level outcomes, building resiliency in at-risk families and communities, and engaging at-risk families and special populations. Subjects of particular interest include:

  • Evidence-based programs serving various target populations (families of children with special physical, emotional and/or behavioral needs, families with high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores, grandparents raising grandchildren, parents with mental illness or substance abuse concerns, teen parents, etc.)
  • Culturally-responsive practices including outreach to specific targeted populations
  • Programs/services demonstrating positive child and family level outcomes
  • Development and integration of early literacy practices and policies into programs and institutions serving families
  • The practical application of The Protective Factors, trauma informed care, Adverse Childhood Experiences and other approaches within programs or communities to strengthen family resiliency
  • Initial and ongoing engagement and retention practices with families and caregivers, including targeting fathers, teen parents, foster parents and grandparents
  • Creative use of technology in working with families and providing parenting support

Tribal Communities

Sessions in any of the topic areas listed above that are specifically focused on opportunities to support young children and families in tribal communities. Subjects of particular interest:

  • Innovative and effective programs implemented in tribal communities
  • Including cultural practices in evidence-based programs
  • Improving health outcomes of young children in tribal communities
  • Developing and utilizing standardized testing in early childhood programs
  • Building relationships to work effectively with tribes
  • Best practices for working with multigenerational families
  • Language immersion implementation
  • How to establish effective partnerships between tribal and non-tribal partners
  • Bridging the gap between elders, youth and technology
  • Culturally-responsive practices
  • Development and integration of native languages to promote early literacy
  • Utilizing data for decision making and measuring outcomes

How to submit a proposal

Once you have all of the required information, as detailed below, and are ready to submit your proposal, click on the button at the bottom of this page to access the online submission form.
The deadline for submission is March 27, 2018 at 5:00 PM (MST).

What you’ll need to submit a proposal

One (1) lead presenter will complete the submission form for each proposed session and will be the main point of contact going forward. The lead presenter will have the opportunity to add up to three (3) co-presenters, as is applicable.

It is recommended that you compose and save the content of your proposal submission in a separate document and then cut and paste into this online form.

If you would like to download a word document of the submission form and an example of what a good proposal looks like, please use these downloadable forms.

Presenter(s) information – the following must be provided by the lead presenter and for each co-presenter:

  • Name
  • Name of Organization
  • Title/Position
  • Mailing Address
  • Cell Phone
  • Email
  • Days available to present (Monday, Tuesday or both)
  • Biography (Length: up to 150 words or approximately 1,000 characters)

If your proposal is accepted, the lead presenter will be eligible to register to attend the Summit at a discounted rate. Co-presenters must register at the standard rates.

Session Title – the title should draw participants to your session and be descriptive enough to give a clear idea of the content of your session. If accepted, this title will be listed in the Summit program. (Length: up to 12 words/approximately 140 characters)

Brief Session Description (for Summit program, if selected) – a brief synopsis of your session that details what your presentation will cover and what participants will learn. There should be a clear connection between the title and the content of your presentation. If selected, this description will be listed in the Summit program. (Length: up to 30 words/approximately 250 characters)

Session Proposal (for review panel) – a detailed description of the content of your proposed session. Share how your content is relevant, timely and applicable for Summit participants. What should the learners be able to do if they apply what they learn in the breakout session? (Length: up to 400 words/approximately 2,800 characters)

Two to three learning objectives – what should the learners be able to do if they apply what they learn in the breakout session? (Length: up to 200 words/approximately 1,400 characters)

Interactive learning activities – as the review panel also considers the opportunities for interaction, discussion and active participation your session will provide, you will also be asked to list the types of interactive learning activities you will utilize to make your session engaging for your audience. (Length: Up to 75 words or approximately 525 characters)

Intended audience – indicate whether your session is intended for direct service providers/practitioners or a general audience.

Level of audience knowledge – indicate which of the following best characterizes the content of your proposed session and the experience level of the intended audience:

  • Introductory - for participants with basic, limited or no knowledge of the topics, practices, resources or publications covered in this proposal
  • Advanced - for participants with extensive knowledge of the topics, practices, resources or publications covered in your proposal

Questions? Contact Dave Ryder at dryder@veerconsulting.com or 602.568.6277.