Classroom management for preschool

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At any level, teachers are always striving to find the best classroom management strategy for their students. However, classroom management for preschool is its own category as these students often are in a school setting for the first time and don’t have a regulated concept of the social norms of group learning yet.   Teachers must find different strategies to manage their students through the school day. This highlights some of the best strategies for classroom management for preschool.

What are your class rules?

That is one question to ask at the beginning of each year when developing your system for classroom management for preschool. In most cases, a blank stare follows along with a murmured agreement that “we don’t have any.” This is a problem because they do.

Classrooms have lots of rules, and we make up new ones just about every day. The question to pose is if the class wants the structure to be put in place, where will it come from?

The answer is the teacher. In most cases, there are two camps with this question. On the one hand, some teachers take that opportunity to go in and start writing down every single rule they can think of, often making it very specific to their class. I have found that is very difficult for both the teacher and for the children.

Instead, use a different approach when considering classroom management strategies for preschool. Think about the rules that are truly important, and make them general enough so they can apply to other classes as they get older.

As an example, a good “walking in line” rule is: Follow your teacher. This simple sentence has a lot of meaning for young children. They understand that we walk together, always stay close by, and are willing to wait when we get somewhere.

Now, the fact that children may not be familiar with this rule is where the skill of your classroom management for preschool comes in. It’s important to provide constant reminders, reinforcing them when they walk through the door every morning, or as you guide them along in the hallway. This way, when a child is tempted to walk ahead or lag behind, the rule pops into his head as an appropriate response.

However, it’s important to note that this reminder process does not occur instantaneously and may take several days (or more). In fact, you should be prepared for it to take a few weeks before all children are automatically following your cue. This is normal, so try not to be discouraged. Instead,  harmoniously ensure that your expectations are being met.

When they are, provide a lot of praises and encouragement.  This is one more way to build upon the success your students have with your class rules and your system for classroom management for preschool.

Even if you don’t use a specific rule for walking in line, you can still take this approach when establishing other classroom rules.  Think about what will really help your class to be successful, and make those rules as general as possible.  Your students will thank you for it.

What does a good transition look like?

Transitions are one of the most challenging areas of classroom management for preschool while still maintaining fun and engaging lessons that get done on time. In fact, effective transitions are something that takes a lot of growth and skill to master.  It’s a very difficult thing to try to accomplish in any class, but especially with young children!

To be effective at managing preschool transitions in terms of classroom management for preschool, it is important first to understand what your expectations are for the length of time needed for each transition. This should be based on how long it takes children to get ready to move on from the current activity.  You need to be very clear about this, as well as the expectations for class behavior while transitioning.

Transitions are difficult because young children do not yet understand that they will have time later in their day to fulfill other needs or interests. They simply want things done right then and there. They also do not have the ability to stay focused on one task for any length of time, so it is important that you take this into consideration when planning what needs to be accomplished during the transition.  

There are two primary approaches that I have found to be effective with preschoolers:

1) “something different” and

2) “something similar”.  

Something different means that you take the children’s focus off of what they are currently doing by offering them something very interesting to look at or do.  This “something” can be anything. It could be a new place in your classroom, a game they aren’t allowed to play during class time, or even something as simple as a funny face that you make for them.  Something different is anything that will spark their interest and take their minds off of what they are leaving behind.  

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Something similar means something similar to whatever it is the children just did. They want to stay connected with what they were doing, so by providing an alternative way to continue to do something similar, you are able to direct their attention in a positive way.  

Most of the time, the best results are from using both of these strategies together as part of your classroom management for preschool plan. The “something different” transition is used first and then followed by an opportunity for the children to stay connected with what they were just doing via something similar. This gives them something that they need right then and there (something different) as well as a way to keep doing what they were already interested in (something similar).  

The hardest challenge of all is that children are not yet able to understand the concept of time. They can’t grasp the idea of this being their “last 15 minutes” quite yet, so they really don’t have the ability to wait patiently until it is their turn.  They need concrete things to do while they wait for their transition time, and they also need reminders from you that this will soon be over.

Working on transitions in preschool will always be a challenge because young children simply cannot comprehend waiting at this point in their lives. But with consistent management and these special strategies, you can have incredibly positive results!

No matter what strategy you use in this part of your classroom management for preschool plan, it is vitally important to have clear expectations for both the transition activity and class behavior while transitioning.  You need to convey these rules ahead of time so that students can understand why they are expected to be engaged in their transition activities and not wandering around the room looking for something better to do.  

It is always best to let the students know that you have planned something special for them, and then plan for something different than what was expected should this not be successful.

Conflict resolution with preschoolers

The key to conflict resolution with preschoolers is to help them get the support they need in order for them to calm down and find a better way to solve the problem.  This does not mean that you are giving in and do not have rules!  It simply provides the child with what he or she needs (empathy) in order to be able to move forward and find an appropriate solution embedded into your classroom management for preschool plan.  

What typically happens is that a child will become upset and display some type of behavior that gets him into trouble (classroom disruption, aggression toward other children, etc.).  Instead of calling them down for a time out or sending them to the principal’s office immediately, you need to start by acknowledging their feelings.  

This can be done simply by saying, “I see that you are upset about __________”.  You don’t want to tell them what they did wrong or make accusations against them, just acknowledge that they are feeling something powerful and give some words for the emotion.  

Next, you are going to empathize with the child and go through a few empathy statements such as, “That was very frustrating for you”.   

Once the child has calmed down, help them find a better way to solve the problem or talk about what they can do next time. This helps them learn to calm themselves when they get upset and also shows them that you have their best interest at heart.  

Another way to handle this issue with classroom management for preschool is by using problem-solving with children instead of conflict resolution.  Young children do not always have the vocabulary to express their feelings, so it can be difficult for them to tell you what they are upset about.   Problem-solving requires the child to come up with a solution to the problem, and this gives them control over their own emotions.  This is vital in terms of classroom management for preschool.

This type of conflict resolution works well with preschoolers because it allows them to work out their problems instead of putting them in time out or sending them home.  It also provides you with an opportunity to check in with the child about how they are feeling and see if they want to work on solving their own problem.  

As with any conflict resolution strategy, and especially with classroom management for preschool, it is vitally important that you stick to your rules even though this child has been having a difficult time calming down. 

If the child becomes aggressive or starts throwing things around the classroom, then it is time to separate them to allow them to cool down or, if this is a reoccurring problem, to have a conference with parents to try to come up with a classroom management for preschool plan that will work for everybody.

Classroom Management for Preschool

Learning through play with classroom management for preschool

Children learn best when they are playing and having fun, so incorporating play into your teaching will be helpful for both you and the children.  There are a number of different ways to incorporate play into your classroom, but some suggestions include singing, movement activities, dramatic play, etc.   

A great way to introduce play into your classroom is through music and movement activities.  You can either take children on a walk around the neighborhood or take them outside at recess, but it will be important for you to first spend time talking about what they are going to do during this activity.  

Mention a few songs that you would like for them to sing or some songs that you would like to try a new dance with. This will help set the tone for how everybody is going to interact and what type of relationship exists between you and your students.  

Going on these types of activities also helps children learn about their environment and provides important social skills like taking turns, sharing, and getting along with people.   It also gives them an opportunity to engage in cooperative play, which is an important skill for children to learn as they move from preschool into kindergarten.  This type of play involves working together toward a common goal or completing a task for some sort of reward.

Incorporating play into your classroom gives your child a chance to be creative and use their imagination while still falling in line with classroom management for preschool.  Some examples of different types of play that you can incorporate include dramatic play, guided play, etc.  

Dramatic play helps children develop both social and cognitive skills. Children will act out scenarios from books that they have read or pretend to go on adventures with other students in the classroom.   This type of play also helps children learn about their environment and to explore different feelings and emotions.  It has also been linked to helping improve literacy skills in some cases, so including dramatic play in your classroom will help the entire class become better readers.

Guided play is another great activity for preschoolers that you can use inside or outside.  What makes guided play so special is that you can get the children engaged in whatever type of play they want to be involved in by guiding them through it.  This helps you to teach them how to engage with their environment and learn about their world by having a birds-eye view of everything that they are doing without getting involved in it.  

For example, if you were walking to the park with your class and a number of children started playing tag or chasing each other around, you could mention that it looks like some children are choosing to play tag while others seem more interested in talking to their friends.  This will help draw the attention of other students who may have been sitting on the bench or walking around the park, and they will probably come over to play.  

Once you have their attention, you can use this as a teaching opportunity by telling them about how some children really enjoy playing tag while others would rather just talk to their friends. This is vital to effective classroom management for preschool.

Parents as partners

One of the most important things that parents should understand about classroom management for preschool is that it is not an extension of the home.  Instead, teachers should see parents as partners with who they can work in order to meet the needs of their child.  

This does not mean that you have to do everything together; however, it will be important for both parties (parent and teacher) to learn about each other so that they can work together.   It is also important for you to understand the role of the teacher, which is to instruct and care for children as they learn during their journey through school.

This will be a gradual process, and it is normal if you are not familiar with how teachers teach at first or even if your child is not used to having someone else be in charge of them all day.   It is important to remember that your child will not have the opportunity to learn these things at this stage, so your teacher can help you by providing tips on how best to work with your child.

Parents should also understand that they are not the only people who can help their children learn.   Instead, they should view themselves as one point of a triangle that involves the teacher and the child.  This triangle is important because it allows everyone involved to communicate about your child’s progress when you are not able to do so yourself.

Defining Classroom Management for Preschool with the 4 Keys

Implementing a plan for classroom management for preschool isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom. If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.

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