Preschool is exciting but overwhelming for most children and probably for the teacher, too. Moving small children from one activity or room to another in any kind of organized fashion is like moving armies.
With some planning, routines, and expectation setting, you can calm the chaos and keep everyone learning and having fun throughout the day with these classroom management tips.
Your day will go much smoother when little ones know what to expect. A simple method of letting everyone know what to do and what not to do keeps everyone moving along the same path.
For example, create a chart and brief presentation using red and green choices.
Green choices are things you want the children to do, such as using gentle hands, walking feet, and safe habits when playing and working. Green represents “Go,” and keep making green choices.
Red choices are what you want the children to avoid doing. Red means stop — stop making that choice. Ensure the focus is on the choice, not the child. They can change their choices; they can’t change themselves. If a child makes a red choice (a mistake), they can fix it and make a green choice instead.
Set Your Classroom Process
How you interact with children sets the tone for the classroom. Encourage the 4 Cs in yourself and other teaching and aid staff:
- Compassionate curiosity
- Clear consequences
Compassionate curiosity is a nonjudgmental investigation technique to help you and the child understand what's happening with them. Instead of reacting when a child acts out, ask the child, "Is there something important on your mind today?"
Compassionate curiosity leads to collaboration. Once children know you are curious instead of angry, they feel more comfortable sharing interests and passions and interacting with you and their peers. They learn to show the same respect to others that you model for them.
Choice means working with children to identify what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how they prefer to learn it. Tailor your classroom activities and culture to teach negotiation and compromise, providing them with a sense of control.
You may have some non-negotiable items, but you can frame your “no” to work around them.
Clear consequences that are logical to the child ensures the consequences are proportionate to the action that provoked them. Everyone must have the same consequences, or kids will cry, "Unfair!"
Try pre-correcting and prompting about expected behavior in a setting. If they still don’t exhibit the expected behavior, a natural or logical consequence that is reasonable and related to the problem can be a great teaching moment.
Strategize and Organize Your Room
Make sure every area of your classroom is set up for effective learning:
- Separate noisy activities from quiet ones
- Mark areas of the room clearly
- Create boundaries
- Don’t overstuff things
Use one end of your room for noisy activities or intersperse noisy activities with quiet ones. Mark various areas for activities like reading, timeout, food, and play.
Creating boundaries facilitates relationships between peers, and you have fewer unacceptable situations. Those that occur usually resolve themselves quickly.
A crammed classroom is overwhelming. You don’t need to fill every bin or every space. Provide room to move. Reduce the toys in each bin so kids can see what's in them. Making your room less "busy" reduces stress on everyone.
Provide Tools to Express Feelings
Small children aren’t known for their ability to answer, “What’s wrong?”
Help them find ways to express their emotions instead of trying to find out why they feel that way at the moment.
Offer options like art, song, and movement in a quiet space apart from the group. Let them choose whether to manage the feelings by waiting in a safe area until they feel they can participate or stay with the group while still having the feelings.
If they don’t know what to do, provide gentle assistance that helps continue the flow of the day.
Always have a way to wrap up one activity and move to another or from room to room.
One method is the countdown. Announce you will count down from ten to one before moving to the next activity. Children can get ready for the move while you count. For example, they can spend that time putting away supplies, cleaning up, putting on outdoor clothing, and generally ending one activity and getting ready for the next.
Always have a plan for what to do next. Don’t end one activity without having another to continue the flow.
Parents want to know that their child will be safe in your classroom. Make sure you are keeping areas clean (as clean as possible with a classroom full of little children) and ensure that the play areas are sanitized at the end of the day.
If you use childcare management software, you can quickly access important account information like immunization records, emergency contacts, and authorized adults that can pick up each child in case of emergencies. If something does happen in your classroom that requires parental attention, you can contact parents or guardians in an email blast.
Create an Integrated Learning Environment
Create spaces for different learning activities, including auditory, visual, and social/emotional development. Provide individual learning stations or centers that allow children to explore and play safely without becoming overwhelmed.
Balance passive and active activities so everyone has a chance to calm down after being busy or to wake up after a quiet time.
If you notice individual students with a pattern of issues, use creativity to resolve the situation. Step back and analyze the circumstances. If the child doesn’t care for sensory learning, perhaps they would prefer to wear gloves, for example.
Final Tip — Enjoy Your Job
If you don’t enjoy yourself, the children won’t have fun. Nobody likes to work at something they dislike, nor do they want to be around someone who is obviously unhappy with their situation.
Regularly remind yourself why you went into teaching preschool and try to keep the joy going, even when some days fall flat. The old saying that if you love what you do, you won't work a day in your life has some truth to it!
Childcare is not an easy profession, but you play an essential role in shaping the lives of the next generation. We hope these tips can help you manage your classroom with logic and love.