The nerves are likely starting to set in as your graduation date approaches and you prepare to step into your first preschool teaching job. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous. No amount of studying can fully prepare you for a classroom full of rambunctious toddlers.
But with plenty of practice, hands-on training and some good advice, even corralling a classroom can be conquered. You’re already acquiring the knowledge and training through your formal education, and practice will come with time. As for good advice—leave that up to us!
We enlisted a panel of preschool teaching pros to share some unique teaching strategies they’ve grown to know and love.
Teaching strategies to consider …
If you want to ensure your preschoolers are successful learners, you’ve got to hear from others that have gone before you in getting them engaged. Check out some of these strategies from other preschool teachers and early childhood experts so you can enter the classroom confident and equipped.
1. Logo/symbol labeling
One way to promote everyday vocabulary is by having students verbally label common brands and symbols, according to Dr. Elaine Fogel Schneider, director of Touchtime International. She explains that translating from picture to word helps in language development.
She suggests making this activity more interactive by having the students and their parents take pictures of logos or symbols found around their neighborhood, such as street signs, car logos or clothing brands. Then children can bring the photos to the classroom where students can label them as a group.
2. Sound recognition & matching
This activity will require a few large letters cut out of cardboard several small objects nearby that begin with those letters. For example, if your letters are “B” and “F,” you might have a pile of buttons and feathers. Start by having the child say the sound that the letter makes. Then, encourage the child to find an object beginning with the same sound and paste it to the letter.
Schneider says this activity is a student favorite because it allows them to be hands-on in their learning. It also results in an art masterpiece with decorated letters that can be kept throughout the classroom.
3. Photo flashcards of social scenarios
Helen Meissner is an ECE teacher and recommends creating social flashcards using photographs of your students in real-world situations. These help foster discussions about how to treat others, working together and handling conflict.
For example, she will take a picture of two children in conflict over a toy or working together to move a heavy object. She then shows the photo to the class asking what they see happening in the picture. She asks how person A is feeling and how person B is feeling.
“These picture cards work well because often they remember the situation and can really discuss how it happened and what they could do to fix it,” Meissner says.
4. Shared reading
This is one of the most effective teaching strategies for early literacy skills, according to Susan Berkowitz, a speech language pathologist who frequently works with young children. She recommends reading the same book multiple times, encouraging students to focus on a new aspect each time. Asking open-ended questions while reading and doing follow-up activities encourages children to absorb new information each time.
“Teaching preschool children new vocabulary, semantic relationships, sequencing events in the story and identifying story elements are all vital early literacy skills,” Berkowitz adds.
5. Focusing on the process not the product
“Allowing for art to be more about the process and less about the product opens doors to learning in the creativity and arts area,” Meissner says. She engages her students by teaching them about the medium they’re working with, how they can use it and how to care for the art supplies. Not only does each student learn about the process, but he or she also focus less on comparing their final products to their classmate’s.
6. Introduce cyber skills
“When children leave the classroom environment they are often handed tablets and smartphones that some parents may unfortunately use as digital babysitters,” says Ben Halpert, founder of Cyber Kids. He urges teachers to start informing children about topics such as cyber ethics, security, privacy and managing screen-time. Halpert’s team has designed free lesson plans and activities for teachers who want to help children begin thinking about how to appropriate approach the online world.
7. Get the senses involved in science
“Getting [kids] to be still for a moment and focus on what they are discovering helps you learn what they know,” Meissner says. She stresses the importance of encouraging students to use all five senses in science and observation activities.
Meissner explains, for example, when planting their class garden they discuss how the soil feels and smells and what colors we see in the soil. They talk about how the different plants will taste and what they will look like as they grow from a seed into a plant.
Keep the inspiration going
You are now equipped with a few new teaching strategies that have proven effective for others in your field. But the inspiration shouldn’t stop there! In the teaching profession, you should always be on the lookout for new approaches and activities.
Pinterest has become a perfect platform for early educators to share their ideas. Check out this list of 10 powerful Pinterest users in ECE!
Do you have a favorite teaching strategy you’d like to share with other early childhood educators? We’d love to hear it in the comment section below!