At the time, you probably didn’t realize you were participating in classroom management techniques. Now that you’re exploring an early childhood education (ECE) career, classroom management takes on a whole new meaning. The key is being prepared ahead of time and learning from experts who’ve paved the way before you and identified some tried and true techniques for classroom management.
10 expert tricks for managing your preschool classroomWe connected with a handful of preschool pros to learn their proven classroom management techniques. Keep reading to learn a few tricks of the trade.
1. Organize your room strategicallyA preschool classroom can be quite chaotic, so the way you organize is not only important, it can help ensure that effective learning is happening wherever children are stationed. There are certain tips and tricks that you can only learn from experience, according to Barbara Harvey, ECE professional and parenting educator.
She’s learned to separate noisy areas of the classroom from the quiet ones. For example, the blocks and other activities should be on the opposite side of the room from the reading center. These types of insights will only get stronger with experience, so make a point to try new things and see what works.
2. Create an attention-grabberWith a room full of youngsters, things are bound to get rowdy once in a while. During these times you’ll need to find creative ways to get grab attention. Asking children to copy your sounds or motions can be just the ticket.
“I just do a silly sound or gesture to get their attention,” says preschool teacher Amissa Stahlhut. “Then I ask them to do what I do, say or sing. I start out with big, silly and sometimes loud movements or sounds and then gradually get smaller and quieter.”
3. Make a plan for transitionsThere will be several times throughout the day when children are transitioning from one activity or area of the room to another. It’s important to have a plan for these transitions.
Harvey suggests using a countdown as part of your plan so children are ready to move on when the time comes. Announcing that you’re going to countdown from 10 to one before moving on to the next activity will help children feel prepared for the transition.
4. Create a puppet ‘friend’Sometimes you’re going to need a little break from being the voice of reason. Using a puppet to help teach manners, skills or kindness gives the children another authority to learn from—one that is cute and fuzzy!
“A fun guest that we often invited into our classroom was Mr. Friendly Frog, who was a puppet that would talk about how to do friendly things in the classroom,” says Anna Boyer, assistant director and education specialist at Sabes JCC Early Childhood Center. “The class grew to LOVE Mr. Friendly Frog and would talk about him all the time.”
5. Use child-friendly labelsKeeping your room organized shouldn’t all fall on your shoulders. Empower your students to pick up after themselves and take responsibility for their own messes.
Harvey uses labeled plastic bins to organize classroom supplies and toys. She labels the bins with pictures of each object and labels the shelf where the bin is stored with the same picture. She says this not only helps children put things away properly and teaches responsibility, but also helps hones their matching skills.
6. Refer to the routineConsistency is important for everyone, but especially for children. If your preschoolers know their routine, they begin to have an innate sense of accountability to follow it.
“Once a kid or class knows a routine, the power goes back to them,” Boyer says. When the children are in charge of knowing and following the routines, you’ll no longer have to constantly remind and direct them.
7. Balance ‘active’ & ‘passive’ activitiesCertain activities will get your students’ adrenaline up and running, and other that will help them mellow and calm down. Harvey recommends finding a balance and switching between the two. The manner in which you organize your activities can make all of the difference in keeping your kids under control.
8. Create engaging curriculumStahlhut recalls some memorable advice she once received from one of her professors: The best form of discipline is a good curriculum.
She explains that simply reading a book to children – even a fun book – can bore them. But if you read the book using different voices, speeds and animated body language, they are much more engaged. You can even invite the children to help with sounds effects when appropriate. She’s seen these tactics to help improve behavior issues.
9. Creatively manage crisisThere will be times when a student will need to take a break and calm down. This doesn’t mean you have to send them in the corner to sit on a chair and sulk. Try something creative that also encourages them to wind down.
“One cute little calming down trick is to have a little bottle of bubbles that you can have kids blow when they feel angry,” Boyer suggests. “Blowing bubbles makes kids automatically take deep breaths and slow down.”
10. Enjoy your job!Kids are naturally intuitive and tend to follow the lead of those they’re around. If they see you enjoying the teaching process, think of how much more likely they are to enjoy the learning process.
Teaching strategies for the futureYou should be feeling much more confident now that you have these expert classroom management tricks up your sleeve. This advice might have you itching to learn even more.
Check out these recommended teaching strategies for ECE classrooms.