At the beginning of the year, I let the children write the classroom rules to reinforce that we are a group and we work together. I stress that the safety of the children is what they should think about when writing these rules. To make them positive statements, rather than a lot of don’ts I have everyone do a painted footprint on a large sheet of paper and label it “Our Feet Can” – the children supply the rest (ex. be on the floor not on the furniture – walk in the classroom, etc.). We then do a handprint paper labeled “Our Hands Can” and we stamp lip prints on another piece of paper labeled “Our Mouths Can”. We hang these in our meeting area and refer to them all year long.
In preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds, I arranged my centers and used “teddy bear” shapes to show the children how many children were allowed in each center. For example, 4 in the home center. This cut down on many problems. I also limited my rules to three: Take care of yourself, Don’t hurt yourself, and Don’t hurt anyone else. But the main things for your class is to remember that planning is the key to keeping everyone, including yourself, happy.
Instead of calling attention to “bad” behavior, I “catch” the children doing things that are great. I have made them each a bear holding a honey pot. The honey pot has a slip where I can put honey sticks in. If the child has gotten a honey stick for at least four times that week they get to choose a prize or we might just talk about what behaviors they remember getting honey sticks for.
We use behavior bears to recognize the good choices the children make each day. In a handy spot, there is a pocket chart, each child has a pocket. In a treasure box, I have colored bears (enough of each color for every child.) There is a sign, “Today the teacher saw me….” and a set of bears that are the same colors as those in the box. Each color represents the desired behavior I want the children to learn, ie sitting quietly at the circle, using my words to work things out, put my toys away, helped at clean up time.
As I witness a child doing one of these behaviors they get to go to the treasure box and get the right color bear to put in the pocket. The parents then spend a few minutes at the end of the day with their child looking at the bears before putting them back in the box for use again the next day.
It doesn’t take long for the children to get the idea that they have to DO these things in order for them to get the bears. It also helps with name and color recognition. It’s a more positive approach to behavior management.
On the subject of classroom helpers, a couple that I use that haven’t been mentioned are botanist (who cares for any plants in the room), zoologist (who cares for any animals in the room) and postman (who delivers any messages needed to be given to the office or another teacher. The children love the BIG names they are given and they also have a new vocabulary.
One thing that always causes problems is children not minding their own business. We made a BB out of library pockets with each student’s name and one with mine. I made lots of copies of NOSES from a health unit. Each week the students received 5 “noses”. When they put their nose in someone else’s business they had to take a nose from their pocket and put it into the other students. At the end of the week, whoever had the most “noses” got a prize. We had a lot of laughs with this BB!!
For my class of 3 to 4-year-olds, I have found it very effective to use the following rhyme when I need the students’ attention. I say in a voice lower than my normal, “If you are here and you are listening to me, clap your hand and count to three.” As I get their attention I will change the directive to something more fun like tap knees or anything I think of on-the-spot. This keeps their attention and they are watching for the next change.