Positive Guidance For Preschool Children

In my pre-K room (4-year-olds) we have a “square chart”. Every child has a personal goal they are working on (ex: being a good rester, hands to self, etc.). At the end of a day, if a child has met their goal, they receive a square on the chart. After any child earns 5 squares, they can choose a treasure from our treasure chest. When the WHOLE class has ALL earned 5 squares, we have some kind of party for a reward (pizza party, ice cream party, etc.) If a child is having a hard time with their goal, I just ask “What is your goal?” and most of the time they stop on their own. After a while, the children will remind each other of their goals, and will often congratulate their friends when they’ve earned their square! (Thanks, Miss Nikki for the GREAT idea!)

My co-teacher and I use a positive discipline approach method which fosters compromise and negotiation skills in children. We use a “friendship” bench. When a dispute occurs, sit both children down together on the bench. “We can not get up until there is a solution.” You may need to arbitrate initially-Then back away and let them problem-solve how they can make both friends feel better. If they can not come up with a solution, suggest some possible ideas for them.

I had a lot of behavior problems in my classroom at the beginning of the year and I tried everything- redirection, asking them to use their words, sticker rewards, and even the dreaded “time-out”. Nothing seemed to work for my children. I then tried a new idea. I had a pocket chart that I wasn’t using and it had just enough clear pockets for my 20 children. I had the children decorate a clothespin with their name, markers and small stickers. I then put their names on index cards and placed them in the pockets, clipping their clothespin to the front of the pocket. Every day, we go over our classroom rules (very simple ones) and discuss how we are going to be kind to our friends and follow our rules. If a child “breaks” a rule or hurts a friend, they lose their clothespin. The children can always get their clothespin back by following our rules or helping the friend they have hurt. At the end of the week, (Thursday), we have “Prize Box Day”. We have a treasure box filled with donated pencils, stickers, and McDonald’s toys or candy. Every child who still has their clothespin gets to pick a prize from the prize box. At first, we had several not getting a prize, but after a week or so, the children who were having the most trouble were reminding each other about losing their clothespins. My behavior problems have dropped drastically. I no longer have to be constantly reminding children to follow the rules or redirecting children from hurting each other. It has also helped the children learn to recognize their names. For younger children, pictures of them can be used instead of the index cards.

I work in a high needs kindergarten class that has its challenges. One thing that took me a long time to understand is this: When you are teaching the students in a large setting (ie, circle time) and there are a few children misbehaving it is not necessary to stop the entire lesson…..but it is equally important that you do not fall into the habit of ignoring small behavior as small behaviors lead to big behaviors. What you need to do is acknowledge the students WITHOUT looking them in the eye. The moment you turn to look them in the eye you are inviting conversation about the behavior and the student will begin to explain that so and so started it etc. I found that snapping my fingers and using hand signals such as stop or simply pointing to the child, without taking your focus off what you are talking to the class about works well. It seems like such an easy thing to do but try it. Not looking at the child directly takes a lot of concentration. A really good website on discipline can be found at www.realdiscipline.com.

Here’s an idea for conflict resolution in the preschool classroom: Make photocopies (color if possible) of pictures of the kids you care for. Blow them up so that they are a little larger than the kids’ faces. Glue the copies onto cardboard or tag board–laminate if you would like. Use sturdy glue/paste to attach large craft sticks to each picture; use as a handle. These can be used as puppets/role play masks whenever there is a conflict. The kids simply use the pictures to reenact the situation and a different way it might have been handled. Besides using these as a conflict resolution tool, it can be really fun for the kids to pretend to be one another!

When I tell my class of three year and four-year-olds to do something such as line up, I always say,” When I call you please get in line.” I then recite the following rhyme that I made up:

If you have on red then you heard what I said (You heard me say get in line.)
If you have on blue then you know what to do (You know to get in line.)
If you have on black then your name must be Jack
If you have on green then you know what I mean (I mean for you to get in line.)
If you have on white then you know what’s right (It’s right to get in the back of the line instead of in front of someone else.)
If you have on pink then you know what I think. (I think you should get in line.)
If you have on gray then it’s going to be a wonderful day!
If you have on yellow then you’re a nice fellow.
If you have on brown then you’d better get down.

This rhyme has really helped my class of three and four-year-olds learn their colors!