Find where the challenges are
He's at it again. That little boy who creates a river of chaos throughout your classroom. He constantly pulls you from the things you would rather be doing. It feels as if you are more of a firefighter than a preschool teacher since you spend the better part of your day putting out fires.
Whether it's the first day of a brand new school year or the week before Thanksgiving, you can take back control in your preschool classroom. Here's how!
Don't make changes until you gather some information about your students. Without sufficient information, it's quite likely that the changes you make will be ineffective or, worse yet, create more problems than they correct.
What information do you need? You will want to start by observing each of the students in your classroom. Make observations in 3 areas for each of your students: interests, skills and challenging behaviors.
Have a wide variety of materials available to them, and watch what the child is drawn to, what skills they are demonstrating independently, and what behaviors you find yourself correcting. Use the documents below to help guide you. It may take some time to collect this information about each child. Prioritize by first observing the children who are requiring the most redirection.
Make your move
Now it's time to use the information you have collected. Determine what skills or behaviors are interfering with the flow of your classroom or preventing the child's participating in classroom activities. By setting these goals for each child in your classroom, you can plan your classroom environment, activities, or reinforcement system to target these goals.
Here's an example:
Jenny has been in your class for several months, and you find that several times a day you are consoling her while she cries. This usually happens while you are preparing the materials for the group activity that follows Free Play Time.
She tells you that the other kids are mean to her and won't let her play. You then help her join her peers by telling the other kids to let her join them. The other kids are usually cooperative and you can then quickly go back to getting the activity ready. These bouts of tears seem to be happening more often, so you decide to collect some data.
You plan an activity that doesn't require a lot of prep work which frees you up to observe what is going on. You find out that Jenny is having a hard time joining her peers when they are playing in groups. She stands on the outside, watching her peers for several minutes. Eventually, she quietly makes her way closer and closer to the group. Within another minute or so, Jenny begins to cry, and this is the point where you typically step in to comfort her.
How can you use this information to create some peace in your classroom? You now know that Jenny needs to learn how to appropriately join her peers when they are playing in a group. You decide that this could be a skill that other kids may also need, so you plan a game to play at circle time.
You play a game where the children get an opportunity to role play joining a group. Click the image below for the Joining a Group Game!
Persistence will result in peace
When you persist in following this process for each child in your class, you will create peace within your classroom. There is often pressure from parents and supervisors to include all of the academic components in your teaching goals. Social skills can easily be neglected, unintentionally.
Frequently, it's the absence of these skills that create the most chaos in your preschool classroom. Take control today!
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Welcome! Through my career I have worn many hats. I taught preschool in a public, commercial preschool and I taught at a Head Start program. Currently, I am a BCBA, supervising 2 clinics for children with autism. At the clinics, I have created a program to prepare our children for success in public school. Children participate in a preschool classroom style program. I developed a comprehensive parent training program and frequently consult with schools. Here, I want to share my experiences and offer some practical advice. Please let me know if there is ever a topic you would like me to cover!