Managing behaviors in a classroom is one of the most difficult aspects of an early childhood educator’s job. Developmentally, our youngest students are asserting their independence, trying to gain control over their little world, and separating from their primary caregiver. In addition, they are learning how to regulate their emotions, developing language and testing boundaries. It is no wonder that behaviors are so common in the early learning classroom. How we manage these behaviors will set the tone, and it is important that we know the key elements in preventing behavior.
Develop a positive relationship: each child needs to have a positive supportive relationship with their teacher; if a child trusts you, they will look to you for guidance during those difficult moments.
Be consistent: in order to build trust, a child needs to know that you, as the teacher, will behave the same way each time they exhibit a behavior.
Set clear behavioral expectations: a child needs to clearly understand your expectations for behavior; these expectations should be posted at the child’s level and reviewed daily.
Provide a predictable routine: children thrive when they know what to expect; have a consistent routine with a visual schedule posted each day. Review the schedule and talk about changes in the schedule that may occur.
Practice transitions: practicing transitions helps each child to be aware of the expectations; use visuals to support your transitions (i.e.: where to stand, how many in a center, voice level, etc.).
Front load: front load students who struggle with behavior; give them a warning for clean-up time, transitions, change in schedule, etc.
Provide choice: when students are able to choose, they feel that they have more control which helps prevent difficult behavior; whenever possible, provide them choices to make.
Teach and practice specific skills: problem solving, friendship skills, turn taking; our early childhood classrooms are where they are learning and practicing these important social/emotional skills.
Use teachable moments: stop students in the middle of something and coach them on using their language, managing their bodies, not interrupting, etc.
Provide fidget toys: students who need to be moving often do well with something in their hands during large group times; setting up expectations on how to use the fidget will be an essential step.
Provide breaks: some students would benefit from breaks during a certain part of the day; set this up ahead of time and give them something to do for a short period of time before returning to the task.
Use sand timers: sand timers work well because they are visual and the teacher does not have to use their voice; use timers for breaks, taking turns, working on a task before a break, sitting still, etc.
Create defined space for large group: students need to know that there is a defined space for them during large group; this helps them regulate their body movement.
Use visuals instead of your voice: often, students stop listening to use because we tend to use a lot of words; instead of saying something you want them to do, provide a visual cue.
Provide a space to regulate emotions: provide a safe, comfortable space for students to regulate their emotions.
These preventive strategies are key to regularly managing behaviors in the classroom. The attached article provides additional information on preventing challenging behaviors. The next newsletter will focus on understanding the science behind behavior and helping to shape persistent challenging behaviors.