When a classroom is full of busy children, it is important to have several ground rules for safety purposes. Children must feel that their environment is firstly safe in order for them to grow and succeed well in school. Rules give the children clear expectations so that they can understand the boundaries. These rules should be clearly made in positive language. Many classroom teachers feel it is important to write the rules and include visuals so the children can better understand what is to be expected of them. Just remember that there should be no more than 3-5 rules in a preschool classroom.
I think of rules as the safety net of the classroom. Rules such as inside we walk, outside we can run are made for the safety of everyone in the classroom. Social rules, such as, we are kind to our friends, are harder to teach and require lots of practice. So I stick with rules regarding safety first. These include putting toys and materials away when finished, using words to express wants and emotions, and using toys and materials appropriately. Teachers need to help children understand that rules are made to keep them out of danger.
For the most part, children will respond to age appropriate rules. There will be times when a child may not follow a rule. Use this as a learning experience. Make sure that you do not respond to the child in a disrespectful way and then help them to problem-solve out loud ways that they can obtain their desired want or need. Explain to them what is acceptable and expected. (A child climbs up on a bookcase because he wants something up high; a child purposely pours water onto the floor at the water table; a child hits another because she wants the toy).
Many times that children are ‘misbehaving’ and pushing our buttons is because they have yet to learn social skills. These are important and need to be taught regularly in both group and individually. It is not until a child reaches around the age of 5 that he is truly developing reasoning. Because of this, I believe that social skills are something that we as teachers must constantly teach and praise in the classroom. And classroom rules are more about safety for everyone.
If you make a classroom rule, you need to be consistent about following it. Preschool children often become confused if rules are repeatedly broken or not followed. If you do not follow the rule, then they may feel they do not need to follow the rule either. Preschool children need to believe that you will not allow others to hurt them and you will not allow them to hurt others. Safety. Children need to feel physically and emotionally safe while in your care.
Some ways that we can help children to be able to follow rules are:
- Divide your classroom into centers with boundaries where you can easily see the children and the children can easily see you.
- There should not be wide-open areas that are tempting for running and likewise there should not be areas that bottleneck causing children to push.
- Keep transitions short and quick.
- Minimize transitions as much as possible. We as teachers often tell children to hurry up and wait. We do not like it as adults; children do not like it either.
- Give a 5-minute warning before expecting children to stop what they are doing and move on to another activity. No one likes being told abruptly that they must stop what they are doing.
- Change out your classroom materials so that there is always something new to explore.
- Let the children help plan some of the daily activities (song to sing at circle or book to read at naptime).
- Catch and praise the children being good. Make sure to let them know, your co-worker know, or their parents know, most children like and respond well to praise.
- Develop a friendly relationship with the children in your care, people always respond better to people that they like.