As pre-school teachers, we know how important rules are to running a classroom so that the classroom doesn’t run you. Yet, many of us are bogged down and wonder what is the best way to introduce rules to the tiny tots, and how to get them to continue. A teacher should be aware that the child has learnt many rules at home before he comes to your classroom….be it washing hands before meal time or using a hanky to wipe the nose. So, when it comes to pre-school classroom rules, the thumb rule is – keep it short, keep it simple, and keep it positive.
Let’s keep the rules short
Coming up with a long list of rules will not work for your little ones. Even though there are numerous things you want your students to follow and avoid, it’s best to keep them short, simple and comprehensible. Come up with 5 to 6 rules only. This will allow them to remember, retain and memorise and thereby stay focused on what is important. Use simple words for each rule so that the kids can easily relate to the meaning of the rules. Adding relevant pictures, visuals, photos help for better understanding. Let’s not forget that at this particular age, the visual stimulus is very important and children are mostly visual learners. Picture cues, hand movements help in remembering. It’s a trio that goes together… hearing you say the rule aloud, seeing the picture, and hand movements…..all verbal, auditory, visual and physical cues come together.
Let’s keep the rules positive
When planning rules for your classroom, keep them positive. For example, instead of saying ‘no running’, can we say, ‘let’s walk only’. Instead of saying, ‘no shouting’, let’s say, ‘let us keep our voices polite’. Studies have shown that when using the word ‘no’ with a directive, children tend not to hear the word ‘no’ and only hear the rest. So, in all probability, they may hear you say ‘running’ instead of ‘no running’.
Keeping a positive note helps the tone sound nicer and less harsh. Sample it, when we say the words ‘no’, ‘not’, ‘don’t’, our tone and tenor is higher. Even the children cringe when they hear the teacher shouting at a higher volume, hollering, ‘be quiet’ or ‘no pushing’. Come to think of it, there are nicer and milder ways of saying the same thing. It’s just a matter of playing with the words and the tone.
Let’s be comprehensible
Vague and abstract rules don’t help the situation. ‘Respect your elders’ or ‘behave responsibly’ are too generative as the children are too small to understand the concept of ‘respect’ or ‘responsibility’. However, teaching such rules with activities help in retention, like, role-play, videos, puppetry, storytelling, demos, rhymes, anecdotes from the life and people around them etc. It is advisable to introduce each rule separately on different days so that they don’t get confused. Continuous reviewing is a must so that they are remembered for long.
Circle time is the best way to introduce classroom rules. Positive and conscious discipline should be the mantra, not just rewards for good behaviour. They have to be taught to make their own choices and enjoy the ‘feel good factor’ that comes along when you do the right thing. Language should be specific and child friendly. They should know the positive and negative repercussions. Confusing and ambiguous messages should not go across. These rules can also be shared with parents, so that they can reinforce the same at home. This helps in smooth transition from home to school. When kids misbehave, it’s important to explain to them why what they did was wrong and how it impacted those around them. Age appropriate explanations are a key to classroom management.
A pre-school classroom can go two ways – either it’s a magical place where there is joyful engaging learning going on, or it’s a chaotic space that is loud and stressful. The difference between the two is clear, consistent, enforceable classroom instructions that make all the difference. Such an environment is a happy place for both, the teacher and the child.
Let’s see how it works….
How can you teach your children to be ‘kind’ in an age appropriate manner. You can explain to him that if his buddy has not brought his tiffin or doesn’t like the food item in the tiffin, you can share yours with him…that’s being ‘kind’. A grasshopper has entered the room, rather than killing it or stamping on it, can we gently leave it back in nature…that’s being ‘responsible’. Your teacher helps you tie your shoelaces that came off, let’s say thank you… that’s being ‘grateful’. While playing, your friend has fallen and hurt her knee and is crying. Be with her, hold her hand and wipe her tears with a hanky and take her to an elder… that is ‘empathy’.