Say “Thank you” often.
When children do something you’ve asked them, thank them. When children apologize to a friend, thank them. When you see them doing something right, thank them. Thank them often, and be sincere.
I’m not fond of the idea of giving children a treat for doing the right thing. In our classroom, everyone helps pick up because that’s how we take care of our room. We apologize to friends because that’s how we treat our friends. We do nice things for others because it makes them, and us, feel good. Thanks, guys.
Our job is to let the children make their own choices from the environment we have created for them. There are boundaries set, and they are free to choose – within those boundaries.
Example: Tony has his hat on, and your policy is that hats are worn outside. You know that if you ask him to hang up his hat, he’s going to balk and say, “No, I want to wear it.” There’s an arguement you don’t need. So set it up so he gets to choose – “Tony, hats are for outside, remember? Would you like to put it on your hook or in your cubby?” Your boundaries, his choice. (Remember, this isn’t really magic. He may balk anyway. My response would be, “Please choose now, or I’ll choose.” Still balking? Count down from 5. Remember: calm, positive, frontal lobe.)
Choices are something to use all day! Children love to be in charge, and they should be – within your limits. “Would you like to paint that picture or color it with markers?” “Would you like me to help you with your shoes or would you like to do it yourself?” “Would you like me to read with you or do you want to read with Ann?” Choices are great! (Don’t credit card commercials always say that?)
Imagine that you are in the middle of your favorite hobby – cooking, reading, running, knitting, whatever. As you are deep into your activity, someone comes along and tells you, “Pack it up. We’ve got something else to do.” You’d be a little ticked off, huh?
When children have enough time to become deeply engaged in their play, they need a little warning before it’s time to switch. In our room, the easiest way is to turn off the lights and say, “I need your eyes and hands.” (They look at me and show me their hands.) Then, “We have five more minutes to play, then we need to clean up for ______. Five more minutes. Thank you.” It lets them know that we are almost done, but there’s still time to finish that block building, read another story, work on the painting, etc.
I love that show! It is very affirming to me to see this lady (who is paid handsomely, I’m sure) say all the things that we do here.
* Give children routines. That is their safety net – they know what is expected and when to expect it. Write/Draw it out so little ones can see it.
* Get down on their level. Don’t tower over them, sit or kneel so you can have an eye-to-eye conversation. (We talk often about how you need to look in the eyes of the person you’re talking to – that’s how you have a conversation.)
* Be realistic in your expectations and consequences, and follow through. This would be a place where I could write pages and pages of the things I’ve done wrong. That will be a different post about ‘Don’t make threats, and don’t make consequences that you can’t follow through with.)
Watch the show sometime – it is worth it!
There are many wonderful books out there that talk about room arrangement. (I’ll list them later.) Right now I would recommend Creative Curriculum as a great start – they have some drawings of proper room arrangement.
You will need to think about having a Block Area, a Book Area, a Gathering Area, Housekeeping, Art Area, Science Area, Manipulatives, a Writing Center and some spaces that can do double-duty.
Be sure you have room for everything, and if you have to make some areas to double-duty, that’s ok. Be creative!
One exercise that we did several years ago was to imagine what your Dream Classroom would be like. Draw it! You may not be able to do everything, but maybe you can begin on one thing now. It’ll get your creative juices flowing!