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8 Tips for Teaching Preschoolers
When teaching preschoolers, you can almost expect to have daily interruptions, plenty of bathroom breaks and perhaps some tears. Educating children when they’re just beginning to learn how to socialize and adjust to a classroom is no easy task, but with a few tips and tricks, the job can be made much easier and more rewarding.
Strategically set up the room
Let’s face it, preschoolers can be messy, so organization is key. Try to set up stations in your room for different types of education to help ensure successful learning throughout the room. For example, play areas that help children build strong motor skills, such as blocks or Lego, should be set up on the opposite side of the room from a quieter activity such as reading. Setting these different boundaries can help facilitate successful behavior and learning throughout the classroom.
As you’re setting up your room, remember to use kid-friendly labels. Keeping your classroom tidy and organized does not fall solely on you. Empower your students to clean up their own messes. Try adding kid-friendly labels to bins and supplies. Instead of words, you can print out pictures of objects to put on the bins. For example, if you want a student to place glue in a certain bin, print out a picture of glue and tape it to the appropriate bin.
Observe your students
It is important to get to know everyone one of your students as an individual so you can better understand how to help them in a group setting. Children need to know that you understand and respect them so they feel comfortable in their learning environment. Become a keen observer so you can figure out what motivates your students, what skills and challenges they have, and how they learn best. Don’t be afraid to follow your students throughout the day. Watch their interactions and how they complete individual tasks, then complement them on something they’ve done when they didn’t know you were watching. These small interactions will quickly help you build trust.
Give them ways to express their emotions
Young children are still learning how best to identify and communicate their emotions. Remember: children don’t always need to express why they are upset of they can express how they are feeling. Rather than forcing your child to communicate their emotions through words, encourage them to express them through movement, art or even song. Be sure to give them a safe space to participate, whether that’s in a small group or away from everyone else.
Set up a routine
Consistency for children is key. If children know their routine, they are much more comfortable throughout the day. Try sticking to a similar learn/play schedule throughout or writing out a schedule for the day when you’re changing it up. You could even try leading a morning meeting with announcements, shout outs and the day’s schedule. If students know their daily routine, it allows them to be more accountable when following it. However, it is still important to be flexible. Students respond differently to various activities daily. If your students aren’t interested in an activity or they’re acting up, switch it up.
Build relationships with parents
For many parents, sending their child to preschool is an anxiety-provoking experience. It may be the first time their child leaves home for the day, so it as just as important to make parents feel comfortable. The process can begin as early as registration. Try to meet parents before school begins by inviting them to the classroom. Be sure to grab emails and phone numbers, and don’t be afraid to use them. If it’s difficult to keep track of which parents you’ve spoken to, try keeping an information sheet for each student with contact information and a log of when you’ve talked to their parent and what you discussed. Although it’s important to discuss issues their child may be facing, be sure to contact them with good news too. Finally, send out parent surveys. You can use surveys to ask questions about their children or things you could improve on.
Ask stimulating questions
Teachers play a critical role in developing language-rich lifestyles. Encouraging conversations from a young age is important to a child’s overall growth. By asking stimulating and developmentally-appropriate questions, you can help boost a child’s language skills. Rather than asking yes or no questions, strive to pose open-ended inquiries. For example, practice saying things like, “You are working very hard. Tell me about your project,” “Why do you think that happened,” or “These Lego are red. What red objects do you have in your backpack?” Not only do these questions encourage your students to talk, but they also help stimulate their minds.
Set aside time for interactive and dialogic reading
Dialogic reading is a great way to get preschoolers engaged with a book. The goal of the reading strategy is to engage children in a dialog about the story so they can practice building longer phrases and vocabulary. It also offers them a chance to use their imagination. An easy way to remember basic dialog strategies is the “follow the CAR” method, which stands for:
- Follow the child’s lead
- Comment and wait
- Ask questions and wait
- Respond by adding a little more and wait
- A reading session that follows this method might go something like this:
- Show a picture book’s cover and ask your students to make predictions about what might happen
- Point out keywords or themes to prepare your students
- Read the book, making plenty of gestures. Ask your students to make predictions or comparisons to their own lives along the way.
- At the end of the book, as thoughtful questions. If you need help, think CROWD. (Completion questions that ask students to fill in the blank, recall questions that ask them to remember a detail, open-ended questions that encourage a full sentence response, WH- questions that focus on who, what, where, when and why, and distancing questions that ask them to compare their lives to the story.)
Have reflection time
When it comes to teaching young children, it’s all about experimenting. What works for some doesn’t work for others. At the end of the day, take some time to self-reflect. Ask yourself what worked and what didn’t. Then try to figure out how you can improve for the next day. If something doesn’t work the way you initially planned, don’t sweat it, just find a different way to approach it. Don’t be afraid to ask your students what worked for them either. Not only will you find out better ways to help them, but it will show your students that you value their input.