When I first started teaching, I found an old book, published by a grade one teacher in the 1950s.I don’t remember the title of the book or the author’s name but I do remember that it was double spaced, rare for a book back then, and I also remember being impressed by a simple classroom management tip she recommended.The teacher said she kept a checklist of student names on her desk and every time she said something positive to a child, she put a check by his or her name.This way, each child received encouraging attention on a consistent basis and the quieter children were not overlooked.
Taking it one step further
As my intentions were to have a peaceful classroom environment and to connect with my students, I gave it a try.It can be difficult, especially with a larger class, to discover who your students really are, and to help each one feel valued and heard. The more boisterous or needy kids demand your attention and it is easy to spend the majority of your time with them.As items easily got lost on my table, I posted a clipboard with new list of student names and a checklist, in an area of the classroom
A quick visual aid
Each day, with a quick glance, I could quickly see which students I had interacted with and which ones I hadn’t. I taught myself to look at the list regularly throughout the day.Each time I chatted with a child individually, made eye contact, responded to them with active and/or reflective listening (not correcting) I would put a check mark by their name. In every way I could, I helped each child to feel valued by giving her/him moments of my time. If another student tried to interrupt, I put my hand out flat in front of them (a hand signal taught early in the year), which meant, “wait”.Some weeks I chose a topic, such as, “Tell me about one of your favorite games”, and interviewed each child. The chart worked well and I liked its simplicity, ease of implementation, and how it was a visual reminder for me each day to pay attention to specific students.
Check Lists With a Student Task Focus = Fail
- Put up a weekly checklist for myself (see below), with a reminder of the checklist’s purpose
- Demonstrate the task to the children
- Make comments throughout the week as each child practiced the correct actions.
- Commenting on the child (Rahul is so wonderful) results in a competitive feeling in the room.
- Commenting on the action (Thanks for placing the blocks in the bucket carefully, Rahul) results in other children noticing the behaviour and imitating it.
- Record on my checklist each time I commented to a child for doing the task correctly
Classroom management methods that develop a positive classroom atmosphere take time. Training children to be successful with new skills, routines and rules takes practice not only for the kids but for the teacher as well.
Have children describe or share their new knowledge regularly
When children have an opportunity to communicate their new knowledge to patient adults it helps solidify concepts. It often takes children time to find the correct words to explain their thinking.Supply the students with descriptive words as they are playing or working, e.g. “Notice how dull those rocks are, the other ones are shiny”. This extends their vocabulary and increases their ability to share new discoveries.
Remember that children need to be active
If kindergarten students have been sitting still too long, they will quickly let you know when it’s time to move.Well-planned, interesting learning plans fail if the children ,they need a break. Go for walks around the school, jump up and down, act out a story, do anything that gets the blood pumping around. It results in good circulation and more alert students Scheduling lots of movement breaks throughout the day is an invaluable best teaching practice.
Be Sensitive to Children’s Needs
One thing I learned early in my teaching career is that learning doesn’t happen if a child is over tired, hungry, upset, scared or worried. Learning to be flexible and understanding with young children is a skill that will serve you well in your educational career. At times, children need to get away from everyone and be left alone.
A small space, such as under your desk, works well for some students who are too overwhelmed by home or other circumstances, to cope with their peers or their teacher.
If a student is hungry, it’s easier to let her eat part of her lunch early or to provide a snack, than to try to force the child to concentrate on a task until the scheduled eating time.
Inexperienced teachers sometimes misinterpret a child’s unwillingness to participate as stubbornness or bad behavior. It’s good to remember…
- That children often do not have the vocabulary to express themselves.
- To use reflective listening to help children understand what is upsetting them.
- That sometimes children work well in groups and this helps them learn to share and develop ideas and at other times they need to be alone with ample time to figure things out.
- To relax and have fun with your students!
Maintain a classroom atmosphere of warmth and acceptance.For some kindergarten children, your classroom will be one of the few places where their opinions and ideas have been heard and valued.