Explore some useful ways to manage behavior in your kindergarten classroom. This lesson will help you control the chaos with helpful kindergarten classroom management strategies and example scenarios to show them in action.
What Is Behavior Management?
The students that will be entering your classroom on the first day of school will bring with them a variety of experiences with behavior management. Some may be coming from a preschool classroom where many of these strategies have already been introduced, some may be coming from a home where there was little to no behavior management, and most will be coming from somewhere in between. What is most important to remember for managing a classroom of small, impulsive people is to set clear guidelines that let students know what is expected from them, stick to them, and enforce them for all students.
Setting Clear Guidelines
Students of any age, but especially kindergarten, thrive in an environment where they know what is expected of them. This means having a clear set of rules that students can see posted somewhere in the classroom. These rules should be written keeping in mind positive classroom management strategies. Students can even be made responsible for writing the classroom rules themselves. This can be done by having a discussion with the students about how they think they should behave in the classroom. Doing this will give the students ownership of their classroom and their behavior, making them more likely to understand and follow the classroom rules.
Sticking to Guidelines
As a teacher, especially in early childhood education, it is very easy to decide to let some students slide when it comes to classroom rules. As you move through the day, you might find that some students are more likely than others to stray from the expectations set by the classroom rules. It does get quite exhausting to have to keep reminding a student to raise their hand when they want to answer a question or share something with the class (this is a situation that will come up often – kindergarten students love to share every little detail of their day with everyone).
However, it is very important that you require students to stick to the rules posted in the classroom. Though you may be teaching your students everything from ABCs to math and science to social studies, do not forget that they are very smart. Students will always know when you are being lax with the rules and will quickly try to see how far they can push boundaries. This is when it is most important that you consistently enforce your guidelines.
One of your students (who we’ll call Sherlock) enjoys launching into long explanations about what he did last night with his friend, his mom, and his friend’s mom. He does this several times a day, most of the time interrupting you or another student. While you may be exhausted from reminding him (the 19th time) to please raise his hand if he has something to say, it is important to keep doing so (even on the 113th time). You may devise a strategy where you simply make eye contact and point to your classroom rules to remind Sherlock what is expected of him.
The guidelines and rules that you wrote (maybe with the help of your students) will be for nothing, if you do not enforce them consistently for all students in a clear way. One of the best ways to do this is to use a traffic light that is clearly visible in the classroom (not a real one – no one is expecting you to climb up and borrow one in the middle of the night to bring to your classroom).
This traffic light could be a cardboard representation of a red, yellow, and green light that you can clip clothespins to. Each clothespin will have the name of a student on it and can be clipped next to any of the lights. All students start out on green at the beginning of the day. This means that they are acting responsibly in the classroom and meeting the expectations set by the classroom rules.
You then decide at what point a student should be moved to yellow. For example, this can be after two reminders that he are not following the rules. It is important to know and remember what your specific threshold for ‘clipping down’ is and to enforce it the same way for every student, every time. Being on yellow should come with an associated consequence, such as not being able to participate in ‘free time’ during the day.
Finally, if a student is consistently breaking the rules, even after being moved to yellow, he should be moved to red. Students should be made aware that being on red is a very serious thing and is usually accompanied by a note or call home to parents.
After being reminded several times to please raise his hand when he has something to say, Sherlock is still consistently breaking the rules. After the second time he needed to be reminded, you moved Sherlock’s clip to yellow. Another student, who usually always follows the rules (who we’ll call Watson), seems to be having an off day and is needing constant reminders to not call out. Even though Watson is usually very good with the rules, it is important to move Watson’s clip just as you moved Sherlock’s.
Each kindergarten classroom is different. These tools and strategies will help you begin to formulate your own personalized behavior management plan. However, do not be afraid to adjust strategies after getting to know your students. As long as you set clear guidelines, stick to the guidelines, and enforce the rules consistently, your kindergarten classroom will be in optimal condition to run as smoothly as a room full of 6-year-olds can.