Friday, February 22, 2008

Teaching Preschool - Patience, Expectations, and Fun

"Not While I'm Wearing the Hat"

Teaching preschool is never a walk in the park. One moment you're trying to sooth a crying child while tearing apart two others who are fighting over the last black pipe cleaner for their art project. For this reason, teaching preschool requires a never-ending supply of patience balanced with enough authority to get the kids to listen.

One great way to keep from being interrupted when teaching preschool is to use a visual focal point to remind the children not to speak, such as a hat. Unless children are bleeding, they cannot speak while the teacher is wearing the hat, even to ask a question.

This helps to teach restraint and patience, as well as the value of listening to others. The hat could even coincide with the theme of the month, such as a Santa hat around the holidays and a baseball cap in the spring.

Great Expectations... but not too great

When teaching preschool, remember to develop expectations specific to each child as opposed to the notion of where they should be developmentally. Some children are able to wait five minutes for something whereas others can only sustain one minute of waiting before their attention wanders. Similarly, some children are out like a light during nap time while others simply will be unable to fall asleep, especially at the beginning of the school year.

When a child succeeds in meeting or exceeding their own set of expectations, always make sure to reward them with positive reinforcement, which is the key to both behavior guidance and the prevention of negative behaviors. And positive reinforcement doesn't just have to be kind words either.

For example, the child could be rewarded by being allowed to sit at the teacher's desk for the remainder of the class. Or they could be permitted to bring their favorite classroom toy or game home for the night. This teaches the child a sense of responsibility in remembering to bring the toy back the next day.

Another great reward for good behavior can be that the child gets to choose which story is read during story time, or what craft everyone gets to do after lunch. By being allowed to make choices for the entire grow, the child is endowed with a sense of group responsibility.

Finally, another great reward for positive behavior is to phone the child's parents, preferably in front of the child just to let them know what a great kid they have. This will make the child feel special since the teacher is taking time from their busy day just to deliver a compliment to the person which most children are trying hardest to impress.

The Golden Rule: Have Fun!

Speaking of delivering compliments, make sure not to forget about supporting the other members of the teaching staff and parental volunteers. A little thank you now and then will go a long way. And at the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when teaching preschool is to have fun. When the children can sense that the teacher is having fun, they too will share in this sense of amusement.

Mary Robinson has been teaching preschool for well over a decade. You can get instant access to her preschool activities, crafts, and lesson plans by visiting her website:

For a limited time, all visitors to Mary's site will also get a free copy of her special report: "The 7 Biggest Mistakes Preschool Teachers and Parents Make". Go get your free copy today!



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