The month of February has been all about health and wellness with Mother Goose Time. We have spent a lot of time focusing on healthy foods, and how to take good care of our bodies. Valentine’s Day also brought up good conversations about kindness and how we all need love to be our best selves. In our program, we believe children that feel good, tend to behave in a more kind way, make better choices, and are better learners.
As a teacher, it is important to be flexible when it comes to classroom management strategies and techniques. The same strategy that was working in the beginning of the year may no longer be working halfway through the year. We always focus on being kind, that is what matters overall. Teaching our young children to be kind to their friends, how to problem solve, knowing when to recognize that they need some space, and when to walk away and talk to a teacher are important skills.
As a Pre-K teacher, I want our children to have a basic understanding of these skills before we send them off to kindergarten, and their world becomes a lot bigger. What do you do when some of your students are testing their listening skills, not only with their teachers, but their friends too? What do you do when some of your students are really close, and though this may not be intentional, they are starting to leave others out of
their group, resulting in classmates feeling sad and left out? And, sometimes, it is intentional – “You can’t play with us” being a popular phrase suddenly. Some of our friends have become more pushy with each other, pushing their friends when they need space or when they are frustrated rather than communicating.
At this age, communication can be hard. It isn’t always a skill that comes easy. As teachers it is part of our job to teach them how to communicate when they are upset. It is also our job to communicate with their parents, to find out if some of these things are popping up at home too. We want to better understand the whole situation, so that we know how we can support them at school. Staying consistent between home and school is really important for a child’s learning. I’ve learned some children have started testing boundaries at home too, so it isn’t just for their teachers at school. A little understanding goes a long way!
I thought about what I could do to make my classroom more manageable when children seem to be needing some space. They needed a productive space where they can have some alone time when needed, refocus, and then feel ready to join our group again. The goal was for them to recognize when they needed space before things felt too crazy. I set up a Refocus Center in my classroom. It is complete with a book, “You’re Here for a Reason”, a Feelings Journal, crayons, two stuffed bunnies, a stress ball, and a sensory bottle.
So far, this center has been a game changer! We talked about this new center at circle time, and how they can come talk to me when they felt they needed some space, or, if I felt that they need some space from their friends, I may ask them to go to our “Refocus Center” for some quiet time. They are using the journal exactly what it is for, to draw how they are feeling. I’ve had children come up and tell me they felt they needed space, then they sit down and immediately start drawing how they feel. One student in particular told me they felt they needed some alone time. I told her she could go to the Refocus Center, and she sat down to draw how she was feeling. We talked about her drawing and she told me she was feeling sad and lonely. I asked her why, and she said that nobody wanted to play with her. We talked about who she was wanting to play with, and how she could let them know how she was feeling. She went and talked to her friends, they all started playing a game, and she was feeling much happier within a few minutes!
This center has helped to give me insight into my student’s day. Talking to them about their drawing lets me know how they are feeling and what kind of a day they are having. They are allowed to feel frustrated, sad, happy. We have to help them understand how to control some of those feelings, being frustrated in particular, so that everyone stays safe and we can all have fun in the classroom. The bunnies allow them something to hold onto, and sometimes are a good distraction, along with the sensory bottle and stress ball. If you are needing a new classroom management strategy, setting up a Refocus Center really seems to do the trick. Children don’t always tell you how they are feeling, but having them be able to draw how they are feeling and then talking about it allows you some insight into their day and how you can better help them problem solve. This center has helped make our classroom feel more calm.
In addition to some new strategies in our classrooms, sometimes our space needs a “refocus” as well. Teachers are notorious for saving things that could be used again someday. The problem with that is our center has very limited storage and our classrooms have to essentially disappear at the end of the week, as we share the space with a church. To meet the ever changing dynamics of our groups and the needs involved, we decided to do a whole-center classroom shift. We discovered a variety of things that we no longer needed and cleared a lot of things that didn’t spark joy. 🙂
The new Toddler Space
The new Pre-K Space
The new Preschool Space.
Sometimes teachers, spaces, and children need a chance to refocus. Time to think about what is most important, how we feel about it, and how to make a plan for improvement.
Now we are really excited to finish up with “Health and Fitness” and prepare for “Desert Discovery” with Mother Goose Time!