As with any age group, I believe that allowing preschool kids to set their own rules helps them to take greater responsibility for their actions, reduces conflict between teacher and student, and generally improves behaviour in class. Exemplary Animals is a great classroom management activity that helps kids recognise model behaviour.
With my older students I sit down at the start of term and ask them to put together their list of rules that they believe are fair. This can be a little bit confusing for younger students, so at the start of all my preschool classes I discuss good behaviour with my kids. I ask them leading questions about what they think is the right and wrong way to behave in class.
Once we have a list of model behaviour, I ask the kids for examples of animals who demonstrate this behaviour. You may need to prompt the kids with some ideas. Sometimes after they have agreed that they should listen to the teacher, I ask them which animal has nice big ears for listening. Some examples of animals and behaviour that you can use are:
- Bunnies: big ears for listening.
- Owls: big eyes for paying attention.
- Tortoises: slow and controlled movement.
- Flamingos: good at concentrating (to balance on one leg).
- Giraffes: calm and quiet.
- Monkeys: share with their friends.
The list can go on and on.
For each of the selected behaviours and animals we choose an action. This could be framing your eyes with your hands like an owl or stretching up tall like a giraffe.
Don’t be afraid to reiterate these animals at the start of each class and open up the discussion again.
If you have an incident of undesired behaviour, a good way to deal with this is by sitting your class down and asking why this was a problem. What should they be doing instead? Which animal shows this? Add it to your list for all classes going forward.
What are the Consequences?
Once we have established the behaviour standard for the day, we choose an incentive activity as their reward for adhering to this standard. If they are a little silly or if you’ve had problems during class, this gives you the opportunity to sit them down and explain why they are not going to get their incentive activity.
I would have a backup activity planned so that the children don’t get too upset. If they have recognised what the problems were, apologised to each other and agreed to try harder going forward, there is no point in punishing your kids. Not completing the originally planned activity shows that there are consequences for their actions. Having something else fun to do demonstrates that you are fair. This reduces complaints from your class and helps to ensure that everyone is on the same team.
I prefer to allow the students to choose their own examples of behaviour, animals and actions. This way, if they break the standard it is much easier to reason with them when highlighting that they are breaking their own rules and not mine.
If I notice the group getting loud or I need attention back on me, shouting ‘let me see a bunny’ or ‘where are those owl eyes?’ serves as a quick reminder of the behaviour standard without having to scold the children.
Try Exemplary Animals with your class for an added level of fun in classroom management! It’s also a great way to gauge the group’s own standards and highlight any problems that they’re unaware of.