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How to reinforce positive behavior in the preschool classroom

For many students, preschool is their first introduction to an academic environment. Consequently, concepts such as sitting quietly, listening during story time, or sharing colored pencils with their classmates may be foreign and difficult to grasp, especially in the beginning of the school year.

Though some misbehavior is expected in preschool, responding appropriately to these situations can go a long way in creating a positive learning environment in which all your students feel safe. As a teacher, one way to accomplish this is through positive reinforcement.

The value of positive reinforcement
In the chaotic preschool setting, sometimes it can be much easier to spot bad behavior than the good. Hair pulling, yelling, and other negative actions tend to be both literally and figuratively louder than more positive actions, such as sharing and listening.

However, if you want your students to show positive behavior, you need to focus on the good as well. 

Positive reinforcement is the process by which a good, desirable behavior is rewarded, such as when parents give a child a weekly allowance for completing chores to encourage their son or daughter to continue doing so.

With a little bit of creativity and planning, this strategy is an easy one to incorporate into the preschool classroom.  

Finding ways to positively reinforce good behavior can make your classroom more conducive to learning.Finding ways to positively reinforce good behavior can make your classroom more conducive to learning.

Ideas for the preschool classroom
To encourage good behavior among your ECE students, try one of the following ideas in your classroom:

  • Student leaders: Is a student sharing well or otherwise being a positive force in the classroom? Reward them by affirming the behavior and asking if he or she would like to lead the line when walking to lunch, or help you hand out papers.
  • Positive note: You may have had to write a negative note to a student's parents, but have you written a positive one? If you notice a child is having a good day, write a note home praising the behavior. The student will be proud to show the letter to his or her parents after school and more likely to continue the behavior. 
  • Student behavior: Make an intentional effort to point out things that all of the children are doing well, whether that's sharing during playtime or cleaning up after making a craft.
  • Verbal affirmation: Ultimately, one of the most effective ways you can reinforce good behavior is through verbal affirmation. Tell your students that you see how hard they're working to behave and thank them for helping to make the classroom a fun place in which to learn. Be specific in your praise. Instead of just saying "good job," say "good job sharing your cars."

Remember it's important to reinforce the positive behavior of not only the kids who are behaving well but also those who are trying to improve as well. Students with a lot of energy or those unaccustomed to the classroom setting may have a harder time than others when it comes to sitting still and following rules. It doesn't mean that they're bad, but they might start to feel that way if they never receive positive attention from you. It may not be a big deal for one child to sit still without talking during story time, but for others it could be a huge accomplishment. Take the time to recognize this kind of effort as well. 

To learn more about creating a positive learning environment in your preschool classroom, consider enrolling in online courses through ProSolutions Training.