A safe learning environment is necessary for children to grow and mature in a preschool classroom, but such an environment is not always easy to maintain. Maintaining a safe learning environment for young children requires a well-planned, clean and organised space that is free of dangerous materials. Teachers must also prepare rules and routines and explicitly teach acceptable behaviours. To preserve the classroom expectations, rewards and consequences must be implemented consistently throughout the year. If the learning environment is routine-orientated, welcoming and physically non-threatening every day, students will always be safe.
Before school begins, create a physical environment that is conducive to learning and cooperation. Think carefully about the locations of your learning centres, the carpet space and your desk, if you have one. Make sure that you are able to see everything from any point in the room. Organise toys and educational tools in accessible, child-friendly bins. Put anything that children should not access -- such as scissors -- on a high shelf or in a cupboard to prevent accidents. Make sure the room is clean and free of dangerous materials every day before students arrive.
Develop three to five major rules for your classroom. Make a poster using colourful markers and pictures, and post this in a highly visible area of the classroom. You might include rules such as "keep your hands and feet to yourself," "listen while the teacher is speaking," and "treat others as you would like to be treated." Teach these explicitly in class and praise students when they model good behaviours.
Develop a system of rewards and consequences. Many teachers use a stoplight chart to track student behaviour. Make a stoplight out of construction paper with a green, yellow, orange and red dot. Then write students' names on clothes pegs and start every day on green. If a student misbehaves, the first offence will move the student to yellow, the second to orange, the third to red. Create appropriate and consistent consequences for each colour. Allow students to move their clothes pegs back up for improved behaviour. Implement a reward, such as a sticker, for students who end the day on green. Teach this system in the first week of class and maintain it consistently throughout the year.
Teach classroom procedures during the first week of class and in miniature lessons every day from then on. Learning to behave in an academic setting is one of the most important educational goals for preschoolers, and behaviour routines must be taught explicitly. Spend a week teaching students how to sit on the carpet, how to listen to a story, how to raise their hands, how to line up and how to use learning centres. Give frequent verbal affirmation for positive behaviours. Make lessons short, incorporate some non-behavioural educational material throughout each day and develop a consistent daily routine from day one.
Plan detailed lessons every day. Keep in mind which students work well together and which students require extra attention. Implement teaching strategies for multiple learning styles. Incorporate movement into your lessons, to keep students engaged. Well-planned lessons lead to excellent classroom management. If students are engaged in learning and understand what is expected of them at all times, the classroom environment will remain safe and secure.
On the first day of every week, and the first day back from a holiday, review the rules and routines. You may need to reteach important behaviours. Do this at the beginning of the day to help students adjust when they return to school.