Gearing Up: Honing your Classroom Management and Teaching Strategies
As a new early childhood educator, skills in classroom management and teaching strategies will come in handy. These skills will boost your confidence and give you a smooth start to your early childhood journey. Ms Tiffany Lim, Principal of My First Skool at Blk 756 Jurong West, shares practical tips and strategies for improving classroom management.
Professional skills and knowledge for effective classroom management are essential to a positive preschool experience. Such skills not only enable early childhood educators to better support children’s learning and development, they also give the educators the confidence in handling difficult classroom situations. Early childhood educators, especially the novice ones, are always on the lookout for strategies to manage their classrooms effectively.
To Ms Tiffany Lim, Principal of My First Skool at Blk 756 Jurong West, having the practical knowledge and skills alone may not be sufficient to ensure effective classroom management. Early childhood educators also need to have a good understanding of themselves and the children they work with to effectively implement their skills and knowledge.
Tiffany strongly recommends that every new early childhood educator develop their own teaching philosophy. Relating to her own personal experience, Tiffany shared, “I think having a teaching philosophy guides me as an educator. My teaching philosophy helps shape my teaching pedagogies, behaviour and mindset. It is fundamental to why I am doing what I am doing to provide the best for the children.”
She further elaborated, “My teaching philosophy leads me to set various desired outcomes for myself and my students. The desired outcomes then guide my teaching instructions and sets the culture in my class. This shapes the behaviour of children when it comes to classroom management.”
In shaping their personal teaching philosophy and establishing desired outcomes, Tiffany encourages early childhood educators to be reflective, realistic and practical.
By being reflective, early childhood educators get a better understanding of the children they work with. They also get a better understanding of themselves and the educator role they play. Reflection can help early childhood educators clarify why they embark on a career in early childhood. This can in turn help educators develop a more impactful teaching philosophy and guide them in prioritising the things that are important to them when faced with conflicts and challenges at work.
Tiffany also encourages early childhood educators to be realistic in setting goals and expectations for themselves. It is important for new educators to identify their personal limits to avoid setting overly high expectations. Unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary stress and burn-out.
Last but not least, Tiffany advises early childhood educators to set practical expectations and desired outcomes for the children under their care. Each child is unique and reacts to situations differently. When faced with a situation where a child is reacting negatively to a situation, educators need to step back and reflect on the reasons behind the child’s behaviour to determine how they can meet the behavioural needs of this child.
Guided by her personal teaching philosophy and desired learning outcomes for the children, Tiffany further adopts four key principles to develop strategies for effective classroom management:
- Principle 1: Know Your Children
- Principle 2: Be Intentional
- Principle 3: Tap on available resources
- Principle 4: Develop routines and structures
To Tiffany, it is critical for early childhood educators to understand individual children’s interests to cater to their different needs. “One of my philosophies for teaching is to maximise every child’s learning potential and ensure that every child is happy in the process of learning. This belief helps me set my foundation right – that is to know my children. Without knowing what these children can or cannot do, I won’t be able to stretch their learning,” says Tiffany.
In getting to know the children, Tiffany suggests the following tips for new early childhood educators:
- Get to know their family better. Get a better understanding of the relationships the children have with their parents and caregivers.
- Children have different dynamics when alone and in groups. Observe the children’s behaviour when they are doing activities alone and in groups. This can help you develop strategies to bring out the best in them through their peers.
- Get to know the interests of individual children in your class. This can help you keep them meaningfully engaged in the classroom and create opportunities for them to showcase responsibility and leadership.
Intentional planning is the next key step after getting to know the children. As Tiffany says, “After knowing (the children), it is very important for me to have a plan to work towards setting the expectation and culture for the classroom. This requires intentional planning.”
In being intentional, Tiffany suggests the following:
- During activities, play the role of a facilitator. Know when you need to step in or step back and allow the children to do things themselves. Allow the children to make mistakes and be less negative about their mistakes
- Be intentional in your choice of words and tone of voice. Being young, children can get easily overwhelmed when too many instructions are given. Educators need to ensure that specific instructions are given to children. Always use positive language when conversing with the children. Avoid the use of “Don’t”.
For a holistic approach to classroom management, Tiffany strongly recommends that early childhood educators tap on available resources around them. “In building an effective classroom, strong partnerships with colleagues and families are required. Through close communication and deepening of relationships with the families and colleagues, you will be amazed to see how much every partner can contribute in building an effective classroom,” she shares.
Some tips offered by Tiffany include:
- Communicate well with fellow early childhood educators and work together as a team. Ensure that the preschool’s approach to classroom management is coherent by seeking a common understanding amongst the teaching staff and establishing the same set of rules for the children.
- Forge a strong parent-teacher partnership. Help parents understand what is being done in the preschool and try to align them with what is being done at home.
- Use the learning environment as a third teacher. Pay attention to how you design the classroom environment to facilitate classroom management. For instance, balance how and where to place bright colours and colourful posters in the classroom, as too many of them may over-stimulate or distract the children.
However, for novice early childhood educators, Tiffany has the following advice to share, “It requires some experience and planning to seize the opportunity and know what kind of resources are beneficial for our children and aligned with what we want to achieve.”
Lastly, Tiffany highlighted the importance of well-established routines and classroom rules in effective classroom management. In establishing routines, Tiffany shared the following tips:
- Always lead by example when establishing routines in the classroom.
- Avoid being stern or fierce with the children when establishing routines. Understand that children understand a lot more than what they are given credit for.
- If possible, involve children in making rules together. This empowers them and encourages them to follow the rules that they have established for themselves.
- Be consistent in the delivery of routines.
Rounding up her advice to new early childhood educators, Tiffany has 3 wise words to share with new early childhood educators entering the sector, “PLAN, DO and REVIEW. As early childhood educators, always PLAN your lessons beforehand and decide on the type of conversations you would like to have with the children. Listen to what the children need, DO by acting on them. REVIEW your actions and strategies to see how well they have worked in the context of the classroom.”
Ms Tiffany Lim Yan Ting is an ECDA Scholarship recipient who graduated with a Master of Education (Early Childhood) at the National Institute of Education. Tiffany started out as a trainee teacher in 2005 and is now a Centre Principal at My First Skool at Blk 756 Jurong West.
The above tips and advice were shared by Tiffany at the ECDA Scholarships & Awards Tea Session held on 9 Feb 2018. The ECDA Scholarships & Awards Tea Session aims to provide pre-service educators with practical tips to start and transit well from a student to an early childhood educator and to build a strong and supportive fraternity among ECDA Scholarships and Training Award recipients.
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