Key Takeaways

  • By using positive reinforcement, you can set classroom expectations and maintain a warm, welcoming kindergarten classroom environment.
  • Students will feel empowered and engaged when they're shown what they can do, rather than what they can't.
  • Let's Find Out is an important tool for educators looking for activities that will help children express their feelings.
  • The first week of school is a big deal for every young learner, but for kindergartners, it's extra special. The first steps students take into your classroom mark the beginning of one of the most significant journeys of their lives, and as a teacher, you understand the excitement and anticipation they're sure to be experiencing.

    That's why creating a warm and welcoming classroom environment that puts your students at ease is so important. It doesn't just help students adjust to a new school, new friends, and new teachers, it also serves as the foundation for their social and emotional development in kindergarten and beyond.

    Of course, with every classroom comes a set of expectations for students that will guide their behavior and the way they interact with their teachers and classmates. Covering school rules with your students while maintaining that warm and welcoming atmosphere you work so hard to create is often difficult during those first few days or weeks of the school year. But it doesn't have to be. By taking a positive approach to teaching—and enforcing—classroom expectations, you'll find that your students will become more engaged and more empowered, and as a result, that warm, welcoming classroom environment will flourish.

    All you have to do is: 

    Focus on what students can do, rather than what they can't.

    Using positive reinforcement to identify expectations you have for your students' behavior is going to be key when it comes to empowering them. One way to do this effectively is to focus on what students can do, rather than what they can't do. Here are a few good examples: 

  • Instead of telling students they're not allowed to talk while standing in line, ask them if they can be quiet. Being quiet is something students can do and turns the common "no talking" rule into an expectation that is much more positive and in line with your warm and welcoming classroom environment.
  • "Don't leave a mess" is transformed into a positive expectation by asking students if they can help clean up. Using positive reinforcement simply comes down to replacing your don'ts with cans. Whenever you find yourself leading with a don't, stop and rephrase your expectation.
  • Instead of setting the expectation among your students that they shouldn't be rude, encourage them to be polite by showing them exactly what it means to have good manners. Whether it's holding a door open for a student or using a tissue to blow your nose, students will quickly pick up on your example.
  • Encourage students to appropriately express their emotions.

    While teaching school rules in a positive way will be one of the most important tasks at the beginning of the school year, helping students tap into and appropriately express their feelings will be just as important. A resource like Scholastic's interactive magazine Let's Find Out is a great tool when it comes to finding videos and lesson plans that help children develop socially and emotionally inside and outside the classroom. It even offers kinesthetic activities with tips for children to try along to when feeling upset. For example, when students are feeling frustrated, sad, or angry, they can: 

  • First, slow down and put a hand on their chest.
  • Next, breathe in and out.
  • Then, to calm down, they can give themselves a hug.
  • It's an effective and easy strategy to help children manage their emotions, especially in the hustle and bustle of a kindergarten classroom.

    For more tips on how to teach classroom rules in a positive way, and strategies to help students manage all those emotions they're sure to be experiencing at the beginning of the school year, check out this free issue of Let's Find Out today.