Classroom Management and Connection

Over the years, attitudes toward children’s behaviors have evolved. We increasingly see the relationship between children’s behaviors, the development of executive functioning skills, and childhood trauma. As we look at disruptive behaviors through these different lenses, we can see that some of the traditional ways of managing classrooms and children’s behaviors may not be the most effective options.

The CDC has published a series of articles about classroom management that examines ways to build connectedness through classroom management strategies.  They define classroom management as the steps teachers follow to create a positive learning environment for all children.

Specifically, they have identified the following categories for supporting student success:

  • Teacher caring and support – building strong relationships with children.
  • Peer connection and support – building strong relationships between children.
  • Student autonomy and empowerment – encouraging children to make choices.
  • Management of classroom social dynamics – recognizing children who may be vulnerable or isolated from peers.
  • Teacher expectations – believing in children’s ability to learn and develop new skills.
  • Behavior management – creating clear expectations and consistent, realistic consequences.

While these articles focus on older children, there are many aspects that can be adapted for early learning.

Let’s look specifically at some strategies for building peer connection and support, which can decrease undesirable behaviors and strengthen relationships.

  • Provide opportunities for children to learn about each other – In early learning, children play together most of the day. They are drawn to children with similar interests.  But how often do they engage in activities where they get to really know one another?  Getting to know one another is a skill that younger children can begin to practice, with teacher support.  Use the time during class meetings to have meaningful discussions about thoughts and opinions or conduct polls and discuss the results. Encourage children to ask questions to a partner and then stop and listen carefully to the answer.
  • Provide fun ways for children to work together – Again, young children play together often, but there are opportunities to be even more intentional and creative in what we ask children to accomplish.  Think about different ways you can promote cooperation and collaboration in your classroom.  Instead of assigning only one child to a class chore, assign the chore to two or more children and challenge them to figure out how they could work together.  Create puzzles and other challenges that require children to work together to accomplish the task.
  • Encourage peer support Teachers often step in to provide assistance when children need help. That level of support should not stop. However, consider whether there are opportunities for the children to help one another, rather than always relying on adults for help.  In appropriate situations, you could encourage a child to ask a peer for help by saying, “Did you know that I saw Emma do this the other day? Maybe we could ask her for help.” 

These ideas may need to be modified for the children in your group based on their ages and abilities. Are there other ways you can use elements of your daily routine to promote social and emotional development?