Rules and Behavior

Classroom rules for preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten
Printable Classroom Rule Picture Charts and Cards for Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten
It is important to have visuals in an early childhood classroom as a reminder of the rules.  Our rules chart is posted on the wall in several locations throughout our classroom at the children’s eye level so we can refer to it when necessary.

I feel it is extremely important to keep all classroom rules positive, notice how I have not included the word “don’t” in any of the rules.  Our rules include:

  • Helping Hands
  • Listening Ears
  • Quiet Voices
  • Eyes Looking
  • Walking Feet

Printable Classroom Rules

Printable Classroom Rules Charts and Cards for Pre-K and Kindergarten via
I created a printable packet that contains our Classroom Rules Chart with nine different borders so you can choose the one that you like best. Also included is a set of rule cards for use in a pocket chart or to create a portable set you can keep on a book ring.

Printable Classroom Rule Picture Charts and Cards for Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten
Classroom Rules Charts and Cards Packet {14 pages} $2

Printable Classroom Rules Picture Chart with nine different borders. Plus, a set of printable cards perfect for use in preschool or kindergarten!

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How do you introduce the rules to the children?

Many early childhood experts advocate creating the rules with the children and I agree that this is a very effective method for native English speakers. However, when your class consists entirely of second language learners this is not a practical strategy.

At the beginning of the year, on the very first day and every day thereafter, we review the rules carefully as a group.  I begin by asking the children “Does anybody know why we come to school?”  After a few responses (usually not correct ones) I prompt them and say “We come to school to LEARN.”

Next, I tell the students that learning is like “getting smart” (they usually understand that much better) and in order to learn we have to follow some rules; this is when I introduce the rules chart with pictures.

I explain that there are five very important things we must do in order to learn and I say the rules out loud as I point to them on the chart.  The next day when I ask these questions a few more students will be able to answer them, and finally after several days everybody should be able to answer the questions.

After the initial few weeks of this type of review I switch to having our Leader of the Day (LOTD) point to the rules on the chart and the leader says them for us or picks friends to say each one.  This process helps the children internalize and take ownership of the rules.

Behavior Books for Preschool
Another great way to introduce the rules is to read from the series of books titled The Best Behavior series.  For large group time I like to read Listening Time, I read this book every day in the beginning of the year before every large group lesson.  There are others in this series that address behaviors such as sharing, cleaning-up, kicking, hitting, biting, and unkind words, I have listed them for you below.

Hands Are Not for Hitting (Best Behavior Series)
Feet Are Not for Kicking (Best Behavior Series)
Listening Time
Sharing Time
Voices Are Not for Yelling
Words Are Not for Hurting
Teeth Are Not for Biting
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
Clean-Up Time

Do you use a specific classroom management system?

I use ideas from several sources including Love and Logic, Positive Discipline, and Conscious Discipline. Certain aspects of each one work well with this age group.

Love and Logic works by making the child responsible for his or her actions, giving the child choices to make and then helping the child follow through.

Conscious Discipline creates a School Family and has many practical strategies for working with young children including alternatives to time-out.

Do you use Time Out?

safe spot two
safe spot one
No, I use a method called “Safe Spot” instead of time out. The Safe Spot idea comes from Dr. Becky Bailey‘s Conscious Discipline book. If a child needs time away from the group he or she can go to the Safe Spot to help understand and regulate their emotions.

Using a Safe Spot helps the child regulate his or her own emotions instead of just punishing the child for making poor choices. In the Safe Spot we teach the child how to problem solve and make better choices.

The items in our Safe Spot are:

  • Soft stuffed animals for hugging if we are sad
  • Books from the Best Behavior series (listed above)
  • Wave bottle (has a very calming effect)
  • No more tears magic sprinkles

What about behavior charts, traffic lights, or ticket pulling systems? Do you use any of those?

No. Those types of systems make more work for the teacher and are punitive, I believe in being positive and working smarter, not harder.

Behavior charts, stoplights, and card/ticket systems are a lot of work to keep up with and require lots of prep and complicated rules. None of the aforementioned systems hold the child accountable or have any flexibility, they are all or nothing and they are also negative and out in the open for everybody to see. It is demeaning for a child to have his ticket pulled and everybody to see that he has been “bad”, what does that teach the child other than to be ashamed? Or maybe not get caught the next time?

I would prefer to have a personal connection with a child and help him solve his problems by giving him choices and empowering him, these are valuable life lessons that a child will be able to internalize and use in daily life.

Acknowledging a child’s good behavior is far more powerful than acknowledging his bad behavior.

What about rewards, prize boxes, or treasure chests?

No, see the answer above. Rewards and prize/treasure chests are expensive! I would much rather spend my money on instructional items for the classroom and not trinkets that will become lost or broken within 5 seconds, often resulting in fights or tears. Also, what are we teaching children by giving them rewards when they “behave”? They are being rewarded for doing something that they should be doing anyway. The biggest reward they can receive is the gift of learning how to make their own choices and the good feelings that come with choosing to do what is right for the sake of doing the right thing.

If you don’t use behavior charts, tickets, stoplights, or prizes then how do you get them to behave?

This is a question I am asked frequently by visitors and the answer is both simple and complicated at the same time. First, I establish mutual respect, then I spend lots and lots of time modeling how to make good choices and role playing different scenarios in the beginning of the year.

The modeling and role playing is very time consuming but really pays off in the long run. If you want your students to share then you have to invest the time in the beginning teaching them how to share. If you want your students to clean-up on cue then you have to take the time to teach them how to do that too. We cannot take simple things for granted, everything must be taught, modeled, and role played with this age group to ensure success.

How do you get your students to respect you?

I use techniques from Conscious Discipline to create a “School Family” where the students feel connected to one another and the teacher. Establishing this family unit really helps diminish behavior issues.

What do you do when you’re trying to read a story and they just can’t sit and listen?

Before beginning any group activity such as a read aloud I always review the rules first. You don’t always have to use the rules chart, I also made individual cards for the pocket chart using the same pictures we used for the poster (see resources section at bottom) and amend the rules a bit to fit with a read aloud. Our read aloud rules are: “Eyes on the reader, ears listening, hands in your lap, criss-cross applesauce, quite as can be” I hold up each card and we review each rule out loud as it is placed in the chart. This will eliminate most problems before they begin, however if anybody needs a reminder I use a Love and Logic technique and say “Oh, how sad, I will continue reading when everybody is ready.” and I put my book down and fall silent gazing into space quietly. This works like magic! Don’t give in and make eye contact, don’t signal anybody out by name, just sit quietly. Soon they’ll all be staring at you and you can begin reading again. In the beginning the pauses may be as long as 30 seconds to one minute, but soon they will only be a few seconds in length. Consistency is the key with this technique, it may not work like magic the very first time you use it, but persistence pays off. I think this technique for getting kids to pay attention sure beats the old “Be quiet!” “Stop it!” and “Sit down!” technique.

More Classroom Management Tips from Pre-K Pages

Rules and Behavior Resources

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