Early Learning Classroom Tools and Tricks


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Early childcare teachers have expertise in the learning and growth of young children. They seamlessly teach children foundational academic skills, how to interact with each other, and the routines necessary to be successful. Parents know just how challenging this teaching is for one or two children. And yet, teachers successfully do this with an entire group of toddlers and preschoolers. 

Preschool and early care educators are able to accomplish this feat utilizing a variety of tools and strategies that empower children with information, clear expectations, and agency, all the while respecting their feelings and contributions. Though seemingly subtle, these approaches have a big impact on student learning and growth.  

Sharing and Previewing New Information

Learning a new concept or engaging in a new experience can be challenging or overwhelming for young learners. 

  • Because children learn in multiple ways, teachers often both verbally say and then physically show or model important instructions. This multimodal communication helps students better understand the concept or idea. 

  • Teachers often share social stories as a way to preview a new experience or situation. These short stories include basic visuals, pictures, or illustrations that teachers can use as they talk through what to expect with students. 


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Setting Clear Expectations

For young children, there is so much to learn and so many stimuli throughout the day. Teachers recognize that breaking down routines and giving young children breaks throughout the day are fundamental to learning and growth.

  • Young learners are still learning how to follow school rules and routines. Teachers know that they must explicitly teach the behaviors they hope children will practice. Teachers recognize that even behaviors that seem commonplace to adults have to be taught such as asking a question, waiting in a line, and sharing toys. 

  • Similarly, young children are still learning the right words to share their thoughts and feelings. Teachers often provide a verbal script to empower them to solve problems. For example, if a child is struggling to open their snack box, a teacher might offer the phrase “Can you help me open this please?” These words help a child to learn how to respond to similar situations in the future. 

  • When teachers give directions, they often tell their students what will happen first and what will happen next. This helps children to feel more in control of what is happening throughout their day. Teachers of older students might use a visual schedule and check off activities throughout the day. 

  • When children are playing or working collaboratively, they often share when there are 5 minutes left, 3 minutes left, and 1 minute left. This countdown helps children to prepare for the transition.

  • Teachers regularly use movement breaks or brain breaks to break up periods of sitting or to shift the dynamic of a challenging situation. Young children’s attention spans are very short, allowing for only a few minutes of focus on a particular activity.


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Creating Opportunities for Children to Contribute

Young children feel more connected to a learning community when they have the opportunity to help, share their voice, and showcase their work. 

  • Children like to feel that they are helpful to those around them. Teachers assign students jobs, such as watering plants or turning off classroom lights, allowing them to contribute to the classroom community. These roles often teach students helpful life skills that they can utilize to contribute in other areas of their life. 

  • Teachers often provide choices to their students as a way to empower them. The choices might be as simple as choosing blue or purple paper for a craft project or milk or water for snacktime. Teachers are careful to ensure that either choice will be acceptable and appropriate.  

  • Children love to see their work on display. Teachers know that hanging up a child’s artwork or creation shows that their careful, hard work is valued. It instills a sense of pride for children, makes them feel that they are part of the learning community, and inspires them to create more.


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Respecting Feelings

Making young children feel valued increases their self-esteem and fuels their learning and growth.

  • When children are upset, teachers know to lower their voice and speak in short, simple sentences. This calm tone and the shift in how they communicate naturally encourage a child to pause and take some deep breaths. If a child is very upset and cannot seem to find their calm, offering a sip of water from a cup often helps them to refocus and calm down.

  • Teachers of young students often perch down when they listen and talk. This allows the teacher and student to be on an equal level as they communicate.

Borrow from the Teacher Toolkit

These strategies and tools have been honed and curated through years of teaching and learning. Parents can and should borrow from this expertise and apply these strategies at home to help prepare children for new experiences, transition between big and small life events, and build up their child as a helpful problem-solver. Doing this can proactively encourage smoother days and empower young children to handle challenging situations.