Hi! Oh boy do you have your hands full with this challenging job! Hats off to you for undertaking it and best wishes for success in helping these kids. It is hard work getting kids on track at times, isn't it? But I'm with you all the way that it is important.
I don't know what your city and state have in place for early intervention programs. Many preschools in my area have grants that pay for various services for children that qualify. A therapist will come in and observe a child for a few days. The therapist is trained to look for various things that may need intervention to help the child be successful in school.
It is important to look into what the behavior issue stems from. Kids that have developmental delays that are mild have a very difficult time in the preschool/daycare setting. I assume this is daycare with a preschool attached as it starts at such a young age-------- so these little kids are with you all day, right? When a child has behavior issues, I would document and keep a history of what patterns that are seen over and over. An example, a child that has trouble with speech and articulation is going to have difficulty with socialization and things like interacting with peers, sitting still, sharing, and will often be volatile. Helping them with speech is important and where you would want to use grant money to provide early intervention for the child. Some kids have sensory issues which can look like different things depending on the child. Educating yourself in these various types of issues is essential to be successful in a preschool/daycare setting.
Giving choices is critical to difficult children. Many choices throughout the day will help them 'feel' in control while in actuality the teacher has control as she is the one offering the choices. "Do you want to sit in the circle by Mary or would you like to pull up a chair by the group." "Do you want to walk in the line behind Henry or do you want to walk next to me (the teacher)?"
I'd have a "cool down" spot in every classroom. Often an enclosed place is the best such as a small pop up tent. Our preschool used big drums that were plastic with a door carved out (as in no door but an opening) and a pillow inside. I'd have a corner like this. I'd also have a bean bag chair and a set of headphones with a tape player (cd I guess it is these days, LOL) and calming music or a story book to follow that kids can go to. I'd have some rocking chairs around. Why? Well, some kids have trouble self soothing. They can do it if given some space. So having a place for them to go and "cool" down is very helpful and a strategy I highly recommend. If money is tight-------- under a table in the corner with some pillows will do.
Movement. One of the things that is often forgotten about is that some kids actually need movement to maintain themselves. If you have a child that is acting out--------- take that child and 2 or 3 classmates and do a movement exercise. Push over is a good one----- have them stand at a wall and try to push the wall over. It is like a wall push up and is calming to the nervous system. You could have one or two kids do leap frogs down a hall way. Have them MARCH to playground with hitting feet on the hard surface. I know this sounds wacky but all of these things are known to slow down a nervous system or wake it up--------- and if a child is in either state of needing this, their bad behavior can be a result of it. Active games are good. If you have a kid climbing the walls---------- do a jumping game. If you can afford it at your school, a mini trampoline (I got one at K mart for 25 dollars) is a good way to calm them.
Get a monkey bar for inside on rainy days--------- put a mat under it and have kids hang off of it. Run laps. I'm dead serious---------- all of this helps.
I'd partner kids at times. A teacher intervening and partnering up kids rather than the willy nilly of kids picking who they do an activity or play with can really help. A calmer child with a more volatile child often works out better than two volatile children.
There is a series of teacher friendly books for preschoolers called "Teacher Resource Behavior Management". I have "Anger", "Impulse Control", and "Patience". They are available online at www.FrankSchaffer,com (totline publications) and are about 7 dollars a book. These books are AWESOME. They give ideas for things to do in class to teach a lesson such subjects, how to work on behavior issues that come up, how to work with parents, games and activities and troubleshooting. They say age 3 to 6 but I'm sure you could start with even younger kids. I'll look through mine and see if anything jumps out at me to add here or you can let me know if there is anything specific that is happening in the behavior arena of the kids.
Okay, don't know if that helped but bless you for taking your job seriously! This is the chance for some of these kids to begin getting help they may need to be successful for their whole life.
And, it was a wise and brilliant preschool teacher that identified that my own son had sensory integration disorder while in preschool at age 3. Early intervention has him on track now. I know your job is so hard and I do wish you all the luck in the world!
I would like to add that swinging is really soothing. If you can it would probably help to get one inside the classroom. Repetitive movement is really comforting.
My daughter attended a special needs preschool as a typical child (We later learned she has OCD, high anxiety and SID and could have qualified!). What seemed most important to those kids, and to my daughter, was structure. They really needed to know what was going to happen next and they needed assurance that what they were told would happen, really would happen.
For instance, if they are suppose to go to stations after story time, don't stop and do a craft or a short lesson in between. In her classroom, the teachers had a board with velcro symbols for the day's activities. They would arrange them according to the day's schedule before the kids came in each day. That way, the kids always knew what to expect and when.
They also let them talk about anything they wanted for the first few minutes of circle time. A lot of these kids came from disfunctional families with many social/psychological issues between and among family members. It helped a lot to get things off their chests first thing in the morning.
Thanks everyone for you comments and suggestions. These will really help the students who have behavior issues at our school.