Teacher Productivity in the Early Childhood Classroom for 3-5 year olds

By MahaJyoti and Jonnah Glassman

How can you have the most productive environment conducive to learning?
How can your classroom run like a well-oiled machine?
Do all students in your class know what to do and how to go about doing it?
How much time do you have to spend giving directions to the children for an activity?


Maximizing Learning Time

The teacher tries to not allow any disruptions to interfere with activities. All potential disruptions are minimized. If interrupted, the teacher quickly reengages the children. Extra activities are available for students who may finish an activity early. Teachers make sure the children know the plan and provide directions that are very clear. Directions are short and brief – not lengthy narratives. S/he may ask the students what the directions are to see if they were paying attention or understand what was said. Is there any confusion after you have given an instruction about what they are supposed to do? If any instruction is given, for example, to clean up the room, the teacher should join with the students to give clarity and support. Do the children know what is expected of them?

What is the default if a child does not want to participate? Teachers may suggest another exercise like reading a book, pounding play dough, or painting, rather than enforcing isolation or a ‘time out’ chair. Young children should not be punished for nonconformity. Other choice activities can be made available.

How to handle a group discussion when, for example, the teacher is trying to facilitate a discussion about dinosaurs and suddenly there is a child who wants to talk about his grandmother’s visit? The teacher very gently, but firmly, brings the discussion back to the original topic: “Kenny let’s talk about your grandmother’s visit in three minutes. Now who can tell me something different about stegosaurus?” This helps to introduce young children to staying on topic and focus. Then be sure to address the grandmother’s visit later, either one-on-one or in the small group. Every child in a class does not need to comment on a topic of discussion. That may make the discussion too long and tedious to maintain every student’s interest.

Early childhood educators keep the pace active and the children engaged. These teachers provide quick redirection for misbehaviors. Redirection is activated with sweetness. They might sing a song or turn off a light to redirect children who are going “out of control”. Children may be asked to ‘freeze like an ice cube” or “freeze like a jenie” (standing with arms crossed – about to blink some magic).

Teachers try to minimize managerial tasks or cleaning while the children are present.

Some other quick misbehavior fixes:
  • Crisscross apple sauce = means everyone sits with legs crossed
  • Spoons in the bowl = means everyone sits with hands in their laps
  • Bubble in your mouth = means everyone has an air bubble in their mouth
  • Listening ears on = means everyone twists their ears and makes a “click click” sound
  • Exploring hat = means everyone makes motions with their hands as if they are putting a hat on.


Lack of a consistent daily routine can cause frequent loss of instructional learning. Is your routine the same every day? Children love repetition. They do not require something new like older children. Are you making frequent changes? What is the routine for each part of your day?
A daily schedule or sequencing of activities that remains the same from day to day gives students a sense of safety and security and a knowing of what is expected of them each day. A lack of routine can result in children wandering. It is important that classroom routines are consistent each day whenever possible.


Do any of your students fall apart during transitions? Are your transitions quick and efficient? Early childhood teachers review the number of transitions that occur each day and make an effort to reduce the number of transitions. They may also ‘brainstorm” techniques that may help particular students manage transitions, i.e., having a particular child give the two minute warning, allowing a child to take a toy with them, sing a particular song that announces the forthcoming activity, etc. What other fun techniques do you have for a transition to keep the kids focused and looking forward to what is coming next? While we are speaking of transition, it is good to remember how you feel about interruptions? How you feel about having your work constantly interrupted? Allow for the child to finish the activity another time or take it with him to finish when appropriate. Be sensitive.

Teacher Preparation

The early childhood teacher practices lessons ahead of time and plans their daily schedule. Art, science, and other activities are practiced ahead of time. Teachers do not come into the classroom “cold”. Sometime, especially with art projects, the result is not so easy or practical. Modifications may need to be applied. Teachers come fully prepared and with all materials. Students should not have to wait for teachers to prepare in the classroom or ‘run to get something’ from another room. Wait time breeds boredom and boredom can breed misbehavior. ECE teachers check the day before to assure that all the ingredients are ready for your activity. Materials are ready and accessible.

In conclusion, it is through the awareness of maximizing learning time, routines, transition, and teacher preparation that increases a teacher’s ability to enhance productivity.