Positive Behavioral Supports for PreK Classrooms

I did a little digging into research-based practices to support positive behaviors in preschool classrooms. What did I find?  Not a lot!

I was surprised at how little research has been executed in this vitally important area. What we do know is that preschool children who receive support and instruction in social-emotional skills (e.g., emotion understanding, social problem solving, and positive social behavior) do better in kindergarten. They do better on measures of reading achievement, learning engagement, and positive social behavior (Nix, Bierman, Domitrovich, & Gill: 2013). These days we expect children entering kindergarten to start acquiring academic skills right off the bat. Those children who come to school with positive classroom experiences and skills are much more prepared to succeed!

I did find one piece of research that gave an outline for proactive positive behavioral supports for preschool age children. Benedict, Horner, and Squires, in “Assessment and Implementation of Positive Behavioral Support in Preschools” (2007), provide a nine-point Measure for Implementation Of Universal Positive Behavioral Supports. The following is a short synopsis:


1. Posted: 3-5 positively stated rules.  Rules are stated in a positive way, posted at eye level, and communicated with the picture and text.

2. Posted: Visual schedule.
  The sequence of classroom routines is posted at eye level, with the picture and text.

3. Classroom matrix of behavioral expectations.  Classroom rules associated with Each classroom routine are provided in a written format available to all teachers.

4. Transition signal. In addition to verbal communication, some other system such as a bell, song, physical action, or chant and refrain is used to signal transitions.

5. Warning before transitions.   Teachers give a verbal foreshadowing of the next transition a few minutes before the transition, e.g., “Five more minutes until clean-up.”

6. Pre-correction.  Teachers give a verbal reminder of the positive behavior expected for the next transition, “Remember to use your walking feet.”

7. Acknowledgment system. Teachers use a system to acknowledge positive behaviors other than verbal praise. Benedict, Horner, and Squires give examples of a teacher who gives children a raffle ticket when they are helpful to friends, and a classroom where the children who promptly come inside from the playground get a dab of lotion.

8. A ratio of four positives to one negative comment. Positive comments can be given to one or multiple children. Negative comments include corrections, reprimands, or any indication of disapproval.

9. Specific verbal praise. Following a child’s appropriate behavior, the teacher makes a positive statement with specific details of what the child did that was correct, safe, or useful.

As a pediatric occupational therapist I have supported special education children in countless day care settings, Head Start classrooms, formal preschools, and school-based early childhood classrooms.  I always breathe a sigh of relief when I first walk into a new classroom and see a clearly posted visual schedule of the class routine.  I know that the students I support depend upon a structured routine.

Recently a colleague who teaches a 4-year-old kindergarten room told me  she was unhappy with the images of her visual schedule. I was glad to make a new set of schedule cards for her. You can find them here on TPT.

This teacher likes her children to practice early concepts of print skills, so she organizes her schedule to read from left to right.




Another teacher at my school employs a mostly vertical method, but also includes some left to right sequences.

Visual Schedules for PreK Classrooms


Visual Supports for Classroom Inclusion

[inlinkz_linkup id=669019 mode=1]

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.