4 Perfect Preschool Classroom Rules for Competency Based Education

The ABCs of Pre-K1 Classroom Rules: Competency Based Education

Learn how you can create preschool classroom rules that support competency based education. These rules will help you design rules to help all students thrive.

Creating competency-based rules will help your students succeed.

Table of Contents

Why Preschool Classroom Rules?

Preschool classrooms need rules because children work best when they understand their expectations. Creating a positive and structured classroom rules is essential for preschool teachers to foster the development and growth of their young students. With so much to cover in a short amount of time, establishing clear classroom rules becomes paramount.

What is Competency Based Education?

Competency based education is the idea that children are evaluated and education is created around competency and not test scores. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the ABCs of competency based education with a focus on creating rules and structure.

I will provide teachers and school leaders with practical strategies and tips to track student progress, and ensure a smooth and productive learning experience for both students and educators. From setting expectations and promoting a sense of belonging, we will provide you with competency based rules and offer examples for your classroom.

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher looking for fresh ideas or a new educator seeking guidance, this resource will equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to create a nurturing and engaging environment where every child can thrive.

So, let’s dive in and discover the key elements that will make your preschool classroom a place where competency based learning, project based learning, education and fun go hand in hand.

The Importance of Preschool Classroom Rules in Competency Based Education

Creating rules for young students can be a challenge.

Preschool classroom rules play a vital role in creating competency based learning, and structured and supportive learning environment. Students begin creating critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime.

These rules provide a foundation for a student’s progress and agency, teach children to develop self-discipline, and learn to respect boundaries.

Before we begin, consider your students’ ages and how many rules you should have in the classroom.

What Kind of Rules Should I Have In My Classroom?

In order to empower students, we must let them learn at their own pace.

1 Your Rules Should Empower Students

By establishing clear rules, teachers can set the stage for positive behavior, effective learning, and the overall well-being of their students.

When children know what is expected of them, they feel secure and confident, allowing them to focus on their own learning, and social interactions. It also promotes critical thinking in young children.

2 Rules Should Let Them Learn at Their Own Pace

When you set using competency based learning as a guildeline, students progress based on individual student goals, within the means of these rules. This leads to a less stressful process for teachers and students.

In order to create a safe place, use consistency in your actions and language.

3 Rules Should Create Clear Expectations

Preschoolers thrive in an environment that provides consistent routines and boundaries. Clear preschool classroom rules give children a deep understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

They learn to navigate social interactions, share resources, take turns, and develop essential life skills such as problem-solving and conflict resolution. These are not skills learned on standardized tests, however they are authentic assessments of what skills they will need in the future.

By teaching and reinforcing your preschool classroom rules consistently, teachers create a safe and predictable space where children can explore, learn, and grow.

Preparing Students for the Future

Competency based educational strategies will prepare students for future success.

It is important to note that preschoolers are still developing their cognitive abilities and self-regulation skills. They are exploring their independence and testing boundaries, which is a natural part of their development.

The age gap feels wide at this age. A new four year old is much younger than an old four year old child. Competency based programs allow students to progress at their own pace, as it is important to build individualized learning into the learning process because when students learn these skills when they are ready, they will have a deeper learning of them.

Preschool classroom rules provide the necessary guidance and structure to help them navigate this stage and learn appropriate behavior. When students understand “how to school” at a young age, they are learning how to be successful in higher education, as well.

Establishing Clear and Age-Appropriate Rules

Preschool Classroom rules poster for competency based education: How many rules should my classroom have?

When creating a rules poster, it is crucial to consider their age, developmental stage, language abilities, and individual needs.

Preschool classroom rules should be simple, concise, and easy to understand, and this holds true for all grade levels. Use visual cues such as pictures or symbols to support comprehension, especially for children who are not yet reading. A competency based approach means students work to demonstrate mastery individually.

Some Tips for Your Preschool Classroom Rules Poster:

Preschool Classroom rules poster for competency based education; Rules Reference Guide

1 Young Students Need Easy-to-Follow Directions

Keep in mind that preschoolers have limited attention spans, so it is best to have a small number of rules, typically between 3 to 5, that cover the essential aspects of behavior and safety.

To establish age-appropriate rules, think about the specific challenges and learning goals of the preschool age group.

For example, rules about sharing toys, using gentle hands, and using kind words are essential for promoting positive social interactions.

2 Rules Should Use Positive Language

Use positive language, especially with younger kids. Anything you don’t want kids to do, find what they could do instead and say that.

Rules about listening to the teacher, raising hands to speak, and following directions help create an environment conducive to both learning skills, and cooperation.

3 Simple Checks for Understanding

Create simple formative assessments where students can show you what they’ve learned. Competency based education could be applied by asking small groups of students to play a game or role play. For example, this could be done by asking students to role-play a skill they learned about classroom safety.

Competency Based Education

Ask students to rule-play what they've learned about safety as a way to demonstrate mastery.

When introducing rules to preschoolers, involve them in the process. Each individual student also learns at their own pace. It is important to provide different modals of instruction to promote student learning.

Explain the rules in simple and positive language, using examples and visuals to illustrate each rule. Encourage children to ask questions and provide opportunities for them to demonstrate understanding.

By involving children in the rule-making process, they feel a sense of ownership and are more likely to follow the rules willingly. Consider how you can provide students with actionable evidence of their mastery.

Communicating and Explaining Rules to Preschoolers

Create clear rules and expectations using simple language.

Once you have established the classroom rules, it is important to communicate and explain them effectively to preschoolers.

Remember that young children learn best through repetition, visuals, and hands-on experiences. Use a variety of teaching methods to ensure comprehension based learning, and engagement.

It’s true for teaching all grade levels, but especially with young children, give them the same information in every way possible, in varied pacing, until they can show understanding.

Competency Based Learning Requires Constant Reinforcement

Use a multi-modal approach to teaching rules.

Start by introducing one rule at a time, allowing children to focus on and internalize each rule before moving on to the next. Create simple summative assessments, like door keys or other simple check-ins. Competency based education is proficiency based learning, so allow students to show you what they know.

Present the rule in a positive manner, emphasizing the expected behavior rather than focusing on what not to do. For example, instead of saying “No running,” say “We walk inside the classroom to keep everyone safe.”

Use visual aids such as posters, charts, or hand gestures to reinforce the rules. Display the rules prominently in the classroom, where children can easily see and refer to them throughout the day. Remember, not every child will internalized everything immediately. The point of competency based education is to give students time to progress as they are ready.

When Students Engage With the Rules They Do Better

Incorporate the use of visual cues and gestures during daily routines learning tasks to remind children of the expected behavior. For example, use a thumbs-up gesture when reminding children to raise their hands before speaking. When students learn actively they remember faster.

Role-Play is a Great Tool to Engage Students

To promote mastery based learning and ensure understanding, provide concrete examples and scenarios that illustrate the rules in action. Role-play situations with the children, allowing them to practice and to demonstrate mastery of the desired behavior. They also provide teachers with authentic assessments, individualized instruction, and a competency based environment.

Check Frequently That Students Understand Common Expectations

Competency based education means encouraging open discussions and ask questions to check for comprehension. By actively involving children in the learning process, they will internalize the rules and apply knowledge much more effectively.

One-by-one your students will show demonstrated mastery and understand the key competencies of your classroom.

Consistency and Reinforcement of Rules

This is an example of a kindergarten rules poster. Download poster FREE!

Consistency is key when it comes to enforcing classroom rules. Preschoolers thrive on routine and predictability, so it is essential to be consistent in applying the rules and consequences.

Establish clear expectations and consequences for rule-breaking, and ensure that all teachers and staff members are on the same page. In order to achieve individual learning outcomes, everyone must be on board to helping students succeed.

When Students Receive Timely Feedback They Do Better

To reinforce the rules consistently, use positive reinforcement techniques. Praise and acknowledge children when they follow the rules, highlighting their positive behavior. Timely feedback yields timely results.

Examples of Competency Based Education In The Classroom

Use specific and descriptive language to let children know exactly what they did well. For example, say, “I noticed how you took turns and shared the blocks with your friend. That was very kind and considerate!”

Identify gaps in knowledge. See if you can spot or understand why a student did something. If you can find the root of their problem, you can help them work through it, and eventually achieve the desired outcome.

Acknowledge Individual Students

This is our example of a 1st grade rules poster. Download this poster free!

One of the easiest way to promote competency based education in the classroom is with charts. In addition to verbal praise, use non-verbal cues such as smiles, thumbs-up gestures, or stickers as tokens of recognition. Students can put stickers on their progress charts.

Implement a reward system, such as a sticker chart or a treasure box, to motivate and encourage children to follow the rules. Make sure the rewards are age-appropriate and aligned with the desired behavior.

Allow Students to Demonstrate Growth

Consistency in consequences is equally important. If a rule is broken, address the behavior promptly and calmly. Use logical consequences that are directly related to the rule broken.

For example, if a child throws toys, have them help clean up the mess and discuss why throwing toys is not acceptable. Avoid harsh punishments or shaming, as they can be counterproductive and hinder the development of self-esteem and positive behavior. If you see the child in a similar situation again and they make a better choice, make sure you acknowledge it in a big way. They’ve shown shown growth and the situation provided a learning experience.

Positive Reinforcement Techniques for Promoting Good Behavior

Competency based learning means students are allowed to grow individually.

Promoting good behavior in a preschool classroom goes beyond enforcing rules and consequences. Positive reinforcement techniques play a crucial role in motivating children to exhibit positive behavior consistently.

By focusing on the positive, teachers can create an environment that fosters intrinsic motivation and encourages children to take ownership of their actions.

Give Praise – Often

One effective positive reinforcement technique is the use of praise and encouragement. Transform learning into a positive experience. Acknowledge and celebrate children’s efforts and achievements, no matter how small.

Be specific in your praise, highlighting the behavior or action that you are praising. This helps children understand what they did well and encourages them to repeat the behavior.

Reward Charts | Reward Systems

Give students lots of praise for a job well done.

A competency based education example would be an individualized student checklist or progress chart. This can be as simple as a sticker chart, or sitting in a special reading chair.

Another technique is the use of rewards. Implement a reward system that recognizes and celebrates positive behavior.

I recommend not making the chart overly complicated because it will take you too much time to update. If students can help you track their own progress, you will save time and you will also hold students accountable for their own competency based learning.

1 Treasure Boxes

Once they reach a certain number of stickers, they can choose a small reward from a treasure box. This system not only reinforces positive behavior but also teaches children the concept of goal-setting and delayed gratification.

Again, this can be fun but it can also get expensive. This is not easy for new teachers. I once had a teacher who would get donations of old cards. She would cut them out and when we did well, we could glue the images onto our folders. I still remember how much I enjoyed getting to use glue and my collage at the end of the year! It was also an easy way for her to track our progress – she was also using competency based education in her classroom!

2 Differentiated Support Based Group Work

Promote competency based education in your lesson plans. Incorporate cooperative learning and group activities that promote teamwork and collaboration. Encourage children to work together on projects, solve problems collectively, and support each other’s individual learning more.

Group students strategically so everyone has the ability to focus on mastering a skill they need. This not only enhances their social skills but also creates a sense of belonging and community within the classroom.

Dealing with Rule-Breaking and Disciplinary Actions

Children also need to understand consequences, as long as they are logically based.

Despite the best efforts, rule-breaking is inevitable in a preschool classroom. As we mentioned above, when a rule is broken, it is important to address the behavior promptly and effectively.

The goal is to teach children their are consequences to their actions and then redirect them towards making better choices in the future. Competency based education examples would be reminding children of their progress towards a goal or why they should remember to do things the particular way.

1 Calm and Collected Communication

When addressing rule-breaking, remain calm and composed. Use a firm and assertive tone, but avoid yelling or shaming. Clearly communicate the rule that was broken and explain why the behavior is not acceptable. Encourage the child to reflect on their actions and discuss alternative ways to handle the situation. I cannot stress enough – you should always do your best to remain calm.

2 Logical Consequences

In some cases, it may be necessary to impose logical consequences. Logical consequences are directly related to the rule broken and provide an opportunity for the child to learn from their mistake.

For example, if a child refuses to share a toy, they may be asked to take a break from playing with that toy for a short period of time. This consequence helps the child understand the impact of their behavior on others and encourages empathy and perspective-taking.

Additional Support

Differentiated group work is a good way to help students master skills.

It is important to note that some children may require additional support in managing their behavior. In such cases, collaborate with parents, school administrators, or support staff to develop an individualized behavior plan.

This plan may include strategies such as visual cues, social stories, or reward systems tailored to the child’s specific needs. In this case, parents and teachers would find a way for the student to progress with differentiated support.

Teaching Social Skills Through Classroom Rules

Teach age-appropriate social skills through competency based education.

Preschool is a critical time for the development of social skills. Classroom rules provide an excellent opportunity to teach and reinforce these skills in a structured and supportive environment.

By incorporating social skills into the classroom rules, teachers can help children develop the necessary skills for positive interactions and relationships.

When establishing classroom rules, consider how they can encourage and reinforce social skills. For example, a rule about taking turns and sharing promotes cooperation and empathy. A rule about using kind words and gentle hands fosters positive communication and conflict resolution.

Competency based education is applied when students are allowed to make progress towards understanding that rule individually. It allows student agency and promotes critical thinking in young children.

By explicitly linking these social skills to the rules, children understand the importance of these behaviors in their daily interactions.

In addition to explicit teaching, provide opportunities for children to practice and apply social skills in real-life situations. Role-play scenarios that are common in the classroom, such as sharing toys or resolving conflicts.

Encourage children to take turns being the “teacher” and guiding their peers in following the rules. This not only reinforces the social skills but also empowers children to take responsibility for their own behavior and the behavior of others.

Involving Parents in Reinforcing Classroom Rules

Involve parents in the rule-making process.

Competency based education works well with parents because you are providing their child with individualized support. Collaboration is crucial in reinforcing classroom rules and promoting consistent behavior across different environments. By involving parents in the process, teachers can create a unified approach based education that supports children’s learning and behavior both at home and in school.

At the beginning of the school year, communicate the classroom rules to parents through a parent handbook or during parent-teacher meetings. Explain the rationale behind each rule and provide suggestions on how parents can reinforce the rules at home. Explain how competency based education is applied to individual students and how they can work with their child to make progress.

Encourage open communication and address any concerns or questions that parents may have. This is especially important at the beginning of the year. The better your relationship with parents, the more they will support you in the classroom.

Maintain regular communication with parents throughout the school year. Share updates on their child’s behavior and progress, highlighting positive moments and areas for improvement.

Provide suggestions and strategies that parents can implement at home to support the reinforcement of classroom rules. I send updates on their students progress and occasional newsletters to show parents progress.

Consider inviting parents to participate in school events or classroom activities that promote positive behavior and community building. For example, organize a family game night where parents and children can practice and reinforce social skills in a fun and relaxed environment.

This not only strengthens the home-school connection but also creates a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

Creating a Safe and Inclusive Classroom Environment Through Rules

Remain calm when students break rules.

Classroom rules play a vital role in creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for all preschoolers. By incorporating rules that promote respect, acceptance, and empathy, teachers can foster a sense of belonging deeper learning, and create a space where every child feels valued and included.

Consider rules that address diversity, such as respecting different cultures, languages, and abilities. Encourage open discussions about differences and similarities, celebrating the uniqueness of each child. Use books, toys, and materials that reflect diverse cultures and experiences to promote inclusivity.

In competency based education, children celebrate uniqueness and we celebrate how their uniqueness makes our classroom better.

Create a supportive and nurturing atmosphere by emphasizing kindness, empathy, and tolerance. Teach children to be inclusive and welcoming to all their peers, regardless of their background or abilities. Encourage children to use kind words, offer help to others, and stand up against bullying or exclusion.

Establish clear rules and consequences related to inappropriate behavior, such as name-calling or exclusion. Make it clear that disrespectful behavior is not acceptable and will be addressed promptly and consistently.

Use these situations as teaching moments to discuss the impact of our words and actions on others and to promote empathy and understanding.

Long-Term Benefits of Competency Based Education in Classroom Rules

Use competency based education to promote an inclusive classroom.

In conclusion, competency based education practices are essential for tracking student progress and creating a positive and structured learning environment prepares students well in preschool.

Classroom rules provide children with the necessary guidance, structure, and expectations to develop self-discipline, social skills, and positive behavior. By teaching and reinforcing these rules through competency based education consistently, teachers set the stage for effective learning, cooperation, and the overall well-being of their students.

Competency based education benefits children in the short term but also has long-term benefits. Skills and behaviors learned through following classroom rules extend beyond the preschool years and lay the foundation for success in future academic and social settings.

Conclusion: Preschool Classroom Rules for Competency Based Education

By instilling a sense of responsibility, respect, and self-control prior learning, classroom rules contribute to the holistic development of children, preparing them for a lifetime of both learning experiences, and growth.

As teachers, our role goes beyond imparting foundational concepts and academic knowledge. We have the power to shape young minds and nurture their social and emotional development.

In this time of social media, bullying, and trying to cover educator shortages, it is safe to say we are in an unstable time in teaching. It is up to us educators in the classroom to hold down the fort – as much as possible, for our future.

By prioritizing and effectively implementing preschool classroom rules, we create an environment where every child can thrive, learn, and become confident and responsible individuals.

If you’d like some free resources check out these classroom rules posters, and these timers for your classroom!

If you would like to explore different types of pedagogies, check out this post on Montessori education, Reggio-Emilia education, and some of the other great things countries are doing!

Valerie de la Rosa


I am an educator with almost 15 years of experience teaching in Japan, Hawaii, and in Los Angeles. My goal is to change education and the way we view literacy instruction in America.

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