Taking turns is hard. It can be hard in any setting, but when you are an impatient preschooler, it can be especially hard. And when you are an impatient preschooler with your own personal schoolmate nemesis, it can be almost impossible.
Trust me. I know. I have a set of these small adversaries in my classroom, and every day they compete for the very same thing, no matter where they are or what they are doing. If one of them wants it, the other one wants it. And they’re smart, these little nemeses. They know just what the other one wants – well, because it’s what they want, and the other one wants it because they do, and – well, it’s just a vicious cycle.
One might ask if either one of them is winning any of these battles, To be honest, I’m not sure. I just know that I, as the teacher, feel like I’m losing most of the time.
It is admittedly complicated, this rivalry. There are communication skills to promote, and the skill of waiting for a turn, and the skill of dealing with not getting what you want. And then there is the additional layer of teasing, and not even enjoying what you are actually playing with because you’re so busy checking to see if the other person is noticing and getting upset. (“Bwah ha ha!” [insert evil preschool laugh] “I have succeeded in my task of torment!”) Or intentionally manipulating situations so that the other one doesn’t get what they want. (Like, for example, noticing that the prized scooter is free on the playground, and calling over a completely neutral friend to take a turn on it – and then graciously pointing this out to dear Adversary.)
So, we do what we can. We work on breathing deeply. And we also work with the students on breathing deeply. We try not to allow teasing, and even make them give up the toy they are teasing about if they do so. And we try to find fair ways to take turns, with visuals that we can refer to repeatedly.
One way I am doing that these days is to make “notes” on our calendar. For example, last week, one of the big flash points between the two was a coveted spot at the circle table at lunch time. For some reason, they both love it. (Which means that someone initially really and truly loved it, and then the other consequently wanted it..but I digress.)
So now we mark on the calendar whose turn it is at the seat at the circle table. See:
As you can see, these visuals don’t have to be fancy or printed out – they just have to be clear, easy to refer to, and set in stone.
Of course, they still may wail and gnash their teeth when it is not their turn. No, actually, they probably will wail and gnash their teeth. But that’s okay, because that’s just how it is. We take turns, and we follow the turn-taking plan that we have established. And we hope that maybe, just maybe, one day the rivalry will ease up a little.