Tips for Preschool Teachers | Clear Instructions and Key Words

by Susan Bennett

Tip 1
Clear instructions create a successful, fun, and safe environment for preschool students.

Preschoolers are eager to follow instructions, have fun, and please the teacher. They need clear, brief, and literal instructions. Clear instructions include what, where, and how:

  • What action students should perform
  • Where students should be within the classroom
  • How students should travel or behave while performing this action

For example, “Walk quickly to the blue wall and stand on two feet” tells the student what to do (walk, then stand), where to go (the blue wall), and how to do it (quickly, on two feet).

Clear instructions can prevent problems and increase safety. For example, the instruction “Skip in a circle (what) on the black floor (where) without touching anyone (how)” limits students to a safe area and prevents collisions.

Tip 2
Key words are an excellent teaching tool for any preschool class. These fun words signal students to do certain things.

Here’s a simple example: “red light” and “green light.” Seat students. Ask them to wiggle just their hands and do it with them. Say, “Red light means stop.” When you stop, they will stop. Say, “Green light means go.” Following you, they will wiggle their hands again. Do this a few times, reducing your instructions to simply “red light” or “green light.” You may now use these key words in any stop-and-go activity.

Reuse the same key words each time your class meets. This eliminates the need for additional instructions.

Create your own key words! A good key word:

  • signals an action
  • is positive (i.e., tells students what to do, instead of what not to do) and produces a positive result
  • reduces distracting behaviors
  • shortens instructions
  • increases cooperation
  • is more fun than a command.


Susan Bennett, creator of Magnificent Moving Kidz, has a BSED in dance and an MFA in performing arts, and teaches at Missouri State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.