Unfortunately, bullying in preschool aged children is all too common and it can create a hectic classroom environment. Often aggression at this age is instrumental in nature. They are trying to obtain a toy or they want something another student is using so they use physical aggression to try to get it. However, they may use relational or social forms of aggression as well (e.g., telling a peer he/she can't be part of the group, name calling, etc). If bullying is acceptable in the classroom among the students and adults, it is more likely to occur. You're on the right track in that you are aware of the problem and want to do something to solve it! Think about how you can target the classroom environment in ways that will make bullying behaviors less likely and create a climate where bullying is not accepted.
Creating classroom rules is one way to initiate a positive classroom climate. Be sure these rules are created by the students so there is more "buy in." Guide them in making the rules specific and positive. What you want to see in the classroom instead of what you don't want to see. What is the behavioral expectation? Consistently enforcing these rules will help the students learn what the expectations are and subsequently help change the climate of the classroom. Inconsistency in enforcing rules teaches those who are bullying others that there are rarely or only sometimes consequences for their negative behavior, which reinforces their bullying behavior.
Assess where the bullying is taking place the most and target that time period for intervention. If bullying is taking place most often during the more unstructured times of the day such as recess or lunch, target that time period. Specific interventions such as "The Good Behavior Game" focus on reducing disruptive behavior during a specific time period. You can find how to implement that intervention and others that focus on rewarding positive behavior at www.interventioncentral.org. If there is a particular student or students who are creating most of the bullying issues, consider asking their parent(s) to come in and problem-solve with the parent and any other teachers involved in the classroom.
Reinforcing positive behaviors also creates a positive classroom environment. If you haven't already, create concrete reinforcement for students who are following the classroom rules (if they are following the rules, they won't be engaging in bullying behavior). Classroom peers can also help with this. You might benefit from creating a system where peers report when they see positive behavior - called Positive Peer Reporting. Research has proven the effectiveness of this technique in reducing negative behaviors. You may already have some resources on this intervention. Think about how and if positive peer reporting will work in your classroom.
Bullying behavior has severe negative consequences. By creating an environment where bullying is not an acceptable behavior, students will be more academically engaged and find school more enjoyable. We know that early intervention is the most effective and I'm confident that both students and parents will appreciate your efforts creating a safe environment where bullying is not tolerated.
Jami Givens, MA, PLMHP
School Psychology Doctoral Candidate
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Target Bullying Research Lab: www.targetbully.com
I can't answer your question directly, but this site, education.com, has a couple of good items on the topic. The first is a collection of articles (URL is below) and the second is a printable PDF that contains a lot of "quick facts" on the topic.
My name is Sandee, and I also just started as an assistant teaching 3-PreK and know exactly what you are saying. I started only one week ago and there is one boy who pushes, hits and bites. He also has a twin sister in our class who tattles on anyone who defends themselves against her brother, anddoes everything for him, like doing his clean-up and answering his questions for him. I tried to seperate them but it only lasts a very short time and there are others I have to keep an eye on as well. The only thing I can tell you is to try giving the bully time-outs, and separate them during circle and activity time. Try to engage the bully in a teacher lead activity during free play, and take privileges away from him, such as no tricycle, or no swings, something you know he enjoys when outside. Most of the time they actually get along pretty good, but they will do a lot of things to try you, just to see what they can get away with. I'm always separating someone and constantly saying keep your hands to yourself, and try so hard not to yell. Just take a deep breath and do your best, also go to your mentor or the director and tell them you have a situation and would like some guidance as to how to handle the situation. It's worth a try.