Classroom Environment

planning-for-learning

Now that the you have had the opportunity to meet your students over the last little while, you can reflect on your daily schedule.  Thinking it Through has a plan for both full and half days.  http://earlylearningcentral.ca/?page_id=1218 .  Some things can’t be changed due to the large schedules within your school,  but you can always try to move things around if they are in the best interest of your students.  Many schools are on the balanced day program with 3, 100 minute blocks of learning.  I always ensure that my students get 60 minutes or more in one of those blocks, and a second block of about 45 minutes.  The reason behind the time frames is to allow the children to explore the centre, select materials, create/manipulate, think and change, discuss, and share their learning without having to rush.  They are learning how to learn!

During these next few weeks circulating the room with children would be a great opportunity to discuss with them what is available in each centre, behaviours, and routines.  Remind them daily of what is available. 

I personally do not designate where children should be nor do I have number limits.  Children move freely to different centres as it sparks their interest.  My ECE partner or myself will call children over to work in small groups during this block of play the other circulates, documenting and asking questions as they pertain to our goals or big ideas for the centre.  All children are responsible for the entire room clean-up.

first-week-idea

As a parent to a first time JK student, I found myself asking him question after question once he got home today.  At first he answered I don’t know and later he shared more about his day. 

As a teacher to new students in a new enviroment an idea would be to send home a little information about their first week.  On a piece of paper create some simple sentences like; I played with ________, I played at the _______ centre. Then, let them illustrate a picture on their own about something they enjoyed. You can call them over in small groups, you can circulate around the room and engage in oral conversation while recording their ideas during play.  When time allows you can take a photo and send it home .  This way they can talk at home about things they actually did!

classroom-environment

When thinking about your classroom organization for the students attending in the next few weeks, the Thinking it Through document -Learning Centres booklet starting on p.9 makes some great points to ponder when reflecting on your classroom set-up. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/TIT-aug-8.pdf

  •  The classroom should be warm and inviting to students, and the Reggio Emilia approach is to have the classroom serve as a “third teacher”. 
  • the environment reflects our values as teachers, and informs and shapes the kind of learning that will happen
  • consider positioning of centres (loud vs quiet), flow
  • include natural materials as much as possible-in my science centre I have pine cones, rocks, twigs, leaves just a few to start off and then the children will be responsible to help build this centre
  • think about large and small groupings-tables in my classroom  are incorporated into centres as well as for snack.  This way they have a multi-purpose and it reduces the amount of large furniture.  I also have no desk, but I have 2 filing cabinets one for my daybook and supplies and the other for files.
  • p. 15-17 poses some reflective questions to consider in classroom set-up
  • starting on p.32 some recommended learning centres are listed discussing there purpose, observation pts, material lists, furniture, and a suggestion for location.

In our classroom, my ECE partner and myself think about making it a “home like” environment where the walls have little commercial bought products, but picture frames handing where we will eventually display children’s art work.  I purchased a few plants, we are going to add some lamps to create a cozy feeling in our reading corner, and last year we had some birch branches cemented into flower pots and strung with white Christmas lights to add that outdoor feel to our science centre.  In the first few weeks we have just enough materials out, so that we can observe, establish routines in the classroom, get to know the children and their strengths, and to see what they need to develop their learning.  Some centres are permanent like building, but the items within it will change.

creating-the-environment-in-kindergarten

When setting up your classroom environment for young learners, some key points to consider can be:

  • arrange materials, and learning centres, in a way that catches the children’s attention and looks inviting to them
  • centres should be created to what the children are interested in
  • where in the room would be the best environment for that centre (ie:  should a reading centre be beside the door to your hallway where it can be busy and noisy?)
  • all materials should be in good working condition and safe for the children to use
  • is the centre set up to be child-directed, or will you have to be involved at all times?
  • try to incorporate natural materials
  • what the intentions for learning and experiencing are
setting-up-the-environment-before-school-begins

Before school starts, educators go in to their classrooms to set up the environment.  Making a list of the centres you want in your classroom is a good place to start.  Then, you can look at the classroom and see where each centre you want will fit, and if it will work in your room.  Think about where you will need space for large group instruction times, and where in your room will suit small group activities.  Also, think about which centres will require a quiet area, such as a reading/book centre, and try to avoid putting those centres next to a centre that can become busy/noisy, such as a dramatic play centre.  The furniture that you will need for your centres will also need to be taken into account when setting up your classroom. 

An important aspect to chosing the learning centres you want at the beginning of a school year is to consider what they children will want to do.  Will the children want to begin with learning words from your word wall?  Or will they be more engaged in centres where they can be hands on?  Some suggestions for centres at the beginning of a school year are an open-ended art centre, sensory tables, blocks, dramatic play, etc…

Once the first day of school arrives, explain the centres briefly to the students.  Take them on a tour of the classroom so they can see what is available for them to play with.  When the children are engaged at the centres, circulate so that you can spend a few minutes with each child and get to know them a little bit and discover their individual interests.  This can also give you some insight into adjusts you may want to make to centres.  You can also model for children while you spend time at each centre.

3-kindergarten-makeover-webcasts

ETFO has developed 3 Kindergarten Makeover Webcasts.  This will give you a great starting point and plenty of ideas on how to prepare centres and plan purposefully for your students.  Here is the link to view the webcasts:

http://www.etfo.ca/ELKP/Resources/Webcasts/Pages/default.aspx

classroom-environment

Thinking it Through and Primarily Play have some great ideas on how to prepare your learning environment for this September.  As I prepared for my students last September in a newly renovated space, it was difficult to picture how the room should look.  Not only did I need to select suitable furniture that was purposeful, but create spaces where students could gather and engage in various centres.  What I also needed to consider was that my students eat snack and lunch in my classroom so I needed to have enough furniture for that as well.  The furniture had multiple purposes!

Over several days and several discussion with my ECE partner, we moved furniture and carpets into different work areas.  As centres do change throughout the year, for the beginning we had set-up the House centre, a Block centre, a Science centre, the main carpet area with a shelf of various toys like Lego, small foam and wooden blocks, cars and ramps etc., an Art centre, Music centre, Math centre and a reading shelf (which we later changed and are continuing to change!).  We kept the materials to a minimal for the first few weeks of school so we could practice with our students rules and routines, and slowly add as we learning more about them.  Items within the centres had purpose and were organized to engage the students in their new environment.

Next we worked on clutter!  Whatever we did not need we found a storage place elsewhere in the building and we talked both to the principal and janitor to find the space.  Between the two Kindergarten classrooms we worked together on sharing equipment and toys.  Keep in mind this is not an easy task to complete in one day and you for sure will make changes as you see fit throughout the school year.