The month of January is perfect for determining what new things to try in the classroom. The end of the year is often a frantic, tired race to the finish line. You may have written down a couple of lists of things to purchase or resources and blogs to look at for classroom design inspiration.. But January is for actually taking control of creating, setting up, committing to, and adding new features to your classroom. Your school may have days set aside to set up and clean up days before students’ arrival, but if your action plan goes beyond the fabric and border of your noticeboard and classroom sign, then read on!!
Here are some things to consider for classroom layout, design details, resources and organisation! Here in Part 1 we are looking at the idea of thoughtfully creating permanent learning areas within your classroom.
Learning centres for small groups.
For the earliest age groups, many early childhood educators set up learning or activity centres, designed to engage a small group of students (eg. 4-6 children). This means that for a class of 20, there would be roughly 5 activity centres set up for the session or day. Many classrooms have areas that incorporate permanent learning or activity centres in their classroom. Even if very compact in size, if you can arrange classroom furniture and resources to be permanently allocated to an area, then you are giving children every opportunity to engage, express and explore learning and thinking in a particular way, whenever they are motivated to do so. Worried about certain areas being terribly busy? YOu can of course request that students come back to an area when it is less busy, but we think children actually have innate sense of how to avoid chaos! Ever see a kid with their hands over their ears when it’s gotten too noisy- yep, thought so.. Even children appreciate peace!
If your little readers are expected to read or handle books in library sessions or at their desks only, then I urge you to try setting up a permanent ‘reading corner’ in your classroom. A reading corner is an inviting, warm space that encourages all children to sit with books and take some peaceful time out. Some readers read because they want to, some children who cannot read will sit with books only when you create the moment, but a reading corner becomes a much more meaningful part of your classroom - it can represent time out, solo time for an over stimulated child, soft comfort for the upset child, and a source of the best kind of entertainment for all. Rotating book displays and incorporating soft pillows, toys and rugs are good ideas to start.
Some inspirational reading nooks below!
We find the Reggio Emilia philosophy of setting up an ‘atelier’ in each classroom, to be profound and extremely meaningful for early childhood classrooms. In the centre of Reggio Emilia education in Italy, an atelier is a designated room with a designated educator.. But we feel an adaptation of this in a classroom is pretty great too. Reggio Emilia early childhood thinking, explains that children have a ‘hundred’ different languages when it comes to idea formation and learning. Some of the most important ‘languages’ for this age group, are the exploration and expression of learning using creative, artful mediums- such as drawing, arranging, painting, and modelling/sculpting.
On setting up a simple atelier in your classroom: Setting up resources in an inviting way is no new trick for early childhood educators. Something ordinary can be made so inviting, when we consider how it is presented and what it is presented with in the learning space. There is a beautiful explanation of the teaching and learning that occurs in this teachers’ art space/atelier:
For a child to engage with early literacy, even before they can ‘write’ or ‘read’ is so very important. Words are the basis of communication and children will have a sense of how words are formed and expressed, through being allow to explore and practise meaning making on their own. Writing and drawing utensils, scrap paper, clipboards and perhaps weekly or daily additions of words of the week, signs, images, storybooks or other provocations, would be wonderful in your writing centre.
Some practical writing centre tips are detailed by Pre K Pages and Pocket Of Preschool below.
Dramatic Play area
There is absolute magic in watching of a group of students create their own fun, communication dynamics, rules and creative ideas in dramatic play! Such playful ‘play’! But SUCH deep learning of language, social cooperation and group harmony. Dramatic play will be greatly inspired by the props that you provide, whether it is a fixture always in the room (e.g. a home corner with pretend food props) or whether it is simply a table or a box filled with considered props and resources.. In saying that children do not require much to begin. Having a permanent area in your classroom for pretend play gives children is a wonderful way to encourage your students to truly grow as social, imaginative, meaning- making individuals.
Here are some more wonderful Dramatic Play details from Pocket of Preschool!
Happy planning, detailing, trialling and teaching!
We'll back with more ideas for Part 2!!