Monday, August 30, 2010

What if my preschool classroom set up isn't working?

"But, The room was clean a second ago!"
 It's the beginning of the year and kids are flinging Lego's and dumping baskets of tinker toys. Your vision of children blissfully and serenely ogling over toys and learning materials has now fallen flat like a lettuce leaf on hot cement.
One one truly knows how children will react to even the most carefully planned classrooms until they are actually working within them. This is why I learned to set up materials and learning centers to the absolute minimum basics when I begin the year. We often forget that children are already overstimulated as it is in the first few weeks. In the early months of class, try setting up the room to focus mainly on the children.

10 Things to Consider About Your Preschool Room Set Up or Management:
1. If you walk around on your knees in the classroom, what's the first thing you see? What grabs your attention and what doesn't? Chances are it's the same for the kids.
"But I DID clean up the toys!"
2. Have a plan! Draw and map out all the areas you will have and create a room arrangement. This will save your back in the long run!
3.Are your learning centers clearly defined? Rugs, hanging posters and tiled areas tend to define the space within the room. As yourself, "What can I do to make this appealing to more children? Is this culturally respectful? Is there variety?
4. Are noisy and quiet areas in strategic places? Really try to keep them away from each other.
5. Got Flow? How do you and the children move within the room? Make sure there are surface areas, clear paths and places for you to strategically sit/stand and observe the children. Hidden areas that aren't readily visible to you could be a problem.
6. What is your group of children gravitating toward most? If it's farm animals, per say? Have farm books in the reading areas, farm animal shapes to color in the art area, etc. The goal is to see how your children are and will be actually using the areas in the beginning, not necessarily changing your curriculum.
Keep toys some toys for special occasions,
like a rainy day!
7. Always have a personal bag of back up toys. Things for a rainy day, picture day when kids are nervously waiting to be called, a family night, or just when the whole group of kids seem on edge. Something as simple as soft finger puppets, small little colorful caricatures ,mini animals/bugs or small wind up toys. It's a life saver to whip out this bag on special occasions when getting your classroom messy isn't the option for the moment.
8. Changing the room around a few times a year can be refreshing to everyone. We encourage you to make changes to keep older things looking new!
9. As tempting as it may be, don't put out all the toys at once in the classroom. Have a small rotation stash! Some toys won't bring out the best in our kids at the beginning of the it for later.
10. Take a look at what your curriculum is telling the preschoolers to do. Have a balance of materials that require sitting, standing, floor or table play. Balance out activities that are will be exciting or calm though out the day. You can actually create a rhythm and balance of chaos verses serenity throughout the day.

We would love to hear some of your classroom set up or management techniques!


Jenni said...

Are children taught HOW to play with the toys? So many teachers just assume a child will know what to do with a shelf full of blocks. They don't, they need to be taught what to do with them.

Are children made part of the clean up process or do the adults take care of it? If it's adults only, the children will always dump everything and leave it. I solved the "but I didn't play with that" by having clean up time in small groups. Each small group (each adult in the room had an assigned small group) were responsible for cleaning up specific areas in the classroom; this way, they quickly learned that it didn't matter if they were the ones to make the mess, keeping the classroom clean was everyone's job!

Dan Gurney said...

Good points. Another idea: offer activities for different modalities: visual things, auditory things, movement things, touchy things (play dough), tasty things, etc.

Barbra The Bloggess said...

@ Jenni
Good points Jenni! The only way to know in the beginning of the year how kids will interact with materials is to expose them to them...then we start to realize how kids play with materials. I have seen kids that know what to do with toys but will follow the crowd who doesn't. Either way, group dynamics plays a big part.
I have seen it work both ways with clean up. Only a handful (in my experience) loved cleaning without my help. But how the room is set up will also show kids how to clean up. At least the goal for me is to get them to take the most initiative...much of the time it does involve working with them during these times to help accomplish the goal.

Barbra The Bloggess said...

@ Dan
I like this idea! Appealing to the 5 senses...awesome!