When setting up the classroom for young learners (students from Preschool to 2nd grade), it is paramount to remember who the classroom is for--the kids!
Educators are responsible for teaching a slew of academic standards, while celebrating each child's unique needs as he/she is strengthened academically, socially, morally, physically, and emotionally. A challenging task indeed! But with a thoughtful classroom setup designed with areas for discovery, play, practice, and more, we as teachers can promote learning success while keeping students excited about and engaged with learning.
Following is a checklist of "Must-do's" when setting up an early learning classroom.
Does Your Classroom Have?
defined areas for learning
Children needs to be taught in a way that allows them the opportunity to grow and develop through play; the way children learn best. There should be areas in the classroom dedicated to science, social studies, writing, building, dramatic play, technological skills, math play, and reading. All of these areas should show evidence of hands-on learning. Young children learn best from hands-on discovery and participation with academia, rather than hands-off lecture or rote style worksheet learning.
Discovery Based Learning Materials
When first entering your classroom, discovery learning should be evident. One should easily see things like puzzles, magnets, magnifying glasses, and other important learning manipulatives. Young children learn best through hands-on learning where they can make discoveries about the world around them. The materials that make this possible should be stored at their level where they are able to access.
Areas To Promote Play
Research provides evidence that play is the work of children. Academic performance is improved when learning tasks are presented through playful situations. For example, children can understand the elements of a story better (characters, setting, etc) if they are asked to dramatize the story. There should be a playhouse or a play area in your child’s classroom as well as a block center and a sensory table. Areas like this show that the teacher is dedicated to teaching in a research based, age appropriate way.
Areas For Artistic Expression
Is there an area for painting, cutting, gluing and creating? Art strengthens spatial awareness, motor skills, problem solving, and persistence. Think of the child who has to work out how to cut up pieces of paper and glue them together in a way that makes a picture, not only is that child building the strength of his/her hands, he also needs to learn patience in completing the task--a skill that he can transfer to other academic areas.
Areas To Display Student Work
Seeing ones own work in the classroom shows a child that he/she is valued and that stamina, persistence, and accomplishments are worthwhile. It gives students ownership of the classroom and ownership over their own learning if work is displayed and valued.
Print Littered Across The Classroom
Children need vast exposure to print in order to learn to read. The classroom should have evidence of literacy everywhere. There should be words around the classroom as a friendly invitation to reading.
Areas for Literacy development
Create a classroom library. Have comfy chairs with books and book buddy pets. Have a listening center, and read the room activities easily assessable. Children love to practice reading. Encourage this natural desire by having song posters, poetry charts, name charts, birthday charts, and more at a level for students to easily reach with their pointers.
Areas For Writing
Create a space for students to experience and practice newly acquired writing skills independently. Have the area well stocked with all types of writing and book making supplies. Provide anchor charts and word walls that will offer students support.
When setting up your classroom, resist the trends. Don't give into the academic pressures that become ever greater each year; this leads many to think that they need to remove anything from the day that isn’t strictly academic. This is faulty thinking. Research has proven that young children actually do better academically when taught in a way that reflects their need to play, experiment, and create. Teaching to the whole child actually leads to better results. You will be surprised. Your children will thrive in an early learning classroom that has been strategically set for play-based discovery learning and is led by a teacher that scaffolds student learning in appropriate ways.