Whether your program is in session all year round or from late August to early June, taking time to refresh or prepare your classroom is an important aspect to supporting learning and fun. Bringing all of the different aspects of a classroom – from room arrangement and décor to supplies and curriculum – together in a systematic manner creates an environment that reflects your teaching philosophy. How your overall classroom environment looks and feels sets the stage for children to learn, for parents to feel welcome, and for you to feel comfortable in your working environment. As you look forward to beginning another school year, use the checklists in this article to ensure that your classroom is a positive, meaningful learning environment for the children in your program.
Effective room arrangement creates natural traffic patterns throughout the classroom, which allow children to be more independent, provide areas for children to play individually and in large and small groups, and give teachers proper supervision of all the children from any area of the classroom to ensure safety and reduce conflict.
Classroom Environment Checklist
· Is your classroom conducive to learning?
· Can you stand in any part of the classroom and easily see into all areas of the room so that adequate supervision can be given by sight and sound at all times?
· Upon entering the room, is there a clear pathway to where children’s personal belongings are stored?
· Are all exits identified, easily accessible, and uncluttered?
· Is there an area for the entire group to gather?
· Are there areas for small groups of two to four children to gather?
· Are there areas for solitary play?
· Are noisy areas (i.e., block building) and quiet areas (i.e., book corner) spaced as far apart as possible?
· Are like-areas close together? For example, are the dramatic play and block building area near one another to promote imaginative play?
· Are the learning centers of adequate size given the number of children in your class?
· Are the most popular centers of adequate size for your group of children and stocked with the appropriate number of play items and supplies to reduce conflict among the children?
How you feel about your working environment directly impacts how you interact with the children and parents on a daily basis. Therefore, teachers must have an inviting environment to work in for their own well being and to be able to concentrate more fully on the children.
Working Environment Checklist
· Is there adequate teacher storage?
· Are the teacher storage areas organized and easily accessible without blocking any learning areas from the children?
· Are all adult items safely stored and secured from curious hands?
· Is there a secure, safe, and enclosed place for your personal belongings?
· Are all the supplies and play items for individual learning centers organized into bins and labeled for a neat, organized appearance? Labeling not only helps keep things organized, but also promotes independence among the children and assists your colleagues in your absence.
· Is clutter kept to a minimum? Items not in use should be put into labeled containers with lids and stored on top of cubbies or in cabinets.
· Is there a consistent, neat, and tidy location for receiving written communications?
· Are all necessary postings written or typed on paper and secured to the wall with pushpins or tape?
Just as a new house doesn’t really feel cozy until furniture and pictures are in place, a classroom needs personal touches – from both the grown ups and children who are utilizing the space. Décor may be focused around a particular theme, season or event, but it should be up to date and in appropriate quantities.
· Are the items displayed in good repair? Items with torn edges or faded paper should be replaced with more current projects.
· Are the items timely? Holiday, seasonal, and out-of-date items should be put up and taken down within a reasonable time frame.
· Are the majority of items displayed at the child’s eye level?
· What do you see more of at the child’s level – their own projects or adult material? Ownership of the classroom comes from utilizing the children’s work.
· Does the décor reflect your philosophy and interest?
· Does the décor enhance the room or create chaos? Too much décor, especially of opposing themes or colors, can be overwhelming and can contribute to a cluttered-looking classroom.
Working with young children takes a lot of time and energy. On any given day, you solve problems, plan curriculum, meet the needs of your children and their parents, and work together with your colleagues. The last thing on your mind may be planning for and ordering supplies. However, nothing is more frustrating than starting off the week or school year without the necessary supplies to complete the activities you planned.
· Take the time to develop a list of recyclable materials needed in the classroom. Invite parents to save and donate them to your program. If space for storage is at a premium, consider decorating a large box or have designated days when parents can bring in recyclable materials.
· Take an inventory of your furniture and supplies and be sure to look in all the closets and on shelves for forgotten items.
· Review the first month’s curriculum and make a list of necessary supplies.
· This allows you to look ahead and take advantage of all sales or special offers.
· Coordinate with other teachers and facility management to set up an ordering process for supplies and to schedule shopping days and times.
Take time to review and update your curriculum, themes, and other materials, especially if you’re reusing activities and materials from previous years. You may even want to work with other teachers at your facility to coordinate themes so that you can share materials and ideas.
· Are the themes and/or activities relevant to your group of young children?
· Do the activities address the typical developmental needs of the children?
· Is your material flexible enough to allow for individualizing on a daily basis?
· Do the activities and themes address the current changing social climate?
Angie Dorrell, M.A., is Director of Education for La Petite Academy, the largest privately-held early childhood education company. She also serves as a NAEYC accreditation validator and former commissioner. She is the proud mother of two young daughters.