There has been some change in the classroom layout since we last saw each other. Once the year ended I took the summer to reflect on what worked last year and what needed to change.
When reflecting I wanted to make sure that I kept three things in mind; 1) location, location, location, 2) access to materials, and 3) noise levels throughout the classroom. While I believe that the perfect classroom is attainable, let’s be honest “perfect’ changes year to year. So if you need to change something year to year it’s ok. Things shouldn’t always be the same because there is always a new student or a new supply that you’ll have to take into account when setting up. Here is the ‘before’.
Below I am attaching mini videos (well, short-er) videos. I tried really hard to keep the videos short because I wanted to make one class tour video. However, the ‘talking too much when you’re nervous’ self-preserving mechanism took over and I went on, and on, and on. Sorry! But please enjoy my entire repertoire of funny talking faces.
The carpet is the place where we meet with our students daily. This is where whole group instruction occurs, where we transition to and from every part of the schedule, and where we get to have fun together.
The carpet needs to be an organized space that is not overwhelming where students feel welcomed. Over the summer I switched some of the posters to other centers were their information is more pertinent. I Velcro-ed the colors to the art center and the shapes to the light table where the magna tiles are located. This way the carpet area is more organized and students can focus.
The investment board is located right next to the carpet so that we can connect whole group instruction back to malleable intelligence. The location is central for students to see no matter what we’re doing or where we’re working.
These centers are located on the Northside of the classroom right as you come into the room. They are close together because they are the loudest centers in the room. Kids come here and completely lose themselves in play and then they get loud.
The centers were placed here for two reasons, one- the sensory table needs to be near the front door and trash cans. Since we have to clean the space throughout the day (and refill with the water/sand) the center needs to be near the front door.
A major change made from last year was to make the block center its own center. Before, the blocks were part of the whole group instruction space. It worked for many years but I noticed that students would get distracted during whole group instructions.
Plus, if students weren’t done putting things away by the time we needed transitions to end then everyone had to wait for the carpet to be clear. This pushed back our schedule, and I hate being late.
Finally, and most importantly, students we’re able to play over periods of time. If the timer went off they had to clean up and put the toys away. Separating the blocks from the whole group carpet allows students to build/create on one day and leave it overnight to extend play into the next day. Play evolves and becomes full of deeper meaning.
The quiet centers are on the opposite side of the room; they are separate from the loud centers for obvious reasons (e.g. noise level and interruptions during small group instruction).
These are grouped together because they require more concentration from students while being used. Students in these centers are able to access writing or reading materials from both sides and use the materials in either center. This type of access allows students to participate in all aspects of writing and reading without having to travel too far.
The library is a comfy spot where students can cuddle up with a book. The writing center has many items for different types of writing and drawing. Access to all types of writing materials gives students practice to different types of writing.
Table toys is the largest center in the classroom and it sits beside all of the tables. I made this center the largest because students need space. With space students are able to play with multiple manipulatives, and with multiple people, at a time. Talk about maximum access for comprehensive play.
The engineering center is a new center this year. I spent the summer thinking about purposeful and fun ways of adding more engineering experiences for the students. All my research brought me back to giving students experiences that would be hands on (ever met an architect that has never picked up a hammer?- No!)
The Straw Builders, Magna Tiles, Citi Blocks, Mini Wooden Blocks, and Marble Runners allow for first hand experience in creating fun things. Anything a student is able to think about can be created. The best part? Through trial and error students work out problems they have in physics, engineering, and architecture. This is definitely the new ‘It” center.
The shelf with all of the toys is in between a table, the light table, and near the carpet. I did this so that students have the ability to decide where they would want to use the items. While some toys (Magna Tiles) are easily used in all areas, others need to be used on solid spaces, low spaces, etc. The important thing is that students decide for themselves what the best space for their creativity is.
I hope you enjoyed the videos. Let us know what works in your classroom set up, how you change your set up year to year, or post a picture of a center you’re proud of. Let us know below!