What’s It Like in a Pre-K Classroom?
Whether you’re a master teacher in your 12th year looking for fresh ideas, or a new teacher who has no idea how to implement everything you just learned, I am here to help you! Below I will go through an overview of a pre-k classroom keeping in mind center set up based on space, student needs, and the noise level each center produces. For a tour of our classroom, and current layout, see the video below.
#1 Classroom Size
The deal way to set up a classroom would be based on student needs. Unfortunately, some districts/schools suffer from enrollment fluctuation between the summer months and rosters are not always final until the first week of school (if we’re lucky).
Keeping in mind that things might need to be changed once your kiddies walk in the door-let’s begin with classroom size.
The entire set up of the classroom greatly depends on how big (or small) your room is and how much of that room includes wall space. Unfortunately, we don’t always have large rooms with lots of wall space. When you’re beginning to set up your classroom remember to keep in mind the entrance and exit, closets/cubbies, and bathroom locations. These are non-negotiables and we might as well get used to those as soon as possible.
Make sure that you ask your school engineer if there are any fire safety rules that would prohibit you to set a specific center in a specific place. Every year I think that my classroom is the #BestRoomEver. When I finally get the engineer to do a walk through he points things out that I did not notice during set up. This will inevitably lead to something being changed in the layout.
After figuring out what wall space is the best for your large group instruction needs (usually the space that will house everything you need for circle time and whole group instruction) you have made your first layout choice. How exciting! From here on out everything is much easier.
#2 Student Needs
Student needs will most likely change year to year and will greatly impact the layout of the classroom. Whether that’s having a student who has different physical capacities (wider ‘lanes’ for a wheel chair) or a student who is easily distracted (have less ’permanent’ items on the wall) your room will undoubtedly need a few tweaks before finally settling into a space that works for all students. A couple of things to consider if you know student needs while setting up.
Less is more– while it might be tempting to bring everything that you have out at the beginning of the year, it might be best to rotate toys/games. This will give you more space to keep things organized and extra space for students who might need it. It also keeps students on their toes, they’ll become used to having rotating manipulatives and tantrums should be cut to a minimum when you change something in or out of a center.
It’s ok to keep trying new things and changing the environment during the beginning of the year. The beginning of the year is always my favorite. Everyone is rejuvenated after taking some time off during the summer. Students are excited and eager to please new teachers. Teachers have spent some time reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work the previous year.
The reflection is key because it allows us to be honest about what worked in the layout and what changes we want to make for the new year. Take this time of the year to work the set up kinks out. If you notice something isn’t woking right away- change it. It’ll make your life so much better!
Look at our classroom at the beginning of the year. We had so much furniture and the centers were laid out differently- plainly, it was too much going on. After a couple of weeks, we noticed that students needed more space to move around the classroom. We also noticed which centers were used more that others. All of this anecdotal data told us we had to change some things up.
#3 Noise Level
This has made the most impact in my classroom! I have separated centers based on noise level and have never looked back. If you look at the video, centers that become very loud (blocks, legos, kitchen, table toys, etc.) are in the center part of the classroom right next to each other. While centers that need a quieter environment (teacher corner, writing, library, and art) are along the perimeter of the classroom.
Centers separated by noise give students the flexibility to speak in a normal voice without distracting students who have chosen to partake in a quieter activity. This also give the teachers a quiet corner, with few distractions, in which to do small group centers and assessments. Score!
While we might wish that students learned all behavior expectations and rules on day one, it will probably not happen until October (eeeek!). However, keeping the above layout suggestions in mind will make the transition into your pre-k classroom easier for the students (and for you). Now get out there and start looking at your classroom. What works? What doesn’t? What are some changes that you can make to help ease the first day jitters, for both students and teacher?
What do you think, do you have other suggestions that we need to consider when setting up a classroom? Let us know below!