To continue learning about the role of the Environment in our classroom’s check out this recent BLOG from the Children’s Learning Institute.
Want to learn more about the components addressed in this BLOG? Join us for our 2-Day CIRCLE Preschool Foundations Training October 3 and 24 https://goo.gl/FBPzP9 Only 11 spots left!
Environments that Foster Classroom Community
High quality classroom environments create a space for children to have a consistent sense of belonging that promotes a community of learners. A nurturing and safe environment allows children to practice positive relationships with teachers and other children. A classroom community environment is one of mutual trust, shared responsibility, teamwork, cooperation, and structure.
Children start out playing by themselves, may have difficulty regulating their behavior and lack the ability to use their own language to solve problems. With appropriate experiences and activities however, skills in these domains can be developed in prekindergarten.
The teacher’s ability to support children’s social and emotional development in the classroom are critical to effective classroom practices. And when children are exposed to many opportunities to assert their independence, it fosters children’s ability to self-regulate their emotions and behavior.
Children ages four to six are shaping their lifelong ability to regulate their own behavior, attention, and emotions. So when teachers are able to effectively promote positive and sensitive responsive interactions with students, they help build critical skills needed for healthy social and emotional development. The development of academic skills happens in the context of these responsive teacher-student interactions. Thus a responsive style needs to be combined with an effective plan for teaching the content critical to school readiness.
What does this look like in a best practices classroom?
Teachers are scaffolding children’s learning by adjusting the pacing of the lesson; using gestures; constantly observing and noting change; demonstrating and modeling activities; using open-ended questioning to inspire critical thinking; effectively utilizing teachable moments; connecting to each individual child; challenging new discoveries; and providing contingent responsiveness.
There should be a balance of teaching strategies including teacher-directed and child-initiated choices and flexible groupings for learning one-to-one, small groups, and large group.
There are 6 key essentials that are fundamental to creating a classroom that’s both rich in structure and promotes a warm classroom community.
- Using rich language that builds on student learning.
- Responding to signals and cues from the child that may indicate anger or sadness.
- Building on interests to actively engage the child in the learning.
- Providing choices that include more yes’s than no’s.
- Avoiding restrictions and helping them know what the expectations are and what they can do instead of what they can’t.
- And helping children adapt to change with planned transitions and responding to their need to adapt that may take time.
The classroom environment arrangement as well as classroom management with predictable routines are key to how well a successful classroom community thrives.
Classroom management includes a daily schedule with:
- large group time to introduce new concepts, share daily news, interact with letter walls, read books aloud and more,
- meaningful transitions,
- small group instruction for six or fewer children to receive targeted cognitive instruction, and
- intentionally planned activities with accessible materials in well-defined centers.
Consider these tips from the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines:
“Classroom management, or the manner in which activities are conducted throughout the day, is closely linked with the physical arrangement in achieving a successful environment. Children need an organized environment and an orderly routine that provides the overall structure in which learning takes place. A variety of opportunities for children to have meaningful experiences should be intentionally planned.
Classroom management is important for the purpose of setting routines. Components can include color coding, daily plans, and classroom rules expressed with clear expectations, consistent use of rules, and frequent feedback. Children feel more secure when there is structure, so a well-planned day with built-in supports is critical to the children’s behavior, well-being, and receptiveness to learning.
Use of charts can help with classroom management. Charts help order the daily routine, allow children to use print in a meaningful way, and provide examples of print around the classroom. Management charts that incorporate pictures or icons help make a visual impression upon children” (Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines, 2015).
The following are some examples.
Rules Chart: Use strategies to ensure that children understand expectations about classroom rules, activities, and directions.
Helpers Chart: Aspects of the daily routine can promote social competence by providing opportunities for children to help with tasks. Encourage children to read the chart by listing as many jobs as possible and changing the jobs frequently. Children should be involved in identifying the jobs and watching the teacher create the chart.
Attendance Chart: Another means of teaching independence and responsibility while freeing the teacher for more substantive activities is to have an attendance chart during large-group time; the attendance helper can count and record the number present and absent.
Daily Schedule Chart: While often an intuitive practice, the use of a daily schedule chart to give children a visual plan of what their routine will be on any given day is supported by research. The teacher can explain the chart, pointing out the words and the matching icon or picture of the activity, so that the children can associate the activity with the printed word.
Learning Area Planning Chart: These charts have words and pictures to illustrate the purpose of each learning area. The charts provide children with an opportunity to make choices and to actively participate in their own learning. Each planning chart could include the name of the learning area, an icon representing it, and a number that tells the children how many can use that area at one time.
Teachers play a critical role in helping children learn classroom routines through modeling, thinking out loud, and sharing responsibility. These supports should continue for several weeks, with the teacher acting as the children’s memory of what they are supposed to do, praising early attempts, and encouraging children to gradually take more ownership of the routines.
The initial time put into this effort results in children who are much more independent as the year goes on, allowing the teacher to spend time teaching and interacting with children. Along with this gradual increase in what children are asked to do independently, teachers can set up the environment for success by doing such things as opening one center at a time in the beginning of the year, continuing to explain new materials as they are placed in the centers, and using labels to clearly help children know where items belong.
Learn more about classroom environments in the Preschool Foundations Guide in the Helpful Teacher Resources links under online and professional learning resources of www.cliengage.org, as well as the online course in the eCIRCLE series, Classroom Management.