Google+ bakers and astronauts: "Areas"

15 September 2010


I have been trying to step back from my preconceptions about how the classroom environment needs to look or act.  This is important because of our multiage aspect; but I'm realizing that it is something I should always do.  Where did I get my ideas about the setup of the classroom?  What can happen there and what can't happen there?  What it is supposed to offer?

Through observing and student teaching in college, I absorbed unspoken messages about the classroom.  No matter where I was, the typical preschool classroom always had a home area, painting easels, a block area, a bookshelf, a sensory table, and perhaps a table for art and messy things.  So my first classroom had all of these things.  And sometimes the home area became something else, like a post office or a doctor's office.

I don't think there is anything negative about this classroom setup. I think it does work for children.  My classroom right now has all everything described, save the dramatic play area being more open-ended.  But I'm really wondering if these areas are so necessary.  The children have been showing me different ideas over the past two weeks.

For example, two of the girls enjoy dramatic play, but apparently not the setting.  So they take a large basket, pack it up with everything they want from the dramatic play area, and take it all over the the piano, whch they like to it under and play "sisters".

The construction in the room is constant, and the block area is very popular.  There is not quite enough space for children to really do what they want; things are always getting bumped and buildings cannot be as big as some want because of the floor space.  I'm also interested in how their block constructions can be extended with paper and pens, fabric, tape, and more.

There is not as much drawing and writing happening, and there is a table in the room dedicated to that all of the time.  Last year's group was all about writing, and this year is a bit different.  Those materials do not seem to get used as much.

I know the importance of structure in the room and in the day.  But these rules about the classroom aren't set in stone, are they?  It's easy to fall into a habit - every teacher knows that.  But I think things could be a bit more interesting if we broke that habit.  I haven't really branched out as much as I would like to when it comes to creating an inviting environment for the children, and perhaps that's because I've been so focused on ME and the environment and what I am going to do.  Just as I try to follow children's interests and support their explorations, I think I need to look to them and figure out what they need from the environment. 

That is a big part of my journey this year.  How can the environment support our work and play?


  1. I think it is more important to think of the regular places where the children can find/access the resources they need to extend their play without interrupting the flow of what they are playing, rather than having set play 'areas' that is. We used to tell our 3-5 year olds that they could take the resources out of its 'area' and use them throughout the classroom space but they always went back where they belonged once they had finished using them so that others could find them. Hope that makes sense??

  2. I know what you mean, Christie. I think that you are definitely respecting the natural play of children while scaffolding their successful functioning in an organized environment. What you're talking about is where I'm hoping to steer the environment, also. There is no reason that objects shouldn't be able to move around - why should we decide that blocks are only to be used in one area? What if you want to create a structure somewhere else so aid some other play?

    Thanks for your thought!

  3. Allie, we started rethinking our classroom environment at the beginning of this term. We took ourselves on a bit of a meditation / journey from a child's perspective: what did we see when we first walked in the gate? is there someone to be alone outside if I want to be? what do i see when i walk in the classroom? And then we thought about our experience of how the kids were using the area and treated the preschool as a blank slate - no preconceptions, no "we have always had it there" thinking. We ended up decluttering a lot, moving things to different spaces etc and now are in the process of seeing how things are working. I think the environment is an organic thing which changes with time, experience and the kids and adults who are using the space. Its great to keep thinking of how else we can do things.

  4. Your vision is lovely, Jenny - seeing it from a child's perspective. How do children feel when they enter the room? How can we make them comfortable and safe and also encourage them to reflect and build upon their work the previous day when that applies?

    I often change the environment on a whim. Some teachers think that it is unsettling for children to shange things around, and there are sometimes children with need for more stability. But I think involving the children in the process could be interesting.

    Just today, one of the girls who has those freuent picnics under the piano came to tell me that a boy was bringing materials to the piano. I asked her if that was wrong - she likes to do it to. She said, "Well, I'm not going to do it again". I asked M, the boy who was playing, if he was going to put things back when we were finished playing, and he said yes.

    Problem solved, and inspiration grows!


Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

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