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Classroom Design in Preschool

Classroom design, or the way in which you set up your classroom, will determine how comfortable your students and families are and how productive you are!  The layout of your classroom can decrease--or increase-- negative behavior in the classroom!

 

The preschool classroom should be set up with the goal of letting children know what can be done in each area.  When areas are clearly defined and there is a natural flow from one center to another, your children are more aware of how to interact in each center and in your classroom.



Let's Talk Space!

Your classroom design will largely be determined by the amount of space you have, where the windows and doors are located and the type of flooring you have in each area.


Most classrooms are organized around Interest Learning Centers.  We will talk more about each specific learning center and where the best space for each center is in your classroom.


When considering your space, keep the following things in mind:

·       The Art Center, the Easel and the Sand and Water table are potentially “messy” activities.  These are best set up on flooring rather than on a carpeted area.

·       Library and Block Center areas are best set up on a carpeted area for comfort (with respect to the Library and sitting on the floor reading books) and for noise control (with respect to the blocks!)

·       The Dramatic Play area can be anywhere in your classroom as can your math/manipulatives area and your Computer, if you have one.

·       A Science/Discovery area would be best placed near a window to allow light for plants to grow, to use for light to use prisms and make rainbows, etc.


Let's Talk Intended Use of Space in your Classroom Design!

When determine your classroom design, think about how each interest center is used.  and, therefore, the activity level that may occur in each center. 


The reason for determining this is to ensure that you do not put a center that is active and, at times, loud (like your dramatic play area) next to your library area where the children are trying to listen to a story or next to your computer where the children need to hear the instructions coming from the speakers.


Once you have determined which areas to keep away from each other, draw it out on paper.  How does it look to you? Is there a natural flow from interest center to interest center and throughout the classroom?


Books I LOVE to Help with Classroom Design!

The following two books are go to books for me when considering classroom design!  You might find them at your local library or you can click the links below to go to Amazon and check out what they have!


Let's Talk Interest Learning Centers!

Now, let’s talk about some general considerations for each interest learning center.  You will find below some questions to consider for each Interest Learning Center. You will also find a clickable picture link for each center. 


Each link will bring you to a page dedicated to that specific interest center which provides you with detailed information such as suggested materials for the interest center; how to prepare the interest center; the skills preschoolers develop in the interest center and more.



The Art Center: Where will children put their finished art?

Can they get to the finished art spot without having to carry a very, heavily painted paper through ALL of the other interest centers (this could be messy!)? 

Is the Art Area close to the hand washing sink or bathroom? (This will be important on days that you fingerpaint!


The Bible Center:  Typically this center is for no more than 2 children.  It allows time for them to work together on the Bible story of the week or to pray together.  

Do you have a quiet area or corner for this center?

Will the children sit on mats or chairs as they interact in this center?

It all depends on your goals and potential activities provided in this area. 


The Block Center:  I recommend this area to be against a wall, preferably a corner of the room. This allows enough storage by having 2 corners of wall.

It also provides a space for the children to build without other children knocking down their structures as would happen if this were in the middle of the room.


Circle Time Area: Will this be a shared area? For example, will you need to use this space as the math center or block area when not in circle time? 

Consider how you will store your other materials when the Circle Time area is in use so the children are not distracted by other materials (i.e. hang fabric over the block shelving during circle time.)

You will need room for a wall chart/calendar and will need access to an outlet to use your CD player.


Cooking Area:  This area should be somewhere close to a hand washing sink or bathroom so the children do not have to carry food or walk with sticky hands through the entire classroom!


Dramatic Play:  This is a very active area! It can be anywhere in your classroom! The only place I do not recommend is near an area that is meant to be a quiet, relaxing area such as the Library or the Computer.


The Art Easel:  Will your children have a clear path to a sink to wash their hands?  Where will you put the art work as they finish (usually larger paper is used here)?  

I recommend hanging some decorative plastic on the wall (we used a cute shower curtain that we cut to place on the wall) if your easel will be near a wall rather than the center of the room.

This is best on a floor.  If your room is completely carpeted, as ours was, I recommend a mat under it!  Here is one that I recommend.  It is 50" X 72" and affordable!


Library:  It would be best for this area to be on a carpeted area of the room, however, that is not necessary. You can provide small area carpets or carpet squares for the children to lay on while reading as well as chairs, a small table for audio books, or a child sized couch


Math Center:   This center is usually combined with the Fine Motor Activities Center (or also called the Manipulatives or Table Toy Center).  It would be great to have shelving to place the games and activities on for the children to choose.

Provide a table and chairs near the area that the materials are so that the children do not have far to walk with the box or bin of items in their hands.


Sand and Water Table: This area should be on a floor where clean up is easier.  Our classroom had indoor/outdoor commercial carpeting throughout the entire room!  To avoid wet carpets, we used a durable mat under the table and taped it to the carpet for safety.  Here is a suggestion (the same as we use for the easel):


The Science/Discovery Area:  Will you plant seeds here?  You may want it near a window.  Will you have a fish aquarium all year?  This should NOT be near a window (it will create a lot of algae and be too hot for the fish.  


Writing Center:  How will you store items (markers, pens, paper, etc.) so that children have access to it?  How many children will use this center at one time (this will determine the size of the table you will need).



Change is Good......Really!

DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE THE CLASSROOM DESIGN-OFTEN!

If the set up doesn’t work for your group, change it! There are many reasons you may want to change or modify the layout or design of your preschool classroom



Signs That It's Time to Re-Arrange!

Too much open space in your classroom may look like a runway to your children that just screams "RUN HERE!  RUN HERE!" 

Image by www.mitchumowen.com

Yes, children like consistency, but change is not taboo! When we have made changes to our environment, we talk with the kids about it right away! One of their favorite circle time activities has been when the teacher asked them, “Does anyone notice anything different about our room today?”.

You may want to consider changing your layout when you see:

·       Too much running in classroom: This is a sign that areas of your classroom just scream "RUN HERE! RUN HERE! to the children. You may need to reduce your "runway" space by either modifying that area or adding something in the middle. You could add a table for playdough or puzzles.

 ·       The Library has become a dramatic play area: Is your library located near your dramatic play area? If so, the children may naturally use your library as an extension area of play. If you expect your library to be a quiet area, it is important to locate it near other quite learning centers.

Also, do you use your library as circle time? If so, the children have "learned" that this is a place where we sing, dance and move around a lot!

We change or modify our room design often. Dramatic Play moves from one end of the room to the other about once a month!


Classroom Design Summary

Having well defined plans will also help you and your co-workers to feel calm and peaceful because you have thoughtfully considered the flow of the traffic in your classroom and is will show in your classroom design!


Classroom design, when determined based on how the space should be used, will help your children to know what they can do in what area. This will help them to feel confident in their preschool environment and reduce negative behavior.


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