Setting up the classroom is one of my favourite things. I can spend HOURS organizing, moving, reorganizing, and re-moving the room, furniture, and materials.
I tend to shift the classroom around multiple times throughout the year. The most important thing to remember is that you are not the only one using the space, so even if you want something in one area – the children might be using it in another. The room must be created with the children in mind, and you must be flexible.
I usually set it up in a way that I feel would best benefit the children, and then throughout the first few months of school, it might look different each week (or day by day, or hour by hour haha). It depends on how the children are using the materials, and where they’re using them, quiet spots away from loud spots, cozy spots away from high-traffic spots. I want to utilize the entire space; every corner and inch of the room is thought about.
I don’t put anything on the walls or on the boards (inside or outside) of the classroom. Once the children begin to make things and produce work, that’s the stuff that goes up. You won’t find any posters or pre-made things on the walls, everything put up is made by the children or for them, and they should be able to tell you what everything is on the walls (if they can’t read it – take it down). I need the space to be comfortable, and calming – and I know the children do too.
Walking into some classrooms gives me anxiety. If there is no space left on the walls, to the point where I can’t even tell what the colour of the walls are – that’s a problem. I get very distracted in a room where there are too many things on the walls or hanging from the ceiling. I find myself staring at it all instead of paying attention to anybody in the room. I also feel very busy in those rooms, and find it hard to concentrate or focus. We need to be thinking about the children when putting things up, especially those with sensory issues, hyperactivity, and those who are English Language Learners. How frustrating would it be to walk into a space that you will spend the next 10 months in, and not be able to read anything that’s on the walls? Would you feel a sense of belonging?
I think a lot about neutral and natural materials in the room. I try to avoid plastic and overly colourful items. I’d rather have the children’s work stand out – not the beautiful coloured alphabet bought from a teacher or stationary store.
I feel the classroom should be home-like. We are inviting these little beings into our spaces, into our ‘homes’, where we will spend a LOT of time throughout a school year together. If it’s a cozy, comfortable, inviting, and safe space, the more learning can take place there.
When I think of the environment, I am also thinking about the hallway (where our cubbies are) and our outside space. These are extensions of our main space. I talk a lot about respect and responsibility (it’s quite annoying actually..), but encouraging these skills across our play and our environment is important. We all have a part to play in keeping our personal and classroom things organized, and clean. We all have jobs in the classroom that change each week, that help develop our responsibility for the room.
I get a lot of inspiration for my classroom through the Reggio Emilia approach (although I don’t follow it blindly, as each classroom is different and each set of children have different needs).
Here’s what I think you should read…
A Place For Learning
Be Reggio Inspired
5 Tips for Setting up Your Classroom with a Reggio Influence