Creating a Kid-Friendly Space
Effective classrooms should contain spaces that facilitate students’ independence, constructive play, thinking, and learning. And they should be orderly, inviting, and safe.
Although the physical space may need to be modified to suit the age of the students, all elementary classrooms should have these six basic work areas:
- Large group
- Small group
- Independent work
- Art and music
Large Group Work Areas
To designate a space for large group meetings, you might use an area rug or other kind of floor covering. It not only adds definition but also provides a homey touch. Ideally, this area will provide ample space for each student to sit without being crowded. This area can be used for morning and afternoon meetings, whole group read alouds, and all focus lessons.
Small Group Work Areas
Every classroom should have spaces for small groups of children to work with the teacher for guided instruction or with one another on projects. You can establish a small group area simply by using a table with the appropriate number of chairs. Make sure to create a system of storing supplies that are ready and easily accessible during this group work.
Students today are savvy technology users and they want and need access to technology tools for their learning. Computers, iPads, iPods, and other sources of technology should be set up in ways that enable students to collaborate with peers as well as to use independently.
Independent Learning Areas
Small group and one-on-one instruction are very effective means of teaching, but they require that other students work independently. To facilitate this, you will need to create areas where students can access station or center materials whenever needed. Store materials in separate containers so they can be retrieved by students and taken to designated areas of the room.
A well-stocked, well-organized classroom library can be the heartbeat of any classroom. For younger students, organize books by titles and topics. Include books appropriate for a wide range of reading levels and interests. Arrange books in front-facing displays to maximize student interest. Large comfortable pillows, child-sized chairs, and small, plastic baby pools make great areas for students to read independently or with a friend. Audio books also can be stored in the classroom library for students to listen to independently or with a buddy.
Art and Music Areas
A portable easel makes an easy and efficient way to add an art area to the classroom. Art materials and supplies can be stored in small containers around this area. Add a basket of art books to help spark students’ creativity. A music area can be added in a similar way. Store portable keyboards and hand-held instruments made specifically for children where students’ can explore and enjoy them. Download music apps to iPods and iPads to help foster a love of music.
Once you’ve arranged the room, walk through it and sit at various places to determine if there are any areas with obstructed views. You should be able to see all students in the room from all points. The goal is to create a classroom that is nurturing, appealing, and safe.
About the Author
Gay F. Barnes, a first grade teacher at Horizon Elementary School in Madison, Alabama, earned her national board certification as an Early Childhood Generalist in 2001 and renewed the certification in 2011. She was selected Alabama’s Teacher of the Year for 2011-2012 and was a 2012 National Teacher of the Year finalist.
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