Monday, September 10, 2012

Setting Up the Classrooms

For me, setting up the preschool classrooms was my favorite part of getting the school ready. I was starting from scratch and I was on a mission to create a welcoming, child friendly environment that would promote independence and creativity. I wanted the classrooms to help the children feel safe and comfortable while engaging them and stimulating their curiosity.
The first step was to purchase child sized shelves, tables, and chairs. Having furniture that is the appropriate size for the children who will be using the room, helps them to feel comfortable and gives them a sense of empowerment. Besides this, the small furniture is more practical for children. When a child is sitting in the appropriate sized chair, she is more likely to stay seated during meals and activities because she can sit without dangling legs or other discomfort. The smaller shelves allow teachers to see and monitor all the different areas of the classroom.
Book Corner
I love books so the first area I set up in each classroom was the book corner. The book corner should be an area where children can sit quietly to read and relax. It should be clearly separated from the rest of the classroom by shelves or other furniture. I wanted ours to have lots of natural light so I positioned them near windows. I also wanted the children to have a soft comfortable place to sit so I added an area rug, pillows, and stuffed animals. I framed and added art work that some of my former students had given me to give it a homey touch. In the future, I hope to add some comfy, child-sized chairs.
I had read about using Ikea spice racks for book shelves on another blog. When I went it the Ikea near me, they were it of the spice racks but, fortunately, I came cross these picture ledges that worked just as well.

Dramatic Play Area
When a child plays pretend, he is not only having, he is also learning important skills. Through pretend play a child has the opportunity to take on a new role. He can be a mailman, a race car driver, a parent, or anyone else he chooses to be. When he pretends to be another person, he is learning about the roll that person plays in the community. Children also use this pretend play time to try out new words and language. If you watch a child have a pretend phone conversation or feed a baby doll, you can hear them repeating the things they have heard adults saying. When they play pretend with other children, they are learning to compromise and to get along with other people.
I like to use the dramatic play area as more then just a kitchen area. Throughout the year, I bring in different props for the children to use such as an empty wading pool and swimming gear in the summer, a tree to decorate at Christmas time, or props that have to do with the topic we are covering in the classroom. 

But since we are just starting out, I decided to begin with the basics. I set up our dramatic play area as a kitchen and home area. Since the school building is actually an old house, one room has a closed up fireplace. This seemed to be the perfect, homey place to set up the center. My fiancé found a wonderful, used kitchen play set that had hardly been played with at all. I added a small table and chairs, dishes and food, dolls with changes of clothes, and some dress up clothes.
The dramatic play area in the second room was set up is similar way except it doesn't have a fireplace.
Block Area
Over the past few years, I have been in several schools that did not have large floor blocks for the children to build with. I know that this is partly because blocks are expensive and because they can be loud but the benefits children reap from playing with blocks are worth the money and the noise. When children play with blocks they are learning:
Math concepts such as size, shape, weight, and symmetry
Science concepts including gravity and balance
Hand-eye coordination
Communication skills
Symbolic thought
To be creative
To make connections and to solve problems
To work together
To appreciate and respect other's work
For this reason, I made sure to have a well stocked block area in each classroom. Right now there are also cars and trucks in the block area but we can switch them out later for animals, trains, plastic people, or other props.

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