Beginning the Year

The beginning of the year is an especially important and formative time for young children and their families.

For many children and caregivers, this may be their first significant time apart and/or their first experience in a school setting. Since young children rely on positive relationships, routines, and predictable environments to thrive, how programs prepare for the first days of school can set the stage for yearlong success.

Setting Up Your Classroom

Carefully created learning environments support children and adults as they work and learn together in the classroom. While there are many factors such as room size and shape that impact arrangement, it is important to consider the following:

Arrival:

  • Children and families should feel welcome when they enter the classroom.
  • There should be an area near the door with cubbies for children to store their belongings.
    • Cubbies should be labeled with each child’s name and picture.
    • There should be a separate cubby for each child.

Learning Centers:

  • Every classroom should include the following centers:
    • Blocks/Construction
    • Dramatic Play
    • Art
    • Science/Discovery
    • Toy and Games/Math Manipulatives
    • Sand and Water/Sensory
    • Library
    • Writing
    • Music and Movement
    • Computer/Technology
  • Arrange centers so those that need a special setup (i.e. water, cords) are near the necessary equipment (i.e. faucet, outlets).
  • Arrange centers so those that typically inspire active play (i.e. Blocks/Construction) are near other louder centers and quieter centers (i.e. Writing) are near other quieter centers.
  • All centers should be clearly defined and labeled.
  • Materials should be included in every center. They should be well organized, easily accessible for ALL children, intended to support children’s learning needs, and rotated periodically throughout the program year.
  • Centers should be appropriately sized so children can have enough space to comfortably use the materials. For example, there should be ample space in the Blocks/Construction for several children to build successfully.

Room Arrangement

  • To maintain safety, optimize learning, and support children in using the classroom properly:
    • Ensure staff have an unobstructed view of all parts of the classroom at all times.
    • Avoid “runways” by positioning furniture in a manner that encourages children to walk throughout the space.
    • Establish a comfortable, cozy space in the classroom where children can relax as needed throughout the day.
      • This area should include several soft furnishings and/or materials such as pillows and a rug.
      • This area should be located near typically quiet centers and should be away from active play and foot traffic.
    • Establish an area for the entire class and teachers to meet together as a group.
A sample of how a classroom can be arranged.

Classroom Displays

  • All displays should:
    • Be posted at children’s eye level.
    • Align to children’s interest and current classroom studies.
    • Reflect diversity.
  • Displays of children’s work should:
    • Vary according to children’s interests and abilities.
    • Depict authentic learning experiences.
  • Most classroom displays should include evidence of children’s learning such as pictures, work samples, or 3-dimensional projects as well as pictures of the children in the class.

Furniture

  • All furniture must:
    • Be clean, safe, and in good condition.
    • Be appropriately sized for children. Chairs used by the children should be adequately sized so that their feet are able to touch the floor when seated and tables should be an appropriate height (in the mid-chest to naval area) so that they can rest their elbows comfortably on top.
      • In the beginning of the year when children are smaller, consider adjusting the legs on the table and chairs to accommodate.
    • Include an adequate number of tables and chairs for all children to engage in activities throughout the day.
    • Mats/cots should be stored in a convenient location so that teachers and assistants do not have to leave the room for long periods of time.

3-K for All

Careful planning prior to the first days of school enables children to feel comfortable and adjust to their new surroundings. Developing and implementing an appropriate daily schedule is an important part of getting the year started well.

It is also important to consider the hours children will attend school at the beginning of the program year.

Tools of Autonomy provide general guidelines and best practices for supporting three-year-olds in a classroom. They are interactive visuals through which children can begin to develop autonomy in the pre-K classroom.

Pre-K for All

Careful planning prior to the first days of school enables children to feel comfortable and adjust to their new surroundings. Developing and implementing an appropriate daily schedule is an important part of getting the year started well.

It is also important to consider the hours children will attend school at the beginning of the program year.

Tools of Autonomy provide general guidelines and best practices for supporting Pre-K for All children in the classroom. Tools of Autonomy are interactive visuals through which children can begin to develop autonomy in the pre-K classroom. This document provides general guidelines and best practices.

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