Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What if we changed the room around?

It is Tuesday and this is a "Slice of Life" (SOLS) for Two Writing Teachers.  Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.

Melissa and I changed the classroom around.
Not just one bookcase or some small corner - but, the entire room.
This isn't something I typically do in the midst of a preschool year.
Yet, there were so many things that weren't working with the old arrangement - the arrangement that worked so smoothly for me all last year. (Isn't it strange how each group of children has its own unique personality and needs? How what works in one classroom one year might not work the next time?)

So many things weren't working -

  • there was the cubby near the doorway where some children hung their coats (and all the other children seemed to trample all over them),
  • there was the quiet corner [or is it "peace" corner? No, "calm down" corner? or is it "comfort" corner? I seem to use all of these interchangeably!!] ...this was located too near the low table (and this low table had somehow become a hideaway from monsters, which is not exactly conducive for peace and quiet.)
  • there was the large gathering carpet at the back of the room, near the blocks (which was turning into the favorite location for all the children to be during centers - making for a loud and rambunctious room rather than a building and engineering area)
  • and more....
Something had to change.

I can't say that we took the most planned approach to this...we spent a simple hour after school one day, yanking furniture this way and that, thinking about what we hoped would happen once we were done. 

What did we want?
We wanted children to be more intentional in their play and less like "pinballs" - less zooming, more lingering. 

Pushing furniture this way and that, we created more small group areas - more defined centers, if you will. We moved the gathering area to a more central location, along our wall of windows, encompassing our dramatic play area (giving a defined space to this whole body, theatrical play) - and we surrounded this carpet with our small group areas.

We have had three awesome days of school since this room change!
Whooo hoo!

The children were initially surprised - astonished - by the room's differences, but they embraced them.  They began investigating every part of the room, seeming to re-discover it. We had a great discussion about what was the same and what was different - noticing the details, like all writers, scientists, artists, scholars, thinkers do!

We see children playing in a whole new way. 

Yes, they are much less frenzied and much more focused. 

Children who were stuck doing certain challenging behaviors have not yet repeated them in this new space - for example, a couple children would hide at whole group time. Well, the new room means that those old hiding spots are gone (and they have not yet discovered new ones!). The new arrangement has caught them off-guard, allowing them to join us...and I believe they have discovered that whole group time is fun. 

Now, when we dismiss the children to centers, they first share aloud where they plan to start their fun. This simple, orchestrated act of choosing a center helps the children work with a sense of purpose in each area. We find ourselves, as teachers, being the "guide on the side," standing back and observing - a sign that the environment is working for the children. 

It is right for them.

It is just the change these children needed at this time of year.
It is just the change we teachers needed, too!


  1. I can see why a change in the room was needed and that it was refreshing for your students! I feel the same way at home. There are only so many options for furniture arrangements in my living room, but even a small change always makes the room feel new and fresh again!

  2. I love how you paid attention to the kids and the environment and made the change. I am currently teaching writing to a colleague's class and every day move her rows back into groups. New for her kids in the middle of the year, but they are finally responding and working like writers together in their collaborative groups.

  3. So lovely to hear that you made the effort to change since the 'other' way was clearly not working. I am reminded of some interesting quote someone shared, perhaps on FB, "you're not a tree, change!" or something like that. Love "less zooming, more lingering." Happy to hear it's working so far, Maureen!

  4. As a family we are really enjoying the new space ... Thanks!

  5. Thank you for sharing! This reminds me of when one of the teachers I was working with had problems with her room arrangement. She left me with the room to rearrange not having met the students more than a few days. It was a challenge but with the new setup it allowed for more passing room and students to work together. Thank you for sharing!