teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Assessing your Environment

Recently, I have had the great pleasure to work with a lady from the Quality Inclusion Support Program. If you have multiple children with additional needs, look them up 🙂

At the end of her time with us, she held an amazing seminar that inspired me so much that I have been unable to write about it, for fear of not doing it justice! So today I will give you an example of how she helped clarify our thinking. She got us all to break up into our ‘room groups’ and draw up a plan of our room. We added the play areas, routine areas, shelving/dividers and anything else that was part of our rooms. Once done, we were asked to add identifiers for which part of the room encouraged the following goals.

I) Identity – family, life, culture

H) Home – parents can feel relaxed and respected

R) Relationships – sharing enjoyment between adults/children

SD) Sensory Discoveries – textures, colours, smells and sounds

LM) Large Muscle – crawling, pushing, pulling, sliding, bouncing, hiding, throwing, going up/down, up/over, in/out etc

SM) Small Muscle – developing grasping, banging, poking, stacking, shaking, squeezing, patting, pouring, fitting together, taking apart etc

C) Cozy – area where children can get away and relax or watch

P) Powerful – children can feel independent, important and competent

A) Adults – can relax, enjoy, share their lives with children

S) Systems – communication and record keeping among adults

At first we tentatively marked the ‘obvious’ areas, as we gained confidence we began to see how so many of the areas crossed over. The art hanging on our walls elicits a powerful response from the kids, but also acts as a form of communication between adults and encourages visual sensory opportunities.

By the end of it, we had a large paper filled with little letters. Areas that didn’t gather a collection of identifying letters, were looked at again so we could either see the values we had missed or assess the areas to work better for the children, the families and us! Immediately after doing this exercise, I recognised that our book area was far from the relaxed spot we’d planned on – instead it was often used for rough and tumble play. So we moved it. We opened it up to more activity so that those who wanted to read could, whilst those who wanted to be active could use the puzzles, the zipper boards and the tactile activities.

Since then we’ve expanded further and turned our room around to accommodate our growing class numbers and changing needs. And you know what? It feels more like a kindy, there are more engaged learners and definitely less conflicts between kids! This is an exercise I recommend everyone does, I know for sure I will be doing it a few times a year to make sure I keep a fresh view of my room!

Now I want to share a resource with you that also has helped me for years! I can’t link you directly to it, because it is a downloadable document (which I suggest you save, print and keep!) if you google

Pre-K Spaces: Design for a Quality Classroom

you should go there 🙂 It’s totally worth the trip!

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