For the first week and since it is still the beginning of school, I decided to go back to the basics- PK space and place- the PK classroom environment.
In my district, we are encouraging teachers to think differently about their classroom setup. We are suggesting that they arrange their classroom tables in small group center areas all around the room instead of all together in the center of the room. We are trying to move our PK teachers away from primarily teaching in whole group and toward more small group instruction where the teacher moves throughout the room and to the students for small group teaching.
You might also consider giving your students free choice in where they sit and who they sit by. If you feel the need to assign seats, I suggest using small name plate cards with the student's picture and first name only on the name plate. I also recommend laminating the name plate card and then using sticky-back Velcro to adhere it to the table so that it can be easily moved to other tables around the room.
Here are a few examples I found online from various blogs and websites that demonstrate what I am suggesting. I have also included pictures from classrooms in my district.
The first few pictures came from the blog Pre-K Tweets. You can find these pictures in a post titled Fall Room Tour! here.
You can see how the centers are arranged with 2-3 sides using furniture, shelves, and tables to form the center.
Clear boundaries are incorporated and tables are not in the middle of the room.
A variety of hands on activities should be found in each center. At the same time, you do not want to use your center shelves to store all of your materials. This is too much for young students. Picture and word labels on the shelves and containers are a great way to help students be responsible and independent when cleaning up.
My district recommends the following centers - math, art, writing, science, pretend and learn, ABC, construction, library, listening, sand/water, and computers/technology.
If you don't have a sand and water table, you can you a clear plastic tub instead.
I love this pretend and learn setup. We encourage changing the pretend and learn center to go with your teaching theme. Refrigerator boxes are great for this! I have used a refrigerator box to create a big red barn and I have turned one on its side and painted it camouflage to create a jeep for driving in.
Here is another great example of how to turn your pretend and learn center into something more than a kitchen or home. Unfortunately, I found this idea on Pinterest, but the pin did not lead anywhere so I cannot credit the owner for the great idea :(
Here is another example of how to use furniture, shelves, and tables to create 2-3 sides to form a center. This picture came from The School Supply Addict. You can find these pictures in a post titled Peek into Pre-Kindergarten here.
Here are pictures from a PK classroom in my district.
As hard as this can sometimes be to do, we suggest teachers display all letter/word walls, math walls, content boards, and instructional resources where they are eye-level to the students. This picture provides a great example of this - the Lakeshore Circle Time Center/Math pocket chart, the blue pocket chart, and the alphabet are all displayed on the bottom half of the wall. Once again, I found this picture on Pinterest and there was a problem following the idea back to its source. I was however able to find the following website associated with the picture - generationscdc.com.
I found this content wall in a classroom I visited last week. The teacher used the space between the dry erase board and the floor.
Here is example of another content wall that is lower to the floor. This teacher placed it in the center.
In my district we are using the term "Letter Wall" in PK instead of "Word Wall." Oftentimes, we tend to put letter/word walls up high on bulletin boards. We encourage placing them low to the ground and making them interactive. I really liked this example because it goes back to the brain research that Debbie Diller shared in her Spaces and Places training where she talks about how the brain sees in borders. I found this letter wall in a classroom I visited this week. These teachers used Velcro to make their letter walls interactive. We also have a lot of teachers who use long pocket charts to make their walls interactive.
You can see an example of using pocket charts to create a letter wall on the upper left side of this picture. This picture also came from a classroom I visited last week.
When possible place your letter/word wall where you have your large carpet/meeting area (circle time). This will allow you to use it easily during whole group instruction as well as for students to get to it easily when they are working in small groups or independently.
We recommend that teachers clearly label all of their centers. While we also recommend that students be given free choice during center time, we do suggest limiting the number of students allowed in the center space at one time for classroom management purposes. Here is an example of one way a teacher does this. Students place their name in the empty spots on the chart. When all three spots are filled, the stop sign is a visual that the center is full.
This is the same picture I showed above. If you look closely you can see how this teacher used small colored pocket charts from Lakeshore and stop sign cards to limit the number of students in her centers.
In case there is ever a doubt that students are learning while they play in centers, we give our teachers signs to post in the centers for administrators, parents, and visitors. These signs connect the work the students are doing in the center to the PK guidelines and kindergarten readiness. This teacher made her own version of our signs. I took this picture last week in a classroom I visited. The clipart she used came from MyCuteGraphics.com.
Here is another example using Thistle Girl Designs clipart.
Going back to this picture from Pre-K Tweets. You can see she other examples of displaying pocket charts and instructional resources low to the ground and labeling centers. Another thing we suggest is placing both books and writing materials in every center. You can see examples of this in this picture as well.
Here are other examples of adding books and writing materials to centers. These pictures came from my district.
I love how Crystal from Kreative in Kinder takes apart her magazines, laminates them, and binds them with metal rings to last the whole year. You can read about the other goodies Crystal uses to set up her classroom library here.
Going back to this picture from earlier, we encourage teachers to have students names and pictures displayed or being used in at least 5 places in the classroom. Some suggestions include centers, on the letter wall, on the carpet, morning attendance and/or sign in, etc. I like how this teacher used a lined font to create her name cards. She also colored-coded the first letter in a different color since it is a capital. Remember that you need to always write and display student names using a capital letter for the first letter and all of the others in lowercase. I found the lined font KG Primary Penmanship from DaFont here and its free :)
Here is an example of how a teacher used Velcro and a piece of a plastic folder to place the names out on the tables so they are easy to move around.
A few last words from my Debbie Diller and Spaces and Places training. Choose a color scheme. For the last two years I used lime green polka dots and blue. Use the same border for all of your bulletin boards.
Limit the things you put on the walls. You do not need fluff and extra. You only need one of any resource. No matter how cute they are, you do not need multiple sets of the alphabet, numbers, etc. Since I had the capital and lowercase letters on my word wall, I did not post them again anywhere else. In this picture, you can see one set of the numbers 1-20, the basic 2-D shapes, and the color words.
Finally, display lots of authentic student work. I like to add signs that tell what we did or learned and when the lesson was centered around a book, I displayed the book with the work. You large bulletin boards that are higher on the walls in your room are great spaces for displaying student work.
This week I began creating specific Pinterest boards for PK. You can check out my PK boards here.
Here are a few of the topics I am thinking about for future posts:
Ways to Keep Students Busy Between Activities
Pretend and Learn Center Ideas
Ideas for All Centers
Writing in PK
Calendar in PK
I am sure I will think of others as the year goes on. Please email me if you have any other ideas you would like me to consider posting about.