Room Arrangement Diagrams

By Beth Conant

How can there be two classrooms in the same building with the same physical lay-out, the same materials and equipment, but one is orderly, the children are busy, and there is a hum of activity; and in the other, children are running, fighting over materials, and the noise level is disruptive to everyone? The physical arrangement of furniture and materials may be clues to the answer. How a teacher designs and arranges his/her room, may indicate to children how the room is to be used.

The following are a list of principles which may guide the teacher in designing a learning environment for young children in a developmentally appropriate setting.

· Use shelving and furniture to define and separate learning areas. Shelving should be pulled away from and placed at right angles to walls in order to provide barriers to define space. Children stay focused on activities better when they are not distracted by other activities visible in the room.

· Involve children in the naming of each area. Use names which are meaningful to the children. Instead of naming an area the gross motor area, it might be called the climbing area. Hang a sign labeling each area above the center.

· Break up large expanses of space into smaller open areas to discourage children from running. A long corridor of open space invites running.

· Display materials simply with a few items on each shelf. A large number of materials on a shelf may be distracting to children who are not used to making choices. Group similar materials in proximity to each other. For example, tubs of small manipulative materials might be shelved together in one unit, puzzles displayed on shelves of another.

· Pictures of each item or examples of the small items themselves should be taped to the shelf or container where materials are stored. Pictures provide visual cues which help children remember where items belong. Clean up becomes a learning experience. Later in the year, pictures may be paired with the printed word so that children begin to naturally develop sight word associations with materials and picture symbols.

· Provide multiple copies of favored toys to discourage fighting over high demand items. A sand timer is a helpful prop. Children are more willing to share if they know that they will have a turn and can see the time passing in a concrete fashion.

· Place a picture chart of the sequence of daily activities in a prominent place in the room. The chart helps children to remember what comes next providing them with a sense of security and control.

· Quiet and noisy activities need to be in opposing areas of the room. Wet areas such as the sand and water table and art area need to be well separated from dry areas such as books and manipulatives toys. Housekeeping and block corner which encourage dramatic play may complement each other if placed nearby.

Don't be afraid to involve the children in decisions about room arrangement. After you have gotten to know your group and they have become accustomed to you and the classroom, hold a group meeting to discuss with the children how the room is working. Identify problems with them and ask them to think of solutions. The block corner is too noisy for people next door in the reading corner. How might we make that work better? Is there a better place for the reading corner? Involving children in decision making gives them ownership of their learning space and provides them with impelling opportunities for problem solving.

Visit a sample room arrangement diagrams page.

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