Saturday, August 24, 2019

Creating A Classroom Environment That Actually Teaches

I am a Reggio-Inspired Teacher.  This philosophy of teaching believes that children can show their learning in 100 different ways, a lot of which is through the arts, play and projects. It is very Inquiry based and led by the students. They take charge of their learning and I guide them as they use the skills we are learning about...both academic and higher level thinking skills while they play, create, explore and investigate. 

Reggio Inspired classrooms set up their environment to be what we call “the third teacher.” The parents and the teacher are the first two teachers in children’s lives, but they also learn from their environment. My room is set up so that no matter where they choose to go, learning will take place! Many areas in my room are invitations to explore. Without any direction from me, they learn skills through exploring their area. My job is to guide and document so that I know what learning is taking place and what their next steps and my next steps will be. Here are some photos of the different learning areas in my room. 

This is our Literacy Area. Here we have a Library, a place to relax and self regulate, and invitations to explore literacy concepts I want them to focus on. The invitations can be used by all children, no matter what level they are at academically. 

Here, they can identify letters, match capital and lowercase letters, use them to spell sight words or other words they know.

This area will have phonemic awareness invitations, poems, and phonics practice. There will also be big books to practice reading skills. They like to put them on this easel take turns reading to a small group.

This is another area for invitations to learn literacy concepts. Here they may practice identifying and writing letters, names and words. 

Here we have some tools to help them cope with emotions. Self regulation is one of the most important skills they need to learn in order for other learning to take place.

Our Dramatic Play Area is an area where all language standards are practiced. So much story-making happens here that they can choose to publish and share with the class! So much vocabulary development, language skills, and social problem solving skills, happen in this area! No kindergarten room should be without a Dramatic Play Area to foster these skills and stories!

This is part of our Building Area. The engineering tools her may be legos, K’Nex, Magnetics, and other STEM toys to inspire creative and critical thinking, collaboration as they work together on projects, and problem solving skills.

Here they can use the same skills mentioned above as they build larger scale projects with the blocks. A lot of kindergarten level physics, math and creative design happen here!

Books and pictures of some famous architecture are in this area to inspire.

In this part of our building area I provide random open ended materials for them to create and design with. They also like to use these to add details to their block structures. A lot of math happens when they use these in their creations! Symmetry, patterning, geometry and measuring are some math that I see often in our whole building area.

Here is a list of some of the learning that takes place in this area. 

Here is our Math Area. I have a table for invitations to explore math concepts and shelves with open ended math  manipulatives  and trays with more math concepts to practice.

I have a huge Maker’s Space Area. All the different parts and materials of this area can be used together. The first section pictured is our Publishing Area where they can publish the stories that they have created in all the other areas of our room or from their own memories. As we learn how to use the different materials here (watercolors oil and chalk pastels, permanent markers, flair pens, regular markers both thick and thin, tempura paint and collage), they will then be open for the children to choose from as they publish their stories.

This cart can be used for both collage when they publish or the next part of our Maker’s Space which we call the Attachments Area.

The Attachments part of this area is when they create by attaching things together. Here we use all kinds of recyclables along with the materials from the publishing area. Paper rolls, clothes pins, toothpicks, corks, Craft sticks, boxes, q-tips, filters, paper plates, paper cups, etc. etc. are used here. The first step to this area is creating a plan where they use the writing skills they are learning to list materials they will use, write the name of what they are creating, and draw a picture predicting what it will look like. When I approve their plan, they can get building. So much problem solving, critical and creative thinking and collaboration/team work happen in this area too! Both Engineering and art sculptures happen here.

This is our Art Studio. In this area, the Sky is the limit to the children’s creativity! They can create art inspired by what we are investigating at the time, or be inspired by an artist who’s work we have seen, or just enjoy the process of using the art materials without worrying about the final product!

We have a sculpture table which fosters creativity but also really helps develops those fine motor muscles in their fingers needed for writing! Materials they may find here to explore are clay, play dough, wire, pipe cleaners, beads, etc.  It works fine motor skills but with a purpose!

This is our transient art table for now, but is also our sand/sensory table when it is not covered up.  Transient art is art that is not permanent. We use open ended objects to create. Math and art combine to make some beautiful designs here or they can make something else like a sea turtle!

Here is the whole art studio corner of our room. The only thing missing here is a sink. I wish so much I had one! I use one in another classroom to wash paint brushes and fill buckets for the kids to put dirty paint cups and brushes in and to wash the paint off of their hands.

Here are some lists of skills learned in the Art Studio.

Last but not least is the science area. Here they explore and learn to look closer and notice the details. They learn how to document as a scientist through observational drawings (which are different than art even though we may use art materials) and write non-fiction text about what they notice.

On our work space tables we have a tool holder. Crayons are separated by color because I have found that students are more purposeful in their color choice when using them, rather than just picking a random color out a box.

Here is the room as whole.

As the kids explore, they learn. It is amazing what they are capable of! Once they have a growth mindset and take charge of their learning, there is no stopping them!

I can’t wait to see how they influence this environment as the year progresses and I cannot wait to see them all in action!