Describe An Early Childhood Room Design for Infants and ToddlersI have attached the rubric and sample paper our professor provided. I like sample 1 because it has subheading and it is more explainable
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Describe An Early Childhood Room Design for Infants and Toddlers
I have attached the rubric and sample paper our professor provided. I like sample 1 because it has subheading and it is more explainable. So follow it pattern. You can look up a room design for infants and toddlers.
As you create your center, keep in mind issues related to developmentally appropriate practices and how your center or area can contribute to an environment in which diverse students feel comfortable and thrive. Tell whether your design would be useful or practical.
Describe An Early Childhood Room Design for Infants and ToddlersI have attached the rubric and sample paper our professor provided. I like sample 1 because it has subheading and it is more explainable
Early Childhood Room Design for Infants and Toddlers The HighReach Learning® (2007) training module for early childhood educators explores how the design of the environment “sets the stage for success” (2007, p.2). The amount and use of the space; ease of supervision; lighting, wall color, and type of flooring; suitable furnishings; and age-appropriateness and quantity of materials, all need thoughtful consideration in designing a highly functional and inviting setting for infants, toddlers, caregivers, and parents. A well-designed room, safe and developmentally appropriate, enables positive relationships between children and caregivers, parents and caregivers and all children in the group setting (Lally,Torres, & Phelps; 2010). It allows the caregivers to focus on caring for and interacting with the children and to build relationships with families; and to maximizes natural learning experiences for all children. The quality of the program is jeopardized when caregivers have difficulty providing the flexible, individualized care important for infant and toddler development when they are constantly running interference within the environment to keep children safe and to maintain order. Torelli (2002) states, In poorly designed environments, well-intentioned staff members experience ongoing frustration because they find themselves spending a great deal of time “managing” the children in order to avert problems, which leaves less time for building emotionally supportive relationships and providing optimal learning experiences. Inadequate classrooms force teachers to act as magicians, entertainers, and disciplinarians — not leaving them with enough time to be educators (¶ 3). Torelli and Durrett (n. d.) suggest that because the curriculum for mobile infants and toddlers consists primarily of exploring their environment then the impact of the environment on both the children and the caregivers needs careful consideration. With this in mind, it is in both the children’s and caregivers’ best interest to design early childhood environments to support the children’s development, as well as the caregivers’ role to facilitate children’s learning. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (n. d.) also recognizes the importance of the early childhood environment and addresses its organization in the document, Supporting Maine’s Infants & Toddlers: Guidelines for Learning and Development. Following the principles of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, the document offers suggestions for organizing the early childhood environment for infants and toddlers so that it is accessible to all children. Accessibility pertains to the physical space and materials in the classroom, as well as the curriculum and teaching strategies. The National Center on UDL (2010) identifies three guiding principles for consideration: Provide multiple means of representation; Provide multiple means of action and expression; and Provide multiple means of engagement. The purpose for the UDL principles is to guide the development of goals, instructional practices, learning materials and assessments for diverse learners. However, the overarching objective is to increase learning outcomes for all learners. How are the research and the UDL principles guiding the design of the infant and toddler classroom in Figure 1? The physical environment is arranged to enable a variety of teacher-supported and child-initiated experiences for children to learn in their natural environment. At the same time, multiple developmentally appropriate experiences are planned to allow children many opportunities to develop and practice skills, and/or demonstrate learning outcomes in different ways. While infants are naturally curious about their environment, careful consideration of the children’s interests and abilities, coupled with just the right level of challenge to support the development of intrinsic motivation for learning are important aspects of planning the environment. Figure 1. Infant/Toddler Early Childhood Environment Concepts and Goals The main educational concept reflected in the design of this infant/toddler classroom is that every child’s natural abilities and propensity for learning can be nurtured through daily interactions within a safe and secure environment under the guidance of a responsive caregiver. A responsive caregiver attends to children’s interests, strengths and developmental needs and considers these when designing the learning environment. Lally (2009) describes a new perspective on the caregiver’s role as “neither babysitter nor trainer, but rather a caring facilitator of the child’s journey toward emotional, cognitive, language, physical and social competence” (p. 48). Vital to the caregiver’s role is his or her ability to design an environment that optimizes the conditions that support each child’s journey. An equally important educational concept is that each child selects the daily experiences and learning content within the environment, which is ever changing because of interests and developmental needs. Eight children will be cared for by three adults in this mixed infant/toddler environment including one non-mobile, five-month-old infant; one mobile eight-month- old infant; and six toddlers between the ages of 18 and 30 months. The primary goal is for each child to achieve healthy, well-adjusted overall development as a result of daily interactions in a well-designed early childhood environment. To support this goal infants and toddlers in this setting have a primary caregiver responsible for their daily care because establishing a secure attachment with a primary caregiver is key for all learning (Lally, 2009). Furthermore, continuity of care enables the primary caregiver to maintain the relationship for the duration of each child’s care while enrolled in the infant/toddler program. Physical Space In this child care facility the infant/toddler classroom has been carefully designed considering the needs of the children, their parents, and caregivers. Dombro, Colker, and Dodge (1999) recognize the importance of creating a welcoming and well-organized environment where parents and children feel safe and secure, and the caregivers are able to work efficiently and effectively with the children. An inviting environment encourages parents to visit during the day, or to sit and chat about their child and related issues (Lally, Torres & Phelps, 2010). Infants and toddlers grow and change quickly between birth and age three. Therefore, planning a responsive environment requires ongoing adjustments to accommodate them. Changes to the environment support exploration and new learning by providing new challenges and stimulating new interests. At the same time, a caregivers’ role is to monitor the effectiveness of the changes they make in the environment by noting how children use the space or materials and how they respond to the changes. The main area of the infant/toddler room is divided into two large sections – the wet/messy area (entrance/exits; kitchen/art; personal care; water play) and the dry area (dramatic play; blocks; reading; flexible space). Intimate activity areas enable increased interaction. So small play centers are organized along the edge of the room using child-size furnishings arranged to define the space. Quieter activity areas are positioned next to each other. A larger flexible center space invites movement and is reserved for gross motor play and whole group activities, while providing an easy path of movement for adults, toddlers and mobile infants between activity areas. The design also makes the areas easy for caregivers to supervise from any place in the room. The entire main floor is cushioned linoleum with large non-slip area rugs in the flexible space, dramatic play and reading areas and one carpeted raised platform corner. The flooring makes cleanup easy in the messy areas, while the anti-microbial rugs provide a more comfortable surface for infants and toddlers to sit, crawl and play. The walls, flooring and wooden furniture are a neutral color. However, toys and materials throughout the room are brightly colored and easily attract the infants and toddlers attention against the neutral background. Windows along the back wall allow for natural light and an engaging view of the landscaped play area outside the window for infants and toddlers. Safety-screens make fresh air exchange possible during warmer weather, and an exit door opens outside to the play area and can be used as a fire exit if needed. Greeting Area. The left side of the floor plan shows an entry door that connects the hallway of the main facility with the infant/toddler room. The large window, on the same wall, displays the children’s recent art project for all to enjoy. The entry door opens into a greeting area that is separated from the play space with a 32” high wooden wall divider connected to a gate and book display shelf. The greeting area is approximately 75 square feet and is furnished with cubbies labeled with each child’s picture and name for personal belongings and a bench to make dressing and undressing infants and toddlers easier for parents. Caregivers also place parent communication notes in each child’s cubby daily. A bulletin board on the wall in the entry features up-coming parent and family events at the center and in the community. The book display shelf contains a lending library for families. It holds a variety of board books, parenting books, and magazines to encourage and support home reading. The safety gate allows adult supervised entry into the play space or greeting area. Fostering parent partnerships is important in this setting. Therefore, this welcoming space has been designed to convey a positive message that parents are valued and appreciated partners in caring for their children. Meals/Art Area. In accordance with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (2008) licensing rules, the child accessible area in this design provides more than the minimum 35 square feet of usable space per child. It measures approximately 32”by 24”, allotting space for six play areas around the perimeter of the large play area. The meal/art area is located on the right side when entering the play area. It is furnished with infant/toddler- sized seating and low, square tables for six toddlers, two infants, and two adults. Two separate childproofed cupboards store child-size dishes, cups, eating utensils, and serving containers for milk and juice; healthy snacks, baby food, powdered formula; and bibs, as well as cleaning supplies and art/writing materials for daily planned activities. A refrigerator near the cupboard holds milk, juice and labeled (child’s name/date) bottles of formula and family supplied food. A sink and wall mounted microwave are also located in this area. When not used to for meals and snacks, this area becomes a project area for art and “writing” activities. Because of the age of the children, art and writing supplies are not set out for spontaneous play. Art and writing activities are teacher planned activities. The tables can be pushed to the side to accommodate large sheets of paper on the floor, or pushed together for table projects using a variety of infant and toddler tools and materials to support fine motor development and emergent writing skills. Children are invited to the table to participate in projects. They always have the option not to participate in the activity, although typically, all children tend to flock around a caregiver during a planned activity, even if only for a minute or two. Personal Care Areas. Personal care requires a lot of attention with infants and toddlers, more so with infants who require frequent diapering and feeding throughout the day. Caregiver/child interactions during personal care routines are designated opportunities for individualized time for verbal exchanges that support language and enhance overall development. Caregivers involve infants and toddlers by describing their actions, labeling objects, and responding to infants and toddlers attempts to communicate, motivating them to continue to increase their vocal abilities. To promote personal hygiene with toddlers, a child-sized sink and step stool is located on the right wall. With supervision toddlers wash before and after meals and snacks, clean up after messy projects, and use as needed with some independence. For toileting toddlers, a sink is available in the toileting area after use. The children’s labeled toothbrushes are placed in a sectioned storage container near the sink area and used after each meal. These are replaced frequently for health reasons. A child-accessible mirror and paper towel dispenser hang near the sink. The diapering/toileting area is a shared, but separate space between two adjoining classrooms. A half door opens into the bathroom area, which has windows all along the top half of the wall in both classrooms so that caregivers can view a portion of the classroom from inside the bathroom while maintaining some privacy during toileting and diapering. The diagram depicts half the actual space as the room actually accommodates two changing tables, steps for toddlers to climb up to the changing table, and two child-size toilets and sinks, in addition to storage for disposable diapers, wipes, gloves, and lined trashcans for proper disposal of waste products. Another cabinet is located in the far right hand corner of the room beyond the diapering/toileting area. This is a storage area for the caregivers’ personal items. Because infants’ schedules are individualized to meet their personal needs, their assigned cribs are enclosed in a separate area to accommodate their sleeping schedules with limited interruption from other activities. A glider is placed just outside the area for adult supervision in close proximity to the sleeping area, but with full view of the room. It also provides a comfortable place for a caregiver to feed an infant a bottle, while supervising other infants or toddlers if necessary. Nap time is part of the regular schedule for toddlers after lunch each day, although children who require additional rest can do so in a more private, but visible space within the room as needed. Low cots and personal quilts are provided for toddlers older than 18 months old during nap time. State licensing rules dictate that cribs, cots, and sleeping mats be spaced at least two feet apart when in use (Maine Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). The room design shows placement of the cots during nap time, and they are easily accessible in a storage space in the room. Water Table The water table, a well-supervised activity with infants and toddlers, provides a popular activity that supports fine motor skills while facilitating language and concept development through play. Located near the personal care area, the water table provides a place for children to practice fine motor skills involving spraying, measuring and pouring water using different sized and shaped containers. A rack holds plastic aprons with Velcro® closures for children to wear to protect their clothing during messy, wet activities. Toddlers are encouraged and supported as needed to get their apron from the hook before water play and to hang it up when done. Book Nook. The Book Nook supports daily interaction with books and promotes both independent and guided emerging language and literacy experiences. An environment rich in language exchanges, developmentally appropriate books, and meaningful environmental print is essential in a quality early childcare program (Child Care Council of Westchester, Inc., n. d.). A reading lamp makes the area feel cozy, and provides a homelike setting to enjoy a story, a quiet activity, or a bottle at feeding time. Parents are encouraged to use this space as part of their drop-off or pick-up routine to help their child transition smoothly. The reading area begins on the left side of the back door and continues along the windowed wall about 15 feet. A small bean bag chair is tucked inside a 40”L x40”W x32”H Hide-Away Cube (Community Playthings), providing private, but easily supervised space for reading or other quiet activities. Time alone to explore, observe, rest, and experience is important in a group setting (Gerber as cited by Albrecht & Miller, 2008). However, caregivers can be nearby and observing, ready to respond to the child’s nonverbal and verbal cues with a smile or words or acknowledgement. Private spaces also allow infants a safe spot for tummy time in a mixed age setting. A skirted bench glider, a safer option to protect little hands and active bodies, easily holds an adult and one or two children for a cozy story time in the library area with two large, soft floor cushions for additional seating. A low book shelf in the Book Nook displays the covers of a variety of board books inviting infants and toddlers to reach out and grasp one to chew on, flip though the pages, or request a story. Another browsing box has more books and book related props with other books displayed on top of low shelves in various areas around the room. The books are sanitized daily to keep the environment healthy and rotated regularly to maintain high interest. Block Center. Located in the far left corner of the room, the raised platform area naturally separates the block area from the Book Nook and Dramatic Play areas. It also helps to contain the blocks in the raised space. Infant and toddler blocks are located on the carpeted area and consist of a variety of large cardboard, plastic, and foam blocks, and sturdy boxes and containers. Not all blocks are placed in the center at the same time. They are swapped out periodically to maintain interest in the area. When not being used for block play, this area can be used to place an infant seat, providing a quiet place for an infant to observe the activity in the classroom, look out the window, or watch his or her own reflection in a child-safe mirror mounted on the wall. Dramatic Play Center. Play offers children opportunities to learn about themselves, other people in their lives, and their environment. In the Dramatic Play Center toddlers begin to pretend and imitate daily home activities as well as make believe adventures. Through dramatic play toddlers’ cognitive, social and emotional skills increase (Benson, 2004). They begin to develop problem solving and creative thinking skills; learn how to plan and organize; increase expressive language skills; and become less egocentric as they begin to share, cooperate and take turns with other toddlers. This center is regularly furnished with child-size toy kitchen appliances, foods, dishes, multicultural dolls, and other props. However, periodically a dramatic play box is introduced in connection with a thematic topic. The box is filled with realistic props including literacy and print materials to support a topic of interest such as dinosaurs, healthy foods, or gardening (Myhre as cited by Benson, 2004). With literature and experiences to build background knowledge, dramatic play provides the opportunity to make new learning their own through play. Flexible Area. A bright, cheerful carpet covers the large flexible space designated for active play and gross motor activities. It measures approximately 9’ by 9’. The space includes a toddler-size climbing and slide structure set against the wall. Space for safe, appropriate movement is very important in an infant/toddler environment. Competence in motor skills is important to a child’s healthy emotional development, and the two are closely associated for infants and toddlers (Torelli & Durrett, n.d.). Reaching and grasping, crawling to a toy, and climbing a child-size structure independently, help infants and toddlers to develop a sense of self and accomplishment. Movable, low shelving and browsing box units surround and define this space, as well as adjoining areas in the room, but they are also functional. They house a variety of manipulative toys for active play such as busy boxes, a variety of balls, pounding benches; and containers of different safe objects to cuddle, explore, sort, stack, drop, roll, or transfer from one place or container to another. They also provide support for older infants learning to pull themselves up or to support their initial toddling as they “furniture walk” around the room. The shelves are labeled with pictures and words to encourage independence during clean-up time. The space can also be used to set up an obstacle course with tubes and low cushions, and large open-ended boxes for mobile infants and toddlers to promote movement and exploration, or a large space to engage in music and movement activities safely, and to accommodate all children in whole group activities. Practices The practices within this early childhood setting reflect an understanding that infants and toddlers do not follow the same patterns or timing of development even though the sequence remains predictable. Because genetic and environmental differences influence development, planning involves consideration of each infant or toddler’s diverse strengths and needs. This includes understanding and supporting family child-rearing practices. Edwards, Raikes, and Mangione (as cited by Lally, 2009) report, “An infant’s family, culture, and his language are the fundamental building blocks of his identity” (p.50). Therefore, caregivers take time to learn about each child’s care within the home and incorporate these practices with their care of the children to establish what Lally refers to as “cultural continuity”. The results are increased security for the children in the early childcare setting and stronger, more positive relationships with the families. Caregivers engage in responsive practice to meet the individual needs of the infants and toddlers in their care. Recognizing each child’s verbal and nonverbal cues is an important component of responsive care. An observant caregiver recognizes a child’s cues that indicate what child enjoys or prefers and when to intervene when something is upsetting. Because of a limited ability to control their emotions, infants are easily overwhelmed. Therefore, it is important for caregivers to recognize how infants in their care respond to everyday experiences and the environment. At the same time they need to notice the child’s preferences for comforting when distressed. As infants develop they begin to regulate their emotions. Caregivers validate their emotions in warm, respectful ways, offer encouragement, and support them by modeling patient, non-impulsive behavior (Berk, 2008). It really is about understanding and respecting each child’s temperament before responding. Responsive practice is an important part of curriculum planning for infants and toddlers. With established relationships, caregivers balance independent and uninterrupted exploration with opportunities to interact with the infants and toddlers to support discovery and extend learning through daily experiences. Both types of activities are facilitated by caregivers in a carefully designed environment providing multiple opportunities to respond to the unique needs of each child. Many aspects of a child care facility are regularly assessed and evaluated to ensure the quality of the early childhood environment and that the environment supports the intended educational concepts and outcomes for the children. This includes the caregivers’ ongoing observations and monitoring of each infant’s responses to the environment and level of interaction during independent exploration and guided learning activities. Driscoll and Nagel (2008) state, “A play-centered curriculum and a play-centered environment provide the ideal context for observing all aspects of children’s development – physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and even some of their dispositions” (p. 124). Observations not only reveal valuable information about each child’s abilities and skills, but also indicate the effectiveness of the design of the environment and the caregiver’s ability to scaffold learning. Albrecht and Miller (2008) identify three goals for observation and assessment in the infant/toddler environment for parents and caregivers: to recognize and understand each child’s uniqueness; to focus attention on children’s emerging skills and abilities; and to guide curriculum planning for developmentally appropriate activities that are sensitive to emergent skills without over-stimulating or causing frustration, which would impede learning. Conclusion It is clearly evident in the research that the environment has a significant influence on infants and toddlers (Albrecht & Miller, n. d.; Berk, 2008; Driscoll & Nagel, 2008; Lally & Stewart, 1990; Torelli & Durrett, n. d). The design of the environment truly represents the “curriculum” for children within this age group. However, it denotes much more than the physical space of the room. An effective design has two outcomes: to address the safety, health, comfort and convenience needs of the children and caregivers; and to provide an appropriate space that allows for ease of movement, flexibility, and choices that support infant and toddler development (Lally & Stewart, 1990). This design has accomplished these desired outcomes. It reflects an inviting early childhood group setting where infants and toddlers can safely and freely explore and interact with their environment. At the same time it is flexible enough to allow for changes when needed to accommodate individual differences in children’s physical, cognitive, social/emotional growth and development. Most importantly, the design will enable caregivers to focus on establishing and maintaining warm, responsive relationships with the children and to facilitate the children’s natural learning and development through exploration and play within the carefully planned environment. SAMPLE 2 Introduction As Mrs. Tagliano entered the preschool classroom, something just didn’t feel “right.” She noticed an over-all, sterile feel and a simple lack of kid-friendliness, but what was it? Was it the lack of art? Were the cubbies too high for young children to reach? Was the classroom was too big? She couldn’t put her finger on it. Mrs. Tagliano is experiencing a feeling shared by many parents when touring and exploring learning environments for children. Legislation—like No Child Left Behind—has brought all schools under more scrutiny in the quest for improved education for all students (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008). At the same time, researchers are increasingly aware that what happens in the first years of life is instrumental in creating successful, life-long learners (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008). Together, these factors increase attention on teachers and early childhood professionals (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008). But what else is instrumental to learning, and why might Mrs. Tagliano be experiencing uneasy feelings about a classroom? And the answer is: learning environments. Classrooms were once thought of as merely rooms in which to learn. Today, researchers are aware of the impact these spaces have on students and teachers; they are discovering that classroom design has a significant impact on student success (Narum, 2004). So, in planning any learning space—even for the youngest learners—it is important to consider the big picture (Narum, 2004). What is that classroom’s “identity and mission? …who its students are, where are they going, how they will learn, and where will [the learning] take place…?” (Narum, 2004, p.62) Until those questions are adequately addressed, parents like Mrs. Tagliano may continue to feel that classrooms are deficient due to improper or inadequate design. The purpose of this discussion is to address classroom design and its impact on early childhood learning. The author will begin her examination of classroom design by focusing on the concepts and goals of the preschool classroom she designed (see Appendix A). Attention will be given to the age of students in this classroom as well as the number of teachers for those students. Next, she will examine the physical aspects of today’s learning environments to include size, use of space and furnishings. Then, she will discuss design practices associated with successful learning. Finally, she will conclude the discussion by evaluating the dynamics of a modern-day classroom to include the socialization and student interaction, cultural diversity, assessment and monitoring capabilities. Classroom Concepts and Goals When creating the featured classroom, this teacher-researcher created a space that kept a wide variety of elements in mind. The first item considered is the demographic, which for this project consists of sixteen four-year-olds, one lead teacher, and two aides. Classroom numbers however, should not be over-emphasized since multipurpose classrooms are quickly becoming a trend (Gardner, 2005). The next major goal is comfort for those who use the room regularly (Cohen and Blagojevic, 2002). Closely related is the third consideration— observability. This aspect of this classroom design allows students to be seen from any area in the room—a must when dealing with young children (Cohen & Blagojevic, 2002). Finally, the designer wanted a floor plan that facilitated the creation of centers. This is achieved by using an abundance of low bookcases and shelving. Using furniture in this unique way allows for flexibility, because appropriately sized bookshelves can create a safe play area for students. Additionally, they reduce noise levels within the classroom (Lopez, 2003). Physical Space Designing a learning environment means making flexible and versatile use of physical space (Gardner, 2005). Given that the life expectancy of any school is now approximately forty years, a designer should be certain that the space will meet the ever-changing needs of students and staff (Lopez, 2003). Sharing classrooms, extended day care, parental involvement and increased movement are all contributors to the need for larger rooms (Gardner, 2005). Prior to December of 1971, preschools and day cares in the state of Maryland had to allow 30 square feet of usable space for each child (Maryland Board of Education, 2007). Today, that figure is 35 square feet per child (Maryland Board of Education, 2007). These calculations cannot include areas that are not available to children nor can they include furniture (Maryland Board of Education, 2007). Technology and comfort are continually upgraded on many teachers’ and students’ list of amenities that improve and increase learning (Whitmore & Laurich, 2010). Therefore, it is critical that physical space be used efficiently—even when it becomes limited (Whitmore & Laurich, 2010). Modifying furniture layout can substantially change the way the room is perceived by teachers and students (Whitmore & Laurich, 2010). Safety should always be considered when designing any classroom, so there are a few items included in this project that should always be included in every classroom. First, all rooms will contain a smoke detector (Anne Arundel County, 2008). All classrooms will also have a telephone or an extension to notify fire and rescue services and to transmit and receive emergency communication (Maryland Child Care Licensing, 2007). Near the phone, emergency numbers will be posted along with the center’s name, address, telephone number (Maryland Child Care Licensing, 2007). Though two exits are preferred in new classrooms, only one door exit is required provided there is a window less than 44 inches from the floor (Anne Arundel County, 2008). Window heights and widths should be in accordance with those provided by the fire marshal (Anne Arundel County, 2008). Practices Though the physical specifications for fire safety are important, equally as important are the practices of evacuating and notifying emergency services. Evacuation routes will be posted in each area and room in the center. All preschool classrooms in the state of Maryland will practice and document fire drills at least once a month to ensure children and staff members are well-versed in these procedures (Maryland Child Care Licensing, 2007). In addition to safety considerations, a good learning environment exhibits practices of consistency and routine (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008). Routine is established by placing cubbies just to the left of the entrance door in this classroom design. This arrangement allows students to enter and begin their daily routine of stowing personal belongings and preparing for their day. Proper placement of furniture allows for increased parent-teacher communication—something critical to student success (Sayre & Gallagher, 2001). Therefore the teacher’s desk is strategically placed to the right of the entrance. This allows the teacher to greet parents and share important information to promote a smooth home-to-school transition (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008). Routine is further encouraged in this learning space by funneling the now unencumbered students to the table area of the classroom. The table area contains one seat for each student and daily warm-up activities are available. Acitivities range from puzzles, to coloring, to manipulatives and are rotated frequently to avoid monotony (Cohen & Blagojevic, 2002). Once everyone has arrived, children will sit in a circle on a carpet in the language arts area of the classroom. Children will then engage in familiar songs and activities that are quickly associated with the day’s beginning (i.e., the Pledge of Allegiance, calendar, weather watcher, job helpers, etc…) Repetition associated with this part of the day is often welcomed by children of this age (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008). Once opening activities are complete, a brief lesson ensues. Lessons are generally characterized by quality, developmentally appropriate literature, games and/ or interactive tasks. Students will then be allowed to embark on free choice time at any of the centers created by the teacher for that week. Updated photos of the week’s, center activities will assist children in their selection process. Examples might be a photo of a student using Lego’s for categorization at the math center, water colors in the art area, making drums in the music center, or putting fall leaves in the sand table. Children who have been well-behaved, listened or shown significant improvement in behavior will be rewarded through positive reinforcement by being called first to pick their center. As the one hour play time continues, aides will interact with children and monitor their development relative to the goals and outcomes associated with each center (language, physical, cognitive, fine motor, emotional based, etc…). The aides will enhance and embellish play to foster development as needed. The one hour free choice play time allows the lead teacher to interact with students one-on-one or in small groups for differentiated instruction. Both types of instruction occur primarily in the tabled area of the classroom which offers excellent observability of the entire room. Conclusion Though parents’ gut feelings come from something deep inside of them, it is the belief of this researcher that Mrs. Tagliano would have had a good feeling upon visiting the classroom found in Appendix A. The routine that is created around this classroom design allows for creativity, socialization, participation, assessment and most perhaps most importantly proper development. Extensive use of bookcases and shelves at an appropriate height allow for exploration, noise control, and small cooperative groups to enhance learning opportunities (Lopez, 2003). At the same time, all shelves and cases are completely moveable giving the room flexibility and versatility to accommodate a wide range of students or activities (Lopez, 2003). The classroom allows a heterogeneous group of four-year-olds to be accommodated regardless of the educational goals of the centers in operation at any particular time. No one person can say what a parent, teacher or administrator is looking for in a classroom. That is why flexibility and versatility is critical (Sutton, 1993). As for the contents and activities contained in this classroom design, this researcher believes its strengths are a combination of many components: flow, accessibility, function, comfort, ergonomically correct chairs and tables, age appropriate centers, technology, and toys and materials that encourage physical and cognitive development. This researcher concludes that the teacher and the opportunities she provides for meaningful play among these four-year-olds are paramount. After all, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” (Plato, Capella Course Materials, Winter 2012, Unit 9). So, this researcher invites Mrs. Tagliano—or any parent—and her child to come to this classroom for a one hour visit of play while free choice is occurring. Hopefully, that hour will be worth their time, and incent them to come back and play—and learn—again.
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