Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Too many changes?

Setting up a new classroom is one of the best experiences for a new teacher. It sets the foundation for your year ahead as well as finally giving you that ownership that you’ve been working years for – your very own classroom! 
So you’re in and you’ve set up your reading area, your snack area, sand, water and just about any other area you think your children will need. But then at the end of day one you realise – ‘oh dear, this needs moving there, this needs putting behind this.’ 
You end up moving your classroom around 20 times in your first half term just getting it ‘right’, because you just don’t feel that it’s the way it should be.

I’ve noticed quite a lot of posts on twitter and Facebook where teachers have shifted furniture around numerous times in a short space of time hoping it "looks better/works better". 
But I always have to ask ‘who are you moving the furniture for?’

Children often get used to where toys and resources belong; which shelves to go to for certain things and at tidy up time, it can be a dream if your children are very used to the classroom. What can be a catastrophe is if you expect the children to be able to tidy up at all the first day after a big move.

In adult terms think about how many times you go into a supermarket and they’ve moved your favourite snack, tea, coffee, wine (yes, you!).. 
We go through several phases:

1) CONFUSIONit takes you time to process ‘where’ they may have moved it to (usually you cycle through how a supermarket is set up, which aisles are located nearby, what else might have moved).
2) FRUSTRATIONthey only moved the item so you were made to look for it (and in the process buy 16 packets of biscuits you’ve never seen before). 
Finally of course, 
3) EUPHORIA -you break down in tears because you’ve finally found the guacamole. 

In children’s terms, the process is a little simpler. The scissors which they were so used to getting have moved and aren’t actually on the shelves at all, ‘where’ could they be? Most children won’t be able to think through other areas that teachers think are appropriate for scissors.  Frustration is also likely because whilst they can ask and usually then find the scissors, when it comes to tidy up time there just isn’t enough time for every child to ask where every item goes.

No amount of pictures, fablon and area signs could save the situation when children aren’t expecting the change.  What is really important is that, as practitioners, we realise that the classroom isn’t our space alone. It belongs to 30+ people and changes need to be made subtly (i.e small changes over long periods of time) and with consent from the children.

Setting up provision areas or moving furniture could happen whilst the children are there to help (obviously nothing heavy.. health and safety y’all!)  and decisions about where things go can be made (and negotiated) to give responsibility and ownership to the children.  Minute changes to the environment which you feel will  ‘improve’ the layout or setting should be avoided unless there is a real urgent need. 

Whilst we are introducing new resources frequently to our children we are finding that with proper introduction and modelling as well as sharing of the setting up, children have the skills and knowledge to be able to tidy up and find exactly what they need themselves which has led to much improved independence.

Remember that it’s their space too!

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