Tag Archives: child care classroom

Welcoming children and families into your early childhood classroom

Not too long ago, I received something in the mail that was unexpected and not so appreciated. I got a jury summons. When I saw the date listed on the front of the envelope, I cringed.  I thought to myself I don’t have time for this. I have reports to write and emails to send and teachers to visit with. I can’t possibly have time for jury duty. So, I opened my summons hoping that there would be some sign that I wouldn’t be eligible to participate. It wasn’t the case. I had to go.

To tell the truth, I was less than thrilled at the idea of driving downtown, finding a place to park and walking inside of the courthouse. What if I got lost? What if I didn’t find the right parking lot? What if once I got there I couldn’t find the right place to be? What if there wasn’t a restroom nearby? Was I allowed to take my lunch? I tried to stop the level of panic that I felt about this by reading all of the instructions on my jury summons. Nothing about this experience was feeling normal, so my imagination went wild predicting that I may be held captive at the courthouse, never to see my children and family again. One of the big reasons that I had so much worry about my jury service was that I didn’t know what to expect. I was worried taking care of my most basic needs.

Should you have a classroom orientation for your early childhood classroom?

Imagine a new child walking into your classroom. They’ve never been there before. They haven’t met any friends yet. They don’t know what the rules are. They don’t know what toys they can play with or where the bathroom is. They don’t know where to keep their special blanket safe or where their parent ran off to. What kinds of behaviors might you see from them if they have as many worries about entering your classroom as I had about entering jury duty?  When children don’t know what to expect and have worries about the things that are happening to them, lots of behaviors can occur, and they are usually the behaviors that no one wants to see.  Within the culture of your classroom, it’s important for children to understand that they are welcomed and accepted for who they are. How do you communicate that to the families and children you encounter? Is there an orientation for children and families? Do you post a welcome sign on your door letting them know they are in the right place? Is their cubby ready with their name already posted so they know that they belong? Do you have a picture schedule available to help children know what to expect?

I was very fortunate that I met someone who was excited to hear that I was called for jury duty.  He was able to explain the parking situation. He gave me an overview of what to expect in my first few hours and most importantly told me that there was a juror orientation that would answer all of my questions. On my first day of jury service, I was able to get where I needed to without many challenges. I found the right room and when I checked in someone even said good morning. Day two of jury service was much more enjoyable than day one because I knew what to expect.

As you have new children and families enter your programs and classrooms for the first time, I hope that you remember the importance of welcoming them into your space. Although they may enter your classroom or program with some initial worries on day one, with consistent orientation processes and a positive attitude from those in charge, day two should always be easier and even more fun. And if you are ever called to jury duty, just enjoy it. I can honestly say that once I stopped worrying, I did.


How to foster learning using the walls of your classroom

Quick…what color is the ceiling? Did you have to peek? It’s ok if you did, I did too. It’s not something we look at on a regular basis because it’s not at our eye level. Did you know that grocery stores often put the lower-priced items on the top and bottom shelves, and the higher-priced items at our eye level? Now, imagine yourself as a child in a classroom, maybe your own classroom. What is at your level and what is high above your head? Where are the pictures you’ve drawn and the stories you’ve written? Where are the classroom guidelines and schedule posted?

How you set up your classroom space matters!

When you set up your classroom environment, you should take a page from the supermarkets. Put what you want the children to see at their eye level. This includes their artwork, pictures from projects and field trips or the class pet. Whatever you display, it should be purposeful; try not to put up maps of the United States or posters of shapes and colors if you won’t use them as teaching tools. In an article for NAEYC  by Patricia Tarr, she states that “the challenge for early childhood educators is to think beyond decorating to consider how walls can be used effectively as part of an educational environment.” I was observing a staff recently who guided the children through a display depicting  flower growth by comparing it to actual flowers they had in the classroom. It gave purpose to the display and made it a more concrete experience.

Teachers should also display classroom guidelines and schedule at the children’s eye level. Try to limit the number of guidelines to 3-5, phrase your expectations simply and with positive language (replace “no running” with “walking feet” or “do not talk back” with “listen to the teacher”) and accompany them with pictures. If you can get pictures of the children in your classroom doing those things, even better! Depending on the age of the children in your classroom, the schedule you post may be pictorial or it could use words. Children thrive when they know what to expect.

Here are some questions from Patricia Tarr’s article to help you reflect on your environment:

-How can the walls reflect the lives, families, cultures and interests of the learners within?

-Do the posters invite participation and active involvement or passive reception of information?

-What are the assumptions about how children learn and how are these reflected by the classroom walls?

-What is the atmosphere of the classroom? How do the materials on display contribute to the atmosphere?

I’d love to hear about displays you’ve done in your classroom and the children’s responses. Please share in the comments!