Preschool / Infant classroom environment and wall displays
An Infant Classroom
What should an Infant classroom be like and what should be going on there?
Infant classrooms are exciting places to be, or at least they should be. Who would want to go into a classroom, or any room for that matter, that was drab, grey, uninteresting and dull?
First of all, for children and adults alike: first impressions go a long way! So an infant teacher who will welcome the children daily and invite them to join in school life must be warm and friendly as a general rule. This will be the most important person in a child's life outside the home environment. See Kathryn Vercillo's great hub on how to deal with Separation Anxiety for some great tips. My suggestions here are aimed at a classroom appropriate to children between 3 and 5 years old. Some of these activities would not be suitable for children out of that age-range.
Number crunching - good wall displays
What to look for in the classroom itself.
2) The room must be colourful and have interesting items to look at and even to touch, if possible, with no big, empty wall-spaces. All good infant teachers believe that empty classroom walls are to children as (perhaps) empty canvasses were to Picasso! They must be filled with something of the greatest importance and in the brightest of colours. Often teachers are teaching towards a 'theme' for one particular term or half-term and so on one main wall you could find a formal display illustrating basic concepts such as Water or Farm Animals or The Circus. It really is often left to teachers themselves to design and make their own displays. These displays can become important teaching props over the course of the term.
3. Also displayed on classroom walls are letters of the alphabet, in an interesting colourful way and certainly numbers to ten or to twenty. Of course the children's own work must be in evidence and displayed carefully on classroom walls. Each piece should be clearly named and dated for future reference to be kept on file or merely for posterity. This can be art work or even numeracy or literacy activities that are worthy of note. Other items on display can be the children's names, photographs of themselves or their family when they were smaller, classroom procedures and timetables, children's rewards and awards charts.
The reading corner
The Reading area and the Role-play corner
3) Most good infant classrooms will have a 'reading corner' in a prominent position in the classroom. Books should be displayed on shelves at a height and angle so that children are able to see the front covers of the books and thus are attracted to them. A good classroom will have a wide range of colourfully illustrated books, appropriate to the age of the children in the class. Children should generally have free access to this area unless some other specific activity is programmed.
4) In Infant classrooms there should be an area designated to 'role-play'. It is important for children to be able to 'play' at being grown-up and small areas can be designed to recreate various different 'real-world' environments. Usually, each 'role-play' environment is changed after two weeks before the children become bored with the same environment.
Monkey business? No... learning about nature!
Ideas for Role-play areas
The following are some of the most usual type of role-play environments that teachers set up for children to explore and enjoy, which you may find in well-planned infant classrooms:
- the home corner; coulsd be furnished with a kitchen, together with sink, plastic tableware, pots, pans, etc., dining table, toy ironing board, toy bucket and mop, etc.
- the office; could be furnished with office-type desk, office-type telephone, note paper, calculator, old PC/typewriter/keyboard/fax machine, etc.
- the grocery store; furnished with a counter, a range of goods, empty cardboard food packages, clear price labels (1-10) displayed on goods, plastic fruit and vegetables, plastic money, plastic cash register, old credit cards (make sure they are past expiry date!)
- the hospital; could comprise of a screen, stretcher, nurses doctors' coat, toy doctors' equipment such as stethoscope, plastic thermometer (under supervision!) bandages, etc. As you can see, teachers must be very resourceful and be able to supply the 'role-play corner' with carefully chosen, safe materials for the children to let their imagination fly..
Special displays for..Christmas, Easter, Special Celebrations
Learning about weight, volume, capacity etc.
Sand and water in the classroom!
5) Young children (over 3 or 4)should also have access to Sand and Water activities in the classroom. A small area is usually designated to this area so children are free to play, under supervision, as things can become very messy! Plastic equipment is usually required for children to experiment with these media and can include cups, funnels, empty plastic bottles for water, and spades, rakes, buckets etc. for sand play. Children are usually required to wear plastic aprons for this activity.
Now we must consider some other type of activities which the children should be undergoing: Children should be encouraged to listen and interact at 'story-time'. In art activities they should be able to use water colours and coloured pencils and crayons, as well as have the opportunity to experiment with plasticine, or 'play-doh'.
Building toys, such as'Lego' are also are very important. (Girls often need to be encouraged to play with Lego etc, not because they don't want to , but because boys tend to take over this activity and can easily scare the girls off.)
Importance of mirrors in the classroom
Children love to dress-up. Good infant classrooms will make available to the children a variety of fun clothes to dress-up in, such as grown-up dresses, trousers, jackets, waistcoats, hats, handbags etc. Let the children be who they want to be! Of course no good infant classroom would be complete without a mirror attached safely to the wall.
We can make music!
The importance of music
Music should play and important part in a good Infant classroom. Children are affected deeply by appropriate music for their age and will benefit greatly from singing , dancing and playing improvised percussion instruments. This helps children to develop beat and rhythm which is beneficial for their motor skills in general and contributes to their physical well-being.
The Hungry Caterpillar, a much-loved story book in many schools
Other aspects of the school to consider
There are other points of the school spectrum which parents need to consider, such as:
the reading scheme which is being implemented by the school,
the hygienic facilities available,
outdoor and 'bad weather' play areas,
schools meals/snacks provided,
facilities for children with special or specific needs, either physically or educationally,
There are, of course, other minor areas to consider and I hope to cover these in a future article.
A famous quote from an ancient Chinese proverb; "Tell me, I will forget; Show me, I might remember; Involve me, I will learn."
I would welcome comments by other infant teachers on their opinions of this subject.
Also I would like to hear about your experiences as parents regarding the choice of a good infant school for your child.
See other articles
- how to raise bilingual children
The development of bilingual language skills in young infants