Setting The Stage for Success.

Demographics

Classroom H at the Lumber City Head Start is like many classrooms dedicated to serving low-income families who live at or below the poverty line. There are two degreed teachers in the classroom with a total of eighteen students.  Of these eighteen students, nine are refugees from Myanmar who speak no English. Additionally, one child has down-syndrome and another, who is being evaluated for mental disorders, is extremely active and fidgety. The students in class H are well-behaved and independent when solving conflicts and being responsible for himself and his environment.

Class Environment

In any physical environment, the ease of flow, ambience, and arrangement can help to set the mood and tone that is desired.  This is particularly true in early childhood classrooms for preschoolers.  Although being attractive is a very important component, a classroom’s design must be efficient and effective to help facilitate learning.  When the physical classroom environment is effectively created and maintained, the classroom begins to act as the “third teacher”.   Because children’s experiences are limited by their surroundings, the environment we provide for them has a crucial impact on the way the child’s brain develops (Bullard, 2010). The environment communicates to children ‘what’s ok in this place’, ‘what’s valued here’, and ‘how the child may behave, interact, and be involved’.  This helps to eliminate the need for constant teacher redirection and children are free to learn when exploring his environment.

Physical Environment

The physical environment should help spark the student’s curiosity and draw them into each learning area.  A clear guided pathway using tables, shelving, furniture, etc., helps to lead a student directly towards an intended area. The arrangement of furniture must create a smooth flow of traffic.  There should be no large open spaces in an effort to minimize running and accidents which is very beneficial for my highly active student.  Additionally, having the classroom arranged in a way in which activities in one area rarely disturb another area helps the students concentrate better and spend more time in a given area.

In order to define each area, three barricades should encompass each area to help keep children focused on their activity and inside the learning area.  I rely heavily on this set-up for my student with down-syndrome because she tends to wonder about the classroom.  Having semi-enclosed areas allows her more time to explore before she happens to wander out.  Furniture would be arranged so quiet areas are away from noisy areas.   By having these areas separated, my non-English speaking students have opportunities to hear words and sounds through quieter talk and play.  Materials in the area should be easily accessible and available to the child.  Simple implementations like these help to encourage independence and self-esteem by providing the child the opportunity to manipulate and master his environment.

 Physical Layout

Click the link below to view physical layout.

Rules and Routines

Once a safe and inviting physical environment is established, teachers have to commit to keeping it running smoothly.  Students who are in a routine knows what to expect next and are able to transition better.  Classroom H will not have a set of pre-determined rules until the students and I discuss the importance of each rule and agree on a set of rules that is relevant to us.   As a teacher, I encourage the students to think of what would make them feel safe and happy when implementing each rule. Allowing the children to create boundaries and make decisions helps to instill a sense of responsibility for one’s self.

Pictured manipulative charts with a consistent daily schedule is a very useful tool.  Students are able to see what activity is to be done at any time and what is expected next.  Once a session is completed, a child can flip the corresponding picture over to signify that the session is over and another one is about to begin.  When creating the schedule, it is vital to rotate between active and inactive learning.  This gives students balance by allowing them to move around during one session and be idle in the next.  Students who tend to loose concentration or fidget benefits best from this.

Emotionally Safe Environment

Although having a safe physical environment is the first concern of the learning environment, the ability of the teacher to provide a safe emotional environment is extremely important.  A sense of safety comes from consistent, attentive, nurturing, and sensitive attention to each child’s needs and is created by predictability, and predictability is created by consistent behaviors (Perry, 2016). The above-mentioned use of schedules and creation of rules will help to assist in creating this sense of safety while providing opportunities for solitude when students become overwhelmed.  Students will soon develop a trust for teachers and school, therefore, creating the platform for educational and emotional experiences from which children will view the rest of their life.

Valuing Differences

Another important factor is building a community in which everyone is represented.   I would place pictures, words, and various items in my class that represent my students. All labels would be in English and Burmese. By attempting to connect with my students, it helped to create trust and understanding.  All students will be valued and respected.  Children will provide input weekly on what is learned through large and small group discussions.  Idea boards will allow students to make suggestions in which I implement in the classroom and reference the student for the input.  This helps to build self-esteem and allow children to become responsible and independent learners.  Students free-play finished products are encouraged to be different to express his interest.  An assignment and materials will be provided to the student in which he will choose the color, median, placement, etc., to finish the product.

Conflict Resolution

Students will learn to communicate needs in a respectful way and listen with respect to the ideas of others.  The implementation of allowing students to voice their ideas and preferences throughout the day will help children understand that others have different needs and wants.  Rightfully so, conflicts are inevitable as students learn. It can be an uncomfortable process for young children, causing one, both, or all children involved uneasiness, fear, or a range of other strong emotion.  It is the responsibility of the teacher to teach the students peaceful conflict resolution by acknowledging each student’s feelings and providing them with time and options to negotiate a peaceful resolution.  Through teaching and expecting positive conflict resolutions, children are given opportunities to feel competent in handling situations and relationships. It fosters feelings of respect for the self and other people, as well as respect for new ideas.

Additional Reading

Bullard, J. (2010). Why is the environment important for children’s learning? Retrieved from http://www.education.com: http://www.education.com/reference/article/environment-important-children-learning/

Perry, B.D. (2016). Creating an emotionally safe classroom. Retrieved may 21, 2016, from Scholastic: http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/safety_wonder.htm

 

 

 

WELCOME TO CLASS H – A DIFFERENTIATED CLASSROOM!!!

Differentiation is the process in which I anticipate and respond to the individual needs the each student in my classroom. Being that each of my student interest, personality, background, and capabilities will vary, it is vital that I use different content/materials and methods to ensure that the learning process for each child is meaningful, relatable, and understandable.  I believe that the process of learning greatly affects how information is ultimately learned and applied to other contexts.   Because of this, it is my goal to try and understand my students’ perspective, prospective, and capabilities to meet each one on their individual level with an array of tools, content, and finished products.

Above all things, I must ensure that our classroom is safe, secure, and positive.  There will be daily checklist inspection form that I will complete prior and after class to make sure that the classroom is free of any harmful materials or ingredients. In regards to illnesses, everyone will be given a copy of the state’s communicable disease newsletter in which everyone in the school must follow.   We will practice safety techniques both inside and outside of the classroom.  In my purpose to create a thriving and safe community, your child will have the opportunity to assist in developing the rules and expectations in our classroom.

We will do a lot of activities that requires the children to depend on each other in order to complete a task.  By doing so, I hope to instill a sense of responsibility in each child.  Helpers will be assigned daily to different task to help our classroom run smoothly.  Your child will learn that people are depending on him/her to set the table, prepare activities, lead the line, etc.  A child’s self-esteem is greatly impacted when he/she does a great job. Your child will soon learn that he/she can depend on others in our classroom/community for help. Additionally, your child will be able to make decisions on what he/she learns.  If your child wants to learn more on trains, I am likely to use train cars to teach patterns, colors, engineering, shapes, and etc. This will keep your child stay interested and awareness that what he/she thinks and feels is valuable.

I understand that school can be an unsure place for some children.  Here, we will discuss many different situations that may and will happen in school, or elsewhere, and how we can successfully handle each situation.  Expect your child to come home and talk about the role-play and theater we did at school.  Real- world applications through role-play can help a child make sense of the world around him.  We will name and discuss a wide array of emotions and why we feel the way we do. Your child will learn to verbalize his/her feelings and encourage with is liked and discourage what is not.

I will purposely make mistakes and model ways in which to try and rectify them, if possible.  Children will be encouraged and given opportunities to make mistakes through play and the process of learning. The majority of my teaching will be on the next level than what your child is currently on which is referred to as teaching up.  I will provide students with clear learning goals, guidelines, and assistance, if needed, to support them. Teaching up allows your child the opportunity to further learning by keeping content challenging and allowing for mistakes and failures.  These failures will give us the opportunity to learn how to re-evaluate task, make changes, and approach it differently.  Some task and goals will be planned from your child’s assessment.

Within the next 30 days, your child will be administered the Brigance assessment.  Later, Ages & Stages and the Creative Curriculum Continuum assessments will be administered by me.  These assessments allow me to create class lesson plans as well as individualized lesson plans specific to your child to help me serve him/her better.  I will discuss each assessment with you and ask for your input to in creating goals for your child.  Once these goals are met, we will sign-off on the goal and replace it with a new one.  I expect for your child do to his/her best rather it’s painting, puzzling, writing, or caring for a baby doll.  I encourage uniqueness.  Materials will be given to complete projects; however, everyone project will be different.  These works will be displayed all around the classroom to promote differences as well as pictures and items from different cultural, backgrounds, jobs, language, etc.

I look forward to our year together.  I’ve provided my contact information so I can be reached at any time.  I encouraged suggestions, comments, and questions.  Feel free to contact me via email, phone, or in-person.

 

 

Additional Reading:

[JCPSEmployee].  (2012, September 13).  Seven Principals for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning.  [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?=IptefRjN4DY.

Puckett, K (2013). Differentiating Instruction: A Practical Guide. Bridgepoint Education: San Diego, CA.

Tomlinson, C. A., & Javius, E.L.(2012, February). Teach up for excellence. For each to excel, 69(5), 28-33. http://www.stcloudstate.edu/tpi/teachersupport/documents/differentiatinginstruction-earlychildhood.pdf