As September draws closer, I’ve been helping husband Tom set up his classroom ready for the new school year. We’ve spent the summer sharing ideas, gathering resources and planning layouts. For a young Year 1 class we want to provide an enriching, flexible space with intriguing resources. We want to build on the free-flow exploratory learning that children experience in Reception and support transition to the more structured expectations of a Year 1 classroom. As a Speech and Language Therapist I’m interested in spaces that encourage communication, feel inviting and provide something worth talking about. Inspired by Michael Jones and Elizabeth Jarmin, we’ve been sticking to a few principles in our planning.
Less is more
By being choosy about what resources we provide and how we display these, we encourage children to value each resource and be flexible in how they use them. Wherever possible we chose resources made from natural materials and laid them out in baskets to be visible, uncluttered and easy for the children to tidy away. It is a real challenge to pare back the wealth of resources that accumulate in a classroom, but a few well-displayed items are always more inviting than a confused jumble.
Go with the flow
We considered how the children will interact with and move around the classroom. We want to encourage them to linger in certain spaces, rather than move quickly from one area to the next. Furniture is pulled out from the walls to create cul de sacs rather than runways. Similarly, removing chairs or providing low tables can give children a different way to develop their core stability and support writing development.
Use all the senses
In an effort to create fun and engaging environments it’s easy for us to overwhelm the senses. We moved away from the bright primary colours that compete for a child’s attention by using natural fabrics and neutral colours. Materials such as wood and hessian also provide interesting textures to explore and describe. We added cushions and low-hanging fabric in the home corner to improve the acoustics for quiet speaking and listening time. We also brought in basil and rosemary for the play kitchen to provide some interesting smells. We want to provide some sensory experiences that offered opportunities to learn new words and generally spark discussion.
We have one more week of the holidays before the children return to school, so it’s all hands on deck to prepare for the term ahead. Once the children arrive, they’ll be able to add their own contributions to the space with items from home and their own work. I’ve no doubt there will be plenty to talk about.