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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 26 Chapter One A Rich, Well-Organized Classroom Environment Mary B.: “I can still follow the child’s lead and be planful.” The classroom environment can provide learning opportunities, create a sense of community, and maintain a positive atmosphere where produc- tive interactions occur among children and adults. Children take the lead in exploring the classroom. Teachers provide the structure for that explo- ration by the way they organize the areas of the classroom and the materi- als in those areas, and by the way they carefully plan for the use of those materials. Teachers plan for activities and experiences that will encourage children to use their skills and capabilities and challenge them to learn new concepts and try something that is just beyond their present level. Planning and organizing the environment are part of teaching. Interacting with the children within the classroom environment helps a teacher evalu- ate how effectively the environment is supporting children’s learning and what changes might need to be made. The room arrangement and presentation of materials communicate important messages to the children. Those messages deeply affect behav- ior. If the classroom is messy and disorganized, children will probably not take good care of the materials. If the shelves are placed along the walls so that huge open spaces dominate the room, children may run and jump, actions much more suitable for outdoors. On the other hand, if materi- als are carefully organized and presented in a clear, appealing fashion, children may treat them with more care and put them away more easily at cleanup time. If shelving and tables are used to create specific learning areas throughout the room and placed in a way that breaks up running paths and creates intimate spaces for using certain materials, children will settle down and become engaged with activities for longer periods of time and with more productive ends. When the environment is functioning as a key part of the curriculum, the room arrangement literally directs children toward the productive use of materials in specific areas. Noise levels are considered so that materials that tend toward greater physical and verbal involvement on the part of the children are placed near each other. Materials that tend toward quieter use are also grouped near each other. Chapter 2 explores ways to use the frameworks to plan for the most ef- fective use of the classroom environment. Chapter 4 discusses ways to set up the environment to encourage and sustain high-level play. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL