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.