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Chapter 5     Creating a Good Environment
                      for Young Learners
 
 

What constitutes a good learning environment?

Learning begins at home but that is generally beyond the control of a teacher.  He or she may, of course, be an influencing factor in parent-teacher discussions.  However, since this book focuses on teaching young learners, we shall consider only the arena in which the teacher operates Ethe school and the classroom.

Children should look forward to going to school.  It should be a happy, fun place where children can make friends and interact with caring teachers Enot a prison in which children are locked in classrooms all day and punished when they do something wrong.

The classroom should be a constantly changing environment. The creative teacher can make this happen simply by varying what is on the walls.  We know of teachers who use every inch of their classroom space Eeven the ceiling Eto put interesting things for the children to look at, ponder, laugh at, discover and marvel.  Are they distractions? If used properly and brought into the daily lessons, they are useful teaching aids.

Why not put a big, happy face on your classroom door? Let the children know that they are there to have fun while they learn.  Consider what you will be teaching in the next week.  Look around your classroom.  How can you dress up the walls, etc. to reflect the lessons?  Initially, this may take some time but remember that you can reuse anything you create in future classes.  Just be careful when you take down the pictures, letters and other colourful material you create.

Pictures can be blown up on photocopiers (or done free hand if you happen to have that talent).  A local art supply store or stationer will have poster paper or board, markers and colours.  Does your school have art classes? How about asking some of the older students to make posters for your classroom?
 

Creating a Learning Environment for Young Children

Effective preschool classrooms are places where children feel well cared for and safe. They are places where children are valued as individuals and where their needs for attention, approval, and affection are supported. They are also places where children can be helped to acquire a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills needed for school success.

 - Young children need teachers who welcome all children to their classrooms, including children from various cultures, whose first language is not English and children who have disabilities.

 - Young children need teachers who take time to work with them individually, in small groups, and sometimes with the entire class–to help them develop their cognitive and social skills, their language abilities, and their interest in learning new things about the world.

 - Young children need instruction to develop the thinking, language, and early literacy skills needed for continued school success.

Effective preschool teachers and child care providers:

 - Know when children can figure out new ideas and concepts on their own and when it is important to explain things to them step-by-step.

 - Encourage children to participate in classroom activities and to honor the classroom rules.

 - Listen to what the children say and expand upon their language, building their vocabulary and background knowledge.

 - Know when to teach directly, when to provide time for exploration and discovery, when to practice skills, and when to encourage creativity.

 - Plan activities that have a purpose and that challenge children.

 - Know how to help children learn to work together and to resolve their conflicts.

 - Encourage children to respect each other's time and personal belongings.

 - Provide many opportunities for conversations between and among children and with adults.

 - Know how to establish and maintain order in a classroom but in a manner that permits the children to learn how to participate in and enjoy learning.

 - Arrange the classroom in a way that enhances their work with children and how the children spend their time.
 

Making your Classroom Young-Learner Friendly

Start with the layout to create a friendly, learning environment:

 - Set up a number of small, quiet areas where children can go to examine books, write and draw, engage in social play, and work with puzzles and other games.

 - Uses cupboards, screens, and tables to divide your classroom into children's work areas. This helps to better define the activities that will take place in different parts of the room.  Design colourful names that you can post on big colourful signs: Library Corner, Games and Puzzles Table, Writing Table, Building Table, Art Studio, Pretend Room, and Science Space.

 - Have one area where all of the children can comfortably sit together. There will be times when you will do activities with the whole class, such as reading astory or singing.

 - A good idea is dress-up or 'pretend' clothes and other props in the Pretend Room.  The children will have fun and add life to stories and plays with costumes . Keep writing materialsE pencils, crayons, and paper–next to the Writing Table as well as in the Art Studio and Building Table.  Children can anclude writing in their artwork as well as their dramatic play.

 - Displays printed materials that the children will be meaningful. The children should be able to see labels, signs, and printed directions in the places that count.

 - Place alphabet displays low on a wall so that these will be at the children’s eye level as they sit at writing tables.

 - Display the children's work throughout the room.

 - Have labels on toys, games, and puzzles so children can see these as they enter the classroom. Children can help by giving names to the toys, for example. You can adjust the names so that as the children learn more about words and sounds, the names and labels that appear in the classroom get longer and more detailed.

 - Getting children to read can sometimes be difficult so if you can make the reading area comfortable and inviting, it will encourage children to use it. Think about a carpeted area (bring in a rug) and adding big cushions for the children to lounge about on. Make your Library Corner a cozy, inviting place. The children will quickly learn that they can go there with several friends to look at and talk about books and magazines.

 - Be sure that your bookcases contain a variety of booksEtraditional storybooks, modern storybooks, alphabet books, number books, wordless pictures books, and books about animals, plants, and the peoples who live in different parts of the world. Keep  magazines for young children at a level where they can easily reach them.

 - If you have a public library nearby you can add to your stock by borrowing books on topics you are teaching and changing these on a regular basis. You jus have to remind the children dialy that these books are 'on loan' so they have to take really good care of them.

 - Set up a special place where you can display work that the children have done. Parents, teachers and others will be interested in seeing this. It will help to develop in the children a sense of pride in what they have accomplished.

 - If you have a Listening Area, set up space for cassette players, headphones, and tapes for the children to use to listen to stories.

- Set up an area for your classroom computers (if you are lucky enough to have these). You can find a wealth of computer-based games and learning activities.  See the lesson on Computers in the Classroom.
 
 

Assignment 1
Chapter 6
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