At the end of last year I took on the task of creating an inclusive Pre-K classroom that would service three-year-old students with and without an IEP. The program is designed to increase language skills and supports the Early Learning Standards. While we have always serviced three-year-old students with IEPs, we had never had an inclusive classroom. My administration decided that the old Early Intervention room would be too small, and the current faculty lounge would be the best place! Keep reading for an epic makeover!
I knew that I wanted the classroom to be a safe, calm, welcoming, clean, and functional environment. So many details went into the planning of the room from physical boundaries in the room to outlet covers and sink faucet extenders (these kids are tiny after all).
Step 1. Evaluate the current space ***please ignore the piles of materials and boxes! These are pictures from the end of the year and we like to make donating piles and were starting to clean.
Step 2. Pick out a serene kid friendly paint color and call on the troops. I literally could not have completed this room without my mom. She came every single day and pushed me during the overwhelming moments when I just wanted to sit down and not move another box. I feel like as teachers we always read about self-care and asking for help and we secretly do not follow that advice (sometimes). This time I took any offered help and truly relied on others. My husband cut picture schedule boards & built a changing table, our gym teacher put together my cubbies and my best friend hung my decals and bulletin board letters. It truly was a group effort and I cannot thank them enough. Ask for help! It’s ok!
Step 3. Sort through old and new furniture and start organizing!
Step 4. Make a map and start moving in furniture and create functional spaces. This was one of the most overwhelming steps! I was thankful to have so many materials and enough furniture however it took at least eight hours to decided what we needed. I knew I wanted a circle time area, two work with teacher areas and centers: kitchen/dress up, blocks, library, math, writing, science and art. While the room was large, it needed to be functional and have a structured “flow”. Everything is still a work in progress and almost every day I have made changes in order to best fit the needs of my students. There are many shelves that are covered with paper as little hands like to touch everything and I needed physical barriers. I now also have tape on the floors to create more structure.
Circle time area. This is a constant work in progress. Soon I will have some technology for the wall, so everything is very temporary. In the mornings for choose time, my kiddos play with “carpet toys” while others are arriving and eating breakfast. During the actual circle time my students sit on chairs which has helped so much with busy bodies!
Kitchen/Dress up Center. Tip: Keep the amount of toys to an absolute minimum in the beginning! Littles love to take everything out, dump and move on. I also close this area and the block center off with a large rolling blue divider. My kiddos needed to see it physically closed off so they would not play in that area until it was time on our schedule.
Blocks/shelf toy area. I removed the real wooden blocks and again, only kept a minimum amount of toys on the shelves. I had my amazing EA stay in that area to show the kids how to take the toys on and off and clean up while I was in the kitchen area doing the same thing. We would then switch and repeat with the next group of kiddos (I currently have 10)!
Library center. Students may also come here for morning choose time/carpet toys.
Middle centers area: Currently this is not opened as an official center. In the future we will open it as independent work centers and an art, science, math and writing desk area.
Work with teacher area: Currently I only have one WWT area open as we are still slowly adding in transitions and teaching the routine of centers.
My picture schedule board is one of my favorite parts of the room! I have their pictures and names at both the top and bottom of the board (pictures on the bottom were removed for online purposes). We started having them check a simple schedule from day one. It was equivalent to catching bubbles in a wind storm, but they are really getting it down now! They love their schedules and each student has one.
Around the room are larger identical pictures that the students attach to a board. Some of them need physical and verbal prompting but many of them are already able to match with minimal verbal prompting! Pretty amazing for three-year old kiddos!
Work with teacher matching boards. Teacher R stands for me (Russell) and Teacher B is for Beth! I did not use our photos as we are absent at times and I want students to naturally go to the area not necessarily a teacher’s face.
This classroom has been one of most rewarding and challenging learning curves of my career. We are still practicing routines and finding the best flow of our mornings. Not everything is Pinterest worthy and there are so many details that I want to work on. The most important detail is that our room is functional and safe! I will be going more into detail about each part of my room in the coming weeks! Please leave any questions you may have! Happy teaching!