I am so excited that some of our students will be returning to in person instruction.  My disclaimer about this post is that this is what we THINK will work.  As you know, especially with super tiny humans and an ongoing pandemic, the plan and structure must always be flexible.  There may be way too many toys out to control and clean, the timing of checking schedules close together might have to be tweaked, desks are not ideal (our tables are not currently allowed), and many other unanticipated variables exist.  We are ready to go with the flow, wash hands, anticipate extra time for transitions, toileting, and daily routines.  One thing that is a non-negotiable in my mind is structure.  The less structure, the more running around and chaotic an early childhood classroom will be! 

Entering and Exiting the Room

When setting up your room, think about the natural steps that take place.  Children come in, and they immediately need to know where to go and what to do. Having schedule boards in close proximity to entering and exit is ideal (unless you have a child who elopes).  I also love the exit boards for specials.  While some children may need to physically take a transition object to their next destination, I love how this teacher is using my favorite exit boards…no more running around the school to collect all your pictures!  In the beginning of this year, our students are not going to be transitioning out of the classroom like they used to.  Most of the activities will have to take place at or near their desks.  The children will check their schedule and take the picture back to their desk and place it on their mini picture board.  This will get them in the habit of still checking their schedule, learning how to match and knowing what activity is next!

Circle and Teacher Time

I know I know; this isn’t the ideal circle time for littles however, again, this is just the initial set up! We are trying to be cognizant of COVID regulations while keeping it as developmentally appropriate as possible.  I love how this teacher marked the floor with bright tape so that both adults and children know where desks belong.  Time at desks will be incredibly short but will help with physical distancing.  This teacher is also using screen dividers to physically close off centers when it’s not yet time. No more constantly telling children that it’s not time for centers! 

Centers Time Set Up

I love center time in Early Childhood classrooms!  Center time during COVID has proven to be quite tricky, especially with larger class sizes.  The plan is to only allow one child in a center at a time.  While that is not ideal for social emotional and play skill learning, Casey plans on enriching that circle and work with teacher time to help build community.  The kids have also been “meeting” each other during virtual learning. The good news is, COVID or not, I always suggest beginning with a very small amount of materials out until children learn to play and pick up toys appropriately.  This always makes me laugh thinking about my first naïve year of teaching in Early Childhood. I had this dream of my kids calmy listening to my directions about center time and playing so sweetly.  In reality, I did not have enough structure and WAY TOO MANY toys which resulted in dumping, running, and what felt like chaos to me.  It didn’t take me long to reset, take away 90% of what I had out, and to physically close of centers until it was time to play! I also love how she has ready to go observation data clipboards in her centers for easy Early Learning Assessment collection.  Check out Casey’s center set up!

Above: Writing/Art Center and kitchen center

Above: Blocks center and reading/puzzles

 

Above: Math and Science/Social Studies center

I just love how everything is so clearly labeled and easily closed off to keep students physically distanced and lend to easy cleaning when students leave.  This teacher will have an AM and PM class so they will enough copies of pictures to easily flip schedules and time to freshen up desks and toys in between kids.  Supplies are readily available to eliminate running around and prevent maladaptive behaviors.  This year will certainly be one for the books but having a structured set up will make you feel more at ease! Happy Setting Up!

Gina Russell, B.S , M.Ed
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