by Randi Eccleston
Through my Montessori journey I have learned that there is one bit of information that sticks out for me. Preparing the environment correctly is key. Without a proper environment there is potential for a non-success. With a properly prepared environment there is a greater chance of success for student and teacher. The student will then have freedom within limits. Each child will be allowed to choose work that satisfies him/her in that moment.
The classroom is a blank slate.
Before the school year starts I prefer to take everything off the walls, empty the shelves and put away the materials. I then think about what has worked and not worked in years past. I do my best to take notes during the year (and pictures) so that I can actually see what is working/not working.
I then decide where each area (practical life, sensorial, language, culture, art, library, snack and so on) will best fit. I need to find the starting point. For me, the starting point is the library. I like the library to be set up in a cozy corner.
I like the language area to be near the library so this is set up next. Practical life, snack set up, and art need to be near a water source so that is where they are placed. Math, science, and culture all fill out the rest of the room, making sure that there are no open areas for running.
Let’s not forget the area for “circle time or meeting time” depending on what you call it. This is typically a large rectangular or eliptical space blocked off by tape.
Once the shelves, tables, and chairs are in place it is time to place the “extras”. The extras are the plants, artwork and so on that make the space more cohesive.
Next up, it’s time to place the work itself. At the beginning of the year there is not a lot of work on the shelves actually. The teacher needs to see what her students are interested in and where they are in their lessons.
Setting up the environment should not be taken lightly and the teacher should be open to adjustments. If something is not working or there is not good flow in the classroom, the teacher should be able to observe this and make appropriate changes. It does not in any way mean that the teacher did something wrong, it just means that something needs to be changed so that the student is set up for success.
Randi Eccleston is AMS certified for 3-6 year olds. She spent 15 years in the classroom. Randi is now a stay at home mom but Montessori will always be in her blood.
See examples of classroom setups in the Montessori Classroom Showcase