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(2011) states that “I just finished teaching a graduate course in which the
students each visited six different early childhood classrooms. When they gave
reports to the class about what was interesting and what they learned from each
of the classrooms, the physical environment was the most frequently mentioned –
in both positive and negative ways. The physical environment is quite a
challenge because there is only so much that a teacher can change, yet it has
an enormous effect on children’s behavior. In my own observations of
classrooms, I’ve noticed that one of the big problems is the group meeting
area. Here are some of my suggestions for preventing behavior problems during
group time, and helping children stay engaged: First, there must be Enough Space. Don’t let a small rug determine the
size of your meeting space! I’ve seen third graders sitting so close they
couldn’t help touching each other. I’ve seen wriggling preschoolers continually
bump into each other because the rug was too small. Determine how big a circle
you need so that all your children can sit without touching each other and
still see you. Then get a rug, or carpet squares, or two rugs, or be creative
in delineating the space you need. I strongly prefer children sitting around
the edge of the space rather than in rows.

Then, have a personal space.
Make sure each child can determine where their personal space is. Either use
carpet squares, use patterns embedded in the carpet, make lines with tape, or
systematically teach children how to sit so they have personal space. This
would need to be done repeatedly with frequent modeling and reinforcement.

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Third, provide teaching materials. Have
a place to store or put your own materials that you’ll need for activities:
white board, audio player, books, charts, etc. Make it clear what is your space
and remind children of your own personal boundaries.

Finally, have consistent procedures. If
you let a couple of children sit on chairs one day, then the next day other
children will want to! There may be good reasons to allow a child to sit on a
chair rather than the rug, but think this through ahead of time, explain it to
the children, and be consistent. You may want to have all children sitting on
the rug, no matter what. Again, the important issue is preventing your group
time from being derailed by children moving around, asking for chairs, getting
up, etc.”

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