Tag Archives: classroom environment

establishing a supportive classroom environment from the first day of school in early childhood classrooms

readilearn: Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one – Readilearn

Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one builds a strong foundation of positive relationships and attitudes to school and learning. It is important to begin the year as you wish it to continue, and a welcoming classroom helps children and families feel valued. Having an organised classroom is just a part of it.

Many existing readilearn resources support the establishment of a supportive classroom environment.

The free resource Getting ready for the first day with Busy Bee resources lists some of the available resources and suggestions for using them; including:

busy Bees welcome to first day of school package

These resources are available to download individually, or as a collection in the zip folder Busy Bee – Welcome resources for Day one.

In many of the schools in which I have worked, children are expected to bring their own set of supplies – books, pencils, scissors, glue, paint shirts, even tissues. I recognise that not all schools have this requirement, so ignore any suggestions that are not relevant to your situation.

Whether children are required to bring their own supplies or not, it is useful to have spares

Source: readilearn: Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one – Readilearn

Welcome to my world

When children enter school for the first time it takes a while for them to adjust to the unfamiliar culture and environment which pertains only to school. They need to settle in, get used to the new routines, and understand what is and is not allowed.  A supportive classroom environment with established procedures for welcoming new students makes for a smoother transition.

Children also need to be familiarised with the physical surroundings so that they are able to confidently navigate their way to, from and between their classroom and places like the amenities block, the office, the canteen, the library, and the playground.

Students moving from one school, or even one class within the same school, to another, also require a period of adjustment. While some understandings of the culture from the previous situation may be transferrable, there will be some aspects which are unfamiliar. No two classes or schools are identical or have the same set of rules and expectations.

school rules

I saw the difficulty experienced by each of my children when the newcomer in an established group. While both were confident and resilient children, verbally able to express themselves, both struggled initially to find their place within already established friendship groups that were comfortable and confident in their familiar surroundings.

My son changed schools at the beginning of his second year at school and was the only addition to an existing class. A more sensitive teacher with established procedures for welcoming new students may have eased his transition. Although, due to delivery delays, he was wearing his previous school’s uniform, his teacher failed to realise that he was new to the school and class and did nothing to help him integrate into the group or to familiarise him with school procedures and facilities.

ist day of school

Bec’s first day of school © Norah Colvin

The situation for my daughter was a little different. Her first experience of school was at age nine when she entered year four. Although I had explained what she might expect, everything about the culture and the environment was unfamiliar. While her teacher was a little more sensitive and did what she could to help her settle in, there was much about the established culture and environment that others took for granted.

When we are familiar with and comfortable in a situation it can be easy to forgot how unfamiliar and daunting it can be to someone new to an environment in which nothing can be taken for granted, nothing is known for sure.

I always established a welcoming classroom but the experiences of my own children confirmed its importance. If they, as members of the majority culture, found it difficult, how much more difficult would it be for those from minority groups.  I suggest that every teacher should have in place procedures for welcoming new students.

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Here are just a few suggestions:

Welcoming a new class of students at the beginning of the year:

  • Provide many opportunities for students to get to know each other through group activities, discussion circles and paired work with many different combinations of children
  • Explain expectations and rules. It is no fun being chastised for a misdemeanour that resulted from lack of knowledge as opposed to poor choice
  • Take students on a walk around the school showing them places they will need to visit (as well as any places they are not allowed); for example:
    • Toilets
    • The office
    • The library
    • The playground
    • The canteen
    • Where to eat lunch, and to dispose of their rubbish
    • Where to line up
    • Where to place bags and other belongings

school directions

Procedures for welcoming new students throughout the year may differ slightly. It is not always practical to repeat the same procedures that were used when familiarising an entire class.

However, students still need to have the expectations explained to them, as some may differ from what has already been experienced, for example: are they required to put up their hands for individual release when the play bell rings or are they dismissed for play en masse; do they keep their water bottles on their desks or are they stored somewhere else; do they line up with a row of boys and a row of girls or are the rows mixed?

I always found it a useful practice to include newcomers when messages were sent to the office, the canteen or the library, for example. This would help children get to know and be known by other school personnel, as well as get to know their way around the school.

Until their own friendship groups were established I ensured there was a friend to “look after” them at break time, showing them where to sit, where to play, where to line up and, especially, to play with them. There were always plenty of willing friends.

I have been thinking about the importance of showing students around the classroom and school this week in response to the flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch. Anne Goodwin, author of Sugar and Snails, took over the reins from Charli Mills this week, prompting writers to compose a 99-word flash on the theme of showing someone around a property As usual the prompt allows for a variety of interpretations and Anne suggests that we not let out imaginations be confined by four walls.

I never like to think of imaginations being confined and in recent posts I have talked about the importance of imaginative play, even introducing many to a new term: loose parts play.

I decided to play with loose parts this week, and include a welcoming environment. It occurs in a home, rather than a school. I hope you enjoy it.

New world

Thinking it much too quiet, Sally excused herself from the conversation.

She peeked through the door. A sheet was draped from the top bunk to the curtain rail. The drawers were stacked staircase-like, their contents piled high in the corner. Emily, adorned in crown and cape, watched Jessica, in cowboy boots, fossick in the overturned toy box. Max sat nearby reading to assorted stuffed animals. All three sensed Sally’s presence simultaneously.

“Mum! Look what we made!” beamed Jessica. Sally suppressed her initial reaction: mess.

“Come in. We’ll show you! This is our cave. This is our mountain …”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

A positive start – back to school

school cropped

At this time of the year children, parents and teachers in Australia are thinking about the return to school which is approaching with haste. For some those thoughts are of excitement and expectation. For others they are of anxiety and dread.

While children have enjoyed the break from imposed structure and the pressure of school days and homework, many look forward to seeing their friends again and the routine of having something to do after long, lazy summer days. Others may feel anxious about being in a new class with a new teacher and new yet-to-be-made friends. For those starting at a new school, or school for the first time, there may be a confusion of feelings and vacillation between excitement and fear.

Parents, too, have mixed feelings about their children starting or returning to school. They may look forward to a return to routine and a relief from the pressure of providing full-time entertainment or alternative care arrangements. They may also experience feelings of loss when they hand their children over to the care of a stranger for most of the day. However, I think what parents most want for their children when they return to school, or indeed at any time, is for them to be happy.
Teachers experience a similar range and vacillation of feelings from excitement and expectation through to anxiety and dread. Even now many of those teachers are out fossicking through the cheap shops, scouring stationery and educational supply stores, looking for items for use in their classrooms. Others will be at home trawling the internet looking for resources, or making their own resources in preparation for the new school year.
One thing that is important to all is to begin the year positively and happily.


Strategies for parents

Some strategies parents can use to ensure their children begin the school year happily include:

  • Talk to children in positive and supportive ways that will strengthen their optimism about returning to school, allay any fears and settle anxieties.
  • Ensure children are aware of how they will travel to and from school, and of any arrangements that have been made for before or after school care.
  • Familiarize children with the route to and from school by travelling it as they will be expected to, whether by foot, cycle, bus or car. If necessary, point out landmarks along the way.
  • Make sure children know their first and last names, address and parents’ phone number/s.
  • Have children’s equipment ready with books covered and every item identified with the child’s name.
  • If possible, take the child to school on the first day and meet the teacher.


The positive feelings can be continued throughout the year by:

  • Daily conversations about the school day: learning, events and friends.
  • Volunteering in the class or school, or being involved with after school activities.
  • Maintaining open and positive communication with the class teacher.

Strategies for teachers

Some strategies teachers can utilize to ensure that children (and parents) begin the school year happily include:

  • Create a welcoming classroom with signs, posters, items of interest and inviting reading corners and activity nooks.
  • Greet children and parents with a friendly smile.
  • Engage children in activities that help you get to know them, and them to get to know each other.
  • Display children’s work to give them a sense of ownership and belonging.
  • Explain management and behaviour expectations and include children in composing a classroom management and behaviour plan.
  • Ensure children know the school timetable; when the breaks will occur and any lessons to be taken by specialist or other teachers.
  • Explain playground behaviour expectations, including showing areas where they may / may not play.
  • Take them on a walk around the school to show them the library, office, bathrooms and any other areas they may need to know.
  • Include singing during the day and send them home with a song and a reminder of what has been learned or engaged with during the day. (In a previous post Happy being me I wrote about Anne Infante’s songs of affirmation. Any of these are great ones to sing and help to create a positive environment.)

What other suggestions can you make?
What helped you as a child, parent or teacher prepare for the new school year?
Teachers, check out my new products on TEACHERSpayTEACHERS to help you set up your classroom and greet your new students with a Busy Bee theme. There are many resources to get you started, ready to download and print out.

bee 1

Bee courtesy of Bernadette Drent, used with permission.

Other clipart courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org.