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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for 17 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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5 Ideas to Reflect on for the New Year

When you think of an Early Childhood Classroom, what do you see?  Do you see bright colors?  Welcoming faces, smiles, bulletin boards that are decorated with fun themes?  There are so many things that young children need to learn and develop in a successful way.  Early Childhood teachers can do this and help children become productive citizens. 

Here are few things to think about or revisit as you begin the New Year:

  • The Environment: Your environment is your community. This is where children are living and learning and contributing each day. The environment should be welcoming, bright, inviting and engaging. It should be full of materials and activities that children can work on and be highly engaged in.  There should be a sense of community and willingness to be a productive citizen with responsibilities.  
    Ways to do this: Set up your environment with interest centers that allow children to engage with hands-on materials and through themes that are interesting that you are incorporating through your day.  Have areas where you can set up a carpet time, small group, large group (tables, chairs), and one-on-one time. Make a place for each child to retreat to, that is theirs such as a table with a space that has their name on it.  Have a mailbox (cubby area) that children can put their belongings and places they can go if they want to work alone.  Allow children to help set expectations for your community.   Lastly, each child in your community should have specific job that they are assigned to each day.  It can be the same job every day or it can change (feeding animals, vacuuming the carpet, dusting shelves, cleaning areas, watering plants etc). This allows all children to contribute to the environment where they are learning.

  • Learning Should Focus on Children’s’ Interests and Background: This is one of the first things you will do when you meet the children and families in your classroom.  You will set up your environment, pick your curriculum themes/topics and what and how you will teach by learning about your students and where they come from.

  • Ways to do this: Student interest inventories/interviews, family inventories and interviews and really honing in on each child and getting to know them. Talk to them about their day, what they do when they get home, what activities they are involved in and ask them about their pets and where they vacation (Get to know me bag, family take home bags, Parent Parties).  There are many ways to engage with children and families so that your teaching strategies and practice reflect on what your children are bringing with them to school.

  • Differentiation: As you get to know your students and you set up your classroom environment you will be able to differentiate for all learning styles. 
    Ways to do this: In the classroom centers, make sure all developmental levels are covered. When you choose a topic or theme make sure all children have some sort of background knowledge of what the topic is. Materials, resources and anything that children will be using or engaging with, should allow them to work without frustration, but should push them to learn more. Areas should be set up so children can work independently, with a partner or even in a small group.  Children should have choices of different things to work with and learn about.

  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Your environment, the learning/curriculum and how and what you are teaching should all reflect on developmentally appropriate practices for all children.

  • Ways to do this: The NAEYC positon statement should be printed off and a resource that you use on a weekly if not daily basis. It provides you with exactly what each child should be doing, how you should handle situations that you encounter, and how to ensure that all students no matter their ability, their developmental stage and or where they come from are successful.

  • Assessment Ideas: Assessment is something that we do everyday without even knowing or thinking about it. To reach and teach each child through differentiation you must assess and know where each child is developmentally.  You must also decide how you will build on the knowledge they already have, and scaffold the learning process.

  • Ways to do this: Authentic assessment allows each child to show  and tell you what they know. You can assess children authentically through monitoring and observing them in play and conversations with peers. It is a great way for the teacher to capture a child’s learning in their typical daily schedule. Other ways to assess in a developmentally appropriate way include: checklists, interviews, portfolios, observations and anecdotal notes.

As you begin 2018, these five things are what I challenge you to reflect on.  As ECE professionals we are catalyst for change, and change in your classroom is a positive thing.  Take one of these and make it a priority and see what you can do to better your environment.



NAEYC Position Statement. (2009). Retrieved from


Shipley, T. (2015). Parent Parties. Retrieved from



Tisha Shipley is an associate  professor and the Chair of the BA ECE Admin program at an online university. She received a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction from Northcentral University and a master's degree in Elementary Education/Administration and a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K children and gifted 3rd–6th graders, and served as a cheer sponsor and a principal. Shipley presents at early childhood conferences and helps teachers in their classroom. She has also started a teacher website to help teachers, parents, aspiring teacher candidates, and administrators at

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