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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 23 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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Early Childhood High Quality Learning Environment Ideas

There are many types of early childhood environments. Think about the environments you have been in or built. As we plan for 2018, what can you do to make your environment better? All children deserve to learn and engage in a clean, safe, and enjoyable area where they feel valued, engaged, appreciated, and successful.

As a teacher, I tried to change my classroom at the beginning of each year and sometimes during the year. When I would re-evaluate and reflect on what I had been doing previously, I noted what I wanted to change and what I wanted to keep the same. I would think about the experiences from before and think about what happened and what I wanted to happen differently. I would contemplate why and what I could do differently so that my students were more engaged. Many times, I would remember the positive things and what I wanted to keep the same because it was working! But as we know, each year, our classes are different; the children bring new experiences and backgrounds that make us want to change. I also wanted the latest and greatest ideas, and I wanted to expose my students to as much as I could in the short time I would have them.

Here are the things I considered:

  1. Environment: How would I set my classroom up? Where would I set up group work? Where were centers going to be placed and why? Was it safe? Could I see everyone? Are all children engaged? Where can I have small groups and one-on-one time?
  2. Building a classroom community of learners. How would I do this? If you are not doing this already, how can you do this?
  3. Materials: What materials would I share with my students? What did I want them to have to engage with (crayons, whiteboards, scissors, paper etc) ? What are some new materials you can bring in now?
  4. How would I build relationships? I found Parent Parties a valuable part of my classroom community. Collaborative and reciprocal relationships are vital.
  5. Curriculum: Learning through thematic units and integrated approaches that also cover all areas of cognitive, emotional, language, physical, and social growth and learning.
  6. Developmentally appropriate approaches, ideas, and curriculum. Are you doing this in all of your teaching strategies and practices?
  7. Engaging centers that show differentiated learning and engagement.
  8. High expectations for all children. What does this mean exactly? What can you do next?
  9. Health, safe, and nutritional practices that allow all children to grow, develop, and learn in a developmentally appropriate learning environment.
  10. Qualified teachers that understand the growth and development of young children. I wanted my teacher's aide to also have some background on how to help children learn and grow. Going to professional development is a great way to learn new ideas. You can now do these easily online and face-to-face.
  11. Assessment that is authentic and allows children the opportunity to show me what they have learned. I would then reflect on what I needed to reteach or spend more time on. Authentic assessments that children can show their knowledge and growth and families can easily understand the outcomes are important.
  12. Documentation that shows families and children how they have grown during the year is important. There are so many things you will be able to add to this documentation, for example: art, pictures of the children engaged in their own learning, and things you and the child choose to put in their folder.
  13. Small groups: a time when the teacher arranges specific learning objectives to differentiate for each student. This is also a time when teachers can teach new concepts, reteach curriculum and assess. It is a great time to conference one on one and to get to know each one individually.

High-quality learning environments are important. They are more than what the classroom looks like and the fun things the teacher has planned. Teaching must be intentional. Learning must be engaging. Assessment should be authentic. Each aspect of the classroom should follow suit and engage children in all areas of their development and learning styles. It takes time and practice to make sure your classroom runs well. What will you do differently in 2018?


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 classrooms. She has also started a teacher website to help teachers, parents, aspiring teacher candidates, and administrators at

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