Thursday, June 2, 2011

Just Right Environment

A couple of years ago I went to Taipei, Taiwan, to lead some conferences for preschool leaders. It was a great time. But I did learn something important - the country of Taiwan isn't built for someone like me. I'm a little over 6 feet tall and rather large around. My head brushed against banners hanging above the sidewalk. Sitting on a trolley, my knees pressed against the seat in front of me. I hit my head climbing down the spiral stairs from the double decker bus. When I was browsing in a market, a woman told me that she had my size of silk robe, "King Kong size." I loved every minute of my time in Taipei. But the country is built for people smaller and shorter than me.

What does this have to do with my classroom? Everything. The learning environment we create and the activities we provide should be built for the kids we teach.

A just right environment focuses on the kids' needs and interests. This year the group I have loves blocks and building. I try to provide a variety of activities that use this interest to teach.

A just right environment has sounds and sights that appeal to them, not necessarily to me.

A just right environment may be messy and noisy.

A just right environment flexes to allow kids to explore their ideas and try new things.

A just right environment provides opportunities for kids to do things different ways.

A just right environment challenges.

And it provides familiarity and security.

What would you add to describe a just right environment?


  1. Middle school classrooms are often not built for middle school kids. They are big, awkward and need movement. So often, they are in rooms with no movement and rows of straight desks that are too small, too rigid and too hard for them. It's a nightmare. Then we wonder why they act out.

  2. I agree! I try to sit on the floor and kneel down to get the perspective the children get in the classroom. It's amazing how different it can be! Then again...I'm my perspective is closer to theirs than yours is :)

  3. John, I think a lot of schools are built for what works for adults not the kids that use them.

    Pam, I do that, too. It's amazing what I see sitting on the floor that I miss standing in the room.

  4. Great comparison Scott, what a great opportunity you had! I agree with you that teachers can create just the right learning environment, how true.

    I would add that just because a school is designed for little kids (I have worked in 2) doesn't mean what is going on inside the walls is appropriate too. Looks can be very deceiving.

    I lived and taught in Korea and had a similar experience. I could never find shoes in my size so I kept having them repaired :)

  5. Vanessa, you are so right. What adults say and do with the kids is the biggest part of the environment. And that can be so "not just right" even if the surroundings are.