Making the layout of the Y1 learning environment as familiar to children as possible as they move from Reception classes into Key Stage One is sure to prove a worthwhile investment! Why? Because these five year olds (remember only a few will have turned six at the start of the Autumn term) will settle quicker and feel confident when they know at least some of the ‘ropes’ in what otherwise, may seem to them a very strange environment.
There is no need to fill a Y1 classroom with endless chairs and tables because children of this age still need to be able to move around, collect resources and use a big space for some activities – and, of course, teaching groups should be relatively small too. This is because most schools differentiate teaching sessions so that children can work at their own pace and because they know that children learn better from sustained interaction in smaller groups. The learning environment can be the ‘third teacher’: providing lots of interesting and interactive opportunities for children to enjoy. Taking a visit to a garden centre during the next few months then making their own role play area with the children could provide a perfect opportunity to explore growth during Spring, not forgetting, of course, the importance of garden-making whether in cut-off milk cartons, pots, grow-bags or beds because the learning environment should extend to outdoors where children can investigate practical subjects such as science, maths and art & design. Even a small space will do – most schools are fully aware of the benefits of outdoor learning – though not all plan it in as much detail as the indoor area. If we want young children to show concern for the environment and things such as plants and animals we need to give them opportunities to be responsible for their care and to have real opportunities to plan, hypothesise, investigate and make predictions!