The Third Teacher

preschool classroom teachers and kids

Have you ever thought of your Mission Friends classroom as your third teacher? A few weeks ago I visited the Early Learning Demonstration Classroom at Childcare Resources, a local agency that provides training for child-care teachers and directors. They have recently opened a model classroom to provide hands-on training for teachers in understanding how to provide a classroom setting that encourages learning. When I visited the demonstration classroom, people from several local agencies gathered for our first visit and introduction to the classroom. As we walked around the classroom, two Childcare Resources consultants described the setup and uses of the learning centers and Group Time area. One of the consultants made the comment that the classroom really is the third teacher in the room. The classroom makes a difference in the ways preschoolers learn as well as what they learn.

In the demonstration classroom, I noticed that they had methods of arranging the interest areas so that everything is not up against a wall. For example, a shelf for blocks was perpendicular to the wall to divide the areas between Blocks and Homeliving. If all the equipment pieces are against the classroom walls, it creates the effect of a speed skating rink for preschoolers to circle around. Using different methods of dividing spaces also helps to define the interest areas. Changing the travel patterns of the classroom can cut down on wandering and running about the room. Take a look at your classroom and ways you might be able to rearrange your equipment. You might use a rug to denote the Homeliving area, use a shelf as a divider, use masking tape to define the Blocks area, or place a table near the Nature area.

Another thing I noted in the demonstration classroom was that materials are easily available to preschoolers and easy for preschoolers to clean up. In Art there was a shelf with materials such as a shoe-box size plastic tub with rollers and utensils for play dough. There was a divided bin with colored pencils, markers, and scissors. Another bin contained different kinds of paper. In Nature, 3 different bins contained rocks, pinecones, and seashells. The shelf for wooden blocks had an outline of each shape block to show where to stack the blocks at clean-up. Making materials readily available gives independence to preschoolers in choosing and using materials. Part of the teaching process is helping preschoolers learn to put up something after they have used it, and having a place for materials is a big help. Take a look at how your materials are provided for preschoolers to use in your classroom at church. Are preschoolers able to see and use items in the interest areas to help them learn about missions?

A third thing the consultants pointed out about the learning environment is that it also encourages teacher-child interactions. As preschoolers play in small groups of 2 or 3 in different interest areas, this allows for more interaction between the teacher and preschoolers. Teachers can ask questions to support what preschoolers learn about missions through the activities. Learning is brought about through relationships, and the classroom environment can increase these learning opportunities.

The classroom environment is the third teacher in our Mission Friends classes. This is encouragement for you and me to take a look at our preschool classes at church. How do our classroom environments encourage preschoolers in learning about the Bible and missions?

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