by Pam Schaffner
The assessment team in PA is often asked if they have any tips to make meeting quality standards easier. Since they have experiences visiting many programs in their professional careers, they have seen many programs employ strategies to make things easier, more efficient, and more effective. Implementing quality can be stressful or time consuming, but always worth it. So, this Q-T Corner moment aims at helping you along the way.
Room Arrangement Tips for Preschool Classrooms Using the ECERS Third Edition
3 Qualifiers to determine if you have a clearly defined interest center in your classroom:
- What does clearly defined mean? Ask: Can you tell where the area starts and stops? Does it double as a walkway to other things such as other play areas, cubbies, the bathroom, etc. (thus not making it clearly defined)? Is there actual designated place to play within the area? (For example, an organized shelf against the wall with no defined play space in front of it would not be an interest center.)
- Are materials there organized by type and made accessible? Are there materials in the area that are not designed for that interest center, such as doll houses in blocks or music instruments in the book area? These circumstances make the area not a defined interest center.
- Is there enough room for the type of play being encouraged? (For example, a small dramatic play area that has a table inside and very little room to move around it, would not be considered an interest center.)
In the ECERS Third Edition, the Room arrangement for play and learning (Item 3) at Indicator 5.2 reads: At least 5 interest centers are used including a cozy area protected from active play. Let’s dive deeper into which Items expect a clearly defined interest center.
Based on Item #3, we need 5 total interest centers. The first is a cozy area because it is written right into the Indicator. If you have a small room, how do you decide what other areas need to be interest centers? Looking at the rest of the ECERS Third Edition book (Item 15, Item 20, Item 21, Item 22) we can learn some tips for room arrangement.
Defined interest centers are needed for: cozy area, books, blocks, dramatic play, and science. That is 5. Thankfully, a cozy area could (but doesn’t have to be) the same area as the book area.
Here is a way to look at the 5 interest centers that are needed. Remember, they need to meet the 3 criteria listed above.
- A clearly defined cozy interest center is expected in Item 3 Room Arrangement for play and learning at Indicator 5.2. A clearly defined book interest center is expected in Item 15 Encouraging children’s use of books Indicator 5.3.
- Blocks are expected to be a clearly defined interest center in Item 20 Blocks at Indicator 5.3.
- A clearly defined dramatic play interest center is expected in Item 21 Dramatic play at Indicator 5.2.
- A clearly defined interest center for science is expected in Item 22 Nature/science at Indicator 5.1.
- If you combine the cozy and book areas, that means that the 5th interest center meeting the 3 criteria above is up to you. Maybe it is music, math, art… you get to decide. Perhaps you have the square footage to ensure even more than 5 clearly defined interest centers. But look carefully at the criteria above.
Also, try your best to keep the cozy or book areas away from blocks, drama, and music materials/areas.