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Susan Comments on Engineering the Classroom Environment to Optimize Access

Susan-photoEngineering the environment is an ongoing process, which is why I rearrange the furniture in my room at least six times a year. Making every center, every area, accessible to all the children in my classroom is one of my greatest challenges. If I am running a group, should I have both a high and low table? I have to constantly look at the group I'm working with, plus the groups my assistants are working with, to see what the children would be able to do that they can't do now if they just had different equipment.

Another challenge is finding communication systems that work for all students at all their places throughout the day--with minimal intervention from the teachers. Because our classroom is small, the different centers and areas are used for different things throughout the day. In the morning there might a play center at a table and later in the day there might be a work group there. Presently I have four or five bulletin boards across the front of the room that have communication symbols in various categories. I've thought of putting a refrigerator box in the middle of the classroom covered with picture communication symbols so that the children could get them easily from anywhere in the room.

I've gone through the stage of taping down communication boards at every center. I've also tried giving each child a clipboard with his or her symbols for the day on the clipboard. This year I made a nine-sided cube that had communication boards on each side. The different sides of the cube had different levels of communication boards for a particular activity so that the cube could be used by all the students. I put it in the center of the table and the kids could just turn it to the side they needed. This also gave them access to a higher level communication board, if they wanted it. Otherwise, you've got a patchwork of pictures all over the table and that's confusing.

We have three different centers for reading. We put the books, everyday reading books, in a little display case of books. Those are books that used to be my children's when they were growing up and they're finished with them. I'm not too concerned about their being torn up. We just keep taping them up until they're so bad we throw them away. We have a separate box for students' library books. Also the monthly book that we read is in a box underneath my easel and students are always allowed to take that out. Sometimes when we have free choice, students will take the flannel board pictures we've created for the story, put them up on the flannel board, and act out the story.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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