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Preparing the Classroom

Teaching with Intention

The Prepared Environment (Montessori, 1988) refers to the process of intentionally designing learning spaces that are inviting and offer a range of activities from which children can choose throughout the day. The classroom environment can be referred to as a “third teacher;” (alongside parents and educators) where children see and experience the classroom as a place for learning, making choices, engaging with materials, ideas, and each other, and developing their intellect (Edwards, 1993). The prepared environment includes:

  • Uncluttered, safe, beautiful spaces
  • Spaces arranged for learning experiences in a range of domains.
  • Well-designed compelling materials that spark curiosity and intellectual pursuits
  • Materials accessible to promote independence and collaboration

See sections on the Classroom Reflection Tool to help guide your classroom set up, as well as information about Aesthetics, Furniture, Shelves, and Choice. For even more information on preparing the classroom environment, see Carter & Curtis (2015) and Kuh & Ponte (2021).

Classroom Reflection Tool

Setting up classrooms ready for learning begins by thinking about what children and adults need to do their best work. How do spaces help learners think, be creative, explore a new idea, get some substantial work done, or finish a project? What are the qualities and characteristics of this space? The Classroom Reflection Tool helps create spaces for play and learning where children can choose materials that meet their needs, and where their interests, identities, and feelings are visible and honored. It can be used by a teacher, team of teachers, or an entire school to inventory current practices and set goals for changes to classroom environments or be combined with learning walks to observe for the elements in the tool. Classrooms should be beautiful and meet the needs of children and they must also be functional and provide accessibility – balancing this is the key to a successful classroom.