Creating an effective room set up and design using the Classroom Environment Checklist (CEC)
The Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (2015) states that “Effective classroom management can set the stage for exciting possibilities for children’s learning. This includes attention to the organization of the space and furnishings, predictable daily routines, and responsive interactions between teachers and children. While these factors often are described as distinct, their interconnection is critical for promoting effective teaching and learning.”
Creating a stable, positive classroom environment provides benefits to both classroom learning and behavior management. Classrooms should be rich language settings that incorporate environmental print and accessibility to many types of play and learning materials (including lots of books!) in small, cozy corners and centers. Planning the physical room carefully can foster more rich language interactions and less conflict among students.
Jim Greenman (2005) describes the early childhood classroom as a place where students can build a sense of community when the environment promotes and nurtures these connections. “How we describe our expectations for children and what our environment says about our expectations often differ. Environments that expect children to be competent and responsible members of a community pay great attention to child scale and child access to all resources. Children contribute to daily life—both in the preparation and the cleaning. The program encourages children to work together and share jobs that need doing. Materials are organized and available to all children, and children can reach what they need to use during the day.”
Thus the classroom environment has a profound impact on how children feel, behave, and learn.
The CIRCLE Classroom Environment Checklist is used to take a close look at the environment and measure key quality indicators to improve classroom arrangements. A web-based version of the tool is provided at no cost for programs enrolled in CLI Engage, and a PDF version is available for free download.
For teachers, the CEC is a tool to help self-evaluate their classrooms and identify where they need improvement. Coaches, specialists and other leaders that support teacher classroom instruction can use this tool to set goals, budgets, or plan for professional development needs. It should be used at the beginning of the year and revisited as part of subsequent classroom observations.
The CEC captures the presence and quality level of instructional planning tools (e.g. lesson plans, progress monitoring tools), meaningful literacy and print centers and materials (e.g. letter wall, availability of books), and the overall design and management of the classroom and individual centers (e.g. labeling centers, providing writing tools).
The CEC can:
- evaluate and improve the classroom environment
- track progress
- provide direction for coaching and instruction
- support accountability
- meet district/community requirements and expectations
The CEC is a list of environmental indicators organized according to four primary areas:
- Centers and Independent Workstations
- Meaningful Print
- Instructional Planning and Delivery
The Classroom Environment Checklist describes essential features of the physical classroom arrangement as well as indicators of a well-organized, functional classroom management system. Arrangement of furniture, clearly defined centers, and a center management system by which children can self-regulate must all be in place before meaningful instruction can succeed. By focusing on the environment, the tool helps the teacher/observer recognize whether children have opportunities to be hands-on and self-directed in their learning. The tool places high importance on indicators of a print-rich environment to support children's early language and literacy.
The CEC uses a 3-point quality rating scale: 1-low, 2-moderate, and 3-high. Each rating corresponds to a generic description of the classroom environment. The accuracy and completeness of the CEC data you record depends on following two key guidelines:
- Select the highest rating for which every part of the description is in evidence. If one or more elements of a rating description are missing, consider the lower rating to determine if each of the elements is present.
- CEC ratings describe environmental supports only. Don’t be tempted to take away credits for elements that are present but not used effectively. Instructional/implementation concerns can be addressed with other observations tools, like the CIRCLE Classroom Observation Tool.
The digital CEC can be accessed within the Assessment Progress Monitoring tab on the CLI Engage dashboard. Enter the school name and locate the teacher. The CEC can be administered three times during the year (BOY/MOY/EOY). Photographic links are provided as examples for each item.
- Texas Education Agency. (2015). Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines.
- Greenman, J. (2005). Places for Children in the 21st Century-A Conceptual Framework. Beyond the Journal, Young Children on the Web.