Reflections on an organized classroom closet ... By Jenny Levinson with Amy Dombro

As the new school year begins, many of us are focusing on creating engaging learning environments. Spaces where teachers can become learning partners with and extend the learning of children and families through Powerful Interactions.

In this blog posting, Jenny Levinson, Preschool Teacher at the Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School in Bloomfield, CT, offers her insights and experiences with an often unrecognized yet vital element of the environment that is usually found behind closed doors:  the classroom closet.

In this Think Piece, Jenny explains how being intentional about closet organization over time has created ripples of positive change making it possible for her and teaching partners to be even more intentional as they plan and make decisions about displaying materials and interacting with children.  This in turn has had positive impact on the way in which children view themselves, each other and upon the classroom community.  

Amy and Judy

This doesn’t happen overnight ...

People come into my classroom sometimes, look in my closet and say, “I want this.”   

I tell them, “It didn’t happen overnight.” I tell them it is something to work on and that it is a work in progress.  An organized closet impacts both teachers and children.  It adds to the sense of calm in our environment, creates a sense of respect for materials and each other, and helps focus thinking.

I remember when our school first opened and we received an abundance of materials but no storage containers.  That first year, I scrambled to find anything.

Year two I decided there needed to be a change.  That summer I bought at least 20 plastic shoebox containers.  I started putting things into them labeling each with a photo and label.  Over the years, it has been a continual process as we have switched out and replenished materials.

Having an organized closet means that my assistant and I both know where to get a paintbrush in the middle of a busy morning.   We know what is available when we plan lessons.

Being able to find and put away materials easily helps us think more clearly about the displays we create in the classroom each day.   We believe that how you display materials influences if and how children use them.  The great part of teaching is comparing your ideas of what children will do with materials to what actually happens, then following their lead to learn more about their thinking and extend their learning.

When children see the organization, it helps them to feel a sense of respect for the materials.  They feel confident in being independent as they choose and take items, use them and put them back where they belong. 

Have you ever had the experience that you set up a table and when children leave, others come over and set it up again:  one mat with materials for each person?  I have witnessed children setting up displays, just like their teachers.

It speaks to the respect for materials and each other and how a classroom community are all supported by an organized closet.