By Penreach Basic Education Change Agent, Shiellah Makhubele
Thanda Primary is a Penreach target school situated in the Mjejani village, Nkomazi West circuit. The school is supported by TRAC N4 (Penreach Literacy Partner in Education) and forms part of the Grade R RFF project in the Penreach school intervention model.
Thanda Primary has received extensive guidance and support in early learning, as one of the target schools in the Roger Federer Foundation pilot project for school readiness in Grade R. The main goal of the school readiness initiative of the Roger Federer Foundation is to provide vulnerable children with a good start into primary education through access to quality Grade R.
For this, the programme will increase the capacity of Grade R teachers, establish a peer-to-peer mentoring system, sensitize and engage relevant stakeholders such as school inspectors, principles, early grade teachers and parents to the children’s need in the phase of transition, and mobilize them to ensure that schools are in a better position to accommodate young learners.
One of the key areas of the programme is to capacitate Grade R teachers, with a focus on classroom management. In the context of classroom management, Penreach Change Agents highlight the importance of classroom layouts and how this can impact the quality of early learning.
The size of the classroom, type of furniture, colour of the walls, lighting and room layout all, influence how children learn. The key to any form of learning is a stimulating environment that enables spontaneous and real knowledge sharing. The layout is there to offer guidance to teachers and learners in the classroom and ensures easy access to materials and resources. In poorly arranged classrooms, learners spend wasted time waiting for the teacher to show them what to do. One needs to ensure the teacher has accessible storage and a recognisable labelling system in place.
This is how the classroom at Thanda Primary looked before Penreach Change Agent’s classroom management intervention. The classroom could be termed ‘chaotic’ and this easily distracts learners from their focused learning outcomes. The entrance to the classroom was not accessible and welcoming for early learning. Penreach Change Agents provided coaching and support to the teachers, where they were reminded to arrange tables, chairs and other furniture, with the purpose of learners moving around safely and to ensure that all exit routes are clear and doorways and windows are free from obstructions.
Following Penreach intervention in classroom management, Thanda Primary has made great strides in improving their learning environment in the classrooms. The two grade R classrooms have established all “learning corners” that are a fundamental part of early (Grade R) learning, such as reading corners, theme table, construction corner, fantasy play corners and art corners. TRAC N4 has provided the Grade R classroom with educational resources and toys that will contribute to each of these learning corners.
An organised classroom benefits all learners and when they are in a well-managed learning environment, classroom layout and the use of space is an important factor. The way classroom furniture is laid out can impact children’s behaviour and academic success, Penreach Change Agent’s encourage and provide support to teachers, to get this right.
Play is also important for young children because it develops their skills, social development as well as imagination and creativity. Learning occurs in all areas of development as young children play.