5 Days to a Prepared Environment

A Success Plan for Classroom Organization

What is a Prepared Environment?

There are generally six aspects, or principles, to the Prepared Environment: Freedom; Structure and Order; Beauty; Nature and Reality; Social Environment; Intellectual Environment.

Montessori environments should be beautiful. Whether your school is in an old Victorian mansion or in a strip-mall or in the living room of your home, the environment should suggest a simple harmony. Uncluttered and well-maintained, the environment should reflect peace and tranquility. The environment should invite the learner to come in and work. This atmosphere is easily seen by the attitude of those working there, both child and adult.

Although each building and classroom is different, Montessori classrooms all have these features in common:

  • Above all, order, cleanliness, and beauty
  • Place for children to store personal items, such as coats and indoor shoes
  • Place for children to store projects, both in-progress and completed works
  • Plenty of open space to move around easily and comfortably
  • Adequate open space to sit together during circle time
  • Low shelves which form a variety of activity areas without closing off space or visibility
  • Neutral-colored walls
  • A few interesting, real-life pictures placed at the children’s eye level
  • A hard floor surface that is easily cleaned
  • Child sized tables and chairs which can be moved easily
  • A few beautiful objects that break easily
  • Variety in texture and color of furnishings
  • Living plants

(Tuesday) Day #1 - Your Desk/Personal Area

The first thing you will need to work on is your own work area. This is the hub of the classroom, and needs to be organized to your liking. Position your desk so you can see the classroom, and try to keep the items on your desk to a minimum. You want to model good managing skills for the students. If Tommy has a messy area, he can look to your desk for ideas on how to keep his clean. You also want to keep a space to grade papers, work with students, or just somewhere safe to set down your coffee.


(Wednesday) Day #2 - The First Impression

Take a moment and stand at your doorway.

  • What is the first thing that you notice?
  • Does the room feel warm and inviting?
  • What do you smell?
  • Do you have a clear view of the room?
  • Is there anything that is blocking your view or that stands out immediately?
  • What colors dominate your classroom?
  • Is your room memorable? Why?

(Thursday) Day #3 - What's on the Walls?

Take a look at your classroom walls and displays. What do they say about you, your relationship with your class, and your view of teaching? Are your students guests in your room, or does the classroom feel like a space you share with them? Do the walls and displays show what you think and believe . . . or do they show what your students know, think, and wonder about?

  • Do the walls and classroom displays look pretty much the same from year to year? Or, do they reflect the unique personality of that year’s class?
  • Roughly, what percentage of classroom displays includes work done in whole or part by students? What percentage is devoted to posters or materials that were made, purchased, or inherited?
  • For any chart or reference that is currently hanging up, when is the last time a student used it? When is the last time it was actually referred to? (Before your students leave for the summer, you might ask them these questions!)
  • Do students decide which pieces of work they want to be displayed?
  • Are the displays or charts at students’ eye level? How else does the decor of the classroom take into account the children’s developmental needs?


(Friday) Day #4 - Simplicity on the Shelf

Keep your shelves as simple and uncluttered as possible. Space between materials allows students to see the beauty in the work . Enlist the help of your students and teacher's aide to dust items on the shelf and place them neatly in their correct order.

(Monday) Day #5 - A Fresh Perspective

Today is the day that you step away from your room and let someone else's eyes take a peek.

  • Does your teacher area blend in or stick out like a sore thumb?
  • What's their first impression of your room?
  • What do they see when they look at the walls?
  • Could they give your shelves the white glove test?

Most importantly, would they want to be a student in your room?

**Don't forget to help a teammate out and be their fresh eyes!

Thank you for working so hard to make sure your environment is prepared for students!