Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

As 2013 begins we make many resolutions, sometimes the same ones we made last year. Some of mine include: lose weight, exercise more, and eat more chocolate. But this year, let’s make some resolutions that relate to making our classroom a marvelous place for you to live with your children. I have identified 13 ideas, some you may already be doing, others might be new possibilities for you to implement.

13 ideas for my 2013 classroom:

1. Add a new book with a tape or compact disc of you reading the story to the library area.

2. Make photos of each of your children and display them in a prominent place for everyone to enjoy. This builds a sense of community and belonging to the group.

3. Include a new learning center that you have never used before. A camping center, a restaurant, or garage sale/flea market may match the experiences and interest of your children.

4. Tell a story to your class. This can be a personal story about your childhood or a story that you have always loved. Nothing builds relationships like hearing a story told by a special person.

5. Each day provide a supportive comment to a child or children who are working together or sharing a material. Catch them being cooperative.

6. Ask a parent or grandparent to come to your classroom as a special guest. They can share a story, song, or recipe. Your children will appreciate their contributions and build relationships with others.

7. Try an art project that you have never done with the children. This will challenge both you and your children’s creativity.

8. Add an unusual item to the sand/water table for the children to discover and explore. Some examples: a clear plastic bottle with a small hole in the bottom, an egg beater, expanding sponges, or smooth glass stones used in flower arrangements.

9. Encourage girls to participate in the block area more. Both boys and girls benefit from building, problem solving, collaborating, and appreciating the work of others.

10. Bring a mystery item to circle/community time, preferably something the children may not have seen or experienced. Ask open-ended questions that will inspire thinking. For example, “Can you think of a way to use this?” “What if it was bigger or smaller?” “What would you name it?” Conclude with, “One use and name the inventor came up with was _____.”

11. Find a new writing tool for the writing/author center. Some interesting suggestions might be: a small sponge painting brush, a hole puncher, charcoal, or plastic gloves (using the finger as the tool).

12. Dramatize a familiar story like “Three Billy Goats Gruff” or the “Enormous Turnip.” Children can choose the role they want to play and some can be in the audience. Do it again and let others participate. Learning to speak and react with others is a skill we all need to develop.

13. I saved the hardest for last: declutter an area in the classroom. Start small, perhaps home living, the art area, or a storage space. You will be amazed at the things you find, and the things that you can give away.

Share with me some of the resolutions you are making about your classroom environment. You have such great ideas; I am looking forward to hearing about them!

Language Explosion

For the past two years I have been involved in doing make overs in preschool, PreK, and Kindergarten classrooms.  This entire process has been documented in my new book “Real Classroom Make Overs”.  Having the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful early childhood teachers and assist them with their classroom has been an exhilarating experience for me.  It has reminded me yet again, that our field of early childhood has many hard working and creative people.  It is my hope that the content and beautiful color pictures in our new book will help you “see” the amazing changes that are possible in classrooms. Be sure to notice the comments that the teachers and children made after the changes were made in their spaces.

As you get ready for fall? Think about the environment that you are creating for your children. Will they feel welcomed into this new space?  Will they see interesting things to do that will invite them into meaningful learning?  Will they see pictures of themselves and classmates that will help them recognize the community they will live in?  Can they identify choices that will let them to follow their interest into small groups/centers?  Are their beautiful items to examine and appreciate?

You have a power to design an environment that will inspire young learners and positively impact their development.  All you have to do is start with one area—-and do it!!!

Send me questions and pictures about your classroom environment —–we can brainstorm possibilities.  Together we can create a wonderful place for you and your children.

Here’s a great contest from my publisher Kaplan. Follow the directions for a chance to win big!

Step 1

Pin the graphic to the left to get started.

  • Follow us on Pinterest & create a board on your Pinterest profile with the title “My Kaplan Classroom Makeover.”
  • Include at least 5 products from www.kaplanco.com and at least 1 image of your dream classroom or classroom inspiration. Pin each item with the hashtag #PinIt2WinIt.
  • Kaplan products pinned on boards must total no more than $5,000. (This does not include taxes or shipping and handling.)

Step 2

“Like” us on Facebook & tell us why your classroom should be the winner!

  • Post a comment with a link to your board on Kaplan Early Learning Company’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kaplanco
  • To be considered, all comments must contain a link to a Pinterest board as described in Step 1.

The Fine Print

Entrants must follow all instructions listed in Steps 1 and 2. • Boards must be created between 12:00 AM EST August 1, 2012 and 11:59 pm August 31, 2012. • Limit one entry per person regardless if entrant has more than one Pinterest account. • Winner will be announced September 3, 2012.

Official Contest Rules

The PreK conference in Alabama was fabulous.  It was well organized, interesting, and filled with amazing early childhood professionals.  The folks who attend my preconference session were so involved and a pleasure to talk with.

One of the questions that came up during the training was, “How can new learning centers be included in my classroom when it is so small?”   As I travel and present on environments that include learning centers, I frequently hear this concern.  One of the best ways to add a new learning center in a “filled” classroom is to transform a traditional learning center. 

A Home Living Center can become a Restaurant for a short period of time, two to three weeks.  When the children lose interest in the Restaurant, you can return the space to the traditional center of Home Living.  The Block Center, a traditional and long-term center in many classrooms, can become a Garage Sale/Flea Market temporarily.  The block area has many props that can be used to display the new items that are added for sale.

Making these transitions and adding new interest centers will stimulate young children’s thinking, their socio-dramatic play, and their skills for cooperative work.

Tell us about a transition that has worked in your classroom.  What area did you add and what props were included in your new learning center? 

Designing Amazing Environments for Young Children

Click here for full size image

Al PreK Conference – Dr. Isbell with teachers who attended her full day workshop on Designing Amazing Environments for Young Children.

Learning Centers

Classroom setup and structure are critical elements in teaching and controlling behavior and student interactions. What do you need to know? What are the best practices? How might rearranging your classroom help you?

Click the link below to listen:

Radio Interview on Body, Mind and Child

Creativity New Headlines

Today I am entering my first blog on the topic of creativity in young children. For many years I have read everything that has come out on the amazing abilities of young children. One of their most astounding skills is their creative thinking.

E.P. Torrance concluded that we are most creative when we are “4 ” years old. This might be discouraging for some of us who are older than 4, but if we work with young children, we see examples of their creative abilities every day. The child who invents a new word, or a child painting with a feather, or a child composing and singing a new song are all examples of creative children in action.

Today it seems that many people are more interested in the “right” answer, or doing things in a specific way rather than thinking in creative ways. But creative thinkers are needed to deal with our fast changing world, to create new inventions, and deal with issues never before encountered. We in early childhood must strive to build children’s confidence in their thinking and inspire their creative ideas.


Toddlers painting with watercolors

Toddlers painting with watercolors


How do we spark creativity in our classrooms? There are so many different ways that we can impact the development of creativity. One powerful way is by provding children choices throughout the day – which Center to work in, the materials to use in a collage, or the way to dramatize a story. The environment can also impact creativity by including beautiful displays, unique treasures to explore, and a place to keep special projects to revisit.

It is interesting to note that creative teachers have the most creative children in their classroom—-not a surprise is it?

Let me know something you have done in your early childhood classroom to encourage your budding artists and creative thinkers. Everyday dedicated teachers are doing wonderful things that nurture creativity in their classsroom. Let’s start celebrating these ideas!