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The Prepared Environment

My friends consider me someone who gets a lot done. And in truth, I usually do get a lot done in the course of the day. But for the last couple weeks, I felt like I was spinning my wheels; although I was getting up an hour earlier, nothing was getting done. My to-do list had the same things on it, day after day. I felt like I was wading through molasses trying to do a simple task like putting a new book on the website or returning a phone call.

Then it hit me: I didn’t have a prepared environment.
I had started working in the kitchen on my laptop early in the mornings to avoid waking the children by using the upstairs office. My laptop is nowhere near as convenient to use as the office computer, the kitchen chair is not as comfortable as the office one and I don’t have my files nearby.

I immediately corrected my error, moved back into the office, being extra careful not to make any noise, and I’m back on track!

What is a prepared environment?

The prepared environment is a term from Montessori theory. It means that an environment can be designed and supplied to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by a child. In a Montessori classroom, this means having all the materials needed for a particular activity in one place. You might see a tray set up to teach sharpening a pencil (yes, they really do teach this!). The tray would have a pencil, a small sharpener, a little bowl to catch the shavings, and a brush to sweep up any debris that might fall down. In short, everything the child needs to do this activity.

If a teacher is showing a child this activity, she doesn’t have to stop in the middle, interrupt her presentation and go running to get a needed item. Instead, with a comfortable workspace and everything provided beforehand they can focus on the lesson at hand.

If you apply this term to your own environment, you’ll see that having a prepared environment goes a long way toward making your own working / learning/ teaching times as productive as possible.

How can you set up a prepared environment as it relates to your use of German?

Before you can prepare the environment, you need a plan. Once you have a plan, you’ll know that you need certain materials at certain times of the day. For instance, maybe you plan to play a German audiobook during your times in the car with your kids. Don’t wait until you’re walking out the door to make sure your audiobook is handy and ready to play. Similarly, if you want to hold German read-aloud time every afternoon, make sure your German books are handy right next to a cozy spot on the couch. You can collect your kids, sit down, and start reading.

The same goes for your own personal German study – keep all your materials in one place and pick a time and place when you won’t be interrupted (as much as is possible). Have a nice workspace free of clutter. Ahem – I speak from experience when I say that the middle of the house with activity going on all around you is not a good place to concentrate on something :)

The prepared environment is a fancy term, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go to a lot of trouble or spend  a lot of time creating one.

With just a little forethought and attention to what you want to accomplish, you can make a big difference in how productive and effective your time is.

I’m back to being my old self – getting things done and moving forward with my to-dos and plans. Now that my environment is optimized, I am much happier. And that leaves me free for the rest of the day to concentrate on my family!


Do you have a German immersion plan?
If not, you could feel like you’re treading water and not making any progress. I invite you to check out our free e-book, Creating your German Immersion Plan. How to Plan for Bilingual Success in Your Family.

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