Saturday, March 28, 2015

While You Were Out:

It has been quite an adjustment for me to be away from my classroom for such a long period of time.  Of course, I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences we have been afforded during my family's stay in St. Petersburg, but how I've missed the daily interactions and happenings in the classroom!  Thanks to the wonderful teachers at my school, I have been able to stay in close contact and know that progress continues being made in great strides during my absence.  Here are just a few photos of current activity in the classroom:

An engaging math extension activity - counting elephants to go along with an Asia theme.

Carefully constructing and walking the maze with the Red Rods.

The 45 Layout.  I am so, so excited to see this out!

Practice skip counting with the Square Chain of 9.

Writing practice. 

Naming the Geometric Solids.

Matching the Geometric Cabinet shapes to their cards.

Kanji writing.

Squeezing orange juice.

Lots of flag work.

Constructing the layers of the Trinomial Cube.

Animals of the World and World Map.

Pouring with a syrup server.

Dry Transfer shelves.  The color yellow corresponds not only with number four in our Short Bead Stair theme, but also with the continent of Asia.

Practical Life:  Wet Transfer activities.
Just looking at the pictures makes me miss my classroom even more!  I am forever grateful that I have such dedicated staff to give their care attention to our students during my time away.  Thank you, and I miss you all!  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Toddler Room Observations

The sun was warm and bright, embracing the room with sense of peace.  Small children, most with their caregiver, sat concentrating on spooning, pouring, transferring sand and beans.  I noticed their attention to tasks, how they intently worked, and marveled at how focused and joyful they were.  Stepping in into the Toddler Classroom at Mikailova Montessori School was a bit like being transported in to a familiar yet brand new world.

This was the first time I had formally observed in a toddler room and I remain so fortunate for the experience.  I saw firsthand how such an early introduction to the Montessori method is not only beneficial for children and their parents, but also how an early start can positively impact the Primary 3-6 classroom.  Can one imagine if all 3-6 students had the opportunity to develop their concentration, coordination, independence, and order before stepping foot into the Primary classroom?

I very much enjoyed my time in the toddler room and remain in awe of the children.  Also, to all the Toddler teachers out there - thank you!  Thank you for providing our students such a positive foundation for their Montessori experiences.  Intrigue and inspiration were the main features of my visit to this classroom.  Here are a few photos from my observations:

Entering the classroom  -  such inviting shelves.

Exploration with natural materials.

Tactile development with various textures available for exploration.

This plant stand design is genius.  Firstly, the entire placement of the stand is intended to act as a room divider (beautiful!).  Secondly, look at how each plant has its own tub underneath for catching overflow (practical!).  

Gross motor development.

Practical Life shelves.

Stairs and slide - notice the texture tiles going up the stairs...

Object Permanence Boxes.
    

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

3-6 Observations

Recently, I was guest at the Mikailova Montessori School and was fortunate to observe in two beautiful classrooms.  The first part of my visit was in a primary (3-6) classroom followed by an enlightening hour in a toddler class.  I had so many pictures from my visit that I have decided to post the toddler pictures separately in a future post.  The following photos are from my observations in the 3-6 room:

Somehow, I think this photo best illustrates the overall feeling of warmth and genuine happiness of this Montessori classroom.  The sun was shining (it was actually the first sunny day we have experienced in St. Petersburg in many, many weeks!) and felt so bright and cheerful in the classroom.  Those curtains added a perfect touch and I couldn't help but notice the birch plant stand which was such a beautiful detail. 

A basket of crocheted goodness for the children to create and explore.  Seriously, how could I have gone this long without thinking of this?!  I now have a wonderful way to use up my yarn stash at home!

I found the Pink Tower and Brown Stair like this on the shelf.  Later, a child came and separated them and put each it's place.  I admired the small bowl for the marble - what an inviting way to promote extension work!

Labeling the Classroom - Like in my classroom, the children are introduced to printed letters in reading activities and cursive letters for writing lessons.

Here are the Sandpaper Letters beautifully displayed on a custom stand.
I noticed that this tray of Superimposed Geometric Figures contained a sampling of shapes rather than the entire set.   This might be a great idea if students have been newly introduced to the material as the whole set can be quite overwhelming.  The box behind the tray houses various cards for constructing designs with the shapes.
This is extension work to complete with the Geometric Solids.  I appreciated that the tray and other materials for this activity was next to the solids on Sensorial shelf rather than housed in an Art area.

Another, "Why didn't I think of that?" moment.  Such a simple set up with basic card stock for sewing the letters.

I always am drawn to handmade extension materials.  Here,  children use the reading cards to construct phonetic words with the stones.

This poster invites children to practice tracing numbers.

Several tracing posters were placed in various places throughout the room to promote handwriting practice.

The class was studying planets and the cosmos.  Student created artwork adorned the classroom and was used in various group lessons.

The blue gem on this spoon for this transferring activity definitely caught my eye - imagine its effect on the students!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

From Russia With Love

Recently, I visited the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.  Among the many masterpieces of famous works was this gem, reminding me of my Montessori friends back home.

Spring on the Windowsill
Tatyana Yablonskaya
1954

Doesn't it speak to the Montessorian in you?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Inspiration: Sequins

Endless possibilities!
My daughter recently received a crafty gift for her birthday which served as inspiration for an art activity I am now planning for the classroom.  (Don't you just love when that happens!)

These types of craft kits are available at any hobby store in the States, but I had never seen one with sequins and pins  as see here in a Russian kit.

While I was excited for my daughter to have received this gift, my mind immediately thought of the the fine motor coordination and concentration such an activity promotes:

Carefully placing a pin in one sequin at a time...
…and carefully placing it into the foam board.
One can imagine the effect once completed!
For classroom use, I envision something less product oriented and more open-ended.  For example, a large foam board could be set up with various sequins to be worked on with a collaborative artistic approach throughout the year .  This technique could also be used to provide meaningful extension activities with Montessori materials.  Lightly outlining a Map of the World and filling in with corresponding colors was a thought that came to mind.  Or, for a more individual project, the child could make a model of the Short Bead Stair, trace and fill in Metal Inset shapes…  As you can tell, the possibilities are limitless and I look forward to setting something similar up in my classroom!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dreamland

A few days ago, I found the Montessori factory store in St. Petersburg - it was like walking in a dreamland!  Other than visiting vendors at various national Montessori conferences, I have never experienced a 'commercial' Montessori store - it was like being in the proverbial candy shop!

Imagine walking down the street and seeing this in a window!  Geometric Solids, the Pink Tower (at least part of it…), Knobless Cylinders, Sandpaper Letters…

Shelves full of glorious materials.

I couldn't resist purchasing some aprons and this small wash board - I have visions of a new  polish cloth/laundry lesson...

These Montessori-themed magnets will make lovely souvenirs.

These divided trays and metal inset papers box will make nice additions to my classroom.

This mesmerizing 'singing cup' will be a welcome addition in our music area.

I am so glad to have found the store - and it turns out that it is walking distance from our apartment in St. Petersburg.  I have a feeling it won't be the last visit, and wouldn't it be spectacular to visit the actual factory?!  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Montessori Maslenitsa

Brightly colored scarves, long dresses, the sound of accordions playing traditional Russian tunes, children singing…  all against the backdrop of a Montessori school!  What a gift to be given opportunities that combine two of my major interests in life - all things Montessori and all things Russian.  Many of my readers might not be aware, but my undergraduate degree is in Russian Studies while my master's is in Montessori education.  Our time in St. Petersburg has afforded me chances to seamlessly weave these interests, creating unique experiences that are personally meaningful.

Last weekend, my family and I were invited to Mikailova Montessori School to help ring in the traditional celebration of Maslenitsa.  I can still hardly believe that I was able to take part of this type of cultural event at a Montessori school!  It was evident that this school has built a strong community, full of committed families, teachers, and students.  The children were friendly, inquisitive, and clearly had put forth a lot of effort in preparing for this event.

Several classes participated in plays depicting traditional Russian folk tales and stories.

Tea was served from several traditional samovars.

Children and adults enjoyed various games.  Here the children are practicing flipping blinis (Russian pancakes).

Part of the Maslenitsa celebration includes symbolically parting with Winter by burning a scarecrow and welcoming Spring.

What would it be with out dancing?!
 
The students prepared a vast array of handiworks ranging from knitted bracelets to pottery which were sold during the event.  Proceeds went directly to the school - what a fantastic way to include the children in fundraising!