Friday, September 30, 2011

The Last Week of September, Really?

It hardly seems possible that the month of September has come and gone!  Our classroom is coming together quite nicely - The children seem to be getting along respectfully and feeling more comfortable with classroom procedures and the general daily rhythm.  It brings me much joy to observe the children choosing activities from the shelves, working with the them, and completing the work cycle by returning the items to the shelf for the another person to use.

This week also marked the beginning of our 'Individualized Snack.'  Rather than having the children sit altogether at the same time to have a snack, we have transitioned the children to being able to serve themselves a snack.  I appreciate how this method enables a child to eat when they are actually hungry, and not simply because the rest of the kids are eating...  Also, it allows the child to practice essential Practical Life skills such as pouring water, setting the table, and using serving utensils.  Afterwards, the children clean up by washing their own dishes and leaving the space ready for another child.   Additionally, the 'Individualized Snack' is set up for two children to enjoy each other's company because they sit at a table for two (I call it "individual" simply because a student prepares the snack completely by themselves). The pleasant and colorful conversations which emerge from this set up are priceless!  This method of snack takes much practice by the children and they are off to a great start!

Here are some photos to share from the week:

A wonderful Montessori Practical Life lesson:  Handwashing.
(More) visual discrimination of size with the Knobless Cylinders.

Exploring shapes, patterns, and designs with the Geoboard.

Science:  Magnetic/Non-Magnetic.

Binomial Cube

Exploring concepts of Geography with the globe and play dough.

Writing practice with the chalkboard.

Addition with the Number Rods and Cards.

Polishing Metal
Visual and tactile discrimination of form with the Geometric Cabinet, all while preparing the hand and fingers for writing...I love this lesson!
The Hundred Board
The Red Rods - Read about them in this post.
Learning the names of continents while matching them from the Puzzle Map to a booklet.
Reviewing letter sounds with the Sandpaper Letters booklet from this post.
We have already accomplished much in these first weeks of school and I am looking forward to our days together in the new month of October!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seasonal Measurements

I was always intrigued by the fact that as a physician, Maria Montessori made scientific observations of the children in the "Children's House" where her method materialized.  In fact, she took systematic data on each child's height and weight over the years a child was in her care.  I thought it would be meaningful for the children in my class to able to see for themselves how much they will grow in height over the years they are with me!  And what better time to do so than with the passing of one season to the next?

I explained to the children that we would be creating a growth chart which corresponds to each season. First, we would use colored taped to make a vertical line on the wall.  In our classroom, the best place was on the inside of a doorway.  I used the color red for Fall because future cultural and science lessons will utilize this color-coding for Fall.  Later this school year, Winter will be coded with white tape, Spring will be green, and yellow will be used for Summer.

We marked the wall with a line of red tape and labeled it, 'Fall 2011.'  Then, one by one, each child stood with their back against the wall.  I used a ruler to indicate where the top of their head met the tape and drew a line with their name above it.  Later, we will use a measuring tape or stick to determine exactly the number of inches from the floor.  For now, however, the children were excited to simply compare lines.

Our 'Fall 2011' measurements (sorry - it's a bit blurry...).
I think the real excitement will come when Fall turns into Winter and we will take new measurements on white tape next to the red tape...  By the end of the year, we will not only have a visual reference of each child's growth, but also a perfect representation of the passage of time!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Friendship Tree

The beginning of the school year is the ideal time to begin establishing and promoting a sense of community among children in the classroom.  To foster this sense of belonging, I usually try to incorporate a group art project which can be admired in our classroom for the rest of the year. Last year, we made a "Circle of Friends" group painting with watercolors mounted on canvas.  This year, we made a "Friendship Tree" which serves as a pleasant reminder that while we are each unique individuals with different needs, we can come together to learn in a peaceful, harmonious environment and work together as a unit.

To introduce the activity, we talked about the importance of friends and working together.  Then, I showed them the following drawing of tree:

Only about a 5in. square...I drew this tree with a Sharpie pen on artist quality canvas paper. 
I explained that this tree was a little like our classroom with our beautiful materials and lessons.  I asked them to guess what might be missing from this "classroom."  "Leaves!"  they children responded.  Then, I told them how  each child is so special and brings unique qualities to our classroom.  I explained how they would be the "leaves" on the "tree" of our classroom and we would work together and grow as friends.  Lastly, they children took turns to represent themselves on our "Friendship Tree" by placing one green thumbprint on the tree.  Now, we have a visual reminder of our classroom community and how we will strive to work together in peaceful, nurturing ways.
"Friendship Tree" 
We placed this piece in a highly visible area of the classroom so that we all may be reminded of how fortunate we are to come together each day.  Would you believe that I salvaged this gorgeous frame from our kindling pile at home?  Apparently, my dear husband no longer needed this frame as the glass and hardware were missing...  When I saw it amongst the dried sticks and wood, I said to myself, "Surely I will find use for this someday!"  Without a doubt, this group "Friendship Tree" project presented  the perfect opportunity to utilize the salvaged frame! 

If you are a parent of one of my students, I welcome you to come in and take a look at our "Friendship Tree."  The children, with their keen attention to detail, will even be able to point out their own thumbprint!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Week of Computer Woes...

I am still recovering from the panic which set in when I brought my computer to the repair shop and the words "motherboard" and "melting" were used in the same sentence!  To make long story short, my computer has been in and out of the shop at least three times this week and as a result, I am feeling significantly backlogged...  While I was able to take some snapshots from our Montessori work periods each morning, I have been limited with the amount of time for uploading photos.  Here is the best I could I could do for this week:
Comparison of height with the Knobless Cylinders.

Writing practice using the chalkboard.

Number tracing practice.

Threading a needle.  Read more about it here.

Exploring sound with a lesson described here.

Counting and cardinality with Cards and Counters.  I also love the Pink Tower work in the background!

Spindle Boxes:  Use of this material gives a strong impression of the concept of 'zero' while allowing the child to formulate connections between the number symbol and its quantity.

Enjoying "Asters, deep purple," as in our 'September' poem which we have learned this month:


A road like brown ribbon,
A sky that is blue,
A forest of green with that sky peeping through.
Asters, deep purple,
A grasshopper's call.
Today is summer, tomorrow is fall. 
                           The written poem in our classroom, concept and downloads courtesy of My Montessori Journey.

The printed poem which is the first part of our Poetry Basket.

The second part of our Poetry Basket...
The components of our Poetry Basket  altogether.
 Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Materialized Abstractions and the Red Rods

Montessori Print Shop Blog recently posted an informational piece regarding the concept of Materialized Abstractions in the Montessori setting.  The author gives insight into the idea of an abstraction which becomes materialized while clearly illustrating the lesson of the Red Rods. If you are a parent of one of my students, I highly recommend reading more about it as some children in our class are already, or will be, working with this material!  Click on the image below to learn more about this Montessori concept and how it specifically relates to the Red Rods.

Red Rods

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Basic Gluing

One of my favorite lessons on the shelves is 'Basic Gluing.'  I appreciate how the simplicity of the exercise not only directly promotes the skill of using glue, but also how the materials are utilized to indirectly prepare the child for reading and writing.  Each item has a specific purpose including the use of a Q-tip cut in half for glue application - I prefer this method over others because it allows the child more opportunities to refine their pincer grasp which is necessary for writing.  Additionally, they way in which the materials are placed at the workspace aids in training the child's eye movement in a left to right pattern, as in writing and reading.  The following illustrates the sequence of steps involved with the lesson of Basic Gluing.  For this month's gluing activity, I simply choose three contrasting colors and sizes of rectangles (red, yellow, and green) to glue onto brown paper. The child is free to use their creativity and demonstrate self-expression to create a unique craft while practicing basic gluing techniques.  As with all materials in the classroom, I demonstrate the lesson first and the child follows.  After this initial presentation, the child is free to use the materials again whenever they choose as long as the materials are not already in use in someone else.

This month's gluing materials on the shelf:  Three-sectioned acrylic container with varying rectangles (small, medium, large; green, yellow, red);  larger brown construction paper; on the clear tray with bottle of glue - one cup with small plastic condiment cups and one cup with Q-tips cut in half; pencil for writing name; white basket for collecting and transporting materials to table; underneath the basket: art mat (it's clear and hard to see in the picture...)
 The first thing the child does is choose two of each colored rectangles and places them into the white basket.  Next, they open the glue and squeeze a small amount into a small cup.  They put the glue (now in a cup) into the basket with a Q-tip.  Now, they take one piece of brown paper and place it in the basket.  Lastly, they bring the basket and the art mat to a place at a table to work.  Space permitting, I encourage the child to place the basket to the left of the workspace, again, to help them in working in a left to right pattern.

Here, the child has placed the basket to the left of the workspace and has begun the gluing process.  For some of the youngest members in our class, it is indeed a revelation to discover that, "glue makes things stick!"
Once the student is finished with their activity, they clean up their space and return any unused papers to the shelf along with the basket and art mat.  This way, the materials are ready for use by the next child who may want to use them.

Some children like to take their work home, while others enjoy seeing it in our hallway.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Our First Full Week

As evidenced by the few opportunities for me to take photos, we have been very busy in our classroom this week.  The beginning part of the school year is dedicated to establishing classroom routines and rhythms while promoting peaceful interactions among classmates and teachers.  This week has been filled with lessons geared toward keeping safety which is of paramount importance - i.e. we always walk in our classroom, push in our chairs so children will not trip and fall, etc.  We also have been encouraging kindness with our hands - i.e. "gentle hands help our learning, ourselves, and our friends."  Most important to me is that the children feel safe in our environment so confidence may flourish with the exploration and learning occurring within their prepared classroom!

Playing our 'Apple Picking' Math game.

Sensorial exploration of European countries.

Practical Life - Tonging
Math work with Cards and Counters.

Weaving with various ribbons.

Chopping apple slices - the perfect blend of Practical Life and Grace and Courtesy!
Number Rods and Cards - Here, the child is choosing a number card and bringing the corresponding Number Rod to the mat.

Preparation for writing with the Metal Insets.

Extension work with the Solid Cylinders - visual discrimination of size while promoting use of the pincer grasp (necessary for writing).
Fun with an apple craft...

Language enrichment with 'Animal Babies.'

The PinkTower - read more about it in a previous post.
Wow, we were busy indeed!  And I feel as though these pictures represent only a fraction of what was happening in the classroom!  I am looking forward to even more lessons and activities next week as I get to know my students.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We've Got the Rhythm

This title is actually quite fitting...  As we head towards the end of almost two weeks together, it does feel like we have established some rhythm in our Montessori work cycles.  I have been presenting new lessons to our newest class members and also showing extensions and variations of activities for returning students.  There is nothing more comforting for me than to give these lessons - the use of the Montessori materials evokes such a sense of peace for me in the classroom!

Going back to the title of this post, however, I have recently introduced the children to the concept of 'steady beat' in rhythm and language.  The ability to hear a steady beat in a rhythm is an important aspect not only in musical training, but also in spoken language.  As written in my Montessori Music album, "We begin our study of rhythm with the steady beat as the underlying pulse of music.  The beat is everywhere in the life of the child.  Each child experiences the heartbeat of its mother while in the womb.  Therefore, it is believed that at birth, every child has a strong sense of the steady beat.  When we combine patterns of long and short sounds, the result is 'rhythym.'  Rhythm is very important to the development of speech patterns and the natural flow of words can provide an easy transition to musical notation.  An understanding of steady beat and rhythm can be taught through rhythm chants, songs, classical music, and movement."  To that end, I have taught the children a fun rhythm chant with a steady beat which follows the current apple theme in our classroom:

Apple tree, apple tree,
Will your apples fall on me?
It's okay, I won't shout
If your apples knock me out!

The first time I introduced this chant to the children, I simply tapped the steady beat on my knees - they quickly followed suit.  Next, we practiced clapping the steady beat as we sang the chant together.  Then, I introduced the children to our wooden rhythm sticks and we took turns using them while saying the words.  Lastly, I plan to show the children a visual representation of the steady beat using a paper with apple pictures - each beat is represented by one apple:

Visual representation of the steady beat in our 'Apple Tree' chant.

Now, while using the rhythm sticks and saying the words, the children can follow the visual representation of the rhythm.  What a fantastic way to incorporate musical notation at such an early age!

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