Saturday, March 31, 2012

Springtime Delights

Last weekend, I placed some new Spring and Easter activities on the shelves.  I plan to share more details about some of the materials in an upcoming post, but here are some photos of these lessons in use over the course of this past week.  Unfortunately, I was having trouble uploading photos, so I am running a bit short...  I think you will still enjoy them though!
Opening/Closing variation:  The children have not only been practicing their opening and closing skills, but also have been using this as an invitation to act out the "Five Little Ducks" song.
Practical Life:  Wood Polishing
These beautiful eggs have renewed interest in polishing - some of the children have not polished in ages, so we had lots of  'review' lessons to remember the sequence of steps necessary to complete the activity.
A festive Spooning activity.
Fine motor development with Water Transferring.
Matching colors.
Multiplication with the Stamp Game
Carefully counting the Teen Beads.  Here, the child is counting for the number 14.
Walking the Line while holding a tiny spoon with an equally tiny egg - so much fun! :)

The Hundred Board

 Decimal System Cards

Easter Eggs:  Cards and Counters variation.

Making words with the phonogram, -ar.

Hanging eggs on our festive tree.  This has been a fun, relaxing activity for the kids.
A variation of last month's Sealing lesson:  This month, I simply changed the shape from a shamrock to an egg and added some more colors to the tissue paper.
Addition with Number Rods and Cards.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Montessori Compass: Navigating the Classroom

Let's get to know Montessori Compass!
A few months ago, I was fortunate to have discovered Montessori Compass and take part in their 60-day free trial.  I came across their site and was immediately drawn in when I read, "Don't settle for being the best kept secret in town!"  Yes! That's it.  For some time I have really felt as if so much wonderful learning happens in my classroom, yet parents are often unaware of all that occurs.  Despite my efforts in sharing information via this blog, there remains a portion of my targeted audience (parents of my students) that are missing some very key information.  I found myself in the midst of an ongoing quest to bridge this gap...and then, I found Montessori Compass!  Little did I know how fortuitous this would be for not only for my School, but also they way I guide my students in the Montessori classroom.  Simply put, Montessori Compass is the most comprehensive, user-friendly, online record keeping system available.  It is a valuable tool for teachers, administrators, and parents alike. 

Since I am very much a creature of habit and historically have never responded to well to change, I approached the free trial with a touch of apprehension.  I was so used to the traditional system of my trusty pen, paper, and clipboard to keep track of my student's progress and lessons.  But I was compelled to move forward - while these copious notes were useful for me, they were of little use as far as information sharing with parents.    Montessori Compass promised to bridge the gap between school and home, and I wanted to experience exactly that!  So, I began experimenting with the program by entering student information so that I could track their lessons.  My trusty pen and clip board sat nearby - just in case.

Then, one morning, you know the kind - when it seems as if things don't go so well with wandering kids who appear not to make appropriate choices, squandered lessons, and general lack of motivation from the kids... I realized something.  I had diligently entered my classroom observations, tracked the children's lessons, and even uploaded the day's photos into their individual albums and there it was, right in front of me -  they had a great day and my record keeping on Montessori Compass proved it.  I was hooked.  And do you know what else I noticed?  My clipboard.  It had been sitting, untouched, for several weeks, and I didn't miss it at all!

During this time, I also got to know how the lessons are organized and named within the system.  One aspect which has been especially user friendly is the capability to customize lesson names and curriculum headings to fit one's desired order...  Admittedly, I am somewhat of a stranger to the latest technological advances and definitely have never considered myself technologically savvy.  Here, I must give credit to the reliable support staff which was incredibly helpful in answering my questions as they arose.  Working with Montessori Compass has been simple, fun, and a little addicting!  :)  I LOVE seeing the results of my hard work and my student's progress in front of me each day.  Even more importantly, the information can now available to share with parents.

I decided to take it a step further and designated a few parents to be 'demo parents' as I learned the system, specifically how the 'Activity Reports' would be reflected on their accounts.  In order to maximize benefits for parents, I spent many hours inputting lesson descriptions and uploading photos of materials.  Since this time, Montessori Compass has upgraded the system to include its own descriptions and photos of lessons and materials.  While I value this added bonus, I appreciate the fact that account users can customize their descriptions and use their own pictures.  Now, when parents view their Activity Report (which can be customized to send out daily or weekly), they not only have access to descriptions and purposes of lessons, but also can see a picture of it in our classroom. 

Over the course of the last couple of months, there has been a positive change in the classroom as I navigate with Montessori Compass.  Montessori teachers are constantly observing and making note of each child's progress.  We have most likely all said to ourselves, "Oh, (fill in a name) is ready for the Teen Board.  I have to remember to give that lesson tomorrow," only to forget the next day.  This problem is completely eliminated with Montessori Compass.  When a teacher knows a child is ready for a certain lesson, they can simply enter the lesson plan in the system for a specific date and 'tag' the student.  As a result, the entered lesson appears on the 'planned lessons' page on the date designated by the teacher - when that date arrives, it's right there in front of you!  This makes it nearly impossible to forget a lesson and the best part is, the lesson can simply be rescheduled to another day if needed.  Consequently, my students have been progressing more smoothly through the curriculum, at a rate which I have never experienced up until this point. 

From a teacher's point of view, Montessori Compass has proven to be a valuable tool both in the classroom and for communication with parents.  Being the owner of my own school, however, also allows me to utilize the program for administrative purposes which will be the topic of a future post.  I am constantly on the look out for ways to improve my school and bring it new levels of excellence.  Without a doubt, Montessori Compass will do exactly that.  So, I've put away my record keeping clipboard for good and no longer have to "settle for being the best kept secret in town!"

Montessori Monday Link-Up

Montessori Monday

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cutting Layers

I almost forgot to share the following activity with you and wanted to do so before we take it down from the hallway...

Watching the children complete art activities is so inspiring - each child so different from the next...  It is no wonder how one lesson can have so many different outcomes.  This activity has been engaging the students not only in cutting paper, but also in concepts of symmetry and shadowing.  I thought using two papers at the same time for a paper cutting lesson would add an interesting dimension.  Up until this point, my students have only worked with one piece at a time, so this has been an exciting project to complete.
Pairs of squares which are stapled together (3, 4, and 5 in. squares); white construction paper which has been lightly folded in half lengthwise; basket with scissors, pencil, and glue stick.
The child places one pair of squares from each size/color into the basket, selects a piece of white paper, and takes all materials to a table.  Once the workspace is set up with the basket on the right left hand side, the child proceeds to cut a shape into the first set of squares.
Here, the child has set everything up, cut two shapes from the blue set, and is cutting the second shapes from the yellow squares.
When all shapes from each set of squares have been created, the child arranges them on the white paper.  They can either layer the two shapes which are the same to create a shadow effect, or place them symmetrically on the paper.   Some children have even done both, creating a layered, symmetrical collage!
This photo shows how the child has placed the shapes symmetrically on the paper and is now gluing them into place.
I love, love love, how these have turned out!  Here are some of them in our hallway:

Collages:  Cutting Layers
By the way, one reason I take so much time to document our art activities is so that parents of my students can understand all that a project entails.  When they walk down the hall towards our classroom, it is my hope that these pieces are viewed not simply as 'kid art,' but as carefully crafted creations with much thought and purpose behind them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring is Here

We have been enjoying the last days of having our St. Patrick's Day activities out around the classroom (this weekend I'm planning to set up some Spring and Easter things...) and savoring the warm, sunny days outside.  What a great time of year!  There is also some exciting news on the horizon for our school regarding Montessori Compass, the easiest, most user-friendly on-line record keeping system for Montessori schools, teachers, and parents.  Living Montessori Now is currently hosting an awesome giveaway, courtesy of Montessori Compass, of an iPad for one lucky person - get on over there, read about the system, and enter the contest!  I'll be writing more about Montessori Compass including its impact on our classroom record keeping and parent communication very soon.  In the meantime, you will notice a new addition in the sidebar of the blog (underneath the picture of my school) with a link to this valuable tool. :)

So, it is with great excitement I share with you some of what has transpired in our classroom over the course of the week:
Mixing colors - what a beautiful array!
Some of our youngest members of the class are still enjoying THIS Sound/No Sound activity.
Working with different shapes in the Geometric Cabinet.  This material gives the child a sensorial impression of various shapes while promoting writing skills (tracing).
Understanding numbers and linear counting with the Teen Beads 11-19.
During a Sandpaper Letter lesson, one of the children pointed out the same letter on another child's shirt!
How beautiful is this flower arrangement?  We usually don't have roses, but one of my students gave me a bouquet on the occasion of our school's Open House last weekend.  We have been enjoying them immensely.

Linear and skip counting with the Square Chain of Five.

Comparing the Pink Tower and Brown Stair.

Enjoying our St. Patrick's Day math game.  Here, an older student is playing with a younger one, helping with basic concepts.

A pin-pushed Map of the World - the kids were so complimentary and said, "Ooh, how beautiful!"  "Look at that!"
Static Subtraction with the Stamp Game.
The Thousand Chain!
Extension work with the Solid Cylinders.  The children in this photo set up the blocks at two close tables and proceeded to complete the exercise with their eyes closed.  How fun!  And, I especially love the flowers!
Pre-reading:  Sequencing Cards
The children LOVE this activity - balancing marbles on golf tees.
Static Subtraction with Golden Beads.
Working collaboratively with the Pink Tower and Brown Stair...
and to make this, too.  
Here, is one of their drawings of the extension work.
Bells - Matching
Practical Life:  Metal Polishing
Grace and Courtesy:  Practicing a verbal greeting with a handshake.  (I wish I could show the children's faces in this photo - big smiles!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Education for the Senses: Part Two

Read the first part of this topic in the post HERE.
Five direct purposes of sensorial education:
  • Provides the child the necessary tools to enhance the child’s natural tendency to explore their environment.
The child is a ‘natural sensory explorer’ and has been such since birth.  An education for the senses allows the child to understand all that surrounds him from the colors he sees to the items he touches and feels.  The child becomes more aware of the details not only of his own senses, but also those who surround him.  He is better able to articulate his own experiences.
  • Allows the child to distinguish between similarities and differences.
The child is allowed to practice and refine the necessary senses and formulate his own thoughts regarding concepts that are similar and ones that are different.
  • Develops skills in identifying sequential patterning.
Intrinsic in the Montessori Sensorial materials is a sequential order of patterns.  This may include the sizes of the Pink Tower Cubes going from largest to smallest.  Likewise, patterns can be seen not only in the individual pieces of material themselves, but also through the sequence of lessons.  For example, the lessons of the Color Tablets build upon each other, creating a pattern of use within the apparatus.
  • Allows for the child to acquire information about their environment.
The children are given the necessary means by which they are better able to understand their world.  He is given the language to describe these elements and is therefore better able to contribute to the social world.

Five Indirect purposes of sensorial education:
  • Preparation for writing.
The Montessori Sensorial materials allow the child to develop the muscles used in writing through the use of the pincer grasp with the apparatus.  The Knobbed Cylinders or the tracing of shapes in the Geometry and Botany cabinets provide a few examples of this indirect aim.
  • Increased vocabulary.
The child is exposed to the precise language of the materials which builds his knowledge of words.
  • Enhances the child’s social skills.
Due to the fact that the child’s vocabulary and knowledge increases, he is better able to contribute socially.  He is able to articulate his impressions and share them with others.
  • Increased attention span.
As the child progresses through the exercises, he is allowed to practice and enhance his concentration and abilities to pay attention to his own actions and learning.
  • Prepares the child’s ‘Mathematical Mind.”
The Sensorial materials are organized with a base of ten.  For example, the Pink Tower and Broad Stairs are each comprised of ten cubes and prisms respectively.  Likewise, there are ten of each of the Knobbed and Knobless Cylinders.  This indirectly prepares the child’s mind for mathematical concepts.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Week

gone by...    Here are some pictures of what we've been up to:

A colorful shape sorting activity which has been used for not only sorting shapes, but also for counting and patterning.
Practical Life:  Spooning colored rice.
Number matching:  One of my young three's chose this work from the shelf and began tracing the felt numbers.  Then, on her own, she started matching the Sandpaper Numbers to the shamrocks.

Pink Tower and Brown Stair extensions - and drawing them, too! :)

Days of the Week reading practice.

Which one is different?  I made this small set of pre-reading cards several years ago using some fun stickers.  The dots used to cover the 'different' object is simply a foam circle.

Folding Cloths

Tactile discrimination (temperature) with the Thermic Tablets.
Constructive Triangles:  Large Hexagonal Box

Geography:  Map of Asia

Dynamic Addition:  3,788 + 3,467 = 7,255

Sealing with glue to make shamrock shapes.
(Click on caption to read more about it).

Static Subtraction with the Stamp Game.

Patterns and colors - lots of fun with this enrichment material!
Linear and skip counting with the Hundred Chain.

Finding a quiet spot with the Silence Game.
Tens Board:  Here, the child is counting from 11-99 (yes, she did all of them at once!).  This pictures shows her making the numeral 25 next to the two tens and five units.
Working with the Trinomial Cube.
I brought these extension cards for the Knobless Cylinders in hopes of renewing interest in the material.
First Control of the Addition Snake Game (control of error).
More Pink Tower and Brown Stair work.