Friday, June 29, 2012

Montessori Apps?

I just bought my husband an iPhone for his birthday - it was time for an upgrade.  Part of me is of course excited for the communication capabilities it provides, while the other part of me is completely curious about the Montessori Apps I've been hearing more and more about.  I was testing one out within an hour of the phone being in his possesion - it seems I'm still formulating my opinions on the use of these apps. 

One of the founding principles of the Montessori method is the tactile, hands-on learning which is intrinsic to the very nature of each lesson and piece of material.  How can an app ever allow a child to feel the length of each of the Red Rods, or the heaviness of the largest Brown Stair Prism?  What about the roughness of a Sandpaper Number?  Where does Montessori's notion of movement within lessons come into play with an app?  The answer - No, they can't allow a child to feel the length, heaviness, or roughness, and the child's learning through movement is completely lost.  These apps simply cannot (and should not) replace the multi-faceted, integrated learning which occurs in a true Montessori setting.   One cannot ignore, however, the impact of current technology in the lives of our children and students.

Just for fun and curiosity, I downloaded Montessorium's Intro to Math app and gave it a test.  I was intrigued by the games, appreciated the simple graphics, and was drawn in by the "lessons."  Was it simply the novelty of my experience with the app or did I genuinely like what was happening?  All I know is that it was fun - my kids gathered around me, watching with smiles at a new rendition of Number Rods and Cards and Counters.

I also visited the  Mobile Montessori site, another company producing downloadable apps. Here, I was impressed by the depth of available lessons in the areas of Science and Geography.  The app for learning the Flags of the World looked particularly inviting and remains something I will be sure to explore on my own as I look for ways to incorporate the actual material (a set of the Flags of the World) into my classroom Geography shelves.  While I did not download from this site, I also acknowledged the fact that  this would be a fun way for kids to learn locations and capitols, among other features, of countries and states.

Having said this, I still hold fast to my belief that these apps should be reserved only for the older child after plenty of first hand experience with the actual Montessori learning material - perhaps as extensions of the extensions...  I am not convinced that I should ever use apps in my classroom.  I feel strongly that my students will learn infinitely better when they can actually feel the sandpaper, hold the Red Rods, and lay out the Cards and Counters themselves.  There may come a time, however, when it might be a meaningful activity for an (older) child to explore these apps to enhance and extend their prior learning.

What are your experiences, thoughts, ideas on Montessori apps?  I'd enjoy hearing your opinions!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Language Rocks!

Well, it appears I'm one of those Montessori teachers who can't stop thinking 'Montessori', even during summer vacation!  One of the joys of being a teacher (Montessori or otherwise) is the surprising places one finds inspiration.  The source of inspiration for the following idea was a simple trip to the playground with my kids!

Anticipating an early school year study of the Earth and preliminary lessons on Land, Air, and Water for this Fall, I have been mentally planning some basic activities.  Additionally, I have been wanting to add some meaningful pre-writing and reading lessons to the Language shelves which will give my students ways to practice important skills.  When I was on the playground with my children the other day, my eye caught the beauty of these rocks and I knew exactly what I would do with them!

The inspiration...
 First, pre-writers can fill in with lines, using water and a small paintbrush, moving from left to right to aid in training eye movement (for writing and reading).  Holding the paintbrush will strengthen hand muscles needed for writing as well.
Lines (or filling in) moving from left to right...
They can also fill in with curves or loops - how fun!

loops, etc..
 Children who are ready to practice writing letters can write letters...

Letters (or numbers, too!)...
What I most appreciate about this lesson is how I can incorporate geography into the work as well.  When introduced, I plan to explain to the children that the rocks represent the land, the water used represents the water on Earth, and for air, well this is the best part - I"ll place a fan (preferably one from another country, which I still have to find...) with the work so that the child may fan their work dry!  What a fun way to demonstrate the effect of 'air'?  It will be the ideal match to one of the first songs I teach my kids at the beginning of the school year:
The Earth is made of land and water,
Land and water, (2x)
The Earth is made of land and water,
And air is all around us!

I know it is just the beginning of summer vacation, but I seriously cannot wait to set this up the classroom when school begins again!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Montessori Compass: Extended Trial Offer!

Let's get to know Montessori Compass!

This is exciting news - Anita and Rob Amos, founders of Montessori Compass, have generously offered my readers an additional discounted three month trial period to become acquainted with their on-line, time saving, and valuable record keeping system!  Here's what they had to say:

If any of your readers would like to see how Montessori Compass works in their classroom, here's a promo code. Just click the Get Started link at to start your 30-day free trial and enter promo code "TOTHELESSON" to receive an additional 3 months of service @ 50% discount.

How fantastic is that?  I hope you will take this opportunity to see firsthand what a powerful tool this is not only for Montessori educators, but for parents as well.  Once again, thank you Montessori Compass for helping our global Montessori community!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Montessori Compass: Progress Reports

 Now that the school year is competed, I thought it would be the ideal time to share with you one of the convenient features of Montessori Compass. Please read more about this user-friendly, time saving, online recording keeping system HERE if you have not done so already - it really is a wonderful tool for Montessori educators, schools, and families.  One feature which I recently utilized for the first time was the Progress Report generator.  This compilation of data is meant to share with parents the various lessons and activities in which their child has participated as well as the level of current work.  The best part is that when the time comes to process a Progress Report, the most challenging work is already done - the information is simply gathered from all the record keeping and observation input previously entered by the teacher throughout a chosen time frame.  For example, when it came time for me to make the Progress Reports, all I had to do was enter the dates for which I wanted the information to begin and end, and Montessori Compass did the rest!  Amazing, I know!  I also found the 'Teacher Comment' feature highly useful in sharing personalized information about each child.  In addition to the availability to write a General Summary for the student, what was most helpful is the fact that each curriculum area allows for a personal comment from the teacher.   What a perfect way to personalize the information for parents! Thank you, Montessori Compass for making it so convenient for me and the parents of my students.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Still Here...

Well, we've finished the school year with much activity and excitement despite my recent computer issues (and my new MacBook Air is on its way!).  Unfortunately, I don't have many photos to share with you as I've had to be working on my desktop (and I'm unfamiliar with the editing features for photos...).  Here is one picture, however, that I believe sums up our year together in the classroom.  It is our group effort with the Tapestree Table:

Three weeks of "a little bit here and little bit there,"sewing together at the Tapestree Table.
I have removed the project from the table and brought it to a framer to be mounted and framed - it is sure to make another beautiful group artwork for our classroom for years to come.  Thank you Dirigo Montessori School, Class of 2012!