Saturday, April 27, 2013

Back to the Classroom

We've been busy as ever during our first week back after Spring Break:

Pouring sand with a funnel.

Open-ended art activity with colored stones.

Spooning beans.

Refining the auditory sense:  Sound Cylinders
Reciting from memory and writing the 'Springtime' poem.

Enjoying watercolor painting.

Still having fun with magnets and water!

Subtraction practice with the Stamp Game.

Matching contient cards with the map.

Flag coloring: India

Land, Air, and Water sorting cards.

Exploring shapes with the Constructive Triangles.

Working with the Land and Water Forms:  Lake/Island

Lining up the Brown Stair on the shelf.

Writing practice.

Copy work.

Fine-motor practice:  Transferring with tweezers.

Language:   Matching cards.

Sewing shapes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Money Exchange Game

Over the Spring Break, I put together this simple, yet engaging money exchange game.  To play, two children take turns rolling the game die and retrieve the correct amount of coins, exchanging when necessary.  The object of the game is to get all the way to one dollar.

Money Exchange Game:  pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and change purse containing two game die and two one-dollar bills.
I placed two dollar bills so that the game continues until both players get to one dollar.  As with all games in our classroom, we encourage the children to shake hands at the end and say, "Good game!"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What is the Prepared Environment?

Bright, inviting, warm, and beautiful.  These are a few descriptive words that typify the Montessori environment, fascinating both children and adults alike.  One must ask, “How does a classroom become so inviting, beautiful and conducive to learning?”  The answer emerges from one facet of the environment itself – the Montessori teacher, or guide. 
Our prepared environment.  
A Montessori classroom is commonly referred to as a prepared environment.  Here, a learning laboratory has been created in which the child is encouraged to explore, discover, and be creative.  A prepared environment is one where a community of children learns social and academic skills while developing into independent beings.  Maria Montessori realized the unique way in which children learn and understood the notion of a child’s absorbent mind.  “Realizing the absorbent nature of the child’s mind, she has prepared for him a special environment; and then, placing the child within it, has given him freedom to live in it, absorbing what he finds there” (Standing, 1998, p. 265).

Materials for Mathematics.
Characteristic of the prepared environment is its abundance of order, beauty, accessibility, and availability of real materials as opposed to toys.  A Montessori classroom is filled with a vast array of sequential learning activities known as Montessori materials.  They are displayed on open shelves, in order, without clutter, and each object has a purpose and special location.  Children gain independence from the prepared environment as they move about choosing their own work and making their own decisions.  Standing (1998) describes that the aim of the prepared environment is to “render the growing child independent of the adult.  That is, it is a place where he can do things for himself – live his own life – without immediate help of adults…  In doing so, [the child] becomes conscious of his own powers” (p. 267).
Sensorial shelves.
The structure and order of the prepared environment plays a significant role in children’s learning and development.  Lillard (2007) states, “in addition to carefully thought-out objects facilitating the child’s independence and corresponding to the child’s…sense of order, the Montessori teacher organizes the classroom in a logical way” (p. 309).  Furthermore, an Early Childhood classroom will have "areas for Practical Life, Sensorial Materials, Math, Geography, Language, and so on.  Within that order, each object has its place on a shelf.  Teachers rotate what is available, based on where children in the class are in the sequences of materials, and what interests them" (Lillard, 2007, p. 309).

Sequential order of the Practical Life polishing materials:  Top shelf - Leather Polishing; Middle shelf - supplies for restocking; Bottom shelf - color coded materials for Metal Polishing (red), Glass Polishing (blue), and Wood Polishing (yellow).
Metal Polishing activity set up with left-to-right directionality in order of use.  This type of order develops and trains eye movement with left-to-right directionality in preparation for reading and writing.
The classroom, therefore, is not only spatially ordered but also ordered in terms of where items are located.  Additionally, each activity has its own organization within itself.  “Order means that the child is assured the possibility of a completed cycle of activity in using the materials.  He will find all the pieces needed for the exercise he chooses…  He will return the materials to the place – and the condition- in which he found them…  the child becomes an integral partner in maintaining the order of the classroom” (Paula Polk Lillard in Lillard, 2007, p. 309-310).

Materials for Sensorial lessons.
 Key to the success of the prepared environment and children’s responses to it is the guide.  “Montessori teachers are not servants of the child…to wash, dress and feed him – they know that he must do these things for himself in developing independence.  We must help the child act for himself, will for himself, think for himself” (Montessori, 2007, p. 69).  A teacher in the Montessori classroom setting plays a remarkable role.  It is one that functions as a ‘dynamic link’ among the children, the environment, and her. Not only does the teacher remain a vital element between the children and herself, but she also holds a deep understanding of the specially prepared environment.  “Once the environment exists the directress will become the link between it and the children…This requires a great variety of qualities – knowledge, patience, observation, discrimination, tact, sympathy – and above all, charity” (Standing, 1998, p. 305).

One of the first duties the teacher has in her role as the ‘dynamic link’ is to meticulously prepare the environment.  For example, all materials and apparatus should be in pristine condition, complete, and in their proper places.  The Montessori teacher constantly assures that all items in the classroom are ready for use.  Standing (1998) elaborates, “It is one of the main duties of the directress to maintain order in the environment; and be ever on the watch lest it be impaired in the smallest degree…everything must be always and absolutely in its right place” (p. 271).  Likewise, the teacher herself should appear neat and orderly, for her presence in the environment impacts the core of the classroom.  She must study her own actions and movement in order that a sense of calm and peace may permeate throughout the environment.  Montessori believed, “care for one’s own person must form part of the environment in which the child lives; the teacher herself is the most vital part of this world” (Montessori, 1967, p. 271). 

 The notion of the prepared environment and its high degree of order directly correlates to the unique way in which children naturally learn and absorb information.  The guide plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of the specially prepared environment.  The influence of the prepared environment in the Montessori setting is what allows for children to take pride in their discoveries and forms the foundation for a lifetime love of learning.


Lillard, A.S.  (2007).  Montessori: The science behind the genius.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, Inc.

Montessori. M. (1967).  The absorbent mind.  New York, NY:  Dell Publishing Company.

Montessori, M. (2007).  Education for a new world.  Amsterdam,  The Netherlands: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company.

Standing, E.M. (1998).  Maria Montessori: Her life and work.  New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring "Break"

These pictures are from our last week together before Spring Break.  Many have asked, "Do you have any special plans for your break?" or "Will you be traveling anywhere fun?"  My Spring "Break" plans include the formal presentation of my action research project in fulfillment of requirements for my Master's degree.  Needless to say, I'll be saving my fun and travel plans for the summer break instead... :-)

Carefully building the Pink Tower.

Fine motor practice with a water dropper activity.

Linear and skip counting with the Short Chains:  Chain of  9.

Continent sewing:  Asia.

Exploring watercolor.

Writing practice:  Metal Insets - two shapes, two colors.

Glass polishing.

Pink Tower/Brown Stair.

Still enjoying our science experiment with water and magnets.

Writing the days of the week.

Math work with the Short Chains (squares of numbers).

Visual discrimination of size and writing development (pincer grasp) with the Solid Cylinders.

Fine-motor development:  practicing with paper clips.

The Short Chains together (except for the chain of 5 which another child was using)..., to compare it to the Long Chain of 5 (5 cubed).

Many hands to clean a large classroom plant.

Filling water to the line with a baster.

Lacing shapes/cards.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Filling Buckets

This week, the children have been captivated by the book, Have You Filled A Bucket Today? 

I read this book once earlier in the week, and it has made a big impression.  The children have requested to read it again and again while remembering it's message throughout our days together.  It has helped to bring a greater awareness of how one's actions can impact others and ourselves.  It has been a joy to hear the children exclaim, "My bucket it full today!"  Likewise, this book helps them articulate the actions of others as they work to solve problems as they arise.  The following pictures from this week are shared with an underlying emphasis of how our own actions make others feel - an ongoing component of any successful Montessori environment.

Painting at the easel.

Reading/matching cards with The Farm.

Writing numbers on the chalkboard.

Sharpening pencils.

A new tray to polish.

Science experiment:  Do magnets work in water?

Water transfer with a dropper.

Addition Working Chart.

Sandpaper Letter writing practice - an ongoing activity in the classroom!

Carefully putting away the Number Rods.

Metal Inset handwriting practice.

Memory Game of Numbers with items from the classroom.

Telling time practice.
Scrubbing the step stool - they declared it to be "Scrub the Stool Friday!"

Geography:  Land and Water Forms - Archipelago and System of Lakes

Decimal system practice with the cards and Golden Beads.

Cards and Counters extension.