Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Signing In

Over the years, I have had a version of a Sign-In chart, similar to the one seen in THIS post, for the children to 'check-in' upon arriving to school in the mornings.  While I have found this method to work for the most part, I have been wanting to change our sign-in procedure for quite some time.  Again, thanks to the extra time a summer schedule affords, I have put together a new sign-in area for my students.
Our new Sign-In Table upon entering the classroom.
Here, the children are not only provided an opportunity to recognize their name, but also practice writing skills as they place a mark next to their name and/or write their name.  Ideally, a larger space could be provided for name writing practice, but I was limited by the size of the clipboard (which was limited by the size of the table, and the table size limited due to the available space...).  I selected this Mondrian print to display because we will be exploring primary colors in our art lessons during the first weeks of school.  Hopefully, the rotating of various artworks on our Sign-In Table will strengthen our Art curriculum and art appreciation.

Our new Birthday sign hangs directly over the Sign-In Table - I think this will help build and maintain a sense of community within the classroom.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Class Birthdays

I have always wanted a special place in the classroom for children to keep track of birthdays.  Inspired by Pinterest, I made the following Birthday sign/chart (I don't really know what to call it!) with craft items I already had.  The only materials purchased were the plywood and wooden letters.

Each clothespin indicates the child's name and birthdate on the front.  On the back of each clothespin is the birth month.  This way, if children remove the clothespins, they can match them back by finding the corresponding abbreviations - a great extension lesson to our Months of the Year activity seen in THIS post.

At first, I thought to hang this new Birthday sign somewhere near our calendar.  However, I found an ideal spot on the wall immediately upon entering our classroom.  It hangs above a small table to be used as a sign-in area for the children (more about that in a subsequent next post).

Looks like September will be a busy Birthday month!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beyond the Walls

Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Children from Nature Deficit Disorder has been the inspiration for a new program I am developing for my school.

Maria Montessori understood the importance of the natural world's influence on child development and its impact on learning.  Current research suggests that "the [growing] disconnection from nature...has enormous implications for human health and child development" (Louv, 2005, p. 43).   Studies also show however, that early experiences in nature can enhance development of imagination, build concentration, attentiveness, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. 

During my Montessori training several years ago, I was fortunate to learn about an exciting outdoor education program called Beyond the Walls.  Headed by an inspiring individual who is passionate about  providing children varied opportunities to explore nature, this type of program is one that I have always thought about starting since that time during my training.  Having finished Louv's book, I am determined now more than ever to begin our own version of Beyond the Walls at Dirigo Montessori School.  I plan to do a bit more research as to how to best implement the program and am looking forward to spending more time learning outdoors, 'beyond the walls' of our classroom!

Louv, R. (2005).  Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder.  Chapel Hill,  NC: Algonquin Books.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kindergarten Self-Evaluations

Inherent to the Montessori approach to education is the cultivation of the child's sense of pride and accomplishment in one's work and activities in the classroom.  Lillard (2007) discusses how Montessori students are encouraged to "regulate their own attention" and concentration (p. 182).  Moreover, Montessori education "enhances  children's self-regulation skills... [and they] evaluate their own work with direct feedback from materials, the use of control materials, and their level of success in peer teaching" (Lillard, 2007, p. 182).

I feel it is vitally important to allow time for my students to reflect on their own work and progress.  To that end, I am planning to have my Kindergarteners complete the following Student Self-Evaluation form at the end of each week.  The content of this form was provided to me by one of my cohorts in my Master's program at St. Catherine University.

Kindergarten Student Self- Evaluation form.
Allowing students to reflect on their work and choices in this manner also instills a sense of motivation and self-control as children navigate the classroom.  Ultimately, "a sense of control over one's environment has positive effects on well being" (Lillard, 2007, p. 88).

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Montessori Madness!

These summer days have afforded me the opportunity to read Trevor Eissler's book, Montessori Madness!  What is most refreshing is that this resource is not written by a Montessorian or even by an educator.  Instead Eissler, a parent of Montessori students and himself an airline pilot/flight instructor,  advocates the philosophy of the Montessori method of education as a catalyst for school reform.  In doing so, he succinctly explains major components of Montessori theory and practice in ways which non-Montessorians can easily identify.

One of my favorite passages is his description of the first time he observed a Montessori (Early Childhood) classroom.  "I gasped.  To my right a child of no more than four sat brandishing a needle!  Actually, it became apparent she wasn't brandishing it at all.  She was sewing.  And she was entranced by her solitary work.  Across the room I spied two children with a knife!  I soon realized these two little children, surely no older than three, were taking turns using a rounded butter-knife.  They were slicing carrots and celery, which they would later serve to the class as a snack.  Everything here was real.  The flower vases were not plastic, they were glass.  Even the glasses were glass!" (Eissler, 2009, p. 47).  Reading this, I had to remind myself that it is impossible for everyone who visits our classroom to understand the  fundamentals of the approach.  Additionally, it highlighted the fact that what is routine and normal for the Montessori classroom, vastly differs from the ideas of those unfamiliar with the method.  Later, Eissler (2009) writes of his classroom observation, "when the thirty minutes were up, I inconspicuously rose and slipped out of the room, feeling relaxed and refreshed.  I met my wife back at the school office and asked, flabbergasted, 'What just happened?'" (p. 49).  Eissler had just found the answers he had been searching for in the quest for excellence in education.

I recommend this book not only to Montessorians, but also to those interested in learning more about the positive impact a Montessori education can have for children and their parents.  As mentioned earlier, it is also a valuable tool to better understand Montessori terminology and nuances that anyone can understand (not just Montessorians).  In the meantime, you might also find interest in the video below:

For parents of my students, the book is available to you through our classroom Parent Resource Library - I hope you will take the opportunity to borrow it!

Eissler, T. (2009).  Montessori madness: A parent to parent argument for Montessori education.      Georgetown, TX: Sevenoff, LLC.