Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Australian Aboriginal Dot Painting

Since our return from last week's Spring Break, we have been continuing our continent studies and learning about Australia.  One activity the children have been introduced to is an Australian Aboriginal art lesson.  Prior to having this lesson available on the art shelf, we looked at illustrations depicting the art of dot painting.  We have been enjoying the stories and illustrations from this book in particular:

Aboriginal Dot Painting art activity on the shelf:
Basket of various Aboriginal outlines (available HERE); cotton swabs; tray with paints and pencil (for name writing).
The work in progress (this is my youngest son who was eager to give it a try while I was setting up the classroom over spring break!).
A completed Aboriginal Dot Art project.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

When Opportunity Knocks...

…you open the door!

Our family has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime with my husband's receipt of a Fulbright Scholar Award to St. Petersburg, Russia.  While I am a creature of habit and am typically slow to change, I have enough sense to know that this opportunity should not be passed.  I am excited not only for the chance this gives my children to experience life in another part of the world, but also the opportunities it provides for my own personal and professional growth.

We will be traveling to St. Petersburg in December 2014 and staying until June 2015 - half a year of international adventure!  This means I will have to find myself a long-term substitute for coverage in the classroom, and I am looking forward to finding the right person.  Many other details must be put in order - and I have had a while to think hypothetically about them over the past year as we have waited to hear of my husband's Fulbright status…  Now that we have an answer, we can move forward and put a grand plan into place.

One aspect of this experience will be the opportunity for me to become involved with Montessori education on an international level.  I plan to visit Russian Montessori schools, conduct my own observations and research, and bring new knowledge and experiences to the classroom upon our return to the States.  Additionally, there is the chance for my own children to attend Montessori schools in Russia.  Since my daughter will be in Kindergarten, I am trying to place her in a Montessori setting where I might be of use too! :-)

My mind is racing with ideas, to-do lists, and a host of mixed-emotions (after all, I will be leaving the classroom for half of a school year).  But I recognize and honor the incredible opportunity this presents not only for my family but also the growth and future of my school.

Child of the World
I truly believe this opportunity embodies the spirit of Montessori, and I am delighted to bring these experiences to Dirigo Montessori School.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sewing Drawers: Part Two

I have always had a soft spot for sewing in the classroom.  I love the serenity such activity evokes and appreciate the fine motor and concentration skills it develops.  Last year, the children in my class were introduced to a set of Sewing Drawers which have since become very popular in our classroom.  When I first made the drawers, I never suspected we would have so much interest and so many eager sewers! In recent weeks, our class has seen an even bigger increase in sewing activities - what better time to introduce a second set of sewing drawers?

The next set of drawers is housed in identical three-sectioned bins.  The first drawer contains necessary materials to sew a button, the second drawer is for making a bracelet (with a button), and the last drawer is for making a small pillow.

Sewing Drawers:  The left side contains the first set of drawers; the right set contains the latest additions:

Top drawer:  Sewing a Button
The drawer contains one hoop with felt, extra felt pieces in the back, small box with buttons,  a needle, small scissors, and thread (wrapped around the clothespin).
Middle Drawer:  Making a Bracelet
This drawer contains strips of prepared felt (see below) for the bracelets,  various wooden buttons, a needle,  scissors, and thread.
I cut a small opening for a button hole toward the top of each strip...

…and placed a small dot with marker toward the bottom for button placement.
The materials are brought to a workspace on this tray.
And, here is the bracelet!
Bottom Drawer:  Making a Small Pillow
The drawer contains squares of fabric, a box of batting, and needle, scissors,  and thread.

Here is the small pillow my son made as I was setting up the classroom.
The children will be excited to see these new additions to their sewing options and I am looking forward to watching their skills expand.  Call me old fashioned, but knowing how to sew a button has got to one life's most practical skills and I am proud my students will have this knowledge! :-)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gearing Up...

…for next year - We have been hosting many visitors to the classroom over the past weeks in anticipation of enrollment for next school year.  Each time this occurs, a student is chosen to be our "greeter." The greeter shakes the visitor's hand, says, "Good morning.  Welcome to our classroom," and gives the guest a paper with our guidelines for observations and a successful visit to the classroom. Sometimes this part goes well without much guidance from a teacher, other times it requires a bit of coaching.  Either way, it is a valuable Grace and Courtesy lesson for the child and helps impress upon the visitor that the classroom is truly the children's.  Our photos from this week:

Reading and writing CVC words.

Seasonal Cards and Counters activity.

Listening for syllables with the names of South American countries.

Careful alignment of  the Brown Stair.

Creative design with the blue Constructive Triangles.

Size comparison with Knobless Cylinders.

Lining up locks and keys for a fun fine-motor activity.

Math activity with Cards and Counters.

A number is written on a slip by a teacher and the student makes the number on the Small Bead Frame.

Counting by tens with the Tens Boards and Beads.

Sorting solids, liquids, and gases.

Finding objects from around the classroom and matching therm to their color.

Pin-pushing a Map of the World.

Reading a rhythm pattern and playing it on our 'rainforest frog' rhythm instrument.

Language development: matching animal cards.

Pairing opposites and explaining their meanings.

Practicing sight words with the Small Moveable Alphabet.

Matching Geometric Solids to the their cards during a distance memory game.

Laying a foundation for geometry: using the Small Hexgonal Box of Constructive Triangles.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

States of Matter

I have been utilizing the following manual, available from Montessori Services, for developing meaningful science lessons and discussions in the classroom.  I appreciate how the book breaks down concepts in an easy-to-follow manner and gives ideas of how to best plan and demonstrate science lessons.  Most of all, the activities presented in the book are meaningful to the children and engage students in exploring and analyzing the world around them.
Most recently, we have been been learning about solids, liquids, and gases and the children were introduced to a new lesson for the science shelf.  I will share with my readers that part of the reason for the success of this activity had to do with the amount of excitement and drama with which the subject was introduced.  In other words, I wanted my students to be excited about this work, so I was sure to be extra excited (and dramatic) while showing it to them!  After all, part of the success of any lesson is the enthusiasm shown by the teacher.  I think it worked because we have many children investigating throughout the classroom and even during other, separate lessons classifying matter as solids, liquids, or gasses.  "This block is a solid."  "My water is a liquid and it is in the shape of the glass it is in."  "I am breathing air.  It is a gas."

The lesson on a tray:  Labels for solid, liquid, and gas; jars filled with different forms of matter.

The materials sorted by matter under the labels.

Color-coded sticker dots for control of error on the backs of labels and bottoms of jars.  

I am looking forward to extending this learning with additional activities such as sorting items gathered from around the classroom or making booklets with pictures and labels. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Endless Possibilities

The collection of photos from this week in the classroom demonstrate how endless the possibilities are with the Montessori materials and lessons.  This has been especially true with the sewing activities lately - it is safe to say that our class is in the midst of a sewing frenzy (see below)!  I am looking forward to observing even more of the children's discoveries.

Making and exploring shapes with the Constructive Triangles.

"Look, this plant has a new, baby leaf!"

Letter writing practice.

A cube-puzzle to go along with South American studies.

Reading practice with the Days of the Week and their abbreviations.

Writing preparation - tracing the shapes in the Geometric Demonstration Tray.

Understanding the decimal system - counting tens to correspond with the card.

Tactile discrimination and preparation of the hand for writing with the Touch Boards.

A lovely poem inspired by one's sewing activity.  Throughout the week, this student decided to make a poem (with sewing) for each of the seasons.  

Continuation of shape exploration with Constructive Triangles.

Counting and skip counting with the Short Chain of seven.

Beginning sentence analysis work.

Another fine example of endless possibilities with our lessons!

Seasonal Cards and Counters variation.

The day the Thousand Chain came out - it always gives a big impression to the children as they watch it being utilized.

Reading practice with the Animals of South America sentences.

Static addition with the Stamp Game.

Matching words to pictures.

Seasonal matching activity.

Reading practice with Labeling the Environment cards.

Number writing lesson.

Independent sound/symbol work.

Language work:  Article Box

Addition with the Math Drawers.

Introduction to the Small Bead Frame and notation paper.

Using the US Puzzle Map with the control map to learn the names of states.

Making a booklet of South American animals.

Handwriting copy work - writing the names of the layers of the rainforest.

Filling in the missing sounds of words with the Language Step Board.

Refinement of auditory discrimination with the Sound Cylinders.