Montessori classrooms, by nature, do not always lend themselves to parent volunteers in the same way that traditional classrooms do. Since the children in Montessori classrooms are largely self-directed and are often doing their work either individually or in small groups, there is not as much need for an "extra pair of hands" as there would be in a traditional educational setting where many activities and projects are completed with the "whole group." As a result, I fear that Montessori parents may feel left out or disconnected from their child's classroom activities. I feel that as a teacher, it is important for me to provide ways for parents to be involved as much as possible.
As one way to accomplish this goal, I came up with the idea of Parent Helper Bags. There are many things that need to be prepared ahead of time in order for Montessori classrooms to run smoothly. And of course, all that preparation takes lots of time. Even though much of the prep work is simple by nature, it can also be time-consuming. Therefore, to begin the school year, I have made up several Ziploc bags with materials inside that parents can take home, prepare, and bring back to me. This will serve a two-fold purpose: it will allow the parents to help out in a meaningful way AND it will reduce the amount of daily prep that I have to do which will allow me to spend more time planning new lessons and activities, documenting children's progress, and writing about it all on the blog. :0)
Following are some photos and descriptions of the things I have put into the bags.
This bag contains a spool of Rex-lace (plastic lanyard cord; purchased through Discount School Supply), a little baggie of white pony beads, and a sample string cut to about arms-length with a bead tied on the end. (I am laughing because I didn't realize my bare foot was in the photo!!!)
Here is a close-up of the label on the bag, giving the parent instructions about what to do. The purpose for this project is to get the cords ready for me to put out with the seasonal necklace work. When I wrote my post about the necklace work, another Montessori teacher, Linda, commented that in her classroom she uses the Rex-lace instead of the yarn and needles. To hold it in a bundle, she uses metal hair clips as pictured above. I thought this was a great idea!! So I'm stealing it!! :0) Thanks, Linda!
This bag contains pipe cleaners which are to be cut into thirds and coiled around a pencil. The little coils will also be used for seasonal necklace work.
And this bag contains a stack of construction paper (cut into 6X6 inch squares), a stencil, and a Sharpie pen. The parent will trace one shape on each paper, and the shapes will be used on the Art Shelf for pin-punching work. I will vary the shapes by season.
I made up 4 bags for each of the above activities. I typed up directions labels and ran them through the printer. If you are interested, you may download them using the link below. They are sized to fit 2" X 4" shipping labels (Avery #8163).
If you are a teacher, I would love to hear how you involve parents in your classroom. If you are a parent of a Montessori student, I would love to know how you have been involved and/or helped in your child's classroom. Starting tomorrow, I will be the parent of two Montessori students. My youngest son (who is 3) will be in MY classroom (we don't actually start school until 8/25), and my older son (who is almost 7) will be starting first grade in a private Montessori school tomorrow. I am excited to be involved in his new school. It is a really cool place!! As you know, I am already pretty involved with my younger son's school (LOL)!!! :0)
I have to add here that I have THE most awesome group of parents ever (no offense to anyone). My parent night was last night and it went very well. It was well attended and the parents sat and listened to me blather on about one of my favorite topics, Montessori education, for about 40 minutes and seemed to enjoy it!! I put out my Parent Helper bags and EVERY SINGLE ONE was taken home. People were even "fighting" over the bags (not in a hurtful way, however!). Also, I think there are only 2 leaves left on my Giving Tree. So...............thanks so much to my amazing parents. I am really grateful for the help you are already extending to our classroom. It means a lot.