I spent another couple of hours working in the classroom tonight. My goals for tonight were to put away all the spring work that I had just left on the shelves since last May (!), put out the Practical LIfe work that I want out for our Open House on the 20th and for the first week or so of school, and put out the Sensorial/PL activities on another set of 2 shelves that I have. And I got it all done! YAY!!
I'm going to write about tonight's work in a few posts so I can really go through my thought processes regarding how I set things up.
Tonight I'll show you my two PL shelves (although I just realized I forgot to take a big photo of the one that is just to the right of the one shown below). I have photos of all the trays though. OK........last year I started out with WAY too many activities on the shelves to start. I think I had 3 trays on each of 3 shelves on 2 shelves...............18 trays of PL to start the year. I quickly realized that it was way too much for my younger students (and some returning children too since I was a new teacher to them and did things a little differently). They had a hard time putting things away on the right shelf. I consulted with a veteran Montessorian from my training center and her suggestion was to have only 1 item per shelf to start. That's a little hard for me. It just seems like too little on the shelves......I would love to hear from others of you how you handle this. Anyway..........I scaled it back after the beginning of the year last year, and I'm starting with fewer trays on the PL shelves this year. I have 2 trays per shelf and am only using the top two shelves to begin with. My other shelf is identical and also holds 4 activities. You will see all of them below. On the bottom shelf you can see my "parking spots"......pieces of red tape. I came up with this last year so the children didn't crowd the shelves with 3 or 4 trays. I teach them to place their tray back on the "parking spot". Each shelf in my PL and Sensorial/PL area (4 shelves in all) has the same colored spots to help them remember that they got it on the shelf with the "red" parking spots. As I'm typing this, I am thinking I will remove the tape from the bottom shelf so they won't be confused and replace a tray from the top or middle on the bottom shelf. That way it will be clear that if there isn't a parking spot, the tray can't go there. Eventually, I'll add 2 spots on the bottom shelf and increase the number of trays out.
This is a basic dry pouring activity. Dry pouring should come before wet pouring. I chose 2 wooden vessels (from Goodwill) and a wooden tray. Vessels without handles are easier for young children than those with handles, so this is the most basic and beginning pouring activity I would put out. I filled the left vessel with small polished river rocks that I found in the dollar section of a discount store. I like that it is a natural material and goes well with the wood. It also makes a very pleasing sound when poured.
Here you can see the rock closer-up.
Next is another dry pouring activity. This time I used a small heavy glass creamer with a handle. I filled it with popcorn kernels. I had a matching creamer that broke last year. I may try to find another thrifted one before school starts. For now I have a glass votive holder for my second vessel.
I put out this exact tong activity last year at the start of the year. It was very popular with my youngest students. The tongs are slightly concave instead of flat which makes them perfect for grasping the spherical marbles.
I also used this exact spooning work at the beginning of last year. This photo does not do justice to the gorgeous purple metal bowls. I don't know where you would get these. They were already here when I inherited the classroom. They remind me of the jewel-toned metal glasses my grandma had when I was a little girl. The flat glass marbles are perfect when paired with these bowls on a silver tray. Very inviting and blingy! The glass makes a great "plinky" sound when spooned into the metal bowls.
The next four activities are on my second PL shelf. First is jars and lids. I snapped this photo quickly, but the materials are 5 containers with lids and a folded piece of felt. To do the work the child places the felt on the table and lines up the jars along the top. Each lid is removed and then replaced on the correct jar. This is a great activity to encourage children to use their hands together. It also forces hand dominance as they are required to make one hand the working hand and one the helping hand. Many young children still have not determined hand dominance, so it's really interesting to watch how they approach this task from the perspective of hand dominance.
The next activity is similar to jars and lids. These are a set of wooden nuts and bolts. They can be screwed together just like regular nuts and bolts, but are really chunky and sized perfectly for little hands. I searched but couldn't find a source for these. I've had them for many years.
This is a nesting doll. I always place this on the shelf with a rolled piece of felt so the children have a mat on which to place their pieces as they work with the dolls.
And last, this seasonal variation of a tweezers activity. Six little apples (with long stems) to be transferred with tweezers into the small paint tray. This is challenging in that the children must grasp the stems with the tweezers in order to successfully transfer the apples. It forces concentration and improves finger strength, yet it is not so difficult as to be frustrating.