Hello, everyone! I'm back! I am done with all my conferences and am ready to tackle doing some posts again. Thanks so much for all your kind and supportive comments and emails. I truly do appreciate them. I try my best to answer your questions, but if I haven't answered you and it's been a while, please write again and I'll try harder!
Today I am writing about a story retelling project we did in class today. I have been reading the book The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern and Elroy Freem in sections over the past few weeks. It's one of the best books I've found for young children about the first Thanksgiving. You can purchase your own copy here. It's a must-have for every family, in my opinion. After hearing and discussing this book, my preschoolers have a pretty good understanding of the sequence of events.
As a culminating activity I decided to have the children make story retelling bracelets. I can't remember where I first read about this idea.......it was definitely on another teacher's blog. I did it with my kindergarten and first graders a few years ago when I taught in public school. Anyway.....today we did this activity as a whole group in my Montessori preschool classroom. I had thought about setting it up as an individual activity but decided that the children would gain more from it if we did it as a group. As we sat on our line my assistant passed out a brown pipe cleaner to each child. Ahead of time we had bent one end up about an inch so the beads wouldn't fall off. I had also placed the various colors of beads into large cups ahead of time. I explained to the children that they were going to make bracelets to help them go home and tell the story of the first Thanksgiving to their families. Using the book I went through the sequence of events and explained the purpose of each bead. After we discussed each part I passed the appropriate cup of beads around the circle and each child took their bead(s) and placed them onto their pipe cleaner. When everyone had all their beads sequenced in order my assistant and I went around and formed them into bracelets.
Each child took home the note shown below to help their parents understand what we did. If you are interested you may download a copy of the note here.
It may seem to be too early, but I just wanted to let everyone know that for the next 2 weeks or so I am going to do a daily post at my personal blog, A Day of Wonders, featuring a Christmas picture book and activity. I don't want to wait until Thanksgiving break to pull everything together, that's why I decided to start planning now. I'm planning on reading several special Christmas books with my boys during December this year. Each time we read a new book we'll make a special ornament to hang on a little Christmas tree. Every post will provide links to the books as well as links to the ornament ideas we may use. Even if you wouldn't do all the activities as I'm describing, you might get some great gift ideas for children on your Christmas list. Unwrapping a new Christmas book along with materials to make a related ornament would be a wonderful gift to give children of all ages. So click on over and take a peek!
You'll also probably be glad to know that I will soon be ready to start posting Montessori activities again. I've had a wonderfully relaxing summer at home with my boys, but I'm starting to get into the school mind-set again and have been spending a lot of time surfing for new ideas. DH (dear hubby) has been directed to pick up a new pack of white cardstock for me tonight on his way home because I have a bunch more free stuff to print and no more cardstock. Hope you all are having a great summer (if it IS summer where you live..........I know some of you are in the midst of fall/winter)! Take care and I'll write more here soon!
For the past week or so we have been listening to a great book on tape called The Scarecrow's Hat by Ken Brown. I bought this book and tape set through a Scholastic book order several years ago. It's fun to have a story on tape as opposed to me reading aloud because the voices are different. Of course I will still often read aloud to the children, but a taped story is just a nice change once in a while. I have added a link to the book to my Amazon sidebar if you'd like to check it out. In the story a chicken wants the scarecrow's straw hat; however, the scarecrow really wants to swap the hat for a walking stick to rest his weary arms. Since chicken doesn't have a walking stick, she goes to Badger who is willing to swap his stick for a ribbon, etc, etc. After a series of swaps, every animal character is happy. End of story.
Since I like to have props to go with our story, I printed out some pictures using Microsoft clipart and pulled together the items in the story.
The first photo shows the tray and basket which I pulled together to hold all the props and pictures. The second photo shows the pictures of the animal characters along with the item they have to "swap" in the story.
To use the props, I choose 7 children to be the characters in the story and give each one a picture and prop. Then I play the tape and hold the book. When it comes to each child's "part" in the story they hold up their picture and prop. At the end, the "chicken" helps coordinate swapping all the items.
The children have really enjoyed this activity. It's a great story. Fictional, yes. But also fun and a great book for the season of autumn. If you are interested in downloading the pictures, click on the file shown below.
In the lobby/entry area of my classroom, I have set up a table with baskets of books that parents can check out if they wish. So far, all of the books are my own personal books that I am lending out. I wanted parents to have a chance to read more about Montessori education without having to purchase their own books. And honestly, most of these books would have sat on a shelf all year otherwise. Additionally, I added several children's activity books that I had as well as some other parenting books that are not necessarily Montessori-related. Here is how I have it set up.
The little sign explains the checkout system (see below) and the black box is for the library cards. I have this set up the old-fashioned way with a library pocket inside the front cover of each book and a library card in the pocket stating the title and author. No bar-codes for me!!
I hope parents will utilitze the resources here as well as add books from their own collection. If you would like a copy of the little sign pictured above, you may download it here. I sized it to fit a 5X7 inch photo frame. I just backed mine with construction paper, laminated it, and slipped it into this clear photo frame that I found when out thrifting this summer.
...........is the number you get when you add 443 to 206. If you have been keeping up with reading the blog, you know this has to mean just one thing. Yes, there are 206 more books to be added to the reorganization project. My friend, Julie, who I co-taught with until this May called me the other day to let me know that I had left 2 boxes of children's books at school. The boys and I picked them up today, and sure enough, there are 206 more books to organize. Looking at the bright side, this is less than half of what I had when I started with the 443. So, I guess I'll be breaking out the sticker dots and Contact paper soon. UGH!
On a happier note, the felt fetish continues. Making felt food is a fun little activity (in my opinion). I am already planning to make a TON of it for the boys as part of their Christmas this year. I am still using the cheapo craft stuff that is 20 cents a sheet because my order of the better kind hasn't come in yet. Here is the little felt pizza I'm working on.
As soon as I post this, I am heading downstairs to finish the tomatoes and mushrooms. This is made using another pattern from Jeanette at UmeCrafts. This is the thin crust version of her pattern. I added the outside crust on the edges because I thought it looked better. I think it's turning out pretty well. And the photo is pretty good too. If I take the photos in daylight with lots of sun coming in the window they turn out okay (unlike the ice cream cone photographed under a lamp close to midnight!). I took a few more shots of the cone today in better light.
Instead of doing M&Ms all over the top like the pattern suggested, I just did one, kind of like a cherry on top. Then I used embroidery floss to add sprinkles. My oldest son actually asked me if the little stitches were supposed to be sprinkles, so I guess it looks pretty accurate.
Honestly, I have felt very scattered this past week. I've had a lot of projects going on at home (book reorganization, garage sale, etc.) and haven't gotten up to work at the Montessori school as much as I would have liked. However, ideas about things to make and do for the classroom are never far from my mind.
A few weeks back, Jennifer (AKA Montessori Mama) wrote about her artist baskets. And recently that got me thinking about making poetry baskets for the classroom this year. Another thing that has allowed this idea to percolate in my mind is the fact that I've come across two favorite and forgotten vintage poetry books for children during all my reorganizing.
The book on the right has a copyright of 1945. I am not sure where I got it, but I vaguely remember buying it MANY years ago in an antique store. It has a price of $3.00 written on the inside cover page. The one on the left is even older. I cannot, however, find a copyright date in it. It belonged to my Great-Aunt Willie (who died before I was born). She was a school teacher back in the day and must have used this book in her teaching. I am pretty sure she taught in a one-room schoolhouse. I have very vivid memories of this book from my childhood. When I was probably around 8 or 9 years old (about 30 years ago!!) I remember reading through the poems and typing out my favorites on our old typewriter (non-electric, WAAAYY before word processors). I even remember my favorite poem from this book. I have typed it below for you. It is a little morbid, but for some reason it was my favorite.
FOR GRANDPA'S SAKE
My grandpa went to war long years ago--
I never saw him, but they told me so,
And how, after a battle, sad news came,
Among the "missing" was my grandpa's name.
They never heard of him again, they said,
And so we know that grandpa must be dead;
And when I think of him, so good and brave,
I wish we knew where he had found a grave.
When Decoration Day comes, every year,
I feel so sad, and sometimes shed a tear,
To see the soldiers' graves all spread with flowers,
While grandpa cannot have one rose of ours.
So if some little Southern girl should know
A nameless grave where never blossoms grow,
I'd love her so, if there some flowers she'd lay,
For grandpa's sake, this Decoration Day.
I really don't know why I liked this poem so much. Maybe it is because I never knew my own maternal Grandma since she died a month before I was born. Maybe I connected with the poem based on that as well as the fact that my great-aunt Willie (whom the book belonged to) was her sister. Anyway, I have good memories of reading through these poems and typing them out on our clacky old typewriter.
When I was reading through the yellow poetry book, I found another that brought back a vivid childhood memory. My mom sang this poem to me while pushing me on the swingset in our backyard. I had forgotten about it completely until seeing the words again.
THE SWING By Robert Louis Stevenson
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
Isn't that cool? I mean cool that my mom whipped out a poem to go with a favorite childhood activity. Now mind you, I don't recall her reciting poetry willy-nilly during my growing-up years, but even so, this little poem has evoked a very special memory for me even decades later.
So.....................that got me thinking about selecting some special seasonal poems to share with the children at Montessori this year. And to piggyback on Jennifer's artist baskets, I was thinking about making up poetry baskets with poems we know from line time along with appropriately related hands-on objects. For example, I may have an autumn poem in a basket with silk fall leaves.
Anyway, that's the idea that is currently brewing. So I've been burning the midnight oil looking for really great little poems to use. I've found several so far and will probably share some of them soon. I want to put together a whole basket for the big REVEAL, however. Stay tuned...........
Hello. My name is Laura. I am a book snob. (This is going to be so cathartic!) Actually, I did not realize that I was a book snob until going through my book reorganization project these past few days. As part of my recovery, I am going to share with you the warning sign that led to my diagnosis (self-diagnosis). As I was going through all our books, I realized that there were certain books I wanted to reject altogether. And I mean reject as in "get that book out of my house" rejection. Books that fell into this category tended to be any books with Disney or TV characters as well as any books with "bells and whistles" such as buttons to push for sound effects. The thing is, my boys enjoy some of these books. And that is why I realized that I am a book snob. But seriously,
doesn't hold a candle to...........
...........at least not in a quality literary sense. I know how book snobby that sounds.
Obviously, we have both types of books in our home, although I did not buy the Diego book. And Blueberries for Sal was a gift from Aunt Carole (Thanks, Carole! Good choice!) and Whoever You Are was a gift from my good friend, Beth (Thanks, Beth! I love this one!). The point I want to make here, mostly for my own benefit, is that it is good to read to your child........period. Yes, I strongly believe it is important to expose them to high-quality literature like the books I pictured above. However, they will also get great joy from hearing other types of books as well as the experience of sitting with a beloved adult and sharing some quality time. How's that for a recovering book snob?
To reinforce my point, my littlest boy, who just turned three, saw the Diego book on the screen while I was typing this and got very excited! So there you go.
Below is a photo of a FANTASTIC book about sharing books with your child. It has several chapters on the family book experience which are really well-written and inspiring. It also has several chapters with bibliographies and reviews for various age levels. This is a MUST HAVE book if you love books and children. I apologize for the very poor photo quality of the pictures in this post. I think I've figured out my camera's problem, I just don't know how to fix it yet. The Kodak live chat line is closed until tomorrow. So, we'll see.
This book is called Honey for a Child's Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys Hunt. It has an annotated list of books for children ages 0-14. She has also written a similar book for teens and women. I am putting a link to this book in my Amazon sidebar. (In case you are wondering, I'm aware that there are two Amazon widgets in my sidebar, but I haven't been able to figure out how to remove one!)
I realize that since we have upwards of 556+ children's books in our home (as of yesterdays' count), a strong case could be made for weeding out. I'll have you know that there has been recent weeding out leading up to Friday's garage sale. The problem is that my children are pretty attached to most of their books. And I think that's okay. But I do gradually thin the books out and donate them (in case you were wondering........).
I would love to know your thoughts on this post. Are there any other potential book snobs out there, and if so, what are you doing about it?
..........children's books are now nicely organized in my home. Yes, I just counted them. Believe me, it took WAAAAYYYY less time to count them than it did to organize them. The organization process start to finish took about 5-6 hours give or take. Yesterday I promised to explain what I did and show the photographic evidence. However, before I do that, I have a question. Am I one of the few people in the world who would actually go to such lengths to organize their childrens' books? I have mentioned my little project to several people now and I'm noticing that no one (yet!) has responded with anything remotely like, "WOW! What a great idea! I can't wait to go home and do that with my books!" So, I think I'm sitting a little left of normal here. Oh well, I am pretty happy with the result of my labors, and as I've said before, that's what really matters, right?
Before I actually dove into the project, I spent a few days thinking about what our book issues were so I had a clear direction for the organization project. One of our issues was that we have many, many non-fiction books due to my son's interest in all things factual. These books were getting mixed in with all our other picture books and it was becoming difficult to find specific books when he wanted them. Also, we had books spread out throughout the house and all mixed together. For example, my oldest son has 3 shelves (I mean individual shelves, not bookcases) in his room that held books as well as a wooden book holder his grandpa made. Additionally, I had at least 4 or 5 book baskets strewn throughout the house AND we have a floor to ceiling bookshelf in our office with the top four shelves holding a mixture of books. Big tall books were intermixed with little short books, so the short books were getting lost, etc. You get the picture.
Given these specific issues, I decided that a big part of the reorganizing would be to separate fiction and non-fiction. Furthermore, I wanted to divide the non-fiction into different categories or genres. And to keep them easily identifiable, I decided to color-code the spines of the books with sticker dots. The final step before THE DAY OF REORGANIZATION was to decide which categories to divide the books into. This will, obviously, be different for every person and family given your specific collection of books. My categories were: animal fiction (books with animal characters), fiction, geography, history, reference, animal reference, dinosaurs, art & activity, and poetry. On THE DAY OF REORGANIZATION (is that getting obnoxious? for some reason I am liking it in all caps.......) I used scrap paper to write the category names and placed these papers all around on the floor. NOTE: Additionally, I had separate papers for series of books such as Mr. Putter & Tabby, Curious George, Magic Tree House, etc.
If you look at yesterday's post, you can see the photos of BEFORE we started organizing. (My mom came over to help with this yesterday. Thanks, Mom!) I started by pulling out all the books and placing them in piles. Then I laid all the category papers out and we started physically sorting the books.
This photo shows part of the piles of sorted books. Click on the photo if you want to see it larger.
After sorting all the books, we had to decide how we would color code them. I had purchased a few sturdy baskets from Wal-Mart for the project. I decided to put all the Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus books together in one basket, and the Mr. Putter & Tabby, Berenstain Bears, and Curious George books together in the other basket. Then I placed these on one of the shelves in my son's room. Next to the baskets on the same shelf I put his set of Veggie Tales books. These books pretty much took up that whole shelf. On the bottom of that bookshelf, I put all the animal fiction books.
Here are the books I described above with a close-up of the Magic Tree House/Magic School Bus basket.
The left photo shows the bottom of the bookshelf with the color-coded animal fiction books. The photo on the right shows the top shelf of another bookcase in my son's room. It holds the other fiction books. The bottom two shelves of that bookcase have baskets for miscellaneous toys.
My non-fiction categories included Geography, History, Reference, Animal Reference, Inspirational, Poetry, Art & Activity, and Dinosaurs. Additionally, I used some magazine holders I had on hand to house our Robert E. Wells books, "I Wonder Why" books, and Math books.
These photos show two of the shelves of non-fiction books in our large bookcase in the office/computer room.
When I was all done organizing, I printed out this color-coded key and slipped it into a page protector. It is taped to the side of the large bookcase in our office/computer room.
This is the wooden book box that Grandpa made that was previously in my son's room. Now it is in our living room and from now on will be designated for our library books. We have also had a problem with library books getting mixed in with the stash. Hopefully this will help with that issue.
And here is a little bookshelf next to my youngest son's bed in his bedroom. It is currently home to 113 board books (yes, I counted them). These books are not part of the color-coding system. However, many of these books were mixed in with the many other books in the house, so it will be nice for them to have a special home base again.
Here are a few tips I learned along the way. MOST IMPORTANTLY..........sticker dots do not stay stuck on the books. Almost immediately they started to peel up. This was worst on the books with cloth spines, but it still happened on the books with smoother surfaces. My solution: cover ALL the sticker dots with little squares of Contact paper. When I said earlier that the organizing process took 5-6 hours, keep in mind that about 2-3 of those hours were taken up with me cutting and sticking little squares of contact paper on 443!! books all afternoon :0) I am thinking this is where I get a little over the top. I just didn't want all the labelling to be for nothing. Now the dots will (hopefully) stay stuck so my boys can not only easily find the books they want but (equally important) they will also be able to put them back where they belong. My oldest son is already learning the system and has been able to easily locate the books he wants.
If you are thinking of tackling a project such as this and don't want to get as extensive as I did (in hindsight, I don't think it was that necessary to separate fiction/animal fiction and sticker all of those), I recommend just separating your fiction and non-fiction on different shelves. This would help tremendously in being able to quickly find the book you need.
I forgot to mention one thing: I have a big Rubbermaid tub in a closet that holds all our holiday books. I have LOTS of Christmas books, and some for other holidays as well. Now they are in one place and I can just pull them out and plop them in a basket when the holiday/season rolls around.