Here are a few photos of some busy little hands in my classroom. I have been very busy with helping the children myself, so I really haven't taken that many photos yet. Still.........this will give you a little glimpse of what's been happening.
Building a wooden sculpture (I don't have a source for this material. It was here when I inherited the classroom.)
Spelling CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words with the moveable alphabet
Doing go-together card puzzles..........a pre-reading readiness activity
Transferring apples with tweezers
Pin-punching Africa for a continent map
Doing a word drawer for the phonogram /sh/
Transferring marbles with tongs
Playdough (This is homemade playdough made by yours truly using this recipe. I added red food coloring and lots of cinnamon and apple pie spice. This is a great activity to do with your little ones at home. Don't be intimidated by the fact that it's a cooked recipe. It will take you less than 15 minutes to make and will be the best playdough your child has ever played with. It keeps well in a sealed plastic container. I make new variations each month for my classroom and often whip up a batch for my boys at home.)
Pin-punching an apple
Red and blue rods and numeral cards
Today marks the end of my second day back at school. We had a morning session yesterday and a morning and afternoon session today. During each of our three sessions, we had at least one or more new students who were intensely upset about separating from their parents. While this is to be expected, it is still difficult for the parents and child as well as the other children in the classroom. Luckily, all these students were able to work through their feelings and all had a great first day at school. I am really pleased with how our first days have gone. It is wonderful to be able to look around a classroom with 20 young children (and this morning 12 of them were brand new students) and see every single child engaged in a hands-on activity of their own choosing. Believe it or not, my assistants and I were blessed with a few moments like that. Not bad for the first two days!
I wanted to write a little bit about how my assistant teachers and I help the children who are very upset to acclimate and have a good day. I'm not sure there's any magic to it, but I'll tell you what has worked for us. I know many of my readers are teaching in their own Montessori classrooms. It would be great if you would leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas for helping with separation issues. It's wonderful to learn from each other.
I am lucky that my school pays to have myself and two assistants in every session for the first full week of school. This means my assistants work more hours than they typically do. I cannot emphasize enough how much this helps us assist our new students with classroom routines. The other Montessori school I taught in handled this a little differently. In that school the children attended 5 mornings or 5 afternoons, so we had the same 20 children every day. For the first two days of each school year, only half the class attended. So we had 2 teachers with 10 children each day which also allowed us to really give a lot of individual help to new students. I loved having the same children each day. This plan would not work in my current setting because my class composition is different each day.
Because we had an extra set of hands one of my assistant teachers was available to hold and console the children who were upset. I have found that when a child is very upset (i.e. fully crying out loud) it's better to stay calm and quiet instead of using a lot of words with them, even words that are intended to console. At times it is necessary to physically hold them if they are trying to bolt out the door. Once they are able to quiet themselves a little bit and once we know they are not going to leave the room, we allow them to stand or sit wherever they choose and watch what is going on. Occasionally we go over and invite them to participate or to choose an activity. However, it is quite common for them to refuse these invitations and often times this causes them to cry again. I can imagine that it feels quite intrusive to the child to be in a new and unfamiliar situation and then to be constantly bombarded with words by an equally new and unfamiliar adult. Once I think they have calmed enough and when they allow it, I go over and quietly talk to them about what is happening in the classroom. I try to keep up a running narrative about what various children are doing. For example, I might say, "Let's look around and see what the other children are doing. Look over there. See that boy in the blue shirt. He's putting wooden beads on a string. Wow! It's getting really long. And see that girl, she's making a picture with crayons." As I do this I am mentally thinking about the work in the classroom and trying to choose an activity to introduce to the child. I usually try something in the Practical Life area that I believe will have a strong point of interest for the child. Today I had great success in introducing the screwdriver board from Montessori Services to a little boy. I took him over to it and said I'd like to do an activity with him. I kept him right next to me while I modeled using the screwdriver to insert the bolts into the holes. I told him I thought maybe he could help me on the last one. He watched me intently and silently as I worked. When I got to the last one, I told him I thought he could do it by himself. And I mentally breathed a huge sigh of relief when he took the screwdriver from my hand and did it all by himself. (You can't go wrong with boys and tools!) From that moment on, in true Montessori fashion, he independently completed several activities. He was so proud of himself for doing the "marble" work that he carried it all the way across the classroom to show me. It was awesome!
Sometimes I invite a child to try something and they refuse each invitation. This is fine. Of course I would much prefer it if they would accept my offer. However I understand that each child is different and they need the time and space to process the situation. While the screwdriver board was a hit with one of my students this week, the other two children who started their days very upset eventually "came around" on their own. They each watched the other children working for a long time. By that point they had stopped crying but had refused any invitations from the adults to try an activity. Each of them ended up seeking out work on their own. Human brains crave novelty and stimulation. After a while the desire to "get their hands on something" overrides their desire to sit alone in the corner. And before you know it, you turn around and see that they have gotten some work off the shelf. And they are completing it with the intensity and concentration of a seasoned Montessori child. What a beautiful thing this is to observe.
If you are a teacher of young children I'd love it if you'd post a comment with your thoughts and ideas about this topic.
Here is a long-awaited post about how I handle record-keeping in my Montessori preschool classroom. I've had several readers ask this either in the comments section or in emails, and I've promised to write a post describing what I do to keep track of what work children have done, what lessons I've given, etc.
My main day-to-day "tool" for record-keeping is one I learned from Mrs. Honey (yes, that is really her name) who was the Montessori teacher I did my internship under. She just took a regular sheet of copy paper and divided it vertically in half, then into boxes horizontally so she had 20 boxes on a sheet. She wrote a student's name in each box (20 students per class session) and xeroxed the page. She kept one of these forms on a clipboard at all times and used it to jot down anecdotal notes about the children. Since that school required children to attend 5 days per week she only needed one sheet to cover all her students. I've had to adapt this for my situation since I have different children attending each day.
I have one page as described above for each session that I teach during the week. Therefore, I have 8 different sheets since I teach 5 morning and 3 afternoon sessions. I keep the sheets on a clipboard and keep the clipboard with me or near me during most of the work period. EAch time I give a lesson, I jot it down in that child's box. I also jot down which children are working together and which activities they are choosing on their own. This system is not fool-proof and doesn't not capture every single activity the children do throughout the work period each day. However, it is the best system I've found for keeping notes and it helps me tremendously when I prepare for parent-teacher conferences.
Below you can see photos of my record sheets on the clipboard. I keep the same sheets on the clipboard for several weeks. I replace them with new sheets when they become too full of writing. Then I remove them all and staple them together, noting the beginning and ending dates of the recording period.
When I get ready to prepare for parent-teacher conferences, I pull out all the sheet and use them to help me fill out a data sheet for each student. The one I use is one I came up with myself last year. It is basically a checklist of the main materials I present in each of the curriculum areas of the classroom. There are many variations and even materials that are not represented on this list. When I share the checklist at conferences I explain to parents that it isn't an all-inclusive list of what's in the classroom. Instead, it gives an overview of the areas a child has been working in. I color code my "checks" by semester so that over the course of a school year and between fall and spring conferences we can easily see what "new" work a child has chosen or received lessons on. When I have students for the second year, the sheet will reflect 2 years of work in the classroom and should have a variety of activities "checked off."
Below ou can see the form I've described above. This particular form is an actual form for one of my second year students from this past school year. In the second photo you can easily see how I've color-coded her work from each semester.
I know you may have MANY questions for me about all this, though I hope I've explained it clearly. Below you will find a link to the form I use. You are welcome to use it, adapt it, whatever you choose.
I would love to hear from you about how you go about record-keeping. If you would like to share, please do so in the comments section so we can all benefit from each other's ideas.
I've been thinking more about what I want to share with my new assistants about Montessori and what to expect in our classroom. So I thought I would expand on that topic some more today. I'm going to describe a typical "day" in our classroom and hopefully that will help some of you who are unfamiliar with Montessori education get a glimpse of what goes on in a prepared Montessori environment.
Before I begin, I'd like to describe my situation. I am the sole trained Montessori teacher in my school. There is one classroom--mine. I am also pretty much the director of the school. I say pretty much because our school is housed in a Catholic church and the church secretary helps me tremendously with all the "paperwork" such as registrations, forms, tuition, newsletters, etc. It is a wonderful blessing to not have to worry about that side of things. That said, I am the decision maker about everything in the classroom. This has pros and cons. It certainly allows me a high degree of autonomy which I enjoy. It can also be isolating in that there are no other Montessori teachers to interact with or bounce ideas off of. Our school is considered fully enrolled when we have 60 students. We are set up as a preschool only so the children typically attend for only two years, then go on to the local public school kindergarten. Another unique feature of our school is that the children usually attend only 2 or 3 sessions per week. That is just what has been traditionally done in this community and at this school. Children are welcome to attend more (my sons both attended daily) sessions, but it rarely happens. As a result we do not ever have the same group of children from day to day. There may be some that were there the day before, but usually half the class is different from the day before. This presents a lot of problems for the teacher (me!) in terms of introducing new work and information to the children as a group. We have 20 students per session with me and one assistant supervising. Our class sessions are three hours long and we have class on M-F mornings and TWTh afternoons. That gives me Monday and Friday afternoons "off."
I begin each session in the whole group. Our parents and students wait in our entryway until the classroom doors open (at 8:15 or 12:15). Usually I open the doors and greet the children as they arrive, then go with the children to our "line" area where we have our "start of the day" routine. My assistant gets a few students off the bus as the rest of us chat until our "bus kids" join us on the line. Once pretty much all the children have arrived, I take attendance. I call each child's name saying, "Good Morning, Joey Walker." They respond by saying, "Good Morning, Miss Laura." After roll call we do a "Good Morning" song. I use a song from one of my Frank Leto CDs. There is an instrumental section in the song that allows me to go all around our circle to shake each child's hand and personally welcome them to class. I like starting our day this way and it provides a nice sense of security to the children since they always know what to expect when they arrive. When I previously taught in a Montessori setting, I allowed children to choose work right away when they arrived, then had a short line time about 30 minutes into the morning. Having done it both ways, I have to say I prefer to start as a group. Each individual teacher would have his or her own preference for this, I'm sure. At our first group time I may do a group presentation of a new work in the classroom. Typically I only do this for new Practical Life work or art projects.........activities that all children should be able to do regardless of their age and skill level. When line time is done, I dismiss the children one at a time to choose their work. At the beginning of the year I dismiss by calling their names. Later in the year we do this silently as I hold up their name cards and they (silently) read their name to be dismissed. It is a very good idea to dismiss children individually instead of whole group. This allows children to think about what they will choose as they are waiting. It allows the teacher to "manipulate" (for lack of a better word) how children are dismissed to encourage children to work independently. I DO like children to do some work together; however, I also want them to develop independent work skills and habits. Sometimes two children may ONLY want to work together and if I dismiss them close together, chances are they will start out on a joint activity and may never work individually during the work period. By dismissing one at the beginning and one later, the first child should already be engaged before their friend is dimissed. This allows them to develop the self-direction and independence that are so important in a Montessori environment.
During the work period (which in our classroom is about 1 1/2 hours) the children freely select activities to work on. Children are expected to take their chosen activity from the shelf and carry it to a table or the floor. If they work on the floor they get a rug to put beneath their work. This gives them a visually defined space on which to put their materials. Additionally, it prevents other children from stepping on, over, or through another child's work. When they have finished their work, they push in their chair, return the work to the shelf and (if needed) roll up their rug and return it to the rug rack. During the first few weeks, my assistants and I will spend a lot of time helping our new students learn these ground rules. A good thing to keep in mind when presenting a new activity to a student is to return it to the shelf yourself (as the adult) when you are finished. This way you are not only modelling how to complete the activity, you are modelling what to do with the materials when finished. This also helps the child remember where in the classroom they found the activity and where to return it.
At the beginning of the school year it is very typical to have new students who do not work with anything at all during the entire work period. This can last for the first few days or even the first several weeks of school. For adults who are not used to the Montessori philosophy and environment this can be worrisome and even alarming. It just doesn't seem right if the child is coming to school each day and doing "nothing." In this situation it is really important to remember to believe in the child and in their ability to know when is the right time for THEM to try something new. For some children it feels very risky to try something they've never done before, especially in a setting with which they are unfamiliar and with unfamiliar children and adults. Don't forget that they are learning SO MUCH just by watching other children. They are absorbing EVERYTHING even when they are not interacting with the materials. They are figuring out what materials look most interesting (or least threatening), they are learning by watching the teachers give lessons to other students, they are discovering that this is a safe environment in which to explore and learn. And someday soon.........they will be ready to dive in with the rest. Don't worry...........it WILL happen. I have had students choose to watch for up to 6 weeks. And truthfully, it is hard to watch because as the teacher I so want to see them growing and learning. How sweet and amazing it is when that moment arrives and they decide it's time to get started and join in. In the meantime, all you can do as a teacher is continue to invite them to try activities, respectfully accept their refusal, and surreptitiously observe them as they survey the new landscape.
Another important point about the adult's role in the Montessori classroom is to try not to get "stuck" with one child for a long period of time. Ideally, throughout the work period each adult will interact with a variety of children instead of spending large chunks of time with only a few children. Remember that the teacher's job is to facilitate learning, not to directly teach (other than when giving a lesson or presentation on new work). The goal of a Montessori education is to empower children to be self-directed and independent in their learning. In order to accomplish this it is imperative that the focus be on putting children in touch with the materials and allowing them to learn through manipulating and handling those materials. With that said, there will be times where an adult WILL need to sit with a child for a while to guide them with their chosen task. Some examples of when it would be a good idea to help include: assisting children who are using scissors for the first time as they often need help to achieve the correct grasp, assisting a new student in rolling up a rug and/or putting their work back on the shelf, helping a child select appropriate work from the shelf, and, of course, presenting or giving a lesson to a child. It would not be appropriate or helpful to the classroom environment, however, if a teacher sat reading a story to a group of children (that is done with the whole group at a time outside the work period) or held a child on his or her lap during the work period. Certainly it is important to provide comfort to a child who is missing their parent or whose feelings may have been hurt by another student. Equally important is helping to empower that child to move forward and realize that they can accomplish an inviting task of their choosing. Doing so often makes the sad feelings disappear.
I am enjoying writing these posts very much. As I approach the beginning of a new school year, it is really helping me to think through everything that I love and value about Montessori education. I hope this posts makes sense. I've been writing it for about 2 hours with MANY interruptions and long breaks in the middle of writing to do a variety of things around the house. If you have any insight to add, please leave a comment. I LOVE to hear from you!
This year I will have three new assistants in my classroom. On Wednesday morning I am going to "train" them about our procedures and the Montessori teaching philosophy. I decided to write a post about what I want them to know. Hopefully this will serve a two-fold purpose. First, it will help me solidify my thoughts before Wednesday morning. Second, it may address some of the questions that you, the reader, may have about Montessori education.
I am often asked by people who learn I am a Montessori teacher, "What is Montessori?" There are so many answers to this question. Montessori could be described as a person, a philosophy, a method, a standard set of teaching materials and, perhaps, a way of life.
It would be wrong to discuss Montessori education without recognizing the brilliant mind behind this philosophy. Maria Montessori was a genius beyond measure. She was a keen observer of children and revolutionized the process of education through her writings and teachings. Unfortunately, the public educational system (at least here in the US) has yet to "catch up" to her progressive, yet spot-on, ideas about what best facilitates the learning process for children.
I am going to attempt to explain, in my own words, the key elements of a Montessori education. Then I will describe how this translates into what you would see in a Montessori classroom.
To me, the most critical "piece" of Maria Montessori's educational philosophy is her unwavering belief in what she called the "formative powers" of children. Her observations and years of experience with children convinced her that within every child there exists the desire to learn, to become better and more able, and to, essentially, create the man he will ultimately become. A less flowery way of saying that is......every child wants to explore and learn about their world and to master the skills needed to be independently successful in that world. Furthermore, she believed that children can learn successfully with very minimal direction from adults. She observed that children who are given the freedom to choose their own learning tasks instinctively choose the right tasks at the right time. Trusting the child to know what they're ready for and when can be hard for parents, and even for trained Montessori teachers. Our Western culture has led us to believe that if certain skills are not achieved at certain times during development then there must be a problem. We tend to anxiously fret and stew when our children do not do things when we think they should. This well-intentioned worry may even cause us to push our children into doing skills that they aren't ready for or interested in. As many have learned, this usually backfires. In a Montessori classroom, the adults hang back. They do not "push" children. Instead, they guide children to new work. They invite children to try new activities and respectfully accept it if the child refuses. Chances are that a child who refuses to try an activity will be willing to try it at a later time and/or after watching other students do the work.
Another important aspect of having trust in the child is allowing them to work undisturbed. Therefore, the adults in the Montessori classroom do everything they can to preserve the learning environment for all children. When a child is focused and engaged in an activity of their choosing, the adult does not interrupt them. This can be in direct conflict with the adult's gut instinct. For example, when you see that Johnny has chosen to work on a farm animal puzzle, it may be tempting to walk over to him and start a conversation such as, "Oh, Johnny. I see you've picked the farm puzzle. What animal is this? Can you find the cow? What sound does a cow make?" While there is nothing inherently wrong about any of those questions, asking them while the child is engaged is not necessarily respectful of that child's learning. What we forget as adults is that a large majority of a child's learning occurs inside their own head so to speak. At the exact moment that we decide to "interrupt and interrogate" that child may be making an important connection in their mind between the material they are using and their own experiences outside the classroom. Or they may have been sitting there quietly thinking about the task, perhaps it has been a little challenging for them and they've just managed to figure out (on their own!) what to do next and then along comes a disruption in the form of Mrs. Chat E. Teacher. So, in addition to being careful not to disrupt a working child THEMSELVES, the adults must also attempt to prevent other children from disrupting a working child. A ground rule in most Montessori classrooms is that children may only watch another child work if a.) the working child has given permission and b.) the watching child remains silent and does not touch the working child's work. And before anyone accuses Montessorians of being too rigid on this one, think of it this way. Imagine yourself working on something that you are very engaged in. Then imagine someone else barging into your workspace, starting to talk to you about a completely unrelated topic, and placing their hands all over what you are working on. Doesn't that sound annoying? Of course! Well, it's annoying to children as well and they deserve to be in a learning environment that has structures in place to prevent it.
Another key element of a Montessori education is the "prepared environment". The "prepared environment" refers to the way the Montessori classroom is physically prepared by the teacher to allow for a large number of children of a varying range of ages to engage in completely separate activities at the same time without chaos resulting. A GREAT DEAL of time and forethought goes into the prepared environment. Each material placed on the classroom shelves has a specific intended purpose and is arranged so that a child may independently use and learn from it (usually following a presentation by the teacher). At any given time in a Montessori classroom there may be as many different activities taking place as there are children. However, a well-run Montessori classroom would still have an overall feeling of calmness and purpose. It may (at least in my classroom at times!) not necessarily be completely quiet..........but if you were to sit and observe, you would see the majority of the children engaged in an activity of their own choosing without any adult assistance. It is this aspect of the Montessori classroom that I think stands in the starkest contrast to what you would see in a traditional classroom setting (at least in a traditional elementary classroom setting). Because young children vary so much in their interests, skills, and confidence in themselves as learners, it only makes sense to design a learning environment that can easily accommodate those differences. And Montessori education does just that. Conversely, a learning environment in which the majority of instruction is delivered to the whole group inevitably results in "lost" learning. The "group lesson" will most likely be just the right information at just the right time for roughly a third of the class, while another third will be not interested or not ready, and the final third will have already mastered the material being taught.
I have been a professional educator in both types of settings. I believe quite strongly in the dedication of my former public school colleagues. They did and continue to do an amazing job of teaching the children in their care despite all the challenges and obstacles that are inherent in the public educational system. And I believe that when I taught in the public schools, I too made a difference in the lives of the children I taught. However, my heart always longed to be back in a Montessori educational setting because that is where I felt that I could best meet the needs of all the children in my care.
A final critical element of Montessori education is the mixed-age classroom. Typically, Montessori classrooms are divided into mixed age categories as follows: 3-6 year olds; 6-9 year olds; 9-12 year olds. This is another aspect of Montessori education that is very different from traditional education, although some public schools do have mixed grade classrooms. I LOVE having mixed ages in the classroom. There are just so many positive outcomes. First of all, it is wonderful to have a group of returning students each fall who already know the routines. They are great teachers for the younger children. Secondly, having a range of ages means that the younger children can see what's "coming up" for them in the classroom as they observe the older children doing "harder" work. That can be very motivating to the little ones. Also, because of the prepared environment, academically advanced young children do not have to wait until they are older to try more challenging work. Conversely, older students who need more practice on certain skills can do so without feeling they are "behind" their classmates. The same benefits occur with regard to social skills as socially mature younger children may find an older classmate to play with and less mature older students can find a younger peer with whom to play. It's easy to see how the combination of mixed ages and a prepared environment paired with a strong trust in each child's ability to learn make Montessori classrooms a perfect place for children to grow and learn.
Now I'll share the other two shelves I put together Tuesday evening. In addition to my two PL shelves that I showed in my previous post, I have 2 shelves of traditional Montessori Sensorial materials. The two shelves I'm sharing now are adjacent to the PL shelves and Sensorial shelves. Throughout the year I rotate the materials on these shelves. However, I have out Wedgits for the entire year on these shelves as well increasingly difficult variations of bead-stringing. Other items that I place on these shelves may include (but are not limited to) puzzles, construction/building materials, magnet activities, 2+ person games, pegboards, and other manipulatives.
For our Open House and first few weeks of school, I have each of these shelves "filled". There are six activities per shelf. At the beginning of the year, my goal is to have many activities out that are easy for my youngest children to complete successfully. In the first few weeks they will be busy learning how to choose work, take it from the shelf to a table or the floor, complete the work and return it. I chose activities that they can complete without much adult help. This will build their independence and confidence and will allow me and my assistant teachers to spend the bulk of our time helping our new children learn the ground rules those first few weeks.
This screwdriver board is SUCH a popular work. It is available from Montessori Services. They have a few other variations of this that I would love to have as well.
I start the year with this classic pegboard with big chunky pegs. Even my youngest children can easily succeed with this and it gives them a great feeling of accomplishment to place every peg in a hole. As the year progresses, I change this out for pegboards with more holes and smaller pegs. This simple activity continues to hold their interest as the year goes on.
This is a horrible photo.........it is one of those magnetic puzzles that you use a "fishing pole" with to fish out the pieces. You can't tell, but it shows a farm with many types of vehicles driving past. This will appeal greatly to my little boys.
Here are the Wedgits. These are out all year. An awesome building material...........it is used daily all year long.
On the bottom shelf are two inset-type puzzles. You will notice that I'm putting out several farm-themed materials. That is because we will be taking a school field trip to a farm in September. There will be many farm-related activities out as the weeks go by.
Here is the shelf just to the right of the previous one.
These are farm animal lacing cards. I put out only 3 from a set of 6. The little metal pail holds the laces. These are really neat cards as the holes are numbered. I found these stashed in one of my cupboards. I didn't even have these out last year because I hadn't ever noticed them!!
At the beginning of the year I put out these big chunky wooden beads and the children LOVE making a long string. The string has a wooden bead attached to the end to prevent the beads from slipping of the end. Very important for reducing frustration.
This is a wooden building material with notched shapes that fit together in various configurations on a wooden base. I don't know where it's from.........it was here before me :0)
This tray has a little lidded container that I filled with colored plastic links.
I added a 4-space sorting tray so they could sort the links by color and shape. Then they can link them together into a long chain. I didn't put this out last year, so I'm anxious to see how they like it. I think it will be well-received.
This is a color matching game for up to 4 players. All the activities I've shown up until now are for one student at a time. I like to have a few materials out at all times that 2 or more children can do together. Many children enjoy playing with a friend. In a Montessori classroom with so many materials intended for single-use, having games available helps children form friendships. I cannot tell you how many times these types of activities helped some of my more reserved students begin to interact with others and feel that they belonged in the classroom. The second photo shows the box the game was originally in. I simply removed it from the box and placed the gameboards on a tray, the game pieces in a small red tub, and the die in a teeny tiny wooden bowl.
UGH! Another horrible photo. Sorry I didn't check these until I got home and uploaded them. This is another game (for 2 players). It is an apple matching game that I printed from Kidssoup. The tray holds 2 gameboards and a little basket with the cards.
This just shows how you would play...........each child gets a gameboard and the cards are placed facedown between. Children take turns turning over a card and placing it on the matching space until all spaces are filled. (This would be done on the floor on a rug OR could be done on a table. I just quickly snapped a photo of it on the floor.)
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.
In the Midwest, we have a quirky (and cute) little habit of dropping the "g"s at the end of our words. Thus the title: Gettin' Goin'. Translation: I'm getting going on setting up my Montessori 3-6 classroom for this fall. It's sort of a Midwestern way of saying getting started. My first day with students is Monday, August 24th, exactly three weeks from today. And I honestly haven't been in my classroom all summer. The carpets were professionally cleaned several weeks ago and I went up at that time to move all the furniture onto the tiled area. Tonight my goal was to get all the furniture back in place. This is what my classroom looked like from the main entrance when I started tonight.
And this is what it looked like when I left. Now that's more like it!! Much betta!!
My classroom has a foyer area where the parents and children wait before class and where parents wait to pick up their children. Here's what it looked like when I came tonight............the bulletin board border was rainbows and shamrocks.........left over from............March! YIKES!!
And here's how it looked when I left........complete with an apple border that should get me through the end of September. This is the only bulletin board I do and it looks just like this more or less all year with the only variation being that I change the border.....or recruit nice helpful moms to change it for me. :0)
After getting everything set up I was kind of ready to do a little more. All the items on my shelves are exactly what was there on the last day of school in May...........so I have a lot to do with the various shelves...........dusting.......putting out new work............replenishing consumables, etc. Tonight all I did was pull out my September bin and my August/September notebook and look at some of the things I had out last fall.
Below you can see the contents of my September bin. These canvas bins (from Target) hold A TON OF STUFF. After my first year back teaching Montessori last year, each bin was filled to the brim!! I keep all my seasonal manipulative items, games, etc., in these bins.
I have one of these notebooks for each month. (August and September are shared since we only have school for about 1 week in August.) Inside are page protectors which hold ideas for each classroom area (i.e. practical life, language, math, etc.) as well as copies of art projects and reproducibles. I added a lot to these last year as I found new things to do. It was great tonight to just pull out this notebook and be able to easily find all the seasonal things I'll want to use right off the bat this fall.
Here you can see an apple alphabet activity I stashed in the front pocket. On the right is a page of seasonal fingerplays and songs.
I felt good about what I accomlished tonight. It was good to get back into the classroom and get into that "school" mindset again. I am now getting motivated to keep going.........I'm sure I'll be in the classroom a little bit each day from now until day one. So expect lots more posts on this blog soon.
As I was driving home from school, I was overcome by a strong feeling of peace and joy. I live only a few miles from the school I teach in and when I go home the "back way" I have a beautiful view of the rolling farmland that is prevalent where I live here in the Midwest. I have wanted many times to post some photos of the views around my school but usually forget to take the pictures. Tonight I stopped my van several times to shoot some pictures of my view on the way home. I'll leave you with some images that I find to be very idyllic and bucolic...........I had to put some "big-girl" words in this post to offset the title words! ha!
The title of this post makes this game sound worse than it is. Actually, it's quite fun. I printed the materials for this game from Kidssoup. However, once you see how it's set up, you will realize that you could easily replicate it using egg stickers to make the gameboards and game pieces. As always, I printed the materials on white cardstock and laminated them for durability.
Below you can see how the materials are set up on the shelf. Just a little Easter basket with the eggs and gameboards.
Two children may play this game. They will get a rug to place below their work on the floor. To play, they each take a gameboard and then take turns opening one egg at a time. If the egg contains a paper egg that matches one on their board, they place it on their gameboard and place the empty shell off to the side of the rug. If they open the "rotten" (black) egg, they must put it back and also put one egg from their board back into the basket. If they open an egg that doesn't match any on their board, they also return it to the basket. Play continues until one player has matched all their eggs.