Monday, February 28, 2011

Painting with Spoons

One Art activity I have on the shelves this month is "Painting with Spoons."  I set this lesson up with the two colors we are focusing on this month for color mixing - yellow and blue.  Also,the children in my class have been introduced to painting with two colors (with a paintbrush) and I didn't want to overwhelm them with too many color choices. You may recall this lesson from a previous post:

Painting with Spoons
Moving from left to right; top to bottom:  basket of pre-folded white construction paper, yellow apron (folded above tray with paints), tray with a pencil (for writing name), yellow and blue paints (mixed with a little liquid laundry detergent) each with a color-coordinated spoon.

The materials are placed on the shelves in the order of how they will complete the lesson.  First, they take a piece of pre-folded, white construction paper from the basket and place it on a piece of newsprint at an available spot at a table where they wish to work.  (Our classroom has a basket of newsprint next to the Art shelves which the children use for any Art activity to help protect the tables). 
Next, the child puts on the yellow apron which is next to the basket, above the tray with paints.  Now, they take the entire tray with paints to their workspace and place it to the left of the newsprint with the pre-folded, white construction paper.  The placement of the tray is actually quite important.  By having it placed to the left of the workspace, the child is then able to move in a left to right direction.  In turn, this aids in the development and training of the eye to move from left to right in preparation for reading and writing. 
The child is then ready to write their name on the back of the pre-folded, white paper with the pencil.
Now, they open the lid to yellow paint and scoop a small amount of paint with the yellow spoon and dab it anywhere on the white paper.  During the initial lesson, I explained that we should try to keep the paint a little bit away from the edges of the paper because during the next part, the paint might spill out...  Next, they use the blue paint with the blue spoon in the same manner. 
When the child is finished, they fold the paper and press down, rubbing over the paint underneath.  Next, is the big reveal - the child opens the paper and a beautiful design is uncovered.  
The big reveal!
You can see here the paint set up at the left of the workspace which aids the training of the eye in left to right movement in preparation for reading and writing...

Lastly, the child rinses the spoons at the sink and returns the materials to their proper places on the shelves.
The children in my classroom have delighted in this activity!  Usually, they want to do more than one and  by the time they are  finished, a small gathering has assembled to watch.  There have been plenty of smiles over this art lesson!

I feel it is important to describe in detail the process of such an Art activity.  There is so much more that goes on than just simple painting.  One needs to remember the following:  Firstly, the child has chosen this activity on his own and is acting on his own decisions.  Secondly, the child must remember a sequence of steps in order so that the activity may be completed.  Thirdly, they have been engaged in a thoroughly creative process as they decide how much paint to use and where to place it on the paper.  Once a design in revealed, they are further enabled to explore their creative impulses as they describe what they see.  Fourth, they have been actively involved in a lesson that will assist them with reading and writing skills (training of the eye movement).  And lastly, let's not forget that part of the lesson is cleaning up after themselves and leaving the materials ready for the next person!

Please, please please remember this while looking at your child's artwork!  Take time to celebrate if your child brings home repeats too -there is nothing more depleting for the child (and the teacher) than to hear a parent say, "Oh, another one?!"  Yes, another one!  Celebrate all that your child has accomplished in one lesson!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

STEM Research

As part of my Montessori training, I have recently started a major component of the course of studies - the research project. As many of you are aware, a national discussion is underway on the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. My research aims to show how the pre-school Montessori classroom - designed by a scientist and physician - is ideally suited to introducing children to these important topics.  To measure the efficacy of this method, I am currently documenting how specific State Standards in STEM are not only being met in the Montessori setting, but are also being exceeded. My research will demonstrate how a primary Montessori classroom, grounded in the design of the apparatus, supports the objectives of meeting and exceeding state and national standards in STEM.  Here is a little preview:

Learning Standard:  Counting and Cardinality

Learning Standard:  Category of  Scale

Learning Standard:  Category of Scale
Yet again, Maria Montessori's approach to education proves to have been generations ahead of her time!  I feel strongly that my research shows relevance in today's discussions of educational reform in our country. 

Winter Wonderland...Again!

The freshly fallen snow has provided the end of our vacation days with more winter fun!  My husband and I have always treasured the view to our woods from the kitchen window - what a delight it has been to watch the seasons change through these windows over the eight years we have lived here. 

Winter Woods
 View from our kitchen window during the last storm.
 Needless to say, my kids love playing out there - especially when our plow-man makes huge snowbanks for them to dig tunnels and such.  This morning, my dear husband took the boys out for some snowshoeing.  During their excursion, they spotted raccoon tracks. They proved it's the raccoon we've seen tromping across the neighbor's yard to the woods and back under their barn/garage -  they followed the tracks all the way back to the neighbors! 

Coon Tracks!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Function of Words

The Montessori language lessons are a brilliant composition of activities which allow the child to discover writing and reading in a natural, auto-didactic manner.  I was reminded of the sheer magnitude of Montessori's educational vision today during a Language seminar as part of my Montessori training with the Montgomery Montessori Institute.  In particular, the Function of Words lessons allow opportunities for the child to explore the relationship between words.  Through various lessons involving articles, nouns, and adjectives, the child comes to understand the power of words.  My Language album, compiled by Sandra Gaddy, states, "The Functions of Words work is not intended to teach grammar, but to give a forceful impression about the function of that part of speech.  As the child learns about the words, in their relation to and effect upon one another, that child becomes able to incorporate this knowledge into a personal writing style."  To that end, here is a preview of one of my next purchases for the classroom:

Montessori Grammar Symbols and Box
By allowing the children opportunities for language growth and development through the use of such materials, I am confident with the implementation in my classroom of one of Montessori's guiding principles, "Free the child to speak, and he will reveal himself."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Newest Member of the Class

In honor of our Summer-related lessons this month, I thought it would be meaningful to add this new classmate to our classroom!

Dirigo Montessori School's newest member!
 We will have fun deciding on a name!

Montessori-Style Bed

We are celebrating a new level of Little Miss' independence!  Since she was born, Little Miss has slept in a Montessori-style bed.  It simply consists of a low-lying mattress allowing a child to get up on his own and explore the room.  Naturally, the environment has been prepared so that safety concerns are eliminated. 

Little Miss' Montessori bed. 
Design ideas courtesy of Finn's Room at Sew Liberated.

For almost two years now, Little Miss has been content to wait in her bed in the mornings for me to come and get her.  Can you imagine?  This entire time she has had free reign in her room, yet never actually got up to play with her toys when she awakened... until this morning!  I was half awake when I thought I heard a door open followed by a pitter patter of tiny feet. By the time I realized I wasn't dreaming and got up, Little Miss had gone all the way downstairs looking for us!  It is comforting to know that she feels confident enough in her surroundings to reach this new height of independence.  (And for those of you who are wondering, yes she is very comfortable navigating the stairs....)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day Trip!

We had the pleasure of a little excursion to Camden today.  What a lovely town it is!  We have visited many times before, however, it is usually in the summertime when tourists abound.  Today was a beautiful day - sunny and a delightful 30 degrees!  Yes, it felt warm and a hint of spring could even be felt!  We walked to the Camden Public Library where Little Miss participated in a story time for babies and toddlers.  Big Stuff and Mr. Man wanted no part of that of course and were content to read in the "big kid" section.  I couldn't resist a photo-op against Camden Harbor - as beautiful in Winter as in any other season!
 Now that we are approaching the end of February Vacation week, I am reminded of my lessons at school, specifically on the Art shelves.  Here is a preview of what I have in store for next week:

Cutting folded paper

Painting with spoons
Can you guess what the color theme will be for March?  These activities are from an excellent Montessori resource:  Let Out the Sunshine by Regina Reynolds Barnett. If I were a bit more tech savvy, I would provide a link to this book...but I'm afraid I haven't figured out how to do that just yet...In any case, I find the content extremely helpful in providing ideas for art education in the Montessori setting.  One of the main differences of a Montessori preschool classroom and a traditional preschool setting is the way art activities are presented.  In the Montessori classroom, the activity is set up as an individual lesson, not unlike any of the other Montessori learning materials.  It is important to note, however, that the children are given specific lessons on the proper use of these materials and can only complete the activity once a lesson is given.  This is in contrast to the traditional setting where typically a large group of students is instructed at the same time, leaving limited opportunities for the child to explore on his own.  Additionally, art materials in traditional settings are usually only provided to children at a specific time and then removed from reach.  I love how a child can choose an art activity (or any other lesson) in a Montessori setting whenever they feel the desire to do so and are not constrained by the "group lesson" or adult schedules.  I am planning on saving the artwork produced by the children from the paper cutting exercise and having them assist in assembling a collective piece of art.  Hint:  Think large canvas...stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Solids, Liquids, and Gases

The boys participated in Experimenting with Solids, Liquids, and Gases at the Challenger Learning Center (CLC) in Bangor this morning.  This organization provides meaningful opportunities for children to engage in stimulating and fun science activities.  The CLC even boasts a simulated Mission Control Station for space shuttle lift-offs!  Check out their website at and those of you in the area should try to visit. 

Ready for experimentation!

While Big Stuff and Mr. Man were busy with experiments, Little Miss and I headed over to the craft store.  Here, I purchased some wooden CD crates for a small organizational project in the boys' room.  We have concluded that there is not a proper place to store their coveted model rockets which is safe from little hands...  Big Stuff in particular was in need of a place to store and display those tiny Lego pieces!  Enter the CD crates! 

Here is what the space next to the top bunk bed looked like before:

A sad state of affairs complete with ripped poster - Yikes!

And here it is afterwards:

A place for everything and everything in its place!

Mr. Man could not be left out either - he wanted to have a special spot for his treasures too:

Both boys took great pride in setting up their "shelves."  In case you were wondering, I simply used Command Strips to attach the CD crates to the wall - instant wall shelves!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February Vacation

We have been enjoying our time at home during the February break.  While I appreciate the extra time in the mornings, these vacation days also allow me complete lots of  school related paperwork.  I relish the moments however, when the kids are enjoying the afternoon sun in the warmth of our cozy kitchen!

Last night, while the kids were asleep, I headed over to the school to set up the shelves for our return next week.  We will be focusing on summer-related themes in March as evidenced by the "beachy" feel of the Practical Life lessons.  I am currently completing my AMS training and my year-long project is Seasons.  The project is due next month and I wanted to have my summer lessons in place so that I may be done with it as I have already documented my lessons for Autumn, Winter, and Spring. 

Dry Transferring

Wet Transferring
 It was a long evening and it didn't help that I locked myself out of the classroom right when I was finishing up!  During a frantic, late night call to my lovely Assistant, I was reminded of a spare key in our secret location - so secret that it had eluded my memory!

I have a few more items to set up, but thankfully I have the remainder of vacation to do so.

It's All New to Me!

Let's just say this is a little experiment! I have been quietly searching the blog world for a few years now and have come to the realization that perhaps I too, can offer my humble ideas.  I very much enjoy all things Montessori whose philosophy I came across ten years ago when I was looking for a teaching position.  To truncate an otherwise expansive story, I started a small, independent Montessori school five years ago in Ellsworth, Maine.  Feel free to visit the school website here, if interested.  While I do not consider myself technically savvy, I have decided to try my best to document my Montessori experiences through this blog.  While doing so, I also hope to offer glimpes of clarity to my amazing family whom I adore!

As all things Montessori begin with a lesson, let me be the first to declare on this blog, "To the Lesson!"