Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Group Art Project: Snowflake Cuttings

Last month, the children enjoyed cutting paper snowflakes featured in THIS POST.  They  turned out so beautifully, I thought it would be fitting to preserve them.  So, I set up a (reused) canvas one morning and had the children take turns painting the background. 

Painting a reused canvas - the blue parts are bits of paper from a previous project...
I had some gray paint leftover and thought it would make an ideal background.  We also added some black and white which the children enjoyed mixing.  The end result was interestingly textured with moving shades of gray.  Unfortunately, the photo I took of this stage came out blurry, but you can still get a sense of the varying shades:

Background completed.
Once the children had taken turns painting the canvas, I photographed each of them holding their individual snowflake.  These photos will allow viewers of the art piece to identify whose shape is whose - and while I cannot share pictures of the children's faces on this blog, I must tell you how adorable they came out!  The pictures capture each child's personality more than I could have ever imagined they would have.  When I ordered the prints, I chose to assemble a collage, which we plan to hang next to the group artwork.  Anyway, back to the snowflakes...here they are mounted on the canvas with a coat of matte Mod Podge:
Group Snowflake Cuttings project.
                        And finished off with a black frame, adorning the wall near our cubbies:

Loving the black frame!  Our latest group project:  Snowflake Cuttings.

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A Sweet Surprise

Sometimes, I hear people complain about all the emails waiting for them upon return to work after an absence, and all they have to do to "catch up."  Well, I returned to the classroom today after missing one day and this is what was waiting for me on the morning message board:

Each morning, we typically read a message together beginning with Dear Friends,...and ending with Love, Ms. Sasha.  On the day I was out, the kids, with the help of my assistant and substitute, wrote a message for me!  And right under the message waiting on the shelf...

...a perfect bouquet of flowers!
 I don't think anyone will ever find me complaining about the messages which await me when I have returned from being away!  :)  Thank you, little friends of mine, for this act of kindness!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Keeping Up with the Crowd

Well, it's been one of those weeks when it feels as if one can hardly keep up with everything that's happening...!  Thankfully, this was due mostly to fact that many of my students were ready for new lessons which is yet another sign of positive developments in the classroom.  And then, in the midst of all this activity, we had a snow day!  Additionally, I've been fortunate to be participating in a trial with Montessori Compass, an online record keeping system for Montessori schools and teachers.  Consequently, I've been inputting information and data regarding our lessons and activities in the classroom while learning the details of the program.  I'll let you know more about that as I become more familiar with the system and its impact in the classroom.  Meanwhile, here are some highlights of our week:
Flower Arranging

Mittens and Snowflake math.

Celebrating Chinese New Year by making good luck banners.
More word building with the Moveable Alphabet.
Numbers 11-19 with the Teen Beads.

Numbers 11-19 with the Teen Boards and Beads.
The Article lesson.
Painting on canvas (which are are reusing from a past project) for the second part of a group art project.  I'll post about it in the near future! :)
Table Washing lesson - always a favorite with the children!
One of the moms came in to talk to the children about Chinese New Year.  We listened to Chinese music, learned how to say, "Happy New Year!" in Chinese, and even tried a few Tai Chi moves!  Good fortune was already upon us because she gave us these beautiful banners to hang in our school.  Thank you, thank you!

Dynamic Addition with the Golden Beads.

A "Puzzle Party!"

Exploring shapes with the Geometric Solids.  Two children in the back were reading a set of Phonetic Word Cards - you can see the word 'stop' in the background...
 It appears I'm left with fewer pictures than usual this week with the combination of many lessons unfolding in the classroom, me learning the latest record-keeping system, and the snow day.  Next week will bring new works on the shelves and the completion of our latest group art project!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

'Total' Reading

The Montessori classroom provides a language rich environment from which the child is able to absorb information.  While lessons within the curriculum areas and adult interactions nurture language growth, they also simultaneously form a foundation for future reading. We are able to provide the tools necessary for the child to form his own thoughts as he progresses through the stages of writing.  Therefore, it is recognized that writing precedes reading.  In order to write, a child must analyze and decode his own word or thought.  Reading on the other hand, presents an entirely new process.  Here, the child is first required to synthesize outside information, followed by analyzation and decoding of information before putting it back together again.  As we refer to the teaching of reading, one must also remember that reading is to be taught in totality.  That is, a child must not only be able to decode words, but we also strive to cultivate his understanding of meaning, thought, and expression conveyed by an author.  The Montessori teacher facilitates this process by providing the child ‘keys’ for learning.

Reading practice with the Phonetic Object Box lesson.
The initial lessons in the Montessori classroom for reading involve the Single Word Exercises.  First, the child is introduced to the phonetic sounds of words so that he may experience isolation of sound.  This is an essential element to learning as the child will know what to expect.  Next, phonograms are introduced and the child realizes that sometimes, more than one letter is necessary to produce one sound.  The children are also introduced to puzzle words (sight words) which assist the child in practicing words which do not follow established reading rules.  The final lessons of the initial stage involve a combination of phonetic reading lessons, phonograms, and puzzle words.
Word building with the phonogram '-ow.'
The next set of lessons, The Function of Words, allows the child to explore relationships between words.  Through various lessons involving articles, nouns, and adjectives, the child comes to understand the power of words.  Grammar Symbols are also introduced along with lessons of conjunctions and prepositions.  Verbs are introduced after much work with the nouns.  The Function of Words exercises provide the ‘keys’ necessary for the child to experience the forceful impressions elicited through word. 
The 'Conjunction' lesson with grammar symbols.
Lastly, the child is provided ’keys’ for Reading Analysis.  These lessons provide opportunities for the child to explore relationships among parts of sentences.  As the child progresses through the individualized exercises, his reading level increases along with his self-esteem.  Of paramount importance is the support of the child’s self confidence and providing him the tools needed for success.

The importance of books in the classroom should not be neglected.  The modeling of correct treatment of books is emphasized in the Montessori classroom.  Children are taught how to properly handle books and carefully turn pages.  The teacher should also take care to provide an array of books with varying degrees of reading levels.  Introducing a variety of literature is a positive reinforcement not only to the Language curriculum, but also to the development of the child’s ability to read.
Reading should be regarded as an extension of one’s speech.  Teaching methods for learning to read can be adapted and enriched to maintain a child’s interest and desire to read.  Reading is an integrated process involving language experience, interrelated skills, phonetic instruction, and analyzation.  It is also a culmination of a child’s curious mind responding to the adult’s enthusiastic approach to the teaching of total reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese New Year Banners

We've been having a fun time learning about this holiday and marking the occasion with a special activity - making Chinese New Year good luck banners!  First, we read this book:
We read this book at circle time.
Then, we talked about the 'Fu' symbol and how these banners help welcome good luck to those who hang them in their homes.  Finally, I showed the children an activity I put together to make our own Chinese New Year good luck symbols.  I was going to have the kids place these on some decorative tree branches inside the classroom, but they had the better idea to hang them up around our door in the classroom instead!

Materials for Chinese New Year good luck symbols:  Popsicle sticks; Tap-n-Glue bottles; two red markers and two pencils; copies of small 'Fu' symbols; 'lucky pennies'.
This material is set up for two children to complete at a time.  After coloring four sticks and the good luck symbol, the kids assembled their popsicle sticks onto the paper symbol.  Then, they each glued a lucky penny onto their project.  After they dried, we taped some ribbon to the back.

Ready for some good luck!
Here is a collection of symbols which hang along the sides of the door inside our classroom.
Happy Chinese New Year!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Short and Sweet but Packed with Power!

Although our week was shortened by one day, we had plenty of exciting events and activity!  It all started with our winter nature walk on Tuesday morning...

Nature walk observation: "Ouch! Those needles hurt!"

...which we used to make these ice collages.
And inside the classroom...
Using a small water dropper to fill the suction cups.
Phonogram Box:  This lesson is using the phonogram 'ar' ( as in the word 'card').

The second part of the above mentioned phonogram lesson - Making 'ar' words with the Small Moveable Alphabet.

Initial introduction of the Decimal System Cards with the Golden Beads.

Land and Water Forms: System of Lakes and Archipelago.

Reading practice with Three-Part Cards of the Land and Water Forms.

Practical Life:  Wood Polishing
Snowman Sequencing: color, cut, and paste.  This is a lesson which I demonstrated at circle time and set up in the Language area of the classroom for the children to complete independently.  I've left my demonstration on the shelf for the children to refer to as they complete the lesson - you can see it in the background of the photo.
Comparison of height and refinement of visual discrimination with the Red and Yellow Knobless Cylinders.

Reading practice with the Small Moveable Alphabet.  Here, the child had used a set of picture cards to sound out each word.  Then, for an added challenge, I mixed up the cards and had him match them to the words.  Lastly, I had the child read the words to me without the cards. 

I love when my students make connections between activities.  This child was using the play dough and declared, "Look!  I made a mini Pink Tower!"  :)

Initial lesson of 'Labeling Objects of the Environment'.

Working with the Botany Cabinet.

More Decimal System work.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Nature Walk: Part Two - Ice Collages

Upon return from our winter excursion, I set up a table in the classroom for the children to make ice collages.  The filled baskets from the nature walk were placed in the middle of a table and each child began placing items in a pie tin.  Next, we poured water into the tin and placed a loop of twine to hang the collage once it freezes.  Then, we placed them right outside of our door to let them freeze overnight.  Of all nights, however, the temperature remained above freezing!  The cold front which moved in the following day put smiles on our faces - we knew that this meant freezing temps...and successful ice collages!
Assembling the bits of nature from our winter nature walk into pie tins for ice collages.
Arranging the objects in water.  A loop of tied twine was used to create a hanger.
Here they are all lined up outside our door, waiting to freeze...

And the big reveal...

So pretty...

...in the trees around our play area...
The sight of such loveliness brought all of us much joy!!! 

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Nature Walk: Part One

I 've had this idea brewing in my mind for quite some time and have been waiting for the ideal time to try it with my students.  Meanwhile, my assistant found this beautiful book and brought it to school:

As I leafed through the pages and read this gorgeously illustrated book, an idea came to me.  I thought it would be meaningful to not only read this book to the children, but also use it as a starting point for a special winter nature walk.  Along the way, we could compare trees we see in nature and those described in the book:
A page from Winter Trees by Carole Gerber; illustrated by Leslie Evans.
As we walk, we can not only identify trees, but also collect bits and pieces of nature - pine cones, berries, cedar, spruce, and pine branch pieces...  These treasures could then be assembled to create ice collages to be hung throughout our outdoor play areas (more on that part in another post). 
The children were excited when I told them we would be taking a Winter Nature Walk.  We bundled up, brought a couple of baskets, the book, and the camera...

First, we spotted the, "'V' formation of the birch."

Then, we saw the, "egg shape of the maple tree."
The beech tree whose, "tan leaves still cling to limbs and branches."
"...older needles near the trunk drop off and fall onto the ground."
(The kids had a blast clamoring for the needles...)
"The hemlock lives for centuries.  Look how huge this tree has grown!"
Along the way, we enjoyed the sight of gently falling flakes and the sound of crunchy snow under our feet.  We gathered our treasures in some baskets and eagerly filled them up!

Working together gathering nature's treasures.
 When we returned to the classroom, each child assembled the collected nature finds into ice collages - I'll share more about those in the next post!  Stay tuned for more winter fun...