Monday, April 30, 2012

On the Fly...

Sometimes, inspiration comes to me when I least expect it.  One morning, while preparing the classroom before the children arrived, it just came to me - an art gallery. Of course!  Why didn't I think of it sooner? 

The fact is, a classroom art gallery is something I've thought about in the past but never acted upon simply due to lack of open wall space at the children's eye level.    Instead, I try to encourage art appreciation through the use of Child-Size Masterpieces and various lessons throughout the year.  The new arrangement of our Nature Shelf corner, however, has opened up the back of a door used for fire exit purposes.  "This is it - the perfect spot for an art gallery!" I thought to myself. 

I quickly located some laminated art cards which I made years ago from an old calendar and put together a mini-art gallery with prints of Vincent Van Gogh's works.   I have sets of other famous artists and plan to change them periodically.   I think I even surprised myself at how fast this came together! 
Art Gallery

The Art Gallery in relation to the Nature Shelf...

...and next to the Peace Corner.
The whole room seems brighter now...  I am so thankful for these little changes, and so are the children.  I still can't believe I never really planned it and how it came to me, "on the fly!"

Saturday, April 28, 2012


...from the first week back after Spring Break:
Fine-motor development:  Transferring straight pins.
"Planting" a daisy garden.  Small green pipe cleaners with daisy buttons in florist foam - instant delight!
'Springtime Flower' art.
A fun math maze highlighting linear counting and number recognition with numbers 1-100.
Comparison of Short Chains and squares. 
Enjoying the Nature Shelf corner.
Metal Inset designs on large paper.
Our classroom looks so cheerful and colorful with fresh forsythia - I love how the child who made this arrangement placed the glass decorations surrounding the bottom of the vase! :)
Matching and naming colors with the Color Tablet Box 2.
Matching uppercase to lowercase letters with this butterfly puzzle.
Learning about Earth's Land and Water Forms:  Lake/Island.
Yoga practice.  I set up a small mat and some Yoga cards for children (Yoga Pretzels).  I put some Earth Day-themed poses in the basket:  Tree, River, Airplane, and one called All is Good.  The child in this picture has set up the mat, taken his shoes off and placed them in the basket, and set up the cards for visual reference.  He is completing the "River" pose.
Addition Strip Board
(Click on caption to read more.)
Caring for plants.
'Springtime' poetry.

Reading practice:  Labeling the Farm.
Number Rods and Cards
Color Mixing Wheel
(Click above to read more.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Easel Monoprints: Part Two

Last month, the children in my class could not get enough of THIS easel monoprint activity - there was no way, I was going to remove it this month!  Instead, as a variation, I simply changed the colors and the shape to coincide with our current Earth Day lessons.  Again, it has been greeted with much enthusiasm!
Earth Day Easel Monoprint:  circle on easel made with green electrical tape, green and blue paint, and construction paper circles.
                             These are some of them hanging in the hallway along with our Maps of the World.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nature Shelf Corner

What does one do with an awkward corner of the classroom?  Strategically place a beautiful shelf, and create a nature corner, of course! 
Our newly created nature shelf corner.
I've had a slight design problem ever since moving into our current space over four year ago and am so happy to have finally found a solution - sometimes, just like at home, all it takes is a little time (well, four and half years to be exact) to find out what works well in a space.  Up until this point, this corner has housed our heater, something which needs lots of space around it without any blockages.  For this reason, I always hesitated to place anything around it and instead, always had a large potted plant to fill in the space.  Well, after four years, I've had it with replacing large plants!  They never did well in this corner and I'd end up replacing it at least twice a year.  The smaller plant arrangement should fare much better here now that the heater's airflow in not directly in it's path.  The top of the heater is now home to the giant pine cone, feathers, and birch bark specimen seen in the photo above.

Finally, we have the perfect place to showcase these treasures from nature!  Some of these items have been in my storage closet (so sad, I know!) because I really had no where to put them in the classroom where they would get the attention they deserve.  Also, the kids are frequently finding special items and wanting to bring them into the classroom and I am excited that we can highlight their finds in our new nature shelf corner!  And, with Earth Day activities and lessons in use around the classroom, what better time of year to start our designated indoor nature space?!

As a side note:  I find it remarkable how everything in my classroom has a story behind it - a history so to speak...  This is a shelf which I bought secondhand many, many years ago when I was still in high school!  Funny how it has found itself in my classroom...  Also, a number of the items - the feathers, wasp's nest, sea urchin, lobster claw... are objects my own sons have found during their outdoor excursions.  I so appreciate that they want these things on the nature shelf for my students to enjoy and I love that my boys are part of my classroom even though they are not physically there during the school days.  Come to think of it, I think I could write a book about how each item in my classroom was acquired...!

Montessori Monday Link-Up

Montessori Monday

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Did I Ever Tell You?

It is hard to believe that I have been writing here for over a year!  Way before I even started this blog, I've been playing around with its name, "To the Lesson!"  For example, my local readers might be able to identify me on the road:

You see, my license plate is a play on words using the Cyrillic alphabet - both my husband and I grew up speaking Russian in our families and we both are teachers.  He is a college professor while I'm at the other end of the spectrum in early childhood.  My license plates were the inspiration for the name of the blog - in Russian (pronounced "na oorok,") translates to "To the Lesson!"  We always thought this would be a clever vanity plate on our family vehicle given that we are both educators...

So, for my local readers, now you know the story behind my plates.  And, for anyone who sees me on the road, I hope you will now follow standard Maine procedure, and give me a wave! ;)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Must See

Some of my readers my have already seen the following video, but if not, please take five minutes to watch Building the Pink Tower.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Poetry: 'Springtime'

Although it is Spring Break and school is not in session this week, I have the following activity about our poetry to post.  I hope that my students will share with you at home what we've been enjoying at school:

A small green frog on a big brown log.
A black and yellow bee in a little green tree.
A red and yellow snake by a blue-green lake.
All sat and listened to red bird sing,
"Wake up everybody!  It's Spring! It's Spring!"

Every month or so, the children are introduced to a new poem.  Recently, we have been enjoying 'Springtime.'  I always introduce the poem at circle time and let the children hear the words without any pictures.  After several days, I show the corresponding pictures which they can use as cues in reciting the poem.  Once they have learned the poem using the pictures, then I introduce the reading chart.  By this time, they have memorized the words and can begin matching them with the written version.  The poetry chart stays on the wall throughout the day and the children can practice reading it with a pointer.  Some students even enjoy reciting the poem to their classmates at circle time!

The poetry chart with pictures and written words.
Once the children are comfortable with the poetry chart, then the poetry basket is introduced.  The poetry basket gives children opportunities to 'act out' the poem which is always so much fun - especially with a friend!  One child reads the poem while the other acts it out:
Poetry basket version of the poem.  The popsicle stick with the googly eye is our reading stick which the kids use to point to each word as they read the poem (that's what the dots are for, too...).
A small green frog on a big brown log.
A black and yellow bee in a little green tree.
A red and yellow snake by a blue-green lake.
All sat and listened to red bird sing,
"Wake up everybody!  It's Spring!  It's Spring!"

Thanks to My Montessori Journey for providing the pictures and poetry printout!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What a Week!

I'll be honest, I'm exhausted - and really ready for next week's Spring Break!   Here's a peek of classroom life from this week:

Accidental Multiplication!  The children set up the Golden Bead materials for addition and decided to each choose the same numbers (3,344).  They found out that 3,344 x 2 = 6,688.
Water Transferring with a baster.
We went on a nature walk to look for signs of spring and to collect different types of mosses.  Here, my assistant set everything up at a table for the children to make their own terrariums...

These are some of them lined up on the counter.  So beautiful!

Lacing Frame practice.  I enjoy watching the children's concentration as they work with the dressing frames!
Working the the Cards and Counters.  Some of the children have been going back to lessons they had earlier in the year.  I think it is an interesting observation - maybe they are feeling a need for comfort with something familiar before moving on...? 
Matching initial sounds with picture cards using the Moveable Alphabet.

Geography study and the Land and Water Forms:  System of Lakes and Archipelago.
Exciting math work!  Comparing the Short Chains while practicing skip counting.

We started our garden this week!  The children have planted snow peas and Egyptian onions with plans to plant radishes, kale, and beets.  The river birch branches are for the snow peas to climb as they grow.  This project is part of the children's Spanish language lessons and is being completed with our Spanish teacher.  They have also made a decorated wooden garden planks with the Spanish word for labels in the garden - I'll be sure to take more pictures as the garden progresses.  

Last week, some of the children started making collages using the Pink Tower and Knobless Cylinders.  Here is one which was finished earlier in the week.
Working with the calendar.  After the child sets up the numbers, I ask questions such as, "What is the date on the fourth Sunday?" or "What day of the week is the 20th?"
Practical LifeSpooning springtime eggs.
Building concentration with the Peg Board.