Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pipe Cleaner Sculptures

This week my Assistants and I have spent lots of time in the classroom reviewing lessons, looking over materials and getting things ready for our 'School Visit' morning.  This is a block of time for enrolled children to come in and get a sense of the classroom.  They find their cubbies, hooks, work bins, the restroom, and other components of their new environment.  During this time, I also set up some traditional play materials such as blocks, trains, and markers for coloring so that the children may identify with familiar materials.  One activity I thought would be exciting for the children to complete is a pipe cleaner sculpture.  This, I thought, would be something simple and fun which the children may take home with them after their visit.  Hopefully by bringing their sculpture home, they can continue dialogue about school with their families and keep the excitement going!

My assistants assembled the activity using remnants from the art closet - this is a wonderful way to use up extra beads or pipe cleaners you may have!  We thought setting it up at a large table would be ideal during the 'School Visit' morning where three to four children may be working together.  A large container holds a batch of play dough - a small piece of this will form the base of the child's sculpture.  A divided tray holds an assortment of colorful beads with many interesting textures.  The eye catching Turkish vase is the perfect place for an array of pipe cleaners.

Beads and pipe cleaners for sculptures.
After placing the pipe cleaners into the play dough base, the child may explore shape and dimension while bending the wires into the desired position.  Meanwhile, they can also thread their choice of beads onto the pipe cleaners to create one-of- kind, multi-dimensional sculptures!


...and twisting...

Pipe cleaner sculpture!
We also set up a stack of parchment paper squares on which to place their sculpture and to write the child's name with a Sharpie marker.  It is our plan to have this activity available during the first days of school as well.

So fun and cheerful - just what we want the kids to feel!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Sewing Together

Toward the end of the last school year, the children began a unique sewing project on our class Tapestree Table.  At that time, I had begun documenting each day's efforts.  Then, my computer started acting up on me and I never got around to posting more about it.  By the last week of school, the children had decided their collaborative efforts were complete and I took the work to a local framer to be properly mounted and framed.  Now, the finished piece adorns our classroom - a perfect representation of the the Class of 2011-2012 as we welcome the start of new school year!

Tapestry Table Sewing project.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keeping it Simple

As we approach the first days of school, I am reminded of "the unknown" and all that has yet to unfold in the classroom!  I prefer to keep things simple as I get to know the new children in my classroom and the returning students ease into a new daily rhythm.  Returning children are are comforted in seeing familiar lessons and the simplicity of the materials help the new students feel less overwhelmed.  Here are a few lessons on the Art shelves which await the children:

Playdough (inside container with green lid):  wooden board for workspace,  rectangular basket with rolling pin and other tools.

Chalk pastels:  pencil (for writing name); wooden container for the pastels.  

Paper cutting:  cutting strips; envelopes for collecting pieces; tray with scissors. The yellow paper in the back is available if they child wants to glue their paper cuttings and make a collage.

Pin-pushing:  This a valuable lesson which promotes concentration and coordination while enhancing the pincer grasp used for writing.  I have set up triangle, circle and square shapes in the paper holder.  The box holds the pads and pin pushes (tips in cork).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Accepting Change

This time of year brings me much joy and excitement as we prepare for the beginning of another school year.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share with my readers some thoughts about a little change I'm planning for this year.

In the past, I have taken great lengths to prepare the Practical Life and Art shelves according to the seasons or upcoming holidays.  I would typically change out the entire contents of the shelves over the course of a weekend every month or so.  While this was always met with much enthusiasm by my students, I often wondered of an opposite approach - What would happen if I didn't change the shelves as often and how would it affect student learning if the changes are made in a more subtle manner?

Well, I've decided to mix things up this year, try something different, and attempt to answer those questions!  I still plan to change out the materials, but I'm going to make a conscious effort to do so in small doses.  This means that the first day of each month will no longer be the day that "Ms. Sasha puts out new works."  Instead, I'll rotate and change materials on a case by case basis, taking more time in considering the interests and needs of the children.  While I have always worked hard to provide meaningful and developmentally appropriate activities, I truly feel that this variation will bring a new level of 'authentic Montessori' to the classroom - a subject which I am currently analyzing in my graduate coursework.

And if you want me to be brutally honest, I'm a little bored of setting up "apples" every September!!!!  It does make me a little uneasy to think that now I don't know what will be on the shelves in January for example, but I'm ready for the change.  So, I am welcoming you to this new school year with a fresh perspective - I'm ready for the change and I hope you are too! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Math on my Mind

Looking over the posts from the last few weeks, it appears as if there is an overwhelming emphasis on the Language area of the classroom.  Yes, it is true - I've been thinking a lot about the these lessons and ways to incorporate meaningful learning experiences with new materials.  Nonetheless, I've also been busy planning for the Math area too!

The Montessori Math lessons are brilliant - just as with other materials, they are infinitely superior to any worksheet or 'paper work' that could be provided to children.  This does not mean however, that some children cannot enjoy different types of learning extensions.  I feel it is important to have various extension activities available for my students in order that I have the greatest opportunities to enhance all learning styles.  For this reason, I offer different 'paper' lessons as extensions of the initial presentations and variations after a student has demonstrated proficiency and comprehension with the actual material.

I have made a simple Math Book which I've made available for my readers HERE.  It can be used in a variety of ways, but I plan to use it with the Colored Bead Stair work.
The Montessori Colored Bead Stair.
For example, I plan to set out a collection of colored paper corresponding with the colors of the Montessori Bead Stair with a hole punch and glue.  Then, the children can use the booklet pages to glue their colored dots onto the pages.  The same pages could also be used for stamps, stickers, and other items for counting practice.

I have included the numbers 0-9 in my booklet, so this material will be ideal for the students have completed number work with lessons from the Number Rods through the Spindle Boxes and who have already been introduced to the Colored Bead Stair.  Enjoy!

By the way, readers might be interested in more about Montessori and her notion of the 'Mathematical Mind' found in THIS post.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Letter Matching and Fine Motor Practice

Here is another set of materials I've made to help the children practice letters - this lesson promotes letter  recognition with matching and fine motor skills.  I plan to place these strips on the shelves near the Sandpaper Letters so that once a child has been introduced the corresponding group of Sandpaper Letters (which are separated into three groups) they can begin working with this matching activity as well.  In the past, I have noticed that some children can quickly recall the letter sound associated with the symbol by simply using the Sandpaper Letters.  Others, however, benefit from more practice with additional materials in conjunction with the Sandpaper Letters.  I feel that this material will provide my students another opportunity to bridge knowledge while enhancing the pincer grasp needed for writing.  During the presentation of this lesson, I will stress the importance of saying the letter sound of the letter they are matching.  I envision some children practicing with the Sandpaper Letters and these strips at the same time.  For example, they can trace 'p' on the Sandpaper Letter then find the clip and match it on the strip.
Letter matching with clothespins.
Later in the year, I will add a set of clothespins with the corresponding printed letter so the children may match the printed version of a letter to the cursive font.  As with any material I've made, I look forward to implementing it in my classroom, observing the response from my students, and adapting or changing lessons based on their needs and interests.

Montessori Monday Link-Up

Montessori Monday

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sign In/Out Board

I've always had a small pocket chart next to the door of the classroom where the children check themselves in and out each day.  I feel this not only gives the students a clear indication of beginning and ending each day, but it also aids in building a sense of community among the group.

Our Sign In/Out Board:  When a child enters the classroom in the morning, they will slide their name to the center, underneath the 'Hello!' sign.  
Here are the names, "checked in."  And, for a little variety throughout the year...

...the cards can be turned over to show the written, cursive version!