Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"We Hurry Joyfully to School"

We are ready to welcome the children on the first day of school next Tuesday.  Our classroom awaits the sounds and movement of eager hands exploring learning materials!    Here are a few peeks at some Practical Life exercises waiting to greet the children:

Spooning colored rice.

Spooning/Sorting beads.

Transferring pom-poms.

Tweezing beads and sorting by color.

Wet Transfer exercises.

Paper cutting practice.
Like the above Practical Life exercises, the theme of our art lessons will be primary colors.  I'll be sure to post more about the art activities once they are in active use in the classroom.

This year, our group has a majority of returning students and we are looking forward to helping our new students feel comfortable in their new classroom.  I am also curious to see where our learning will take us this year.  Since most of the children were with us last year, I have a feeling we will continue our continent exploration.  Last year we covered North America, Europe, and Asia which leaves Africa, South America, Antarctica, and Australia for this year.

I also have ideas for various science explorations inspired by a wonderful book given to me last year by one of my students:

This year, Kindergarten students will begin maintaing daily Work Plans and weekly Self-Evaluations.  Kindergarteners will also have opportunities for afternoon Writer's Workshop sessions and take part in our new Junior Great Books program.

Any effective Montessori program encourages ongoing practice of Grace and Courtesy skills and our classroom is no different!  Most of all, I look forward to the continuous cultivation within each child a strong sense of self and belonging in our classroom community.

Last week, I attended a Maine Montessori Association workshop at North Yarmouth Academy (NYA), Yarmouth, ME.  NYA is getting ready to launch a new Early Childhood and Elementary Montessori program and I had the opportunity to tour their new facility.  While there, I was struck by a set of beautiful vintage posters displayed in one of the Primary classrooms.  Each poster highlighted a different country and included an uplifting and motivational thought about education, kindness to others, or gratitude.  I will share with you one in particular as we approach our first days of school:

Here we go!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers

Over the years, I have used TeachersPayTeachers to purchase wonderful learning materials and extension activities for my classroom.  This site provides a vast array of learning tools that teachers can utilize in their classrooms and covers all subject areas.  The idea to have my own "store" came to me when I realized how many materials I make myself!  Just for fun, I have made some of my materials available for purchase at TpT and invite you to visit my store.  You will find a free download of the Initial Farm Labels featured in THIS post.   Enjoy and have fun browsing interesting materials provided by some very talented teachers!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three-Part Cards

The month of August would not be complete without the hum of the laminator as we approach the beginning of the school year - and this year is no different!  Recently, I purchased a beautiful set of three-part cards which will provide practice for beginning readers.  The following description of three-part cards is adapted from Montessori Compass, the online record keeping system used in my classroom:

This activity consists of three sets of cards: one contains the picture of an object, the next contains only the written name, and the third set shows the picture and the written name together. The child’s task is to organize the first set on a mat and then match both the word and the card from the third set together. This activity builds both oral and written vocabulary while reinforcing left to right directionality and organization.

First set of cards - Pictures only

Second set of cards - Words  
Here, the child sounds out word and matches it to the corresponding picture.

Third set of cards - Control Set: picture and word together.
Now, the child can check his/her work by matching the control card.

Three-part cards are fundamental language materials in any Montessori setting and can can be utilized across all curriculum areas.  One aspect I particularly appreciate about these materials is how flexible they are in meeting the needs of the child.  For example, younger students may wish to simply match the pictures while older students can record their work on paper.  In the past, I have even had some students want to make their own sets of three-part cards to take home!

I am experimenting with how to best store these cards on the shelf.  In doing so, I made some storage envelopes using colorful scrapbook paper (with the help of my trusty laminator!):

Each set of cards has their own opening...
...and the envelope can be folded shut (I used a velcro fastener to keep it closed).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Power Point Writing Prompts

I have been contemplating the use of Power Point writing prompts to be used as visuals for Kindergarten journal writing.  The idea came to me as I brainstormed ways to incorporate engaging visuals while organizing prompts into daily/weekly/monthly files that can be easily accessed.  I must admit, I am still not completely convinced of using this type of technology as a tool for writing.   I also strive, however, to meet the needs of my students and recognize that such visual cues are vital points of interest in promoting growth in language and writing.  Inspired by Montessori's scientific approach to the classroom, I have experimented with creating several Power Point slides to be used as writing prompts.  Over time, I hope to make meaningful observations and conclusions about the impact these prompts have on student learning and literacy development.

Example Power Point writing prompt.

I particularly appreciate how elements of the Montessori classroom can be incorporated  into ideas for journal writing.

Here is an example of a number/color word prompt.

Another way to incorporate Montessori (showing the cone shape from the Geometric Solids material)!

Color word example.
As one can imagine, the possibilities are endless!  I also would like to stress that these prompts are meant to remain open-ended and are to be provided as gateways to further thought.

Also, I envision modeling of the writing process to take place simultaneously.  This will be especially important as my students are introduced to cursive writing before print.  Using these Power Point slides can not only offer my students meaningful points of interest for journal writing, but can also provide consistent reading practice.

As I conclude this post, another thought comes to mind - I wonder if similar slides could be utilized as prompts for writing practice with the Moveable Alphabet for students needing a little inspiration...  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Heading Out...

...beyond our classroom walls!  I have enjoyed reading Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature as a primer for formulating a new outdoor nature awareness program at my school.
I was inspired to formulate such a program after reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.  How fitting to find an introduction by Louv in this most recent read!

This book has provided me concrete ideas to implement engaging activities through games, investigation, and sensory exploration in the outdoors.  I believe Montessorians in general have a considerable appreciation for the natural world, and are aware of the profound influence it has on child development.  Reading Coyote's Guide has put into action ideas that have percolated in my mind for years!  By no means do I consider myself an outdoor expert, but I am very much looking forward to spending more time learning and exploring in nature with my students.  Providing children opportunities to be in touch with the outdoors will inevitably produce citizens who are careful stewards and protectors of our planet.