Saturday, January 25, 2014

Finding our Way Again!

This collection of photos is from the past two weeks of school.  We've been slowly returning to a sense of normalcy after vacation - since that time, several of the children had been on extended family vacations.  This, along with some enrollment changes, a holiday, tending to our pet fish, and my own absence (due to a ruptured ear drum) has disrupted our (mostly my) rhythm a bit.  Thankfully, all the children have now returned from their vacations, and I am at resting at home - till Monday at least! :-)

One of the reasons I enjoy documenting classroom activity through photos is for this very reason - while I may be feeling things are bit haywire, the pictures remind me that all is well and there is always much learning taking place:

Sewing practice.

Completing a sand map of Antarctica.

Story writing - this student is making a 'meatball space' between words with her left index finger.

A phonemic awareness lesson - placing a stone for each sound in a word.  Here, the cards depict characters from Jan Brett's, The Mitten.  These cards are available from Trillium Montessori's The Mitten materials pack.

Math work - Static Addition with Golden Beads and Cards.

"This is the lake," with the Land and Water Forms (Lake/Island).

Linear counting and number symbol recognition with the Hundred Board.

Numbers 11-19 with the colored beads.

Matching words to pictures and recording them on paper.

Reading beginner reader books.

Visual discrimination of length (Red Rods) outdoors!

Letter fun outside.

Polishing Glass

Reading practice with the Phonetic Object Box.

Beginning sound games.

Writing phrases and sentences with sight words using the Small Moveable Alphabet.

Beginning sounds and objects with Sandpaper Letters and Small Moveable Alphabet letters.

Feeling varying weights with the Baric Tablets.

Taking care of classroom plants.

Sensorially exploring the Trinomial Cube.

Such precision with the Pink Tower and Brown Stair!

More work on letter formation and letter sounds with the Sandpaper Letters.

Counting and quantity with the Short Bead Stair.

Square Chain of Six - Linear and skip counting; introduction to multiplication.

"This is a cube," sensorially exploring the Geometric Solids.

Making new shapes with triangles using the Constructive Triangles.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Our Fish

One of the reasons Montessori classrooms include the care pets is to provide children opportunities to tend to other, living beings.  Taking care of animals widens children's perspectives which highlight a greater, interconnected universe.  Montessori used the term Cosmic Education to bring to light the child's awareness of the interconnectedness of the world around him.  This idea manifested itself quite naturally in our classroom with the recent passing of our beloved Blue Fish, one of our classroom pets.

Blue Fish had been in declining health for quite some time and the children took notice of this early on. Each day we would check on our fish, determining if he needed anything, feeding him, etc.  On several occasions we thought he had already passed, only to be surprised when he started swimming again.  Needless to say, the topic of his death became a natural point of conversation among the children, guided by the teachers in a gentle way.  When the morning came and it was clear our Blue Fish had died, the children were well prepared and ready for the news.

I had been quietly ruminating about the situation as we'd never had this come up before (Blue Fish was older than most of the children in the classroom!).  I should have known that it would be the children who would lead the way and take care of things the way they were meant to be.

The early morning children were already in the classroom when we sadly discovered Blue Fish at the bottom of the bowl, having clearly passed on.  The children took in the situation and before I knew what they were doing, began bringing items from our Peace Table and placing them next to Blue Fish's bowl.  The peace rose, a beautiful feather, a collection of rocks with the words 'peace,' 'love,' and 'joy,' a small pinecone, a tiny teddy bear…  "These will help to make him feel peaceful," they said.  Then, without pause, another child said, "I will write a gratitude for the fish."  And with that, the children began planning a circle time to say good bye to our fish.  I quietly stepped to the side, and listened as the children decided we should bury him outside - there was a great concern that he would be stepped on if we buried him.  They discussed some more and concluded we should write his name on a rock and place it on the spot where he is  buried.

Throughout the morning, each child received the news with sincere sadness, yet proceed to show their love in their own ways.  We collected the gratitudes and thoughts about our fish in a basket and read them at circle time:

Dear Blue Fish,  I am thankful for you.  I hope you will be ok.  I will miss you.

Dear Blue Fish,  I will miss you.  Thank you for being a part of our classroom.

Dear Blue Fish,  I am sorry that you died.  Thanks for being our friend.

Dear Blue Fish,  I am thankful for you.  You are a best friend.  I hope you are peaceful.

Dear Fish, You lived a long life.  I am sad you died.  I will miss you.

I am thankful for the fish.  I love him.  

Dear Blue Fish,  I liked feeding you.  I liked your color.  I liked how you swam.

Dear Fish,  I will miss you.  You were a good fish. 

Dear Blue Fish,  Thank you for being a friend in our classroom for so long.  I will miss you when you go to Heaven.

Dear Fishy,  I love you.  Sorry that you were sick.  I will miss you.

I am sorry that you died.  I am thankful for your swimming.  I loved you.    

Dear Fish,  I will miss you and I love you.  All of us will miss you.  And I love you Blue Fish, forever. 

And with that, we took our beloved fish outside and found a spot under a tree to bury him.

So many lessons were learned from this experience - lessons that can't be described in an album or even  classified as 'presented,' 'working,' or 'mastered.'  These are the lessons of of a Cosmic Education, those in which we see the delicate balance of the universe.  Thank you, children for showing the way.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Beaded Wire Sculptures

It is critical to provide children many avenues for creative self expression and allow opportunities for exploration with various mediums.  While our students have engaged in numerous art activities throughout the course of their years in the classroom, one medium not yet explored is wire - specifically creating structures or sculptures.  To that end, a new art lesson was recently introduced to the children and added to the art shelf as an option during our Montessori mornings:

Beaded Wire Sculpture:  Box with lengths of gold and silver craft wire; tray with bowl for filling with beads (beads are in the bowl behind the tray); black paper for mounting.
The children have been enthralled making various shapes, loops, and structures as they sculpt their creations.  I also wanted to document the children's thoughts on their work and had them dictate a story or what they thought about the sculpture.  These were recorded, printed, and added to the display.  Here is just a sampling:

These displays have stopped parents, visitors, and children in the hallway to admire the work with smiles on their faces.  A glimpse into a child's world = priceless!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sand Map: Antarctica

This lesson is similar to the Africa sand map, but uses a colored paper plate instead of paper:

Sand map of Antarctica.
I also made a series of printed labels which students place on the plate prior to applying glue and sand.  Using the colored plate gives a clear visual impression of how the continent is surrounded by ocean - a concept we have been discussing as we learn about Antarctica and its place on the Earth.

The activity is set up at stationary table  (rather than on the shelf). 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

We're Back!

Wow, it seems as if it has been quite a long time since posting pictures of activities in our classroom.  During the last few weeks, we have enjoyed a vacation (although the weather has been quite extreme and I'm not too sure 'enjoyed' is the correct term…) and had a couple of snow days thrown in the mix.  Our classroom is easing back into a sense of normalcy and it has been encouraging to see the children inspired by the new lessons recently placed on the shelves.

Number writing practice.

Sifting flour - a new favorite!

Reading practice with the Word Drawers.

Transferring (sugar) cubes.  A new point of interest is the game die - the child transfers the number  he/she rolls.

Hello water beads!  Need I even mention the popularity factor of this transferring activity?!  

Writing practice - tracing numbers with Sandpaper Numbers.

Ongoing phonogram work, this time with 'oa' words.

First day back after almost two weeks off and this is what they built!

Tracing and naming leaf shapes with the Botany Cabinet.

Drawing a penguin.

Making shapes with the Constructive Triangles.

Sequencing Days of the Week and numbers with the calendar.

Tying practice with the Bow Tying Frame.

Combining the Pink Tower and Brown Stair.

Refining movement necessary for writing with the Metal Insets.

Counting practice and number symbol recognition with the Hundred Chain.

Reading practice.

Addition with Golden Beads.

Sewing the shape of Antarctica.

Writing longer phonetic words with the Moveable Alphabet.

Introduction to the decimal system with the Golden Beads.

Design work with the Pink Tower and Knobless Cylinders.

A stamping lesson for a Language activity.

Several children have been enjoying finger knitting.  I appreciate how this activity builds concentration, coordination, and aids in strengthening hand and finger muscles.  I find it also helps in fostering a sense of community in the classroom as children encourage each other with their knitting.