Saturday, August 29, 2015

Timeline of Birthdays

The hallway leading to our classroom has always been a place for a rotating display of children's art.  Inspired by both the artistic elements of the Reggio approach and the timelines of Montessori materials,   this space has been transformed into an evolving 'Timeline of Birthdays'.  Since our school year begins in September marking the beginning of our year together, the timeline begins with the first birthday of the month and proceeds in order through the remaining months.  The children will be able to complete a watercolor painting on the other side of the "Reserved for…" paper on their birthday.  One can see how this will not only illustrate the passage of time through the celebration of each child's birthday, but it will also become a colorful, artistic display representing our unique community of children.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Collaborative Art

Some readers of this blog may remember a cross-curricular learning experience that we started last school year (read about it HERE).  At that time, we began a two-year journey beginning with the colors of the Montessori Short Bead Stair as our inspiration.  Throughout the school year, the children completed a series of collaborative art pieces representative of the  colors and quantities of the numbers 1-10 in the Bead Stair.  THIS post documents the beginning of the process.

As the children worked together throughout the rest of the school year, four more pieces were created.  As a result, we now have the numbers 1-5 represented in a colorful display in a long hallway leading to our outdoor play area.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5… on the way out,

...5, 4, 3, 2, 1 on the way in!

Here is closer view of "Number 4" to show the fun textures and details of the piece.   Next to each unique canvas is a corresponding card depicting the beads from the Short Bead Stair, number word, and number symbol.  The cards can be obtained at The Helpful Garden blog.
Now, we are ready to continue with the number six - the children will be seeing plenty of purple in our classroom when they soon return.  I know they will be eager to complete the rest of these collaborative pieces and have all of the numbers from 1-10 represented on the wall.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Foreign Language and Culture

It should not come as a surprise that many items were collected for the classroom during my family's stay in St. Petersburg last winter and spring.  In addition to numerous books, cultural artifacts, and souvenirs, I purchased a coveted set of Cyrillic Sandpaper Letters (to be introduced to the children later).  While preparing the classroom over the summer, my thoughts kept returning to the same theme, "Where am I going to put these items as they are introduced?" I think many Montessori teachers face the same challenge  - Do we ever have enough shelf space?!

The materials should have particular meaning to my students as they discussed my whereabouts during my absence from the classroom and they learned much about Russia.  It is important that a special place in our environment be created given the special significance of the topic for my students.  With a few things rearranged, there was space for, you guessed it- more shelves:

They are small, but serve the purpose of creating a separate area for our cultural and language items from Russia.  The top is reserved for a beautiful class journal the children made during my time away (top left), along with what has become a trademark of our classroom - a copy of The Littlest Matryoshka with a matching set of nesting dolls.  I have replaced the dolls with a brand new set from St. Petersburg (I ended up having to search the whole city for just the right ones!!!).

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Laundry: Polish Cloths

A new lesson in our learning environment awaits the children when school begins in September.  This is an activity that has been in the planning stages for quite some time.  Needless to say, I am thrilled it is finally on the shelf!  During my time overseas, I found and purchased the most perfect wash board while visiting a Montessori factory store in St. Petersburg.  The small size of the board is ideal for washing the small polish cloths used in our polishing lessons.  "Why laundry?"one may ask.  I invite you to read more about the importance of these types of lessons in the classroom HERE.

In a perfect world, we would have a proper washing table, but for now, we will set up the materials on the floor.  The child fills the pitcher with water, and pours it into the basin.  Another pitcher of water is poured into the bucket which will be used for rinsing.  As with other washing lessons such as Washing a Table or Washing the Easel, the child completing the task dries all materials and replaces the lesson with fresh towels.  This readies the activity for the next person. 
Once the polish cloths are clean, they can be hung to dry on the small wire rack.  A small basket of clothespins sits underneath.  
I am looking forward to introducing this lesson and observing how such an activity helps nurture in children a personal sense of accomplishment while building classroom community.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


As part of the process of preparing the environment for our incoming class in just a few short weeks, I wanted to be sure  the Pre-Reading and Pre-Writing activities on the Language shelves provide inviting, meaningful lessons.  While these shelves in our classroom offer various vocabulary development cards, matching activities, and lessons preparing the child for reading and writing, I wanted to offer a couple of different, new options.  One such activity includes these attribute strips which were obtained HERE.  Activities with varying attributes allow young learners to develop critical thinking skills, enhance the ability to find patterns, and develop vocabulary while finding similarities and differences.  While this lesson this lesson could have also been in the Math area of the classroom, I chose to place it in Language as the cards are also appropriate for language development.

A sample Attribute Set.
The strips were printed in a smaller format than provided on the download - I thought they would fit better on our shelves in the classroom and take up less space.  Small counters are placed on the one that is different and a control of error is provided on the back (a small dot behind the correct one).  It could also be beneficial to provide small clips instead of counters which is something I may change later for a variation.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Geography Booklets

One of my goals this year is to explore the Geography materials in more depth with my students.  One way I plan to do this is with the help of a set of Geography Command Cards.  Hopefully the use of such cards will not only provide meaningful points of interest for the students, but also act as springboards for using materials and conducting individual research.  The cards I have printed for are available HERE for free.  Thanks to the generous donations of many thoughtful teachers, this site provides many materials available for instant download.

The Geography command cards range in complexity of tasks, which is helpful in being able to meet the needs and interests of our mixed age setting.  While some cards invite children to explore Land and Water Forms, globes, maps and various extension actives, other tasks include recording information in a 'Land and Water Booklet.'  To that end, I decided to make a number of 'Geography Booklets' for this type of work in the cultural curriculum:

Covers were made with a little help from Google Images and shipping labels.  Inside each booklet is a blend of lined writing paper and unlined pages for drawings, collages, etc.  The button and twine closures remind me of genuine field work journals which adds a unique point of interest (not to mention I was able to use up a bag of buttons I have had for quite some time!).  
As the children work with the Geography materials, these booklets will be filled with their own work and recordings - outlines of maps and puzzle pieces, pictures of land and water forms, lists of continents and countries, interesting facts children wish to record, and anything else that may come up.  

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Gearing Up

While I am thankful for the opportunities my family had during the six months we were in Russia for my husband's Fulbright teaching scholarship, I am also thrilled to be back home and back in the classroom that I missed so much.  Finally, I get to act on countless ideas I have had brewing in my mind during so many months away!
Glad to be back!  My daughter took this picture when she came with me to school for the first time since our return at the end of June.   
During my time away, I had the opportunity to check in on classroom happenings via Montessori Compass, which my school uses for record keeping and sharing information with parents.  Not only was I able to keep apprised of my students' progress throughout the year, but I also kept connected through viewing the daily photographs posted for each student.  With an 'outside eye,' I was able to see the classroom from a different perspective, an experience I value very much.  Nonetheless, through viewing the photos from this perspective, I also noticed the main rug in our classroom was wearing out and looking a bit tired.  So, the first order of business upon my return:

Our new rug (along with some new shelving for the bells).  Of course one thing leads to another - the new rug and shelves led to updating the calendar and morning message areas used during circle time.  Next, tape will be added for the Walking the Line activity.
Our previous rug was bright and beautiful with many colors.  While I loved its lively colors, I wanted to go with a neutral tone this time around.  It was my intention to bring out the beauty of the Montessori materials and let them 'stand on their own.'  The rug has given the room a new feel and I think I have succeeded in bringing the eye to directly to the materials.  Naturally, a new rug in the central part of the classroom called for a new rug in the math area:

When I ordered this rug, a picture and description indicated it to be the 'Nines' rug.   I thought, "How perfect is that for the math area?!"  Well, not so much - somehow the image was reversed and they are not the 'nines' as shown in the picture online, but a reversed image.  I am still loving the look and feel of the rug - my instinct is to make a lesson looking at the rug with a mirror and finding the nines…  
Over the summer, I also ordered a beautiful poster portrait of Maria Montessori.  Last year, the children in my class learned a special song about her and I always wanted a proper portrait on display.  Now, we have one:
The Peace area in our classroom - the perfect place of honor for Maria Montessori!
"Within the child lies the fate of the future."   
Since the classroom is now adorned with the new rugs and portrait, I thought this might be an ideal time to update the bulletin boards in the hallway as well.  I have always admired the natural tones of classroom spaces inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and decided our bulletin boards would be a fun place to experiment with this.

One of two boards in the hallway leading to our cubby space.  I used burlap and twine along with the black and white Moroccan-themed border (which I LOVE!).  The small, wooden clothespins are an effective and easy way to display the children's artwork and projects.  I can hardly wait to see boards these filled up! :-)
Next up, planning and organizing the shelves by curriculum area - an endeavor which will undoubtedly take up the rest of my classroom time between now and the beginning of school.  Stay tuned for updates as they come along and thanks for stopping by - it's great to be back!