Monday, May 31, 2010

Books - admin note

All the posts about books have been transferred to a new books blog. The goal of that blog is to make it easier to locate posts on books. I'll be combining information about books that have been read to children, personal favorites and bibliographies collected by others.


I've spent so much time reflecting on who I am as a teacher recently.  I've also spent a lot of time thinking about what it would truly take to create a high quality Montessori school in this area.  I've spent so much time observing those schools that are the equivalent of Montessori Something.  Workperiods anywhere from a maximum of 30 minutes with teachers that actually kicked the markers that fell to the floor to maybe an hour and a half.  Workbooks and worksheets that are incomprehensible to young children- but they have great fine motor skills.

Thinking about practical life that should be meaningful work to the child.  I remember the joy of teaching children to sew with a real needle.  Then watch their parents assume they can't carry their lunchbox or put on their coat.  Schools buy screwdriver boards, but never actually let the boys use real wood, hammers or nails.  What about hanging small pictures?  It's only holes.  Spackle anyone?  Paint?  Surely one board in the classroom could be set aside for sanding and real house maintenance...

I am still trying to write a post about my thoughts about using Montessori materials as a "supplement" to a traditional curriculum.  That just makes no sense to me- completely ignores the philosophy, but it will take more time than I want to spend right now!

Then there is the list of 50 must read Montessori blogs.   I'm honored to be on it, but more, I want to explore everyone else on it!  There is always something to learn.  Always something to do.

I asked for a laminator for my birthday.  On the grounds that making materials is my new hobby.  Apparently, I'll have to purchase that myself.  I need to find a way to finance my own school!

Sensorial Extensions - revised

I've been thinking a lot about sensorial materials lately. There are many different perspectives involving the sensorial materials. Carry them carefully, use them one at a time. Build them with order. Fantasy play isn't accepted, etc. Yet, if you look back at Maria Montessori's handbook she clearly emphasizes that it is only with extensive use does the child really develop a true understanding of the properties of the material.

If you consider the properties of the sensorial materials that are not "education of the senses", use of the sensorial material is even more important. Gradation and sorting are pre-math skills. The development and extension of patterns, The ability to use one object as a unit of measurement. What about creativity and thinking of something from an artistic point of view.

Sensorial Extensions.

This was created by one of my students, Carter. He was surrounded by students working together on contingent maps. I recall how he had to work a bit to maintain his working area against the hustle of so many continent maps moving about the room. He was tremendously proud of himself for creating this balanced work of art using the red knobless cylinders. We took a picture and he wanted to make sure that I showed others. He told me how he needed to move this piece and that piece. I loved his concentration, but more I can see what he learned about weight, height and balance!

The robot is taken from a blog called The Montessori Goldmine. She initially got it from the Sunrise Learning Lab.  The original picture reflects a picture of her son, and was edited by the Montessori Goldmine.

This pink tower and brown stair extension was located at Con La Cabeza en Las Nubes

From the classroom at the Montessori School of Holmes Run in Falls Church, VA. We call it the Grand Sensorial Layout.
 by Stevanne

Check out this cool extension to the pink tower! on Twitpic
Pink Tower Extension by BMMontessori!

I know that I have a picture of an extension called "The Grand Pagoda" and one that resembles a "Christmas Tree", but not on this computer.  The idea that I like the most though isn't to copy an extension, but to create your own and become part of a book that shows possibilities!

Additional links with Sensorial extension pictures -
Montessori with Myra
Matt Bronsil
Montessori online photo album

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Small bead bars

I've been thinking of the small bead bars recently. I'm not sure that we generally do enough with them. This post is partially generated by a dream, but I wanted to write down the thoughts.

When the children are still learning to count objects below 10, they really, really need to learn to order those objects. With the bead bars (bead stair) these objects are naturally formed into a line. Yet they are still distinct objects that can in fact be counted. In a traditional Montessori classroom you move from the bead stair to the teens. (There is the snake game, but...)

It seems to me that a child would benefit so much from having a classroom with several sets of the bead bars. They can use them for addition and extended counting activities. Better than dinosaurs! This material can stay small and manageable.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers Day - success and fail!

This Mother's Day I was teaching in a class where I had the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted with the children. We didn't have a grand Mother's Day Tea or breakfast with mom's or a silly science fair. Mother's Day did sort of sneak up on me and I didn't think about it until the last week in April though. I'll remember in the future!

I decided to make a Handprint card with their picture.

"Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small,
And always leave my fingerprints
On furniture and walls.
But everyday I'm growing,
I'll be grown up someday,
And all these tiny handprints
Will simply fade away.
So here's a final handprint
Just so you can recall,
Exactly how my fingers looked
When I was very small."

I had so much fun painting the children's hands! They would sit absolutely still - even a child that is extraordinarily hyper most of the time, but they almost all still wanted to hold control of their hands. When they relaxed and turned their hand so that I could brush paint on their little fingers- it tickled or was cold, etc. They watched with fascination as we made handprints. Most of them had to hold their hands out toward someone like Frankenstein as we went to the sink. "LOOK AT MY HANDS!"

Then came taking the pictures. Trying to find a place, taking several so that I could preview them later. I used photoshop and briefly adjusted the color and used a octagon crop before printing the. I did all the cutting of the pictures and the gluing.

Each card was beautiful. Their was a handprint in the upper right and left corners. The child's picture in the center and the handprint poem offset to the left or the right. I added a second piece of construction paper to add color and an additional frame that matched the paint.

I also did all the wrapping in tissue paper, and this is where I fail. If I'd set this up a week before it would have been such a perfect opportunity for the children to learn to wrap the presents for their moms themselves. The way that I was wrapping was very simple. One large piece of tissue paper. Another folded in half in the center. Card face down on the 2nd piece of tissue paper. Fold long sides. Fold short sides and tape. The children could have accomplished that. They SHOULD have made the cards that said "To MOM and from ...."

It would have been a great practical life exercise. They would have understood a complete cycle of work. Ah well, it is my own reflections and where I am as well. I practiced repetition and learned what I can do better as well!