Monday, December 14, 2009

Making Materials

One of the reasons I have been blogging a lot less because I have been busy at work in the factory.  Teaching is a lot of work no matter where or how you teach.  Public school teachers spend countless hours grading assignments, we Montessori teachers spend countless hours making materials.  And that’s just what I’ve been doing.  Making materials. 

Our classroom has quite a bit more to make because we are not yet well-established.  We officially began transitioning our classroom towards Montessori just last year, so we have quite a ways to go.  We began last school year with just some basic math materials and some random grammar materials. At the time I had just begun my Saturday trainings and so I was not aware of how to make materials, nor how to use most of them.  We also had no math problem cards, no culture or science materials. 

I am quite thankful to my instructors at Spring Valley Montessori, who whenever they introduced a new material always explained how it could be made, or showed how a near-substitute could be fashioned and used in place of the respective material.  This is quite valuable for a teacher working with limited funding, and it’s also neat that most of the materials - be they Golden Beads, Fraction Insets, or the Stamp Game – can be made at home.  While we all like nice, beautifully hand-crafted materials from Nienhuis (who doesn’t just love to gaze at their fabulous catalog?), it is nice to know that there is the option of making your own materials. 

We have just started a new theme about Respiration and Circulation.  I decided to make a definition book titled “How we Breathe”.  A definition book has a very simple format so that it introduces new concepts to children in a simplified manner.  The format is one picture on the page, with the part you are defining colored or outlined in red or another color.  The definition of that part is provided below the drawing.  For example, in my definition book, I colored each part of the respiratory system and then gave the definition.  If you look below to the right, you will see the nasal cavity is colored in red, and below that the definition and description of the nasal cavity is given in writing.

Here are pictures of the definition book process: the synthesizing of complex information into a simple format.

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I also made other materials related to respiration, such as three-part cards on (a simplified version of) the formula for cellular respiration.  While pink is for anatomy, I chose red for cellular respiration because it applies to zoology as well, which is red.

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I have finished making these materials, but have yet to take the photos of them, so I will be posting the final products later on. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Make Your Own Lung

We have begun learning about the respiratory system, and to begin with, we made lungs!  This activity demonstrates to the children how the diaphragm functions and helps you breathe.  All you need is:

  • 1 plastic bottle (a narrow 2-liter water bottle works best, we found)
  • 1 regular-sized red balloon
  • 1 larger balloon
  • 1 straw
  • tape
  • scissors

Here is an picture of instructions already made up:

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Here is the tray I had made to be available on the shelf:

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school.Dec.2009 068 Here are the balloons and the straw.  My example lung is on the right. school.Dec.2009 070

When you pull down on the bottom balloon that represents the diaphragm, the inner balloon (or lung) expands and fills with air.  As you push in your “diaphragm”, the “lung” contracts and the air is pushed out of the straw, or “trachea”. 

The students did a far better job than I did:

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Making Paint II 074 

After learning how paint was made, I took a look on the internet to see if I could make paint with my students.  So with a little gum arabic and turmeric, we made yellow, and with chili powder and gum arabic we made a red-orange.  Then I also purchased synthetic pigments, one back and another blue, so we could have other colors to paint with.


First I mixed each pigment on a palette, and then gave each student a paper and some paint brushes.

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They got creative and had a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Making paint I

After learning about Mughal painters, I discussed with the children what materials were used to make paint.  I prepared cards with descriptions (not quite 3-part cards) and presented each to the children.  Five of the pigments are minerals or oxide.  One comes from a bright insect called the lac insect, another pigment comes from the indigo plant, and the most interesting (and the strangest) is peori; which is a yellow that comes from the urine of cows fed a diet of only mango leaves. 172 165 170 169 166 167 171

Friday, November 20, 2009

Please go home!

Today my coteacher and I witnessed an incredible phenomenon.  It was five minutes to 3 this Friday afternoon, and we had forgotten to let our students know at ten to 3pm that it was time to clean up.  I asked the students to please clean up.  Three minutes later, the students were still working.  I asked the students to clean up again, but half-heartedly, sort of amazed that they were not moving from their work.  Then after 3pm, our students were still working – many of them engrossed in their work, not wanting to leave.  I told them “Please, I know you don’t want to go home, but I do!  I love you all, but please, go home!”  At this point they all looked at me and laughed, and then I laughed.

As an adult, I envision people counting down the minutes until they get to go home on a Friday afternoon.  It’s Friday! Thank God it’s Friday!  But our students were happy to stay at school, and probably would have stayed longer had we not said anything and had their parents not been waiting downstairs in the hallway to take them home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

“What’s Funny When”

I was in the doctor’s office and decided to pick up a parenting magazine (unfortunately I cannot remember the name), and stumbled across an article on what is funny to children at what age.  I would like to share it what they presented.

4-6 Months:
    Bouncing, tickling, other physical stimulation

6-12 Months:
   Unusual behavior of familiar people

12 Months - 5 Years:
  Misuse of objects
     (“Let me answer my shoe phone”)

2 to 4 Years:
   Nonsense words, Misnamed Objects
    (Dr. Seuss comes to mind, here)

3 to 6 Years:
   Conceptual incongruity
     (“That bear seems to be enjoying his ice cream cone”)

7 + Years:
   Word play, puns
     (Knock, knock jokes)


Saturday, October 31, 2009


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Here are some pictures from our students’ crochet projects.  Most of them are crocheting scarves, however some of them made mistakes and their scarf became more like a hat!  So I guess we’ll be making scarves and hats.  Some of the students have parents helping them at home, others are learning as they go in the classroom.  They are doing a great job.


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Art in the Montessori Classroom

This past Saturday the Pacific Northwest Montessori Association (PNMA) organized a quite engaging workshop on art in the Montessori classroom.  It was held in the same building Montessori Garden just moved to.  

During registration, before the event began we took a tour of their beautiful classrooms.  Here are some pictures from one particular classroom:

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The classroom is quite spacious, I took a picture of the entire classroom, but there were many other Montessori teachers in the photo, and I did not want to post without their permission. 


The workshop itself was amazing.  Two very talented art teachers arranged 10 different work stations, each were numbered 1-10.  We began the workshop at whatever number table was listed on our nametag. 



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I started at the Challenge Table.     Then moved to Picasso Faces.


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Examples of art subject areas.   By far my favorite table. 


I think the video posted on the PNMA website gives you an idea:

This was the best workshop I have attended, and I can’t say last year’s workshops were dull.  This one was just so phenomenal that it really can’t be beat.  We all had a blast.  And we got to take home lesson plans and samples. Hooray!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Little Second-Hand Treasures

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I love going to Goodwill: you can find the neatest things there.  And I happened to find a Kids’ Magnetic Poetry book for $2.99.  I had a couple students in mind when I picked it up, and one of them went right to the book the first day it was on the shelf. 

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Penmanship: Cursive Practice

I had a book on cursive that has “reproducibles” of the different groups of letters.  I decided to “Montessorize” the book and use it in the classroom – as I know the students need to work on their cursive (an oft-forgotten skill these days, alas).  I photocopied the first page, glued it to a bright yellow background (not sure if there is a particular color for penmanship or writing), and laminated it using a 5 millimeter laminating pocket.  I placed it on a clipboard along with a small dry erase marker.  
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The students can practice tracing the letters, then writing them on the workboard shown in the photo above, and finally by the end of the week turn in their practice words on a separate piece of paper as an assignment.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Noun Booklet

Some of the students have been studying about nouns, and I decided to have them make booklets including the different types of nouns for their own reference (and because it’s always fun to make a personalized booklets – in fact I had other students who were not working on nouns asking when they would get to make noun booklets).  With the youngest students, I sat down and assembled the booklets step-by-step with them.  For older students who were working on nouns, I placed all the necessary materials in a basket along with instructions and a finished booklet as a model.

Curriculum Night.etc 007    This basket was placed on    
    the grammar shelf.
Curriculum Night.etc 013Instructions for students to read and follow.
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Booklet I assembled and had 
available as a model for students.
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First section of My Noun Booklet.

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Second section.
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Third section.

As students learn about (or review) each type of noun, they will give a definition in the respective section in their noun booklet along with examples. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Geometry Presentation: Introduction to Lines

Last week I prepared and presented a geometry lesson to many of my students as an introduction to lines.  This is quite a fun one to present, and clarifies concepts that appear to children as abstract mysteries on paper (but don’t all Montessori lessons do just that?).  I had to look back into my notes and photos from my training.  I am still not sure I replicated the presentation exactly as my instructor did it, but am hoping I did justice. 
I prepared a tray with a clear container filled half-way with water, a tongue depressor, scissors, a ball of yarn, a homemade plumb line (a pencil with thread tied to the top, and the thread is weighted down by something – in this case a binder clip), two paper arrows, and the following labels: line, ray, line segment, origin, vertical, horizontal. 
I demonstrated each step of the presentation to the children, and then provided them with the steps so they could replicate the presentation and, hopefully by doing so, gain thorough understanding of the concepts. 

Classroom.Oct.2009 081The tray was available on the shelf for the students to recreate the presentation and complete the follow-up activities.

Classroom.Oct.2009 083Here are the steps the students followed to do the presentation themselves.
Classroom.Oct.2009 088Step 1: Unravel ball of yarn the length of your arms, and tell children that this goes on and on forever in both directions.  Tell them, “This is a line” (I did not place the labels until the end.)
Classroom.Oct.2009 090 Step 2: Cut the yarn near the ball, and place the arrow on the other end to show it continues on forever in the other direction.  Tell the children  “When I cut the yarn, it still continues on forever in the other direction.  But now that I cut it, it begins here, it has an origin – a beginning.  This is called a ‘ray’.” 

Classroom.Oct.2009 091Step 3: Say to the children, “now if I cut the other end (cut the yarn at this point and continue holding both ends of the yarn), it does not continue on forever.  It stops – it has two ends, or two points.  This is called a ‘line segment’.”

Step 4: Now you can cut pieces and label each one.  You can also cut another piece of yarn, make it curved and tell them that is a curved line.
Classroom.Oct.2009 086Step 5: Place tongue depressor in the water and show the students.  Then tilt the container and ask them what they observe about the tongue depressor and the water.  Tell them this is “horizontal”.  Ask them if they know what the horizon is and then describe it if they do not know.  Ask them to find things in the room that are horizontal.

Classroom.Oct.2009 094 Step 6: Take the plumb line from the tray and ask them if they know what a plumb line is.  Describe the idea of a plumb line and what it is used for (namely in construction and the like, to make sure things are straight up and down or vertical).  Tell them to look at the thread, tell them this is “vertical". 
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     Some possible follow-up activities.
This was my first time presenting this, and overall I think it went well – my gauge is whether or not the students learned the concepts.  I don’t think I will forget one of the students laying down and asking “Am I horizontal?” and another one of the students walking around with the plumb line in hand, holding it up to objects, etc. to see if they were vertical.