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.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Resources are a teacher’s Best Friend

I wanted to share with my fellow Montessori teachers, as well as potential Montessori-at-home parents, where I get my books, and other interesting things for teaching, etc.
My absolute favorite and most-frequented bookstore is Goodwill.  That’s right,Goodwill is a second-hand store with amazing books.  Most of my reference books on the science, and also history books for students have come from Goodwill.  I have found many children’s science books at Goodwill, as well – not to mention other children’s literature, such as Newberry winners.  I also get National Geographic magazines for just 50 cents there and use the pictures for materials.  Supporting images of bridges, or land and water forms, or various animals and plants, for example, can be found in National Geographic.  And let’s not forget adult paperbacks for just 79 cents. 
My second-favorite bookstore would have to be Half Price Books.  I love their clearance section – I found a beautiful book on weather, quite detailed with great pictures for just $2.  And while their National Geographics are slightly more expensive (by maybe $1), I have found 1930s and 1920s issues – issues I almost never see in Goodwill.  These older issues give a special window into our recent world history, with beautiful illustrations and black and white photos of lands and peoples. 
Another place I go for books is – and only used books!  Although shipping ends up being about $4, books are usually less than half their original price, so it is still a bargain.
Another really cheap source of books is book sales at the local library.  Unfortunately I just missed it this year, but am eagerly awaiting the next book sale of the Seattle Public Libraries.
As for items that can hold and display materials on the shelf, Daiso is a great source for baskets, boxes, trays, and other containers for materials.  While Daiso is very cheap (I’ve heard it referred to as the “Japanese dollar store”), the quality is pretty decent.  Goodwill is also a great source for baskets, trays, etc. for your classroom.  Garage sales are really hit and miss. 
Then, of course, the crafts stores are always a great help when making materials for lessons, presentations, and materials: Joann Fabric, Pacific Fabrics, and Michael’s.  But be aware: never pay full price – at least not at Joaan’s and Michael’s, as they have weekly coupons and frequent sales. 
It is also important to make use of educators’ discounts that are often available at bookstores and crafts stores.  I will save that for another post, however.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Practical Life II

In our classroom, we have “Classroom Jobs” where students names are posted next to a job, and we rotate the names weekly.  Each student is responsible for one section or one task each day.  For example, the student responsible for geometry, must make sure the materials are properly put away, the shelves are clean, and everything in that area is overall orderly. 
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The names are all laminated and I used velcro adhesives from some random craft store (I do not recall the store), so that they can be easily rotated.  I made this poster last year and I am hoping it will hold up for another couple years. 
An activity we had out on our practical life shelf at the beginning of the year was wire-working.  We found very cheap needle-nose pliers and anodized aluminum wire at Daiso (a cheap Japanese store).
We put it out on a tray with pictures of wire creations. The first day they worked with it, many of the boys made glasses, and one tried to make the bicycle in the picture.  Some of the girls made creative designs – mostly jewelry such as rings and bracelets.
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One of our students made a crown:
We also have sewing and embroidery (cross-stitch) available on the shelf.  It is interesting how the children will break down the gender stereotypes one might have – for example, I didn’t expect any of the boys would be interested in the embroidery or in crochet.  However, they all were eager to do the embroidery the day it was on the shelf.  And while I did have a couple boys reject crochet during their first lesson this year (although I had an idea it was because they were frustrated and could not do it correctly right away, and wanted to give up rather than keep working at it), once I began to bring my own crochet project into class and began to crochet in front of them, even the most obstinate said he wanted to crochet.  And today he mastered making a chain, and crocheted for half an hour. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Practical Life

In the Montessori method there are exercises that the children do which fall into a category called “Practical Life".  These exercises are highly emphasized, especially in preschool, so as to not only teach the children life skills, but also help them with fine motor control, and also give children a sense of independence and accomplishment.  Practical life activities often include, but are not limited to: table washing, pouring liquids, pouring solids (such as beans or rice from one small glass pitcher to another), polishing, folding, etc. 
The first time I observed a Montessori preschool class in session, I was quite taken aback by the methodical nature of a particular child who was preparing to have snack.  He had decided he wanted to eat his snack, so he put his work back on the shelf, put on an apron, went into the bathroom and washed his hands, went the practical life shelf and ever so carefully poured himself a glass of juice.  He then put the juice on the snack table.  He was just as careful with serving himself crackers.  He placed the bowl on the snack table, pulled the chair out, sat down, and gingerly ate his snack.  The child was 4 years old. 
I reflected on the amount of independence this child must feel by preparing his own snack, rather than relying on an adult to serve him food and drink.  Of course, behind the scenes there is much preparation by the classroom teachers to lead up to this point.  First of all, the child was not new to the class, but had been there an entire year.  Second, we must remember the teacher demonstrates how everything is done (basically giving a lesson on how to prepare snack), before the child tries it out on his own. 
While one might think “practical life” is only utilized in preschool, older students can benefit from it as well.  Here is a list of some of the benefits of practical life in the Montessori classroom listed by the North American Montessori Center (NAMC):

  • Expanded concentration

  • Following step-by-step instructions

  • Practicing sequencing

  • Developing logical thought patterns

  • Showing respect for self, classmates, teachers, and the environment

  • Developing self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-control

  • The link to the entire blog entry is here:
    Practical life activities in elementary can include sewing, food preparation, fabric crafts, social graces, etc.
    In our upper elementary/middle school classroom, we have a practical life shelf.  Having students ages 9 to 13, we have to be a bit more creative so they do feel enticed by the activities.  Last year in spring, I gave my students 3 or 4 crochet lessons, but we did not have a practical shelf.  This year, we have a basket on the shelf, with yarn, crochet hooks, and books available to the students.  
    We also have knitting rings available, as our students will be making hats and scarves for a community service project they are participating in.  The hats and scarves will go to the homeless (this project is part of Warm for Winter. Here is a
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    link that gives some info
    about the program: (It is a local Washington State campaign.)