Thursday, November 24, 2011

Albuquerque Turkey

This is a favorite song at Thanksgiving time in our classroom!

Anthropomorphic Turkey Pilgrim with Fork

Albuquerque Turkey
(sung to the tune of "Clementine")

Albuquerque is a turkey
And he's feathered and he's fine
And he wobbles and he gobbles
And he's absolutely mine

He's the best pet
You can get yet
Better than a dog or cat
He's an Albuquerque Turkey
And I'm awfully proud of that

And my Albuquerque Turkey
Is so happy in his bed
Because for Thanksgiving dinner
We have spaghetti instead

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Giving Lessons

Lessons are an essential part of the Montessori classroom.  A vast majority of the lessons given are actually informal, quick connections.  But whether they are brief connections or formal lengthy lessons, they all follow a pattern of presentation.

Step One:  Observation
The first step in presenting any lesson is observation.  First movement is observed - how a child sits, stands or moves across a room gives information on what a child is ready for.  Child can’t sit for any length of time? Find an activity the requires the child to purposefully move around the room.  Child still hasn’t mastered how to hold a pencil?  Choose work that forces the child to practice “pinching”.  Observation is also used to determine what sensitive period(s) the child may be in.  Can’t lure the child away from the sensorial materials?  She could be in the sensitive period for order -get your sensorial extensions ready to fulfill the need!

Step Two:  Presentation
You’ve watched the child and know what lesson you want to give -it’s time for the presentation!  In a classical presentation (or lesson) the teacher presents the materials, demonstrates the activity, puts away the material, rolls up the rug, then invites the child to use the material.  A less formal method of presenting a lesson is to observe which materials the child is drawn to then give a lesson using knowledge of what the child is capable of doing.  

The presentation itself is all about making a connection with the child and not about the content of the material.  The goal is to make a positive experience between the child and the material.  We share the fun and the pleasure of the work.  After the material is presented, we watch to see what happens.  If a child becomes engaged we leave.  We also assume that the child won’t come back to us if they need help, so we make a point of checking in on the child.  We lend a hand if they need moral support.

Step Three:  Analysis
After the presentation comes the analysis.  We ask:
  • Is there a better way to present to this child?
  • Did I show too much?
  • Did I show too little?
  • Will they repeat the activity?

Step Four: Observation
Then there is more observation.  Does the child apply the experience?  Will they do this activity with others?  Is the child mishandling the materials to the point that useful exploration is finished?  It is time to step in and invite the child to another lesson in order to redirect the child or even perhaps encourage the child to move on to different work.  You can always represent another day!

When a lesson doesn’t work it could be that the timing was off and the child wasn’t ready for the material.  It may be necessary to be inventive so that the lesson can be represented as often as necessary.  It will be OK if not all your lessons are solid gold.  Relax, because you never know when the child will surprise you several days later by perfectly performing the lesson.  Or when other children will repeat the task by indirectly observing your presentation.

Pattern of Lessons
  1. Observation
  2. Presentation
  3. Analysis
  4. Observation
  5. Repeat

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Scrubbing

I like having a small scrubbing work available.  I start the year off with a baby to be washed, but I find that I need to change the scrubbing object every few days in order to maintain the children's interest in the work.  One extension of baby washing is scrubbing a pumpkin. 

If you offer drawing faces on a pumpkin with a dry erase marker, or using play dough to make faces on a pumpkin then you have an authentic reason to scrub the pumpkin.  Otherwise, I am content to let the work be a sensory exploration of water.

 Pumpkin Scrubbing

The child gets the work from the shelf

The work is placed on the chair to make it easier for the child to place the materials on the table.

The child first lays out the rug, then places the tub, towel, pumpkin and sponge on top of the rug.

Using a special pitcher kept next to the sink, the child carefully pours in one pitcher of water into the tub.  Soon we will add the step of adding dish soap with an eyedropper. For now if the child wants soap, we add it in for them.  The child then washes the pumpkin with the sponge.

When finished, the child dries the pumpkin with the towel.  The tub is carefully carried to the sink in order to pour out the water. The tub is returned to the table to be dried with the towel. (If the order of the last two steps is mixed up, the wet towel is placed in the laundry hamper and a new towel is retrieved.)  The items are put back into the tub so that the next child can take things out in the correct order.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Free Montessori Video Lectures

Doing things the Montessori way isn't always cheap or easy.  When I find free resources I can't help but smile!  I haven't prowled all the way through these lectures yet, but there are a lot available.  Margaret Homfray was a colleague of Maria Montessori, and I find it fascinating to hear her speak and watch her hands.  I'm sure I'll be viewing a lot of these over the summer as I give myself a self-guided refresher course  :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Listen to this!

Have you heard of Storynory? It is a collection of free downloadble stories! You know they must be good because the site is sponsored by CGMS (Center for Guided Montessori Studies).

I'm finding myself doing more and more reading aloud in the classroom.  I like reading a story early in the work cycle to help set the tone for the day and as a way to bring our current theme study to life (not to mention practicing listening and group-activity skills).  We have been reading chapter books in the afternoon and it seems to help transition the kids from high-action recesses to concentrated classroom work.  With Storynory they'll have a chance to use their imaginations even more as there are no pictures to go along.

Now, to figure out how to play them in my technology-free classroom.......

Couple Listening to Radio in Living Room

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pardon the interruption

Yes, I know I haven't posted in some time.  I was frustrated because whenever I pasted HTML code into the post, the code would show but not the image. 

I'm happy to report that the problem was duly researched and solved!  Turns out that  "show HTML code literally" was selected in my post options.  Now it is set to "interpret HTML" so all systems are tickety-boo and set to go.

To celebrate this success, I'm leaving you with a gratuitously lovely image.

Happy April!

April Showers

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sorting vertebrate and invertebrate cards

I have been loving the PDF files from Montessori Print Shop.  I just pick and choose the ones I want, purchase & quickly have a link to the files in order to print them.  There is a huge selection, both individual files as well as a few CD-ROM collections and freebies.  If I didn't need some of these materials immediately I would have opted for the CD's.  Oh well, I'll be better prepared for next year!

 This next week I'll be introducing animals, beginning with a discussion of invertebrates and vertebrates.  I inherited a few black-line animal nomenclature cards, but I didn't have anything truly exciting.  The school has a set of black line masters to use, but again not very exciting.  I love the real pictures in this set!  Also included is a black line page of animals.  I plan on using them as an extension for the kids.  Perhaps some accordion books illustrated with the cutout black line animals?

I printed these with my inkjet on white card stock.  I hate cutting, but fortunately my assistant LOVES to have cutting work to do in the evenings.  This particular set I will laminate at home with my little table-top laminator so that I can have it ready to use tomorrow.  If you don't have a laminator you can use a transparent contact paper method.

Other Montessori Print Shop materials I have in line to make this week:  Frog and Toad picture cards, Frog Life Cycle Cards, and the Frog Definition set.

Some other resources for Montessori classroom materials:
  • abcteach:   Some free materials, but for a yearly fee you can have access to all the materials they have available, including Montessori extension materials.
  • Enchanted Learning:  No Montessori resources, but there are lots of printables that can be used as extensions as well as some great craft ideas.  It is also a subscription-based website, although there are things you can access for free.
  • Montessori For Everyone:  Another great source for PDF files you can print yourself.  They have a great selection as well, including a freebies page.  I've been ordering mostly from MPS because I got a discount after my first purchase:)
Now, all I need is to figure out some cheap-and-easy-yet-durable holders for all these fantastic card sets I am making.  Any suggestions?

Bonus Tip:  You can use the pictures for cutting work if you have ink issues while printing! Turtle has a lot of cutting work to keep her busy for some time  :-P

Saturday, February 26, 2011


So picture Saturday morning.  Turtle (my 3 year old daughter) has had her breakfast already and is demanding another snack.  I am in weekend mode:  laptop and tea within comfortable reach of my perch on the sofa.

"Mama, I want something to eat!"

"We have some tangelos, would you like to eat an orange?"

"No, I want you to make orange juice!"

"Sorry Sweetie, I'm not making you orange juice right now."  I selfishly go back to reading my daily dose of blogs while she goes to the kitchen. Crash. Slam. Bang.

"Mama, I don't see the oranges."

"They are in the white bag on the counter."
Crash. Slam. Bang. Bump.

I look up to see Turtle carrying a cutting board, juicer, butter knife and orange toward the table. OK, I get it.  She really wants OJ and she wants it enough she will do it herself.  I let the go of the fear of the mess she will make in trying to squeeze the orange and I break free from the gravitational force of the sofa to help.  I get a bowl to squeeze the juice into and a bowl to put the rinds into after being squeezed.  I remove the butter knife and get a sharp knife to cut the orange into wedges small enough to fit in the juicer.  I show her how to place the wedge into the juicer, we squeeze the handles together.  We do it one more time and I'm told "Mama, I want to do it myself!" 

So I go back to my laptop and drink more tea.  Soon I hear  "I did it!" 

"OK, but before you drink the juice you need to clean the utensils."  I go to the kitchen to fill the sink with water for her.

She brings the juicer to me and says, "I want you to wash it."

"No, it is your job to wash it."

"I don't want to!"

"What do you do after you finish the apple work at school?"

"I wash up."

"Do you want a lot of bubbles in your water, or just a little?" When she replies "Just a little" I know I have won the battle. Soon she is happily at the table drinking the orange juice she made for herself.

I must admit that although I work very hard to maintain a prepared environment for my students, I don't make the same effort at home for my daughter.  We try to keep things neat and organized. But we live in a small, older home and I spend the bulk of my day with a large group of 3-6 year olds.  I need a break when I get home at the end of the day and thus my house is not a model of "doing Montessori in the home." But somehow, my darling daughter found what she needed to get what she wanted.  I trusted her to take the chance to do it for herself, and now we both feel better about ourselves.

And now that I know she can squeeze her own orange juice, I will NEVER have to do it again for her :D

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Montessori Sensitive Periods

In her observations of children, Maria Montessori discovered patterns of behaviors shared by all children. She called them “Sensitive Periods” and we use this knowledge even today to determine what work to offer children. Sensitive periods could also be thought of as developmental stages or windows of time when children have a special capacity for a particular area in their development. They may demonstrate such an energy to repeat actions that it is impossible to stop them! Unless it is a matter of health, safety or well being it is best to get out of the way and not interfere. Once a sensitive period is fulfilled, the child drops the activity and moves on. Unmet needs lead to frustration and difficulties. All ages mentioned are approximate and stages vary by individual. Sensitive periods overlap so a child may be in several stages at once.

From birth to about age 5 is the sensitive period for sensory perception. As a child's "equipment" is new the senses are sharper and children explore richly and deeply. What we may see as foolishness or recklessness with materials is in someway a sensorial exploration. To assist the child during this phase, provide access to a variety of natural objects, tastes, sights, scents and sounds -but not all at once!

Birth to age 6 is the sensitive period for language. You can help during this phase by naming things in the moment or what is currently present to enrich vocabulary. Know names of things. Avoid fantasy and abstraction. Tell your children what is going to happen. Language is not fully developed until the age of 7 so model proper grammar (but don’t correct - they will eventually get it!)

From 1 to 3 is the sensitive period for order. During this time children depend on consistency to know what to do. Whereas adults crave variety, children find variety threatening. When life is predictable, it is easier to become autonomous. Especially in the beginning of the school year we try to stick to a predictable schedule to help meet these needs. Order in the environment is also necessary so items need to be exactly the same every day.

Also happening during this time frame is the sensitive period for small detail. You may notice that imperfections bother your child or that they are fascinated by small things. For example, if your child is captivated by a ladybug, let them observe uninterrupted.

From 2 ½ to 4 is the sensitive period for the coordination of movement. It is natural for children at this stage to walk around carrying things. Children work on the mechanics of moving first with the whole body and then the hand. Teach your child to carry one object at a time. Not only will there be fewer breakages, but you give the child more opportunities to walk.

The sensitive period for social relations occurs from 2 ½ to 5. Children watch us to see how we behave as well as how we move and how we treat others. In this stage children become conscious of how others make them feel. Give your child ample opportunities to play and be around other children outside of school times.

Following close to the social phase is the sensitive period for grace and courtesy. At this stage children are open to lessons on grace and courtesy. Remember, seeing gracious behavior happening in real life situations has more of an impact than lessons in courtesy alone. This means model the behavior you wish your child to learn!

Children have a tremendous capacity for self-construction. By understanding the sensitive periods in a child’s life we can help them to do so successfully.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Welcome Directresses, Assistants, Early Education Teachers, Daycare Providers, Mothers, Homeschoolers, Students, and Everyone Else Who Works With Children,

I can't promise to make daily posts.  I'm a Lead Teacher (Directressl) in a 3-6 year old Montessori classroom.  Those of you who have the same job know how time consuming it can be.  I'm also a mother.  Put the two together and there is very little free time left.

But because both jobs can be so time consuming, I wanted to create a space where I could share the materials I make for my classroom.  I'd also like to share the work I did when I was studying to get my Montessori certification.  If I can make your life a little easier I'll be one happy camper.  Along the way I'm sure you'll share things with me as well  :)

Please, please, PLEASE ask if you have any questions or concerns.  I'm not an expert, but I'm very creative.

Thanks for reading,