Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas for Montessori Teachers

Besides the traditional coffee mug, parents are sometimes stumped as to what to purchase for their child's teacher.  At our school, the teachers write classroom gift ideas on ornaments and hang them in the school foyer.  Parents choose an ornament and provide that gift for the classroom.  Oftentimes, Montessori teachers spend a great deal of money out of their own pocket for classroom materials, so any help is appreciated!  Here are some ideas that will show your child's teacher how much your appreciate his or her hard work and dedication.  Click on the links to view the item and description.

Ten Thousand Villages

Maracas
Balaphone
Wreath
Dish (for transferring work)
Coasters (for the nature table)

Montessori-N-Such

Touch Mona Lisa's Hair
Make Van Gogh's Bed
Pulley
The Growth of a Chicken
Animal Coverings

Montessori Services

French Knitting Flower
Shut the Box
Tibetan Table Chime


Gifts are certainly never expected from teachers.  The best gift that can be given to a teacher is your appreciation and acknowledgement.  Montessori teachers put in more time and dedication than any other professionals I've ever met.  The philosophy becomes a way a life for these teachers.  They spend every spring weekend and yard sales looking for small spoons and dishes, they pour through the dollar store in the weekend looking for magical little items that can inspire the children.  I appreciate all those Montessori teachers who are making a difference in little minds and hearts all over the world.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conferences

We are currently midway through our conference week.  Conferences are exhausting for teachers, but can be absolutely wonderful on the other hand.  We love meeting with the parents and finding out how things are going at home.  I, personally, look forward to the questions that parents ask this time of year.  The questions are so different at the fall conference than at the spring conference.  Parents are so excited and eager to learn about the philosophy in the fall.  I thought I would provide a list of possible questions that parents might want to ask their child's Montessori teacher at conferences:
  • What is my child's favorite work?
  • Does my child interact with children of all ages?
  • Does my child know how to interrupt the teacher appropriately?
  • Is my child able to solve problems independently?
  • What are some of the benefits of staying through the Kindergarten year?
  • Is there anything I can do at home to increase my child's independence?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Five Senses

Last Thursday and Friday, we discussed our five senses in great detail.  One of our assistants brought in some plants from her garden so the children were able to differentiate between basil, lavender, and mint, among others.  We placed them in glass bottles, added self-corrected stickers on the bottom, and by Friday we had smelling bottles! 

On Friday, we spoke specifically about our sense of taste and the tongue.  We looked at a diagram of the tongue and discussed sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  Of course, to truly understand this concept we needed a taste test.  We used paper plates divided into four sections.  The children tasted sugar for sweet, salt (of course) for salty, lemon for sour, and unsweetened chocolate for bitter.  That last one was hysterical.  After three cheers for chocolate, and a brief explanation that this is chocolate WITHOUT SUGAR, the children tried the bitter food and were severely disappointed!  Actually, disappointed isn't the word, it was more like disgusted.  I wish I could have posted some of the faces we saw.  We took a vote and zero children like bitter food!

Parents can get children more involved by reviewing the diagram of the tongue here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Normalization

Things have been going unbelievably well in school.  I see many new children who have already achieved "normalization".  These days, using a word like "normalization" seems like an invitation for an upset parent.  People immediately say "How can you say a child is not normal?  How dare you say that!"  Maria Montessori used the term normalization to describe a child who
  • is capable of long periods of concentration
  • loves to work
  • can socialize peacefully
  • utilizes self-discipline and perseverance
Ok, so now parents ask, "When will MY child be normalized??".  That's a great question.  Oftentimes, it can take only 6 weeks for a child in a well-run Montessori classroom to become normalized.  On the other hand, I have seen the rare child with a loud voice, short attention span, and no desire to work continue in the classroom for 2 years and then finally become normalized in that kindergarten year.  It truly varies from child to child. 

The North American Montessori Center states that the process of normalization occurs in 3 steps:
  • Preparation for Work-  This includes gathering the materials necessary to do the work. The preparation allows the mind to begin to focus on the activity before the work actually begins.
  • The work – The works in a Montessori classroom are meant to engage the child so that she is able to focus and concentrate in depth.
  • Rest (or completion) – The work is done and the child has derived satisfaction of completing the work. This is a time of putting the Montessori materials away and sharing his accomplishments with others.
So when you hear your child's teacher mention the term "normalization", try not to think in terms of political correctedness.  Instead, keep Montessori's original words in mind:

"Normalization is the single most important result of our work."  ~Maria Montessori

Monday, September 13, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

Today was our first full day class.  I'm exhausted, and from the looks on the other teachers' faces, they are too.  However, I'm thrilled with the work that was done today, and the level of maturity we've attained already from such a young group is astounding. 

This week we're discussing Parts of our Body, specifically the hands, feet, head, teeth and skin.  Today we discussed our hands and the many things we do with our hands.  The children listed so many things they had used their hands for just this morning..."to eat breakfast, to brush my teeth, to do my work, to touch the geometric solids" and the list goes on.  Tomorrow we dive into the world of the feet!  We'll do the song "Open, Shut Them" with our feet and we'll also match and roll socks! 

You know you've had a good day when a very young three year old girl walks up to you and says, "Will you please show me another work?  I just can't get enough."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Days

We're enjoying our first week of school in our larger location.  I must say, in over ten years of Montessori teaching, I've never had a more peaceful, cooperative group.  The children seem so thankful for the lessons they receive and so proud of each and every tiny accomplishment.  I gave a small group lesson on cylinder block #1 to a group of young 3's.  At the end of the lesson, they all looked up at me with smiles and clapped.  They applauded the beauty of the lesson.  Needless to say, that cylinder block was out and used often the entire day.

I'm watching new friendships blossom.  Frienships that will grow and change and mature over the next three years.  I'm also watching new staff members learn more about Montessori and fall in love with the Method.  They have a look of awe on their faces as they watch these young people function independently in their small community.  I've said it many times over the course of the week and I'll say it again...this is going to be a great year!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Productive Parenting

I stumbled across this fantastic website tonight.  It's called Productive Parenting.  I went through the free membership process to be sure there weren't any hidden fees or charges.  A group of moms created this website as a way to provide simple, age-appropriate activities for children ages infant to five years.  Simply give them some basic info (your name, city/state, child's name & age) and choose the days that you would like to receive your activity ideas through email.  I know that there are some days when I am just too busy to even read an email about an activity, so I chose the days that I would most likely put these activities into action.  After reading through some of their sample ideas, I was pleasantly surprised that many of these games are Montessori-inspired!  I think the goal of this website is simply to encourage parents to reconnect with their kids for a few minutes a day.  Most of the time, any materials needed are found objects around the home.  Take a look at this video and then visit their website to sign up for some free activity ideas.


Productive Parenting Web 158p Video from Emily with Productive Parenting on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Time to Celebrate

Thursday night, we had a our annual Back to School BBQ.  This year, it was a bit different because we included a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate our school expansion.  The mayor joined us for this special event, and many of the parents were there to help us usher in this new school year.  My two daughters helped to cut the ribbon, and they're still talking about it today.  I had also asked some returning students and school alumni to help us hold the ribbon on either side.  It was quite an emotional evening, but I managed to keep it together!

After the ceremony, the children enjoyed some time playing on our new playground while the parents got to know each other.  I was able to steal a moment just to stand and watch all of these loving, dedicated parents as they got to know their new little Montessori community.  At that moment, I was so proud of how far we've come and so excited for what's yet to come.   

It was a glorious evening and I can't wait to get this school year started!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Independent Breakfast

Looking for a way to get your children involved in (the sometimes hectic) breakfast time?  Certainly, a parent can get their children involved in cooking eggs or pancakes, but most times, we're looking for helpful ways to get our kids fed and on the school bus in time.  It does take a day or two of adjustment, accidental spills, and a few dollars but it's worth it in the long run.  Start simple. A cereal breakfast. 
Here's what to order:





Bowls and silverware of your choice

Serving tray (these work great)


Preparation:

  • Set up your bowls and the cereal dispenser on a low pantry shelf.  Place the juice glasses on a serving tray on the same shelf.
  • Fill one pitcher with milk and one with orange juice and place on a low shelf in the refrigerator.
Day One:
Tell your child you are going to pour yourself a glass of juice.  He or she is welcome to try it too as soon as you're finished presenting.  Using limited words, show your child how to choose a juice glass and place it on the kitchen table.  Walk to the refrigerator and choose the juice pitcher.  Carry it properly with two hands- one on the handle and one supporting the spout.  Slowly and deliberately, pour the juice into the glass.  Put the pitcher back into the refrigerator, holding it properly.  Then, sit down and enjoy your glass of juice.  Stand up, push in your chair, and place in the dishwasher.  (Maybe on the weekends, you can show your child how to wash the dish in the sink.)

Day Two:
Tell your child you are going to pour a bowl of cereal.  He or she is welcome to eat the cereal as soon as you have prepared it.  Using limited vocabulary (it's simply too distracting for the child to watch AND listen to you at the same time) show your child how to fetch a spoon and a napkin.  Set your place (introduce place setting with this puzzle if you like).  Walk to the pantry and choose a bowl.  Put your bowl under the dispenser and turn the knob.  Put your bowl on the table and clean up any pieces that may have fallen.  Walk to the refrigerator and choose the milk pitcher.  Carry it to the table properly and pour the desired amount of milk onto the cereal.  Return the pitcher and invite your child to eat the bowl of cereal.  Again, encourage pushing in the chair and placing items in the dishwasher. 

Day Three:
Ask your child to pour himself a glass of juice.  Then, ask him to serve himself a bowl of cereal.  Watch carefully and note any difficulties.  Go back later when your child is not present and find solutions to the problems. 


Breaking the lesson into days ensures that your child has mastered one skill at a time, without getting overwhelmed.  It may seem like extra work, but before you know it, your children will be downstairs serving themselves breakfast while you're catching a few extra zzzs!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Board Review

Tomorrow morning I stand before the State Board of Private Academic Schools to review our school's application for licensure.  Please think good thoughts tomorrow morning at 9:00am!  I'll keep you posted.

**Post Update**

We just got home from the Board Meeting and we were APPROVED for licensure as a Nursery/Kindergarten Private Academic School.  I think tonight will be the first Friday night in 6 months that I'm shutting off my computer and saving my work for tomorrow.  Thanks for all of your positive thoughts this morning!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Magical Little Land

I had to share this wonderful online toy.  The price for the entire kit is beyond reasonable, but wouldn't your child love to get lost in this magical little land?  It seems Waldorf-inspired, so in my mind, it's fun and creative!

The Tree Fort Kit

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Quick and Easy Breakfast

Looking for a quick, easy, and healthy breakfast?  Here's the breakfast my 2 year old likes to eat 6 out of 7 days/week.  Also, keeps kids working while you're making lunches for the day.

Here's what you need:
Pour the desired amout of yogurt in a bowl or cup.  Rinse off blueberries and pour on top of the yogurt.  Place the Cheerios in the mortar and demonstrate grinding with the pestle. 
As soon as your child finishes grinding the Cheerios, use the paintbrush to  carefully brush the crushed cereal into the yogurt.  Older children can make a parfait by creating repeating layers.  Kid tested, mother approved.

News

One of our employees has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Maybe our readers could offer up a prayer of strength for this sweet woman and passionate follower of Montessori.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sigh of Relief

We had our final state inspection today and we passed with flying colors!  I feel like I can finally breathe and enjoy what's left of this summer.  Our inspector is fantastic, very upbeat and positive.  She even commented that our classrooms are just beautiful.  Here's to years of a great working relationship with the state!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Word Search

We just returned from vacation last night.  We had a fantastic time, and had much better experiences with the children there.  See some of my posts from this time last year if you weren't a reader back then and you'll understand!

Wanted to pass along this link to you.  It's a free online wordsearch maker.  I don't often use "worksheets" with my children or my students, but G loves little games like this.  You're able to customize the topic and the words in the puzzle.  I like the fact that you can simplify it by getting rid of the diagonal option, and creating words that are read forward only.  They also provide the customized answer key.

You can access the link here:  Lakeshore Learning

Have fun!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Practical Life "Beef Up"

I'm in the process of "beefing up" my Practical Life area in the new classroom.  I have very mixed and complicated feelings about Practical Life, which I'm sure I'll explore further in another post. Mostly, I'm concerned about how some schools have taken away the richness and importance of Practical Life in the classroom.  I am certain, however, that the Practical Life aspect of the curriculum is the cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy.  Real-life activities, directly teaching children how to care for and run the classroom, should be incorporated throughout the entire school day.  Children should be found watering the plants, dusting the shelves, caring for animals, washing dishes, gardening, polishing shoes and washing windows.  These experiences give children the ability to follow multi-step tasks, they develop hand-eye coordination, and ultimately build self-confidence.

I spent the last few years slowly adding to the Math and Language areas of the classroom, to be sure I had a logical sequence to these activities.  Now it is finally time for me to work on Practical Life.  I'll soon be placing  an order with Montessori Services, my favorite online spot for Practical Life goodies.  I'm filling in some of my curriculum gaps with the following activities:
I'm very fortunate to have a friend of a friend who is making my cloth washing and dish washing stands.  Otherwise, the price for these materials just get way out of hand. 

I have already incorporated silver and shoe polishing into the curriculum, and they are certainly class favorites.  I'm excited to show wood polishing to some of my returning students.  They will truly enjoy transforming a dull wooden figure into a piece of art with a brilliant sheen.  My youngest daughter will most definitely have some well-polished wooden animals in her Noah's Ark!

If you wish to incorporate wood polishing into your home activities, here's what you need (remember, try to color coordinate whenever possible):
  • a basket or tray with high sides
  • an apron
  • non-toxic wood polish
  • a sponge
  • a small glass bowl
  • a waterproof mat
  • wood polishing cloths (you can order just the cloths here
  • cotton swabs
  • wooden object in need of a good polish
You can find directions on presenting this activity to your child in this online Montessori album:  Wood Polishing.  Be sure you have everything you need first, before presenting this work to a child.  Present activities slowly and deliberately, using the least amount of words possible.  As I've metioned before, if your child is enrolled in a Montessori school, check with the teacher to be sure your child is ready for this work at home.  This activity is suitable for a child who is 4-6 years old.  Be sure to rotate wooden objects often to maintain interest.  When your child eventually masters this activity, move on to wooden shelves and eventually pieces of furniture!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Montessori In the Home: It Works!

In one of my previous posts, I gave some suggestions on how to "Montessorify" your home.  It gave me inspiration to work on my daughters' rooms.  I spent the afternoon working in their rooms today:  organizing, getting rid of clutter, collecting a bag for donations, and cleaning out closets.  My older daughter, G, walked into her room and said "Wow, I love this room!".  That was an hour and a half ago.  I was going to ask her to help make dinner tonight, but I think I'll just let her enjoy the cleanliness of her room. 

My younger daughter, g, walked into her room and went straight to one of her favorite toys, her wooden ark.  For her second birthday, we purchased an heirloom quality wooden Noah's Ark set.  I searched for a VERY long time to find just the right one and was so pleased when I found it on ebay here.  It's handcrafted by the Amish. Yes, it's very expensive, but I'm hoping we can pass it down for years to come.  And it's one of the only toys in her room.  We have it neatly displayed on this unit, which fits directly under her window.  Her books are stored in the milk crate baskets beneath.  Now, she has not really entered her Sensitive Period for order, she's still working out the Language phase.  Therefore, she was not quite as affected by the "new" room.

Keep in mind, their rooms were not disasters.  But there were certainly small things scattered about that were no longer played with and a desk that was starting to get cluttered. When organizing your children's bedrooms, less is definitely more.  They will enjoy spending more time looking at books or playing with their quiet toys when their rooms are clutter-free.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Inspection #2

This week we passed our inspection with the Department of Environmental Protection.  We officially have safe, healthy drinking water.

Our final state inspection takes place mid-August.  We've really got the ball rolling now!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Montessori at Home...Where to Begin?

A parent recently spoke to me about incorporating Montessori into her home.  She noticed that her child seems so calm and fulfilled in school, but at home he is wild and frustrated.  She believes her parenting beliefs are in line with the school's, so it must be something else.  Immediately, the answer to her question popped into my head, but I was fearful to tell her the truth.  I've visited her home and the children's spaces are disastrous.  Again, I was hesitant to say something to her because God knows my home is not spotless.  Ahead of her time as always, Montessori discovered that too much clutter distracted a child's mind, decreased focus, which therefore increased negative behaviors.  She deduced that children between the ages of 3 and 6 are in a Sensitive Period for order.  Simply put, children at this age enjoy orderly rooms and play areas.  You may see children at this age lining up their cars or blocks in perfectly straight rows- again, this is a way to create that sense of order.  Read more about Sensitive Periods here.

Back to the inquiring parent...I did finally mention to her that one of the key aspects of the Montessori classroom is a clean, orderly environment.  She immediately understood what I was getting at, so I was able to give her some organizational tips.  Here are some tips on how to get started:
  • Put 75% of your child's toys in organized storage.  Store toys based on age groups (0-3, 3-6, 6-9) or by theme (building materials in one labeled bin, art supplies in another).
  • Place the remaining toys neatly on low shelves.  IKEA has some reasonably priced shelving.  Puzzles should not be stacked, they should be displayed nicely.
  • Organize the playroom into little "centers" based on your child's interests.  This particular little boy was very interested in pirates and dressing up at the time.  I showed her how she could put a full length mirror on the wall, next to a "tree" coat rack, and some pegs hung low on the wall.  She could display 6 dress-up items at a time on the pegs and all of his pirate hats on the coat rack.  Any additional dress-up items should be stored away in a bin or chest.
  • Rotate toys and dress-up clothes every 2-3 weeks or when interest wanes.
  • The playroom should include a reading area.  Invest in a bookshelf that displays books rather than a typical bookshelf where only spines are showing, such as this library panel.  Place a small lamp and child-sized chair to add a warm touch.  Again, rotate books often. 
  • Keep the area tidy with your child's help.  Reinforce putting toys away immediately after use, but be sure to clean up any remaining items at night so your child can have a fresh start in the morning.
Bathrooms and bedrooms are just as important to your child's behavior because these rooms help to start and end each day.  Keep the rooms as clutter-free as possible.  Books and soft toys should be arranged nicely in the bedroom.  Keep loud or musical toys in the playroom. 

Check out how this Montessori mom organized her home for her now mobile toddler:  Sew Liberated.

I think this post has inspired me to get upstairs and re-organize my kids' rooms!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Wonderful Surprise

I received a totally unexpected email the other day.  It was from a former student who has just received her DRIVER'S LICENSE!  She is doing very well and fondly thinks back to her memories from Montessori school.  She recalls her "favorite teacher" and the sense of community she enjoyed in the Montessori environment.  This compliment could easily go to my head and boost my ego.  However, many people do not realize it's not the Montessori teacher or the materials that are the children's "favorite", deep down it's actually the philosophy.  Children who attend Montessori schools for 3+ years truly take away from the experience more than just a solid, well-rounded education.  Their core personality is formed and they leave the school caring, active leaders of the community.

Reflect on your "favorite" childhood teacher.  Did the teacher instill a sense of independence and community in the classroom?  Did you feel a sense of ownership over the classroom?  Maybe it was really just his/her philosophy of teaching that you preferred. 

...Or maybe she just let you erase the chalkboard from time to time. lol.

Friday, July 9, 2010

First Inspection

Well, we've got our first inspection under our belts.  It went well and was much less stressful than I imagined.  The inspector was thorough, but she wasn't at all critical or condescending.  I've had many years of experience with these inspections, and they're not typically enjoyable.  The only thing we need to "fix" is a missing form from an employee's file.  Not bad, if you ask me!

This inspector was not very familiar with the Montessori Method, but she seemed open to learning about it and understanding the purpose of the materials.  Of course, once I get on a roll there's no stopping me. I gave her a detailed explanation of the materials and the sequence of materials in each area of the classroom.  After some time I realized I probably didn't need to go into so much detail, but she did seem to maintain interest throughout my rambling. 

So our next steps are inspection number two from a different agency in two weeks, and a board meeting in August.  I'm going to try and focus on this first hurdle that we have successfully leapt before worrying about inspection number two.  Take a look at the finished product:


Sensorial Materials

Language Materials

Math Materials

Practical Life and Art

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

I've been absent from the blog lately because we have our first inspection this Friday!!!  I've been rearranging our new furniture, moving boxes to the new building and setting up materials on the shelves.  Once again, I have to mention my respect for the quality of furniture from Community Playthings.  People walk into the classroom and are struck by the beauty of the tables, chairs and shelves.  It certainly is quite an investment into the school, but I know it will pay off.  Other directors mention that they've never had to replace a piece of Community Playthings furniture.  Can you tell I'm a bit excited about it?  We received 46 boxes of furniture and had it all unloaded and mostly set up in one day.  One looong day.  Here are some pictures of our progress...
So, it's coming right along.  I've been imagining this classroom for over ten years now, and the dream is coming alive right before my eyes.  I can hardly believe it.  I was over there working until past 11:00pm and I just had to sit down, look around, and take it all in.  I can only hope that this school will be passed down to my daughters and loved and cared for for many years to come.

I don't think I'll be posting any more pictures until the classroom is completed.  Should be within the next couple of weeks!

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Playdates

I'm sitting in my family room folding laundry while my two girls are having a play date.  They are upstairs in G's room playing doctor.  She is with my friend's two children- one former student and one current student.  The baby monitor was still on, so I was able to catch a glimpse of their little world without spoiling it with my adult presence.  An outsider may not be able to tell that it's a room full of tiny Montessorians, but I can.  Here are some things I've heard:
  • "Sure, you can have some of my snack.  There's enough for all of us."
  • "Let's see, we've only got ten pieces of snack.  That means we can all have three and we'll give 'g' one because she's just so tiny."
  • "You better get the doctor kit from the playroom, I'm going to have this baby any minute.  We should get packed for the hospital."
  • "You'll be a great mother, I can just tell.  You're very patient."
  • "It's 3:00, that means we have exactly one more hour to play. That's a lot of minutes!"
To most people, this just sounds like normal child's play.  To me, each comment reminds me of a lesson I gave one of them over the past four years.  The Montessori lessons truly do stay with the child for life.  They mold and shape their character traits to form caring, loving members of the community.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Peace Table

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Montessori classroom is the peace curriculum.  The core aspect of the peace curriculum is the peace table.  The peace table is a little retreat where children can go to solve problems with their friends.  It's set up in quiet area of the classroom, and children may not bring work to this table.  Typically, there is a peace rose set up on the table in a vase.  The peace rose is used to aid the children in peaceful conversation.  (I will write a post specifically about the peace rose at a later date.)  When a child feels upset, or needs to work out a problem with a peer, he or she walks to the peace table for reflection.  In the beginning of the year, the teachers model proper use of the peace table and proper turn-taking during discussion.  The children catch on quickly and oftentimes the younger students think up problems so they can go to the peace table and "work it out".  The teachers try not to get involved, but stand nearby just in case conversations become heated. 

The peace table is not used as a time out or as a punishment.  It is merely a tool used to aid in problem solving. 

Many teachers place beautiful, cultural artifacts on the table for individual children who wish to reflect.  These artifacts should be changed often to maintain interest.

Book of interest:
The Peace Rose















The peace table can easily be implemented in your home.  Set up a small table with two chairs.  If possible, read "The Peace Rose" to your children and demonstrate use of the peace rose with your spouse or a friend. Explain that the peace table should be used by to people in need of a discussion or one person who wishes to be alone.  As soon as an argument begins, insist that your children sit at the peace table.  Demand respect during this time.  Only one person may speak at a time--the person with the peace rose.  Mom and Dad should role-play at the table sporadically to maintain interest in the peace table and to remind children of the guidelines.  Children will develop deeper, more respectful relationships through this activity.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Great Montessori Poem

Here's a fantastic poem that's circulating the Montessori blog world.  It summarizes a child's feelings when a parent focuses solely on worksheets coming home instead of the hands-on activities that took place during the day. 

Today I did my math and science.
I toasted bread, halved and quartered, counted, measured, and used my eyes, ears and hands.
I added and subtracted on the way.
I used magnets, blocks and memory tray.
I learned about a rainbow and how to weigh.

So please don't say -
"ANYTHING IN YOUR BAG TODAY?"

You see, I'm sharing as I play, to learn to listen and speak clearly when I talk
to wait my turn and when inside to walk.
To put my words into a phrase, to find my name and write it down.
To do it with a smile and not to frown, to put my pasting brush away.

So please don't say -
"ANYTHING IN YOUR BAG TODAY?"

I learned about a snail and a worm.
Remembered how to take my turn.
Helped a friend when he was stuck.
Learned that water runs off a duck.
Looked at words from left to right.
Agreed to differ, not to fight.

So please don't say -
"DID YOU ONLY PLAY TODAY?"

Yes, I played the whole day through.
I played to learn the things I do,
I speak a problem, find a clue and work out for myself just what to do.
My teachers set the scene, and stay near-by to help me when I really try.
They are there to pose the problems, and to help me think.
I hope they will keep me floating and never let me sink. All of this is in my head and not in my bag.

It makes me sad to hear you say -
"HAVEN'T YOU DONE ANYTHING TODAY?"

When you attended your meeting today and do your work I will remember not to say to you -
"WHAT DID YOU DO?"


- author unknown

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Cost of Competition

I realize there's nothing more American than "healthy" competition.  However, as a teacher of young children, I personally attest to the negative impact competition has on self-esteem, relationship-building, and overall emotional readiness in preschoolers.  Please take a few minutes to read this fantastic article about competition and young children.  It's a very quick read:  The Cost of Competition.


 I do realize, though, that many of my Montessori children will be moving on to more traditional programs next year.  In order to prepare them for the onslaught of competition in public school, I gradually introduce mildly competitive games into the classroom the last week of school.  It was as if we had a different group of kids today.  For the most part, all kind words and patient behavior went out the window.  I had to literally sit the children down and give them a lesson on how to win and how to lose a game.  I strictly enforced a handshake and the words "Good Game" at the end of each round.  Children involved in sports were already used to this routine, so they picked it right up.  However, they were also the children touting "I'm winning" or "I have more than you" constantly throughout the games.  A few children were obviously uncomfortable with the entire concept and chose to steer clear.
 
In order to prepare the children for the concept of winning/losing, I bring out the "Orchard" game.  The children absolutely ADORE this game and it actually improves cooperatve teamwork, while introducing competition.  The goal of the game is to collect all of the fruit from the Orchard before the Raven eats it.  I highly recommend this game for family fun nights at home:  The Orchard Game.

Competition is not something typically found in Montessori classrooms due to the increase in stress levels, however, competition is also part of our American society.  If introduced properly, competition can be healthy.  But for those of us with children under age 8, let's just stick to enjoying the pleasure of the game.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pre-Primary Progress

My wonderful husband has been working at the new location day and night trying to get ready for inspection.  It looks like both state inspections will take place in July, so time is slowly slipping away.  The rooms had great, commercial grade carpet, but as every early childhood teacher knows, you need wet space.  Water work, paint, snack, handwashing, mopping, the list goes on.  I found a fantastic flooring that is waterproof vinyl, but looks like hardwood.  I love it so much, I want to rip up all of my carpet in my classroom and replace it with the vinyl plank.  However, my carpet is really glued down and it wouldn't be time-effective to rip it all up, so we're just going to tackle half the room.  We also only ripped up half of the Pre-primary carpet because the little ones spend a lot of time on the floor.  To give you an idea of how hard my husband is working...24 hours later, the moldings are all back on, the tack strips are nailed in, and a tiny 10 in. potty is now installed where you see that drain.  Have I mentioned he's great??


The fencing is coming along slowly, but it looks terrific:



Check back soon for more updates...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Roma, Italia

I returned home last night from a long trip overseas.  It was fantastic.  I was able to learn so much more about my family's culture and I brought back a few momentos to share with the class.  The souvenir shops loved me by the end of the trip because I had purchased an overpriced miniature version of every major monument in Italy.  I showed each object to the children today with a brief description or story to go with them.  Here were some of the priceless comments I heard:

  • "If you throw five coins into the Trevi Fountain, will you return five times?"
  • "I don't see any elevators in the Colosseum.  How did all of the people get to the top?"
  • "I don't really think David is a sculpture of the most perfect male form.  He kind of looks like my dad."
  • "Do you think the Leaning Tower will fall down?  Will they change its name to the Lying Tower?"
We had quite a bunch of jokesters today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Special Announcement

I noticed one of our just-turned 3-year-olds (O.P.) quietly observing the class.  He must've noticed that several children were wandering about the room, trying to choose an activity.  He boldly stepped into the center of the classroom and announced:

"Now let's go people.  Let's get to work!"

He then walked back over to his mat and continued the lesson he was working on.  A few children noticed his announcement and took it quite seriously, moving to the shelves and finding work.  Our oldest student looked at me with a smile, shrugged, and said "I guess we better work."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Polishing Product

I could not have been more excited when I opened up this season's Montessori Services catalog.  They have a new product to accompany the shoe polishing work.  Shoe polishing is a very popular Practical Life activity in my classroom.  It is considered a "Care of Self" activity and is used to develop order, concentration, sequence of an activity, and responsibility for the care of self.  Well, the shoe polish I've been using crumbles after the fifth or sixth use.  The children get frustrated when chunks of polish fall out of the tin; not to mention, the tin itself is very difficult to open.  Well, it made my day when I noticed this new nontoxic polish in the catalog:
As I mentioned, it's nontoxic, but it's also environmentally friendly and biodegradable.  Supposedly it smells nice too---now that's too much to ask!  I'll order it and let all of you online Montessorians know whether or not it's worth the $7 for 2 ounces...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our New Furry Friends

One of my students mentioned that his babysitter owns guinea pigs.  I've always wondered what guinea pigs were like in the classroom, aside from the Wonder Pets character of course, so we gave them a "test drive".  They were wonderful!  One of the guinea pigs, Charlie, did not feel like being held, but the other one soaked up the attention.  We picked up the other guinea pig--Colby-- and each child had the choice of either a) holding him b) petting him or c) holding the big plastic exercise ball containing Colby.  I'd say the class was split in thirds.  Some were very eager to hold him, others were not so sure, and the rest flat out refused.  Colby certainly had his favorite students and just about fell asleep in my daughter's arms!  We had loads of fun and I'm so thankful for D.A.'s babysitter for sharing her babies!

Some interesting tidbits about guinea pigs...
  • They originated in South America, in the Andes.
  • They are not pigs, they are rodents.
  • The Incas domesticated guinea pigs.
  • Guinea pigs need to gnaw, otherwise their teeth will grow so long they won't be able to eat.
  • "Cavy" is the official word for guinea pig!
The verdict is still out about whether or not we'll purchase two cavies for next year.  I think we may need to pass for this coming year because of the vet bills.  These little guys are considered "exotics" and need special vets to care for them.  Hopefully in the future, we'll be able to welcome two of these furry friends into our classroom permanently.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all of you moms a Happy Mother's Day!

For our mom's gift this year, the children made flower-topped pencils.  They were a fun and easy craft that you're child can make at home for friends or relatives. 

Supplies:
  • colorful, unsharpened pencil
  • rubber band
  • 2 coffee filters
  • washable markers
  • spray bottle
Here's what you do:
  • Color the front and back of the coffee filters.  Be sure the edges are covered with colors.
  • Stack the filters and fold them in half.  Fold them again so you have a cone shape.
  • Place the eraser end of the pencil into the corner of the cone.  Wrap the filters tightly around the pencil. 
  • Fasten the filters to the pencil using the rubberband (a ribbon might work nicely too).
  • Spread apart the filters into the shape of a carnation.
  • Lightly spray the flower with water so the colors blend together.
The flower dries in about 20 minutes.  I love this craft because the child can do most of it himself, and it looks so elegant when it is complete.  My daughter made one for me in class on Friday and I've been using it ever since.  It puts a smile on my face when I'm writing out the grocery list!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kite-Making

This past week we enjoyed studying the history of kites and kite-making.  Kites originated in China and spread to Indonesia, Japan, and on from there.  We discovered that kites were used to offer prayer requests up to the gods.  Certain symbols represented particular requests, such as a dragon for wealth and power or an egret for good luck. 

On September 9th, Chinese families celebrate The Double Ninth Festival (Ch'ing Yang), also called the Festival of Kites.  On this day, kite-flying is a symbol of rising higher and higher, being better and better at everything one does.  Chinese families enter this contest hoping to win first prize- a cow, second prize- a pig, or third prize- a sheep.  Unfortunately, after doing more research, we discovered that some contestants treat their strings with powdered glass.  The glass strings can cut the strings of other kites, causing them to fall.  We followed up the conversation by discussing sportsmanship, honesty, and fairness. 

The children showed interest in making their own kites.  Our year is winding down here, so we are not able to make kites in school.  If you would like to make your own kite at home, here are some directions found in the book Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly up to the Sky:

Supplies you'll need:
  • lightweight paper, 3' x 3'
  • 2 round wood dowels (1/8" thick); one 36" long and one 32" long
  • kite string
  • thread
  • glue twist tab (optional)
  • paint
  • scissors
  • tape
  • ruler
  • reinforcement rings (for use on binder paper)
  • crepe paper
  1. Take the lightweight paper and lay it on the floor.
  2. Paint a big picture on it that can be seen from far away. Let the paint dry.
  3. Cross the shorter dowel a quarter of the way down the long dowel.  The longer dowel is called the mast, and the point where the two dowels cross is called the joint.
  4. Fasten the dowels securely at a right angle with kite string or thread and glue, or with a twist tab.
  5. Outline the kite with string tied to the four dowel ends.  Don't pull the string so tightly that the dowels bend--they should be straight.  Hint:  Making a notch at the end of each dowel will help to hold the string in place.
  6. Place your kite frame on the back of your picture, and hold it in place with tape.  Hint: There should be at least 1 inch of paper beyond the frame of your kite.  Trace the outline of your kite on the paper.
  7. Make another outline 1 inch wider all around so you can fold the paper over the outlining string, and paste it down.  Spaces must be cut in the paper where it matches up to the wood dowels.
  8. To attach your flying line, first make two holes in your kite diagonally across the mast: one above the joint, one below the joint--use reinforcements on the holes to prevent the paper from ripping.  The string should go through the other hole.  Tie securely so that the knot is visible from the front of the kite.
  9. Adding a tail will help balance the kite so it will fly straight.  Cut a hole on each side of the mast, just above the bottom hems of the kite; again, use reinforcements to keep the holes from ripping.
  10. Now you are ready to make the tail.  First cut a piece of string that measures 10 ft. to 12 ft.  Then tie 6-inch crepe paper bows along the line, one per foot.  Now tie the tail string through the holes you made at the bottom of the kite in Step 9.
  11. Stretch the kite tail on the ground.  If the wind isn't at least 8 miles per hour, you may need a friend to hold your kite up off the ground to get it airborne.
  12. Run into the wind with your kite behind you.  The wind will catch your kite!  Let it fly!  Let the string out so the kite can go higher--hooray!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Panda What?

We are now deep in the heart of our Asia unit.  We've counted to ten in Mandarin, thanks to the help of some former students fluent in the language, we've also drawn some chinese characters, and today we discussed the Giant Panda.  Did you know that some scientists believe pandas are related to raccoons??  Take a look at the Red Panda and you'll see why:

Some other interesting tidbits: pandas are considered carnivores even though 99% of their diet is bamboo.  They also have five fingers and a thumb to help them grip the bamboo.  The children wanted to see the pandas in action, so we logged on to the San Diego Zoo's PandaCam to see what they were up to:
PandaCam

After China, we'll venture over to Japan to discuss origami and kite-making.  I'll be putting our Japanese Sand Garden out on the peace shelf for all to try.  It's a wonderfully therapeutic activity that adults enjoy just as much as the children:  Sand Garden.  Then on to Tibet and India.  Any moms from my classroom interested in teaching us how to wrap a Sari?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Community Playthings

Community Playthings is by and far the best manufacturer of children's furniture.  They stand behind the quality with a 10 year warranty and free shipping.  I was putting together a large furniture order for the new building, when I came across a fantastic online booklet.  Take a few moments to read about why play is an essential part of every child's emotional and physical well-being:

The Wisdom of Play

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Food Preparation

Montessori food prep activities are the culmination of years of practical life exercises.  There are four areas of Practical Life that need to be introduced to the child before food prep: Movement, Care of the Person, Care of the Environment, and Grace & Courtesy.  As soon as the basic activities from these four elements have been mastered, the child is ready for food prep.  Let's use orange squeezing as an example, I've added links to an online Montessori album so you can read the specific details for each basic lesson.

Movement: The child must be able to use his gross motor skills to carry the heavy tray to the table.  Fine motor skills are used to pour the juice into small cups.  The hand muscles are used to twist the lid off of the juicer in order to wash it.
Care of the Person:  The child must learn to wash her hands before starting the activity, handwashing is one of the core practical life lessons.  The proper use of a napkin is also essential for this work. 
Care of the Environment:  After the orange squeezing work, the child must be able to wash all of the dishes used.  He also must have mastered the use of a broom and/or mop.  There is a chance that the child may even need to scrub the table afterwards.
Grace & Courtesy:  One of my favorite aspects of the Montessori curriculum, Grace & Courtesy teaches children how to work peacefully and politely in the classroom and larger community.  In the orange squeezing example, the child learns to serve others before himself, he learns not to speak with food or drink in his mouth, and the other children learn how to accept or decline the offer for juice.

Now that our chick friends have left, I'm able to put food prep work back out on the shelves.  Unfortunately, chicks are very dirty animals and I didn't want to take the chance that some of the younger students might forget to wash their hands.  I put out egg slicing on Friday and, as always, it was a huge success.  The children took great care with walking the egg from the refrigerator to the table.  I heard "yes please" and "no thank you" from the children who were offered an egg slice.  The only downfall...our classroom has a bit of an egg smell right now!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Friends, Claire and Brownie

We "rented" two young chicks from a local farm this month.  The children enjoyed watching them grow and they now understand the hard work that goes into caring for these young birds.  It took some time for the children to feel comfortable with the chicks, but after a week most of the children could hold them easily.  We put names in a hat and "Claire" and "Brownie" were chosen for our future egg-laying hens.  In the early fall, the students can visit the farm and purchase eggs from our new friends.  Thank you, Claire and Brownie, for providing us with two adventure-filled weeks!



Monday, April 12, 2010

A Downy Day

We studied feathers today and even went on a feather hunt!  We walked through a nearby forest and down to a pond, but unfortunately no feathers were found.  My daughter found a turkey feather last year that I used to show the children the parts of the feather.  We pointed out the Quill, Down, Rachis, and Vane.  I made some related papers for the children to take home and want to share them with you.  I'm not sure how to embed a document into blogger, so here's the best I could do. 

The children were able to take home this "Parts of a Feather" page:
Parts of a Feather

and older children were able to label the feather on their own:
Parts of a Feather Worksheet

We also watched Part One of the "Dinosaur Feather Mystery".  The children were amazed by the fact that today's birds may be direct descendants from dinosaurs:


Do you believe at the end of the day, one of the moms came to pick up her son... and what did she find?  A feather by the edge of the sidewalk.  Go figure!

We didn't get a chance to read it today, but this is a great book about birds for children of all ages.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lucky Day

Now that spring has sprung, the stress to complete the playground has re-surfaced.  If you read my posts a few months back, you might remember my ideas for the nature-based playground.  I'm still fully on-board with the idea and as excited as ever to bring it to life.  I've been pricing out log furniture all over the country (and even our neighbor to the north), but I can't seem to find anything that is even somewhat reasonably priced.  I can't even find a free shipping incentive.

Well, wouldn't you know it, I was out looking for a table for our school's foyer, when I stumbled across A LOG FURNITURE THREE-PIECE SET AND MATCHING A-FRAME SWING.  I just about fell over.  It turns out log furniture is very "in" this spring and many retailers are hopping on the bandwagon.  You know you're following the right path when something you've envisioned for years becomes a new fad the exact month you need to purchase it.  This is what the swing looks like:



I'm considering a trip back to the store later this week to pick up this little bridge they had displayed.  I originally had a little bridge in my plans for the playground, but wasn't sure I'd be able to find one.  This one sells for under $100.  I was planning to place river stones in a little path down to the garden, and place this bridge over the stones.  Children would love to run over this little bridge, imagining that they are visiting far off places:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Starfall

The language materials in a Montessori classroom speak for themselves.  The materials in the language curriculum cover the basics, starting with the letter sounds, and continue up to the function of words activities (an introduction to the parts of speech).  Parents can trust that their Montessori children are getting a well-rounded, comprehensive language education.  However, from time to time, children ask their parents (in one way or another) for additional exercises in language.  They almost seem to be on a quest to understand the process of reading. 

Aside from getting the Montessori training and ordering the materials, there are limited high quality language activities for parents to choose from at home.  One of my current parents told me about a website called Starfall that her son adores.  I checked it out and showed it to my daughter, G (my own personal guinea pig).  She enjoyed it, not quite as much as the hands on activities in the classroom, but fun for after-school playtime.  My favorite aspect of the free website is the art gallery under the "It's fun to read" tab, definitely check that out.

Before starting a language enrichment activity at home, it's best you consult your child's teacher.  There's a chance the child will get confused by the different teaching aspects of the online program, or you may introduce a concept that your child is just not ready for.  This type of enrichment should not be viewed as "homework" and should merely be used as a fun supplement to your child's phonics progression.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Homework

When enrolling their child in a Montessori school, many new parents ask the question, "How much homework will my child receive?"  Teachers sometimes find it difficult to explain the answer to new parents who are still somewhat unsure of the philosophy.  Tim Seldin provides an excellent summary answer for teachers and parents in his article You Can't Hurry Love: Homework the Montessori Way.

"School is only one part of a child's day. Children work hard in school, just as their parents do at the office. All of the usual arguments that parents and mainstream teachers use to justify homework miss the point. Homework does not teach children responsibility, time management skills, self-discipline, or more of what they should be learning during the day. What it teaches is how to put up with a job that they dislike. Many teachers seem to think that they can help their students become better educated by requiring them to do tasks that few would ever do voluntarily. Gifted teachers get the job done in a normal school day by inspiring a sense of interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm among their students."

Ok, so that doesn't directly answer the question, "Does my child receive homework in Montessori?"  The answer depends on the age of the child and the school's individual philosophy.  In my school, as soon as a child is blending three letter words fluently, he or she is invited to take a phonetic reader home to practice and enjoy with the family.  There is no assigned number of pages to be read, children can just read at their own pace.  When I taught Montessori in the 6-9 classroom, I assigned a hands-on project every Monday and the students would present their completed homework on Friday. 
Some examples of projects I assigned for the lower elementary students:
  • Write a play.  Ask a few friends to perform the play.
  • Write a letter to a friend.  Read it to the class on Friday, then mail it out.
  • Learn five words in another language and be prepared to teach the class on Friday.
  • Make notes about A Day in the Life of _____.  Ask your parent and teacher to take pictures of you to add to your notes.
  • Use the Montessori bells to compose a song.  Present the song to the class on Friday.
These assignments are intended to encourage "out of the box" thinking and to get families involved in their child's learning.  Some assignments called for these children to use materials from other classrooms, or to get involved with the care of younger students. 

Tim Seldin goes on to say, "After school, children should have time to follow their own interests and play with family and friends.  Homework can easily become a power struggle between children and adults. And the sad thing is that there is no need if schools instill a love of learning, rather than a sense of obligation and fear. Whenever children voluntarily decide to learn something, they tend to engage in their work with a passion and attention that few students will ever invest in tasks that have been assigned. Our goal is to inspire joyful thinking, not compliance."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Labyrinth Continued

I'm in the process of ironing out the details of our new playground.  I had mentioned in an earlier post, here, that I wanted to include a labyrinth element.  These creative minds produced a full size labyrinth out of bulbs!

You can check out the details at:  The Bulb Project.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Research Findings

I certainly realize the positive effects of Montessori in children, but I was curious about research findings for children who stay the full three years in the Primary classroom (3-6).  I enjoy when parents keep in touch after their kindergarteners leave my school.  I can almost hear them beaming through the phone when they describe their children's success in school.  Just recently, a graduating family called to tell me that at conference time the teacher commented that she'd like to clone the Montessori students that joined their class in first grade.  She noted that the children think outside the box, show respect for others, and genuinely enjoy the learning process.  What an affirmation for these Montessori parents who, the year before, struggled to make that crucial decision about whether or not to stay for the third year.

The Montessori Foundation has performed a great deal of reserach on the topic.  In 2006, they concluded that at the end of the third year, Montessori kindergarteners "were significantly better prepared for elementary school, outscoring their peers in reading and math skills.  They also tested better on 'executive function' the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems. This is an indicator of future school and life success."

Some additional research findings:
  • Montessori students scored 10 - 20 points higher on the California Achievement Test compared with students in traditional classrooms.
  • Minority students enrolled in a Montessori program scored higher on self-concept, mathematical and geometric concepts, vocabulary recognition, attention strategies, and general intelligence.
  • 75% of low SES children who attended a Montessori preschool in Cleveland, Ohio, scored above school norms on the California Achievement Test.
  • Increases in attention strategies, general intelligence, and academic achievement occurred over time by Montessori students from all socioeconomic levels.
Despite negative misconceptions about the social aspect of Montessori classrooms, findings show enhanced social development.  "Montessori children in their kindergarten year demonstrated greater social development in the areas of sense of reasoning, justice, and fairness. They were more likely to engage in emotionally positive play with peers, and less likely to engage in rough, aggressive forms of play. By the end of their elementary program, Montessori children offered more positive solutions to social challenges."

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Specials

One of the most amazing aspects of the Montessori curriculum, and what many public school strive to achieve, is the interwoven, or integrated approach.  We weave music, science, art appreciation, physical activity and cultural studies into the daily activities in the classroom.  Montessori teachers do this in an effort to support the three hour work cycle (more about that topic here).  In a nutshell, educators have found that children can work through a three hour cycle with high and low levels of focus, but the deepest levels of concentration are found in that last hour of work.  Montessori teachers notice an uncomfortable, almost hyperactive feeling in the classroom after about an hour and a half of work time, sometimes referred to as "false fatigue".  Inexperienced teachers ring the bell at this time and move the children outside or onto a group activity.  Unfortunately, cutting the children off at that pivotal moment robs them of that extra hour of intense, focused work.  Experienced teachers know that they need to ride the wave of false fatigue until the children settle back down and get to work.  I like to get out an activity that I haven't presented in a while and use it alone on a mat.  The children gradually walk over to me and observe my work, then eventually find an activity that interests them again.

Many parents look for preschools that advertise "specialty" classes like music, gym or art.  However, many Montessori schools embrace those arts and integrate them beautifully into the classroom, teaching on an individual or small group basis.  I've decided it's time to integrate Spanish into my curriculum this year.  I've started teaching myself Spanish (Spain) using the Rosetta Stone teaching tool.  By teaching myself Spanish, I can save the school the cost of hiring a specialist and also preserve that precious three hour work cycle.  The software is amazing and I highly recommend it as an effective language program.  Try it yourself on their website.

If our school eventually employs specialists to teach music, dance or art lessons, they will take place before or after the Montessori session in order to allow children to experience the uninterrupted three hour work cycle. 

A few months back, I deliberated about including computers in the classroom.  I've decided to integrate computer lessons into the classroom for the 2010-2011 academic year.  However, the computer(s) will be located in a separate room and will be available at all times for kindergarten research purposes.  Children who stay a full day will be given the opportunity to use the computer for a short time in the afternoon.  Computer technology is a skill that must be taught at this age in order to prepare children for later schooling.  It is also a tremendous resource for these inquisitive children.  However, we need to be sure that children are not exposed to more screen time than is absolutely necessary.  Instead, Dr. Montessori stated that it is essential for children be exposed to the natural world as much as possible.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Webbing Experiment

During our discussion of Life in the Pond today, we got on the topic of webbed feet.  We discussed the different animals with webbed feet and the children found it fascinating that my black lab also has webbed paws!  I could tell they really didn't comprehend why the little bits of skin would help animals to swim faster, so we set up a small tub of water.  I asked each of them to spread their fingers and swipe them through the water.  Then, we put a plastic bag on our hands, with our fingers spread, and tried again.  They could feel the drag caused by the bag (or webbing) and finally had a concrete understanding of the concept.  I left the tub out with the bag for children who wished to experiment further.  I checked the tub sporadically throughout the day and was so proud to find that not one drop was spilled on the carpet.  The children treated the activity with such respect and were careful not to bump into the tub while walking about the classroom. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Expansion Update

We're moving right along with our expansion plans, thanks to my dedicated family who has helped me tremendously.  On March 9th, our school sign was completed and installed at our new location.  It's a beauty and a dream come true. 

We're at the tail end of fulfilling our requirements for our Certificate of Occupancy.  This week our fire alarm system will be installed and we already have a working telephone number (well, two really).  We'll continue to use our current telephone number, the new one will be published next school year.  That Cert. of Occupancy should be in my hands next week! 

After that, it will be mailed--along with our application and a boatload of other papers--to the State for review.  We'll have an inspection and receive license number one!  Shortly after that, we'll stand before the Academic Board for another review by the State and that will give us license number two!

With spring in the air, I'm eager to get over to the new building to start landscaping.  We need another before and after shot!  I'll keep you posted with any new updates...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Felt Board Stories

For decades, preschool teachers have understood the importance of felt board stories, which is why they're still around today. Manipulation of felt board activities refines listening and speaking skills, as well as hand/eye coordination, imagination, and even problem-solving skills.  Last year, I created my own felt board by applying a felt background to a piece of cardboard.  Actually, one of my current moms created it for me at our annual Mom's Material-Making party.  However, after a year of wear and tear, I was ready to replace it.  I came up with a solution to the problem of flimsy felt boards.  The back of one of the math shelving units was exposed and irritating me last summer- I loved the way the classroom looked, but I would not start the year with a bare shelving unit back jutting out into the classroom like that (is it a Montessori thing?).  So, I brainstormed and applied nine adhesive-backed felt sheets from AC Moore to the back of the unit. 
I made a few felt story sets and gave it a try.  The pieces stick on to the felt perfectly and the children love it.  I have several homemade sets and one purchased set (The Three Little Pigs).  In college, they told us to scan and print the pages of a favorite children's book, cut out the characters, laminate, and add little velcro dots to the back.  Instead, I've always just found realistic-looking pictures online and printed them.  I've made the following sets:
  • fruits/vegetables sorting
  • frogs/toads sorting
  • Pumpkin life cycle
  • Butterfly life cycle
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Believe it or not, the homemade sets work much better than the store bought, so save your money if you plan to make some.  Below are some pictures of a child working with the store bought set.  He enjoyed the activity, but the pieces kept falling off the board.



Here are some links to help you get started:
Printable templates
Felt Board Stories to purchase