Saturday, September 13, 2014

Taking Over a New Class

This year I have changed classrooms and responsibilities.  I moved from my safe little classroom to take over for some teachers who left our school.  It is my job to make this classroom successful.  I am in the Spanish dual language program classroom now.  It is a mixture of children from several classrooms, but there is a core group of children who were there last year.  These children have really needed retraining this year.  About 80% of them are boys.  I have spent a lot of time during the first 3 weeks of school observing all of the children, becoming emotionally available and a confidant, creating structure in the classroom, following through again and again with ground rules, and setting the stage for correct treatment of the environment and each other.  It is tiring work to be sure, but sticking to the difficult work at the beginning of the year really pays off.

For the first two weeks I pulled out over 25 different manipulative works and had several shelves dedicated to them just to give myself a pulse on the room and where the children were.  They used these works with gusto.  It has really helped to have only manipulatives in retraining the children to become careful with their work, return the work ready for another child to use, walk around and not through rugs, walk in the classroom in the first place, respect when a child has already chosen a work and not to disturb them etc.  This is certainly an ongoing process.  It seems like it can take an entire year for some of the younger children not to walk on their neighbor's rug if something grabs their attention.

During the third week I noticed that the older children were bored with the manipulatives so I began giving lessons.  Some of the record keeping was spotty so I had to test out to see where they really were in the different areas.  On Thursday, this week (being the 4th week of school), we noticed that it was 2 hours into our work time before any child chose a manipulative work.  YIPEE!  I only have one shelf of manipulatives now, and only the ones that the children find the most interesting.

These are some images from our last week of work.

Exploration of Metal Insets by a returning student


Mouse House turned into a Spanish Work.  Es el raton debajo de la casa anaranjado?

Hanging Bead Stair

Writing Words using the Large Moveable Alphabet

Initial Sound Object Sort - This is the Pink Mat
I am so excited to have these new mats.  I handmade the set I
have been using and just got these new ones this week.

Gluing noodles on apples work.  Next week we will paint these works.
This allows the work to be done in more than one step but still follow
the Montessori rule that art should be a shelf work.

Parts of the Plant Nomenclature Cards.  This child completed this work
 beautifully and could even tell me every part of the plant and later the
Fruit.  He then made the booklets for each work.

Rainbow Rings.  My children LOVE this work.  It is actually
Wine Glass Markers that I found at a kitchen store in Park City.

Using Clay Lesson.  You can see how the little one is using
his "watching arms" during this presentation.

Parts of the Snail Puzzle.  We wouldn't usually have this work
out right now, but this child found a snail in the school
garden and was really interested so I pulled it out.

Weaving with ribbons

Parts of the Flower Puzzle

Parts of the Fruit Nomenclature Cards and Magnetic Parts Puzzle 
Baby Spooning Stars.  This work is pretty challenging for this child.
She has been with me since last year and has needed this long to
be ready for this work.

Sandpaper Letters with Initial Sound Booklets.
This child was successful at all the letters in the first
set and was subsequently hiding them in the
classroom to then find them again.

Hand Transferring.  I just have to say how much I love the
elliptical shape of these wooden bowls.  There are mung beans
inside.  They sound just like rain when they hit the
wood.  Many times the child will remark about this when
they first have this lesson.

Object to Object Sorting with two Space Toobs.  Because I
have so many boys I have geared some of the Pre-reading
works to pull them in.  We are also beginning the year by
learning about our place in the universe.
The Farm Mat - a grammar work.  I made this mat as well.

Class Aprons

I am a bargain hunter.  This is definitely something very true about myself.  I believe in quality and in spending good money where it really matters - on the materials.  However, I have a hard time spending my own money or my classroom budget (small as it is) on something I can make for less.

I have been blessed with many talents that I find useful in the Montessori classroom.  One of them is sewing.  I was a professional seamstress in my younger married life.  I used to give children and adults sewing lessons, sewed for the state prison, did alterations and tailoring, and did original work for hire including the occasional custom wedding dress.  I got so tired of sewing! I felt that looking at any of my 5 my sewing machines might make me throw up.  I put the bobbins and threads behind me and moved on to other forms of employment that could supplement our income, keep me at home and able to homeschool.  It took many years before I had an itch to pull out the machine and create some halloween costumes for my own children again.

I am happy to say that my former love of sewing has returned now that it doesn't actually have to pay any bills.

This summer I have really wanted to make aprons for my class.  I love the pattern of the ones from Montessori Services, but do not love that the wet aprons are not actually made of vinyl.  I own some from a local shop that are vinyl but the bands are too long to fit around the child's waist, and the hole for the head is a little too small for my older children.  SOLUTION?  Make my own.  I took the suggested measurements for a primary apron and checked them against the smallest and biggest of the children in my class.  Once that was finished I created a pattern.  I would really love to post the pattern, so if anyone knows how I could take something that I just drew up and get it onto the computer to share it would be FABULOUS!

Next I found an great deal at the fabric store on some vinyl.  I always check in the clearance section for it.  You can pay almost $20.00 a yard for vinyl, but I ended up only paying about $6 a yard plus a 25% teacher discount. I bought everything on the bolt and got the last 30 inches for 50% off.  I figure it will get used one way or another.  From the almost 4 yards that I purchased I was able to cut out 12 aprons.  This vinyl is a midnight blue.  This part is not important except that if you are going to have aprons mostly of one color, they ought be easily distinguishable from other aprons in the classroom.  They will be used as the generic aprons for any works using water or food preparation in the class.  They will also be the apron for painting and other art works.  There are a few works that have a different colored apron.  Namely the polishing works which have their own coordinating aprons.


Until I can get a pattern uploaded this picture can at least give some help with measurements.  I took some width out of the shoulder area and rounded the corners.  I like the look of the softer corners on these aprons.



Once I finished cutting out the aprons I pinned them up with a navy blue, double folded bias tape.  I purchased a couple spools of clear thread.  I like clear thread for bias tapes because I can sew a lot of bias tape on things in different colors and I don't have to spend money on every color of thread that way.


Once they were pinned, I sewed them up and added the "ties".  These aprons are an independent work for the children.  They can put them on by themselves and fasten the "ties" in the front with velcro.



I will have to get a photo of a child in the class putting one of these on during the next week and post it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cosmic Nesting Boxes

Summertime is such a busy time for a Montessori teacher.  Saturday has been spent getting some Cosmic Nesting Boxes ready for our Solar System Studies/Cosmic Education studies for this year.

A gorgeous set of Cosmic Nesting Boxes can be found here as well as the Cosmic Nesting Box Lesson as a free download.  The child gains a greater understanding of where they belong in the universe. It can somehow be grounding for little children to have this information, and to use the boxes over and over again.  I have seen the cosmic nesting boxes used as a reference when creating stories during writers workshop.

I have wanted this set for my classroom, but did not want to spend the $85 for them.  Now that I have finished with this project I believe I love these boxes much more than I ever would the pre-made set.

I spent a long time during the school year looking at thrift stores for a set of nesting boxes but never could find a set.  I ended up getting a cheap Melissa and Doug alphabet set for $10 on Amazon and spray painting them black.  It took several coats to cover the previous images entirely.  I also used the  extra coats of paint since children will use them.



You can see my 10 year old's bike helmet in the background :)

Next I printed off images of the following to paint on the boxes:
  • Galaxy - largest box
  • Solar System
  • Earth
  • North America (since that is where we live)
  • United States
  • Utah
  • West Valley City (since that is where our school is located)
  • Dancing Moose (since that is our school)
  • A Boy and a Girl
  • An Atom (to represent the energy in the child) - smallest box
I traced the outline of each image onto the respective box and filled in the lines with white paint to help the images show up better on the black background.




This image shows the galaxy already finished as well as the water for the earth filled in.  The rest of the images are just filled in with white.

I choose to make the images the same colors as the Nienhuis maps.  These are the same colors used in our classroom.


Once I was finished painting all the fronts of the boxes I let them dry for a day and then sprayed many, many coats of clear coat varnish on them.  I really love them and I know that it may very well be because I did them myself.  Even so, they are beautiful.  I will place them in a lovely basket with an ecru cloth liner when it is time to put them out on the shelf.

I am certain that the children will really take to them.  I am most interested in how long the children will be interested in choosing them from the shelf after our lesson and, subsequently how well they stand up to use during this year.  I may find myself needing to make another set from sturdier material at the end of the year.

This project probably ran me around $20 with boxes, paint and varnish.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Montessori Botany Primary Parts of Cards - Update!!!

During my new training this summer I learned so much, and have had to adjust my thinking and approach in some ways as I have been stretched.  I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to become a better educator and guide for my children.

As a result of the training I have learned more about the Parts of Cards.  My lovely and VERY knowledgable queen of a trainer, Teresa, spoke about why it is important for primary Montessori classes (3-6 years) to have the isolation of the difficulty in red.  First, our eyes are drawn to red.  This was, of course, not new information for me.  But more importantly, when a child is making their own parts of booklets and they have to keep changing pencils to color, let's say, the horse's legs in dark brown, off white, and light brown for the hooves... the child is actually paying more attention to the COLORS instead of the part they are learning about.  We also discussed which parts are appropriate to focus on for the primary class as opposed to the elementary class.  They should be more simple.  For example, when making Parts of Cards for the fish we will show all the fins together and call them just fins instead of separating them as the caudal fin, pelvic fin, pectoral fin and so forth.

The light bulb went off in my head, I understood it in my heart, and then I groaned within myself.  I knew that all the parts of cards that I have been making and posting on this blog have been geared toward ELEMENTARY and not primary!!  I also knew that I would need to remake my cards for the children's sake.  It took me a couple of weeks to really get my soul prepared... and then I went to work.

part of the fruit of my efforts are in this post.  I am actually excited now to make more.  I have been wanting to make parts of cards for tools, the house, and other things like cars, planes and trains that some of my students are fascinated with.

You will note that Botany and Zoology cards have a colored line around them.  I have considered this idea for a long time, but wasn't sure how I really felt about it.  Now I am ready to roll with it.  Another thing to note is that I have done these cards in D'nealian only.  I will not lie that it is my preferred font for parts of and nomenclature cards and I am not ready to do the print font yet.

This is a living and changing experience for me and it follows as the night the day that my blog will also change.

Botany Parts of Cards

Primary Parts of the Plant Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file
Primary Parts of the Tree Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file
Primary Parts of the Leaf Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file
Primary Parts of the Flower Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file
Primary Parts of the Fruit Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file
Primary Parts of the Seed Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file

Primary Parts of the Root Cards - red isolation
click on picture to link to file

Monday, August 12, 2013

Parts of the World Coloring Sheet

For a long time I have felt frustrated about how much it costs to be a Montessori teacher.  Some of us are very lucky and have schools that cover our costs, while others of us bear much of the expense of teaching.  I think that is the real reason that I have this blog and do what I do.

There is a principle involved here that I have never been able to think or learn away.  It is this... Maria began her work with the poorest in her country.  These children had not had much experience with beauty, grace, or loveliness in their lives.  They were poised to become a miracle in the eyes of the world BECAUSE of what they had lacked.  So many of us teach the children of well-to-do families, and we love what we do, but it is, in my experience, the children of those who struggle financially that dive into the works with abandon, who really have an inner appreciation and love for the beauty on our shelves and in our environments.

The reason for bringing it up at all is that I love what I do and want to serve children globally, if possible.  If it is my goal to lift up and free the potential of the disadvantaged child, I need a better way to do it.  If one has to outlay so much money just to get the printed materials downloaded, before printing costs, what are they not able to provide in the classroom.  This is an ethical question for me and  prompts me to action since I have it within my power to change this situation.

My blog doesn't have a huge following, but I get emails and comments every week, at least, telling me how much it means to someone in a developing country, or a small school or homeschool on a tight budget to have access to these files for free.  I am sure some Montessori minds out there dislike that there is not a tighter control on what people have access to, and may frown on my blog.  I would simply ask if they really feel they are watching out for the needs and interests of the children of our planet.

  --I actually have a reason for this post besides getting my thoughts down.  I can not find a nice and free Parts of the World Coloring Sheet.  I was sitting through my Geography part of the course this summer, saw what we were given to use as our masters and knew that I could make one in just about 1 hour that I would love to have in my geography area.  The other master would have, and has worked for others, just fine, but I really like clean lines.  The new one I have made is beautiful to me.  I believe it will be enticing to the children.

This coloring sheet is done after the children have had work with the Parts of the World Puzzle Map for a while.  This one is unlabeled so it can be used for oceans as well as continents.

Parts of the World Coloring Sheet
click on picture to link to file

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Where have you been???

I have taken a break from blogging for a few months while I have been riding the wave of change in my life.  I have changed jobs and have moved to The Dancing Moose Montessori School in Salt Lake City.  I am excited by this new location and the chance to work in an environment that is much more conducive to an authentic approach to Montessori.  This will also give me the chance to create a blog where you can see more of what happens in my classroom.  With the change of employment comes a change in location.  I am busily moving from one house to another.  My living room is littered with school materials (waiting to go into storage space at the school and on the shelves) and moving boxes.

I have also undertaken a MEPI (Montessori Education Programs International) Early Childhood certification program this summer through IGS (Institute for Guided Studies).  This course is MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) certified.  MACTE is the international standard setting and accrediting body for Montessori teacher education.  This training has and is changing my life as a teacher.  I have several times during the course said, "I feel like I need to erase my blog and just start over."  While I will not be starting over, I will be implementing changes immediately.  There will be posts - especially in the language area - that I WILL erase completely.  I am sorry to anyone who has printed my blue and green reading... they will be changing.  I have been, for some time, troubled about finishing my green reading work.  I understand the feeling of uneasiness now and know exactly how to proceed.  So everyone who has been waiting so patiently for more green reading, you will instead get a COMPLETE reading program beginning with Readiness Activities leading all the way through Green Reading and Purple Reading (sight words).

I look forward to the future and all it holds.  Thank you for all your support, your comments, and your love.

Cathie


Monday, March 25, 2013

New Downloads Site

I have been working on a new downloads site for this blog for a couple of months now (in all that spare time I pull out of thin air).  It is still under construction, and there are still many files to upload, but I am so thrilled with it that I wanted to put it up now and get feedback on how to make it better, and more user friendly.

Please check it out from here or from the tab at the top of the page and let me know what you think : ).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lakes, Waterfalls & Islands Photo Cards Sets for Early Learning

Here are three more Photo Card Sets that we have been using in our classroom along with all our learning about Land and Water Forms.

There are 18 photos in each set of both large and small islands, waterfalls and lakes.

I hope you enjoy them.

Islands Photo Cards Set
click on picture to link to file


Waterfall Photo Cards Set
click on picture to link to file

Lake Photo Cards Set
click on picture to link to file

Friday, March 22, 2013

Volcano Photo Cards Set For Early Learning

Our classroom has been learning about volcanoes.  In my experience, little children who are not yet reading are always wanting more to see (they have not usually had a lot of exposure to these great things).  They enjoy the books about volcanoes, but they are really excited to see and talk about pictures of volcanoes.  These are big forces that are awesome and a little scary to them.  This year I created this Volcano Picture Set Cards for them.  The reception by everyone in the class has been warm.  I cut them out and laminated them, then I put a hole in the top left corner so they could be on a ring.  One of the children in my class has been struggling with dry and itchy skin and how bad it gets sometimes.  She will take these cards, sit in a reading chair, and rub her itchy tummy while she peruses.  It helps her somehow.  These things are always so interesting and thought provoking for me.

Volcano Photo Cards Set
click on picture to link to file

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Parts of the Volcano Nomenclature Cards

We are getting close to the time to present volcanoes again.  I wanted to make a set that I liked and one that you would enjoy as well.  I am really excited by all the new things I am learning how to do with my design tools.

With this nomenclature set you can choose print or D'nealian font.  This set includes the following:

  • volcano
  • magma chamber
  • central vent
  • side vent
  • magma
  • lava
  • crust
  • cone
  • ash cloud
  • ash layers
  • volcanic bombs
  • crater
Parts of the Volcano Nomenclature Cards - Print Font
click on picture to link to file





Friday, January 25, 2013

Geometric Solids Nomenclature Cards

These nomenclature cards are for use with the Geometric Solids.  I have included both print and D'nealian fonts.
Geometric Solids Nomenclature Cards
click on picture to link to file



Geometric Solids Nomenclature Cards D'nealian
click on picture to link to file