Monday, September 26, 2011

Getting into a Montessori "Groove!"

I just finished up my second week of preschool! During this week I have definitely learned a lot -- and I think the kids have too! One of the things I have learned is that since I am only one person, I am limited in the number of material lessons I can give during one class period.

This limitation has brought me to the realization that I must give initial lessons on most materials during the large group Circle Time. Up until this point I have shown the kids what new materials were out in the classroom and then left it up to them to come and ask me for lessons on the materials. Although the kids have really been responsible in asking for lessons on new materials, I can only give so many lessons at one time and in one morning.  And, since I was spending so much time giving lessons on materials, I did not have time to observe the kids working or begin things like sandpaper letters -- which is very important!

So, as I stated earlier, I will give initial lessons on most materials during large group Circle Time. Then, I will be able to give additional lessons on these materials as they are needed and also have time to observe the kids in their work and start on some individual/small group language lessons during work/play time.

I tried this new approach today in my 4's class and it worked very well! So, next week I plan to start the sandpaper letters with the kids! I am really excited to see how the kids respond to these!

This week I added even more materials to my preschool classroom. The theme is "All About Me and My Family," so many of the materials are related to this theme.  Here are some of the materials I added:

I am incorporating an "Artist of the Month" this year.  This month is Thomas Gainsborough.  These are the two prints of his that I have out in the classroom: "Pinkie" and "Blue Boy."  He is known for painting portraits on landscapes.

Body Part 3-part cards

Shape Person craft

Bead Stringing

Pin Pushing: person

Growing Up sequencing activity.

Body Parts patterns
Red Kobless Cylinders
Sponge Squeezing: This was a huge "hit" with the kids!  And, yes, I realize that the sponge is on the wrong side of the tray... I accidentally put it there when I took the picture...
Baster: This was another huge "hit" with the kids!
I also added the Red Rods this week, but the picture I took of them disappeared into cyber space...

Here are some pics of the kids using the new materials this week:

Growing Up sequencing

Bead Stringing

Pin Pushing - person

Shape Person craft

Body Parts 3-Part Cards


Sponge Squeezing

Red Rods: Doesn't he look proud!

Red Knobless Cylinders: This is not the presentation I gave on this material, but this is what most of the kids did when they tried it themselves!

Body Part pattern
I'm really getting excited to start our Fall theme unit!  But, we have one more week of "All About Me and My Family" this week.  The focus will be more on families this week.  And, then on to Fall!  I have so many fun activities and materials ready for our Fall unit!

I'm linking up with Living Montessori Now and One Hook Wonder for Montessori Monday.


Montessori Monday

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Super Saturday(s): Taking a Trip and Staying Close to Home

Last Saturday we made the long drive out to Gladwin, Michigan for my family's reunion at Lost Arrow Resort.  The "resort" itself is not actually in Gladwin, but a few miles outside of it -- basically in the middle of nowhere. And though it is on a lake, there is no beach front or anything else you might expect to find at a place that calls itself an "resort" and is on the water.  Well, there is a lama and a donkey that look like they haven't been fed in months and a restaurant that has bad service and not the best food... but, besides that, there is nothing.

Despite the lack of anything to do, we still had a good time.  Well, except for being woken up at 1am on Saturday night to a couple in the room next door yelling, screaming, and swearing.   I ended up calling the police because there was no emergency contact number in the room to get a hold of someone from the "resort" to come and take care of the problem.

Anyways, like I said, we did have a good time!  Saturday evening we traditionally go to one of the relatives vacation cottages that happens to be next door to the "resort."  We have a potluck style dinner -- everyone brings a dish -- and then there is a bon fire and a couple relatives sing and play guitar.

We actually got to stay for the bon fire this year!  It was my first time ever.  I guess they are usually later in the evening.  So, when I was a kid it was to late for me.  And, last year Froggy Boots needed to go to bed before it even started.  This year it seemed to start a little earlier and we were all able to stay and enjoy the fire and the music for a while before it was time for Froggy Boots to go to bed.

Here are some pictures from the reunion:

Froggy Boots with grandma (my mom) throwing apples into the lake that she found on the ground behind the cottage.
Froggy Boots with her big sister!

Froggy Boots enjoying her first bon fire!

So, after last weekends adventures to the middle of nowhere, we decided to stay close to home this weekend.  Today I spent a good portion of the middle of the day prepping food for this weeks dinners.  I came across the idea of doing a whole week of dinner meal prep in one day from one of the magazine subscriptions that I get -- probably "Parents Magazine."  I have done it one other time and just loved the fact that it gave me so much more time with Froggy Boots when I get home from preschool!

While I did all my dinner prep, Froggy Boots kept herself busy with some work.  She worked with her bean tub and her big alphabet puzzle.  I really need to get a bigger sensory tub for her.  The one I have is just one of those small pink tubs they give you in the hospital when you have a baby.  I'm sure many of you moms know what I am talking about!

Here are some pics of Froggy Boots doing her work:

Froggy Boots added some play utensils from her kitchen to use with the beans!

Froggy Boots has had this puzzle for a long time and has the ability to do it.  But, until recently she has not been very interested in it.

While I was putting dinner together -- from all of the prepped food I had already done earlier in the day -- Froggy Boots figured out how to open the refrigerator door and we had a mini lesson on how to carry a chair.  She wanted "more strawberries" from the refrigerator and she wanted to bring her chairs into the living room.

Here are some pictures:

Froggy Boots had the most surprised look on her face when she actually got the fridge door open!  I wish I had a picture of the look on her face!

Froggy Boots carrying a chair!  Sorry the pics blurry, but it's hard to get pictures of her when she is moving...

After we ate dinner, Froggy Boots, myself, and her dad went out to the back yard.  I decided to start pulling up the tomato plants from the garden -- their time was definitely over!  Froggy Boots helped me to pick up all of the grape tomatoes that had fallen to the ground.  With both of us working together we were able to get them all picked up!  There were a LOT of them!

Froggy Boots picking up grape tomatoes.

Unfortunately, we don't have anywhere but a dumpster to put garden rubbish, so we use the yard cart to tote it to the dumpster.  Froggy Boots got to ride back in the yard cart!

After cleaning up the garden for the Winter, Froggy Boots and I headed for the park that is only a few hundred feet from our house.  She enjoys going to that park because she usually gets to see some of the neighbor kids.  But, this time no one was there but the two of us.  She still had fun, but she kept asking where her friends were.

Here are some pictures from the park:

Froggy Boots wanted me to say, "On your mark, get set, go!" every time she went down the slide.  I obliged because of the big smile she got on her face when I said it!

Little Miss Dare Devil walking backwards up the slide!
Even though we stayed close to home this weekend, we still had a good time!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Here We Go: The First Week of Preschool

I  usually come up with a title for each of my posts before I start typing them.  But, today, I am at a loss.  Since the Montessori Makeover is complete, I'd like to leave that title for the time being and use something else.  I'm hoping by the end of this post I will have come up with a catchy title!

So, today was the last day of my first whole week using the Montessori-based curriculum in my preschool classroom.  The week has gone better than I could have imagined.  The kids are taking interest in all of the materials I have brought into the classroom.  And, they have fallen into the new routine very easily.  I couldn't be happier!

I started off the week thinking that it would take the whole week just to get the routine down -- using rugs and table mats, etc.  But, much to my surprise the kids caught on so quickly that I was able to start introducing materials the second day of each of my classes (3's & 4's).

I am doing the material presentations a little differently in the 3's class than the 4's class.  After much contemplation I decided that in the 3's class, for now, I would need to introduce most of the materials to the whole class at the same time so that there would not be any issues with kids pulling things off the shelves that they had not yet been introduced to.

In the 4's class, however, I am introducing materials to the kids when they ask to have them introduced -- and sometimes I go around and ask kids if they would like a lesson on a specific material.  I put the materials on the shelf, tell the kids at Circle Time what the new materials are and where they are located, and then wait for the kids to ask for lessons.  For the most part, this is working out really well!

Here are some of the materials I introduced this week:

Whole Hand Transfer Activity

Pink Tower and Brown Stairs

One-to-One Correspondence -- balls into egg tray
Classmates 3-Part Cards

 Here are some pictures of the kids using the new materials:

Pink Tower --check out her concentration putting the last cube on the tower!

Working Together

Pink Tower -- stair stepping the smallest cube.
Classmates 3-Part Cards -- I gave him a lesson, he finished it and put everything away.

 I was not able to get pictures of the Whole Hand Transfer activity.  I honestly almost skipped this activity all together because I thought it might be a little to easy for this group of kids.  But, there was one student I wanted to have the chance to use it, so I decided to put it out anyways.  It was not a very popular activity, although a few kids did try it.

The One-To-One Correspondence with balls & the egg tray, on the other hand, was very popular.  There were several kids who took turns one after another on the same rug.  However, I did not manage to get a picture of anyone using it.  Oh well!

During Circle Time, along with doing the calendar, weather, music & movement activity, and reading a book, I am also introducing many of the Grace and Courtesy lessons.  This week we learned how to roll and unroll rugs, carry a rug, walk around a rug, roll and unroll a table mat, ask to work with another child, stand, walk, walk on the line, the Silence Game, and Walking on the Line to music (which we turned into a freeze game as well).  All of these lessons went very well!

Here is a picture of the 4's class Walking on the Line to music while playing the freeze game:

The adults you see in the picture are the assist parents that work in the classroom with me.  My preschool is a cooperative, which means that the parents take turns assisting me in the classroom.  I am lucky to have a wonderful group of parents!
After such a successful first week of school I am really excited about the rest of the year!  I feel like I am really doing what I am supposed to be doing.  I have so many more opportunities to work with the kids on a more individual basis than I ever did before.  For the past 11 years I have been teaching preschool I was limited to teaching the same things to all the kids at the same time.  Now, although all the kids are using the same materials, they are not all using the same materials at the same time.  They are using them when they are ready and interested.

All in all I feel such a sense of accomplishment!  All of the literally hundreds of hours of work I put into this transition have paid off in full the first week of school.

I am linking up with Living Montessori Now and One Hook Wonder for Montessori Monday!

Montessori Monday

Monday, September 12, 2011

Montessori Makeover: The First Day

My 4-year-old preschool class' first day of school was today.  I was really nervous like I am at the beginning of every year.  You'd think after 11 years of teaching preschool the beginning of the year nervousness would go away.  But, no, not for me...  This year was especially nerve racking.  I am not a person who handles change well -- and switching to a Montessori-based curriculum was a major change!  It doesn't matter how wonderful the change might be.

Much to my delight, the first day of school went better than I could have expected!  The kids were great!  The assist parents were great!  And, best of all, the kids are really taking to the changes in the classroom.  They have learned to roll and unroll rugs and table mats, carry a tray, walk around a rug, ask to join a classmate in his/her work, and most of the kids even responded appropriately to a "call to silence."

We started the morning with Circle Time, during which we did the calendar, weather, head-shoulders-knees-and-toes, read The Kissing Hand, reviewed rolling and unrolling rugs, carrying a tray, walking around a rug, and asking to work with a friend.  I say reviewed because we had a practice day of preschool last week when the kids came to school in small groups for only 30 minutes each.  We learned all of these things during that 30 minutes, so today we did a review.  The kids took turns doing the demonstrations for the rest of the class!

After our review I gave the kids a lesson on how to use the art supplies that are out on the shelf.  There are crayons, colored pencils, paper, and clipboards.  I had also intended to give a lesson on pouring a drink from a pitcher to a cup, but we had juice boxes for snack so I decided to wait for another day to give that lesson.

After Circle Time we moved on to work time -- which included snack.  The kids of the assist parents helped to prepare the snack.  We had three assist parents today and three kids helping to prepare snack.  I bought the Melissa and Doug table setting place mats at a local toy store for the kids to use at snack time.  We didn't even need to tell the kids where to put the dishes on the place mats -- they figured it out on their own!

I have decided to start the year with all of the areas in the classroom open -- including the areas not traditionally found in a Montessori classroom -- gross motor, blocks, and pretend play.  After I begin bringing in the Montessori materials, this may change depending on how much time the kids are spending in these areas.  I may limit the use of these areas to the first 30 minutes of work time.

Here are some pictures of the kids at work time today.  I have blocked out their faces for privacy.

I was very excited to see two of the kids working together!

She covered the whole board with the little buttons!

Gotta love peg boards!

These are the snack helpers helping to prepare the bananas for snack.  I completely forgot to have them wear the awesome aprons that one of the moms made for the classroom.  Next time I'll remember those for sure!

Magna Tiles have always been a favorite in my classroom!

peeling bananas

cutting bananas

Eating snack with the neat new place mats!

The kids made me some art work to hang on my supply cupboards in the classroom!

Gotta love when they get ALL the blocks out within 15 minutes!  Check out that awesome structure they made!

Some pretend play!  Before I took this picture they had the table all set with dishes.

Nice working boys!

Notice the color sorting with the stacks of pegs!

 I was planning on waiting until next week to introduce new materials.  But, the kids are doing so well that I might even start this week!

We ended with a short Circle Time that included show & tell and the good-bye song.

Here is a link to the Magna Tiles I mentioned earlier.  They really are a great toy!

I am also linking up to Montessori Monday via Living Montessori Now and One Hook Wonder:

Montessori Monday