Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter is Here!

Winter is here, and we have been closed for a couple days  due to ice and snow. Before the closure we started working on some winter activities at school!

Cutting snowflakes is an exercise in folding, cutting, and design! It's so fun to see what shapes appear when we unfold the paper after cutting.

We aren;t baking cookies at school, but sifting flour is so much fun! And then it's fun to sweep up all the spilled flour. 

Polishing the brass Chanukkiah feels like an important task leading up to Chanukah. 

Look! There's ice all over the bark chips!

Handwork is an extra-cozy way to spent cold days.

Exploring the dreidls - how can we spin them? How many candles fit in the Chanukkiah?

Painting wooden snowflakes to take home.

These leaves are frozen in a sheet of ice.

Another sheet of ice from the wagon! The world feels so different in cold weather. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

School Scenes

We have had many parents come observe our classroom in the last few weeks, and almost every visitor has commented on how focused and engaged the children are at our school! When children are given truly interesting activities, they will focus deeply, and the classroom becomes a truly peaceful place. Here are some scenes from our school from the last couple of weeks:

Washing an underlay - the plastic sheets we use under particularly messy activities - is an activity choice in itself. 

Map work is contagious and it has been spreading lately!

Deep concentration is required to balance the tiniest cylinder on the yellow tower of knob less cylinders. These are an exploratory/design work, intended for older children who have explored the cylinder blocks and have a knowledge of those variances built up. The results, when the work is explored fully, can be quite beautiful.

The teens hanger was not part of my training; however it is beautiful and I decided to try it out. The children absolutely love it, and their knowledge of the numbers 11-19 is exploding!

Peeling and chopping carrots at the beginning of the day so we can have snack.

Polishing metal requires a longer series of steps than most other practical life work. I love finding new metal objects to add to the classroom, especially tarnished brass or silverware that polishes up so beautifully!

Outside, the climbing structure is more valuable for shelter than for climbing on most days. 

Sand pies - classic!

Exploring with the brown stair and pink tower together leads to all kinds of beautiful designs!

Working in pairs gives children an opportunity to learn from each other. Montessori schools strive to give children independence from adults, but fosters interdependence among the children.

Sometimes you have to arrange all the flowers in as many vases as possible! Then our room is beautiful and full of greenery and flowers.

Focusing on learning to use safety pins. I keep them on a hackey sack, and show the children how to open, remove, then replace and close them. They love figuring them out.

Making pomanders with an orange and cloves was a popular winter activity last year, so I brought it back for this year. The smells of clove and orange are enticing, and the fine motor strength required is great for exercising little hands.

I introduced a tapestry table in our cubby room, with two sewing kits available. I can't wait to see what it looks like in a few weeks!

Setting up for big math games takes a lot of focus and order. Because we have been building up these attributes from age 2.5 or 3, when the children reach this age they are motivated and capable to stick to longer, more complex tasks.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Language in the Montessori Classroom

The road to reading and writing is a long one in the Montessori primary classroom. It starts when a child is showing interest in sounds and can isolate beginning sounds in words. We play a game from day one called The Sound Game, in which children are presented with a row of tiny objects. I will ask a child to find an object that starts with a certain sound and the child will find it. First I start with only two objects and then we work up to more and more objects. Once a child can find an object on the first try, we move on to sandpaper letters. Sandpaper letters help children associate sounds with the shapes on the letters. 

I have found, since I have such a large number of four-year-olds, that individual sandpaper letter lessons weren't enough, so I created a matching work for initial sounds. We call it "sticker work" and it is a lot of fun. I encourage children to do it together to figure out which picture matches which sound. 

Two children work intently on the sticker work. Each one has 4-5 letters and 3-5 pictures per letter, with velcro dots to hold them in place.

After a child knows most of the letters by the sound it makes, we take out the movable alphabet. At least one movable alphabet is out every day in our classroom. We start with easy, mostly phonetic words, and some children are eager to build words related to their interests. Here a child wanted to build the names of machines. While working together with a child I try to help them hear each sound in a word but we spell phonetically and often vowels are left out. As a child's ability to discern each sound grows, we will work more towards including each sound and refining spelling. 

Using tiny objects from the sound game is very fun, because during the sound game the children may not touch the objects. Here they can use them all to themselves.

Puzzles are an excellent tool to use with the movable alphabet as children name and label the parts of the puzzle. Here a cat puzzle has been labeled with the cat's body parts. 

Concurrently with the movable alphabet, we practice writing on chalkboards, which is easier than writing with a paper and pencil because the children can quickly erase and try again. 

Independent work with the movable alphabet is a sure sign of deep interest!

Moving towards reading, boxes of objects with phonetic labels are offered for matching. Again the appeal of the tiny objects and the discovery that they can read the labels is very enticing!
Three-part cards offer another opportunity to read and match words, this time with pictures. The cards are first presented with only the picture, ensuring the the child knows the vocabulary before trying to match the words. 

Some children prefer to write using a pencil, and so we build the word first and then they copy it onto paper. Then they can illustrate the words they have written, a first step towards authorship!

There are many other materials used in the language area, but this is where many of our children are right now. Another aspect of Montessori language curriculum is spoken language. Teachers model correct language and clear enunciation, and use proper names for all the objects in the classroom. We play lots of verbal games using all parts of speech (simple noun games, action games, and games that use adjectives to describe different objects) that will then be revisited on a written level. Poetry, books, storytelling, conversation, and song also contribute to our love and understanding of language on a daily basis.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sukkot Celebrations

Sukkot is a fun harvest holiday that gives us opportunities for arts and crafts, nature study, and an appreciation of the food we eat and where it comes from. Traditionally on Sukkot we build a shelter, sukkah in Hebrew, and decorate it with fall and harvest-themed decorations. We are also meant to invite visitors, or ushpizin. We decided to invite the wildlife in our yard to be our ushpizin this year - birds an squirrels. So we focused our decorating on edible decorations for them!

We pushed a mixture of birdseed, flour, water, and peanut butter into cookie cutters and made holes to tie them up with string.

We laminated some of our watercolor leaves with contact paper and strung them up on the sukkah.

Reaching to hang the decorations.

The birdseed "cookies" held together very well!

After hanging our decorations, the children we inspired to continue decorating with colorful chalk drawings.

His own lulav and etrog from paper.

Shaking the lulav and etrog and saying the blessing!

Everybody wanted lots of turns to hold the four species - date palm, myrtle, willow, and etrog (citron). 

We shook them in all directions!

Smelling the citrus-scented etrog. Holidays invite us to use many senses, including smell.

All our birdseed cookies, as well as the strings of peanuts and cranberries we made, were gobbled up by birds and squirrels! This scrub jay lives nearby and made frequent visits.

Monday, October 10, 2016

L'Shana Tova!

Children in the afternoon paint honey jars to take home to their families for a sweet new year

Careful painting and color mixing.

Colorful honey jars and cards ready to go home!

At the Apple Festival we watched a very silly puppet show! 

We tasted fresh-pressed apple juice and watched it drip out of the press.

There were so many kinds of apples to taste!

Everybody say, "Apple!"

Back at school we had a special apples and honey treat! L'Shana Tova u'Metukah!