Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Choices

As I mentioned, there are some new works on the shelves that I haven't posted about. And some have been pretty popular lately. Here they are, in no particular order:

This is "leaf rubbing", and it has been out on the shelves for maybe a month now. Not a ton of use, but more so lately.

It took me a while to figure out how to present "leaf rubbing"...but this seems to be working. The leaf is real, and taped to a square of cardboard. To do this work, a child gets a piece of "metal inset" paper, puts it on top of the leaf and attaches the paper with the clothespins. Then they can rub the crayon all over, pressing harder to really bring out the veins in the leaf. Once they have rubbed a leaf, I will put tape on the back, and they can stick it to a branch of the tree I drew on our wall (I will post a picture sometime...right now it is too dark in the schoolroom to do the tree justice).

This is a "sewing cylinder" least that is what we call it. I got it from Montessori Services, I think.

There are many holes to put the large wooden needle into, and it is a pre-sewing exercise. Basically the wooden needle goes through multiple holes until the string is used up, and then it can be taken out again. But it is trickier than it looks...getting the cylinder unthreaded takes a lot of patience and requires good eye-hand coordination.

Sorting money is a very new work. Gene has been dealing with money for the last year or so, and very interested in it, but I realized that Lucy has barely touched a coin and couldn't tell the difference between any of the silver coins. So I pulled this together last night and presented it today. Everyone is pretty good at sorting, but it is fun to introduce new items to sort. And eventually they will learn the names of the coins, and learn more about them. But first things first!
These are the magneatos...we got them for Christmas a couple years ago, from a children's toy magazine. There are two sizes of "sticks" and many balls, and they are all magnetized. Here are some ideas of things to make with them, but so far the most popular has been to just stick them all together in a long line. Hopefully they'll get a little more creative soon...

I had fun with them, anyway. Maybe seeing what I did will rub off on somebody!

These are the sound books, which have been filling up with "sounds" at various rates. Gene has begun filling his yellow sound book, and Norah and Lucy are about halfway through their red sound books. They are very simple...I draw one big letter on each page as they are introduced to that particular sandpaper letter. Then, every time I give a lesson on a new sandpaper letter, I have the child show me how they trace the previous letters in their book. It is built-in practice.

This is the first sound in each red sound book. I just draw them in, though I know that Laura in the blog My Montessori Journey has the children in her class paste in a die-cut letter. I like that idea, but for now drawing seems simpler. Everyone has been fascinated, however, watching me color in the lines. I think we need a coloring activity...we haven't used many coloring books, mostly because Gene was never interested in coloring and Lucy was too little. But now that coloring is more popular, I think they need to appreciate the art of "coloring in the lines"...someone actually asked why I was doing it that way!!!

Wednesday, November 19

Here's what we've been doing the last few days at preschool... Playdough, playdough, playdough! At least, Lucy and Norah have. But, I've got to admit they are getting good at it. Norah has perfected her snake-rolling and sometimes makes multiple "squirmy-wormies" and Lucy continues to work on her creativity. The other day she asked me to come and see the "tweezers" she had made...and how they opened and shut. Today she made a hamburger (with cookie-cutter cutouts for the buns and burger), a birthday cake (the hamburger with a candle on top) and a lollipop. This may not seem astounding to anyone else, but I haven't taught her any of this. And Gene was never very interested in play-dough, and doesn't have the same creative spark that Lucy seems to be developing.

Above is a "butterfly"...I can kind of see it. What I see most of all is that Lucy realizes that butterflies are symmetrical.

So...besides a heck of a lot of play-dough, here's a few other activities that have been off the shelves lately:

Gene- transferring water with a sponge (will post about this soon)
bean bowl (mostly spooning beans between big bowl and a smaller bowl)
duck floor puzzle
pooh puzzle
sandpaper letters (multiple times)
drawing with markers (another favorite)
magneatos (will post)
zipping a jacket

Norah- playdough
sorting money (will post)
bean bowl
transferring marbles
toothpick jar
sweeping on table (with small dustpan...sweeping playdough crumbs)
rubber bands on dowel
sandpaper letters
butterfly puzzle
small alphabet puzzle

Lucy- spooning beans
cylinder block #1
rubbing a leaf
sewing cylinder (will post)
toothpick jar
pooh puzzle
sesame street puzzle
duck floor puzzle
world map puzzle
drawing with markers, crayons and pencil
drawing lines with a ruler
butterfly puzzle

Lucy with a magneato "carpet square". Everything she makes now is "something"... It's not just "look what I made Mama" anymore. It's "Mama, look what I made. It's a...carpet square." But whatever she says it is, it actually looks like. So I don't have to fake my understanding.

Note: the reason there are so many pictures of Lucy posted is that she has realized that she can ask me to take a picture of her work, and she has been asking more lately. I let Gene and Norah know this as well, but they haven't taken advantage of it. And I don't usually think to take spontaneous pictures during a normal busy school morning...

A brief synopsis...I will post soon about the new works mentioned above. I have put quite a few new ones out on the shelves.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sandpaper letters are awesome!

I remember worrying a few months ago that Gene was getting too old to learn how to write. The Montessori books I had read mentioned (repeatedly!) that children usually have their "explosion into writing" around age 4.5. This is after they had been in a Montessori environment since age 2.5 or 3 and had been using many of the "pre-writing" materials- metal insets to learn pencil control, sandpaper letters to learn the shape of each letter, moveable alphabet to learn how to put letters together to make words. I thought since Gene hadn't been doing any of those things consistently (the only material he had used once in a while was the moveable alphabet, but he usually just made the letters dance around and talk to each other!), that he would move past the critical age, and not be able to master writing as quickly or easily.

Well, we'll see how fast he actually MASTERS writing, but the interest is definitely growing. He has been learning the sandpaper letters rapidly, and practices tracing them with his fingers multiple times a day, not just during preschool times. And this is great for the girls as well, because they have seen Gene taking the letters off the shelf so many times, they have asked for lessons on them as well. So, I have confidence now that Gene WILL write, and that Norah and Lucy will learn as well. And as proof of that, Lucy spontaneously wrote a capital "E" today, in the middle of scribbling a picture...and she came up and showed me. Way to go, Lucy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 12

I introduced three new works today- folding cloths, zipping a jacket, and "getting water". The folding work is something I know will be used, and it is a stepping stone to other folding activities (i.e. folding paper, or folding clothes)...I have often tried to get Gene and Lucy to help me fold the laundry, but only occasionally are they interested, so we'll give it a shot on the shelf.

This is the basket of folded cloths.

The first step is to take them all out of the basket, and pile them up.
Then, select one cloth, spread it out on the mat, and fold it. The kids can choose to take out and fold all ten cloths, or if that seems too challenging they can just take out one or two.

"Zipping a jacket" is something I've wanted to put out for a while, because none of the children can get their own jacket zipped, and with jacket season beginning I am going a little crazy getting everyone ready to go outside. Once they can zip themselves, they will be able to get completely ready on their own...good for all of us! I also want to put out a jacket with buttons on it, but that will have to wait until I find a good one. I found this pink jacket amidst all of my youngest daughter's outerwear (she was given about 20 jackets and sweatshirts and sweaters, not kidding!) and it has a little hood that completely unsnaps...a fun bonus!

"Getting water" is also something I'd wanted to put out for a while now. There are a lot of Montessori water activities that are very fun, but they all involve the children getting their own water to use. Stepping up on a stool to get water from the sink, and then stepping down again, is fairly difficult to do without spilling, especially for the younger children. So, a water bucket is a way that many schools use to make water accessible to everyone. The children scoop up some water from a full bucket on the floor, use it for a certain activity (such as pouring water between two pitchers, or using a sponge to transfer water between two containers). At the end of each activity, the water is disposed of (I think we'll have a "used water" bucket). And that means we don't have to keep water in the containers on the shelves...a good thing when a curious toddler is living in the same house.

Here's what we were up to today:

Norah worked on playdough (first this time), the butterfly puzzle, and the bean bowl. She is very consistent. But she feels really comfortable doing these activities, and needs a little encouragement to branch out, I think. But, in the meantime, she is learning how to get out, clean up and put away what she does choose to work with. And she is definitely observing what the other children do...watching someone else do an activity a few times makes doing it oneself much easier.

Gene worked on folding cloths (before I even gave a lesson on it- he was that interested!) He drew a few pictures with a pencil (one of his "comfort works") and then moved on to pouring beads, the duck floor puzzle, a sesame street puzzle, and reading books. One of his accomplishments was writing his own name on one of his pictures. I told him I wouldn't do that for him any more, now that I've seen him do it a few times...and he remembered to do it by himself today.

Lucy learned a new sandpaper letter today (f) and was then able to get a lesson on "object box activity that matches up letters and objects that begin with those letters. There are four objects and letters in the box, and after she had four letters in her sound book she was excited to match up the objects. I'll try to take a picture of that work, as well. She also did stamping for a while, and copied Geno's name with letter stamps that I had put out. Maybe she'll do her name sometime... She did the duck floor puzzle as well, and the butterfly puzzle. I was amused to see that she had sorted the butterfly puzzle pieces before putting them back in the puzzle...she has been sorting everything lately!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday, Nov 10

Occasionally (or more often if I can...every day would be stretching it though!) I will post a short post about what we've done in school that day. Nothing long or elaborate...just a bit about what each child worked on. It will be another record for my teaching purposes, and serve as a way to let the parents of the students (that would be you, Karen and Tim!) know what is going on. So, here goes:

Today was very cold and everyone had winter jackets and hats. I came up with a basket to put accessories in that the children could reach themselves (and we keep it by the "shoe spot" in the open closet). They were pleased to have a place besides the floor to keep hats and mittens. We also recently put some magnetic hooks on our garage door so they could hang up their own coats! Why didn't we think of that years ago! We found the hooks at, and were pleased with them. They are easily moved if we need to, but they can definitely hold a kid's jacket (and they come in varying strengths, if you want to hold something heavier).

So, the children soon got to work. Norah immediately spotted a new puzzle (a butterfly) and chose that as her first work. But while she was washing her hands, Lucy got it from the shelf so Norah watched Lucy finish it, and then had a turn. Norah was so interested in it (it was a bit challenging, being a kind of foam rubber and not wood) that she immediately did it again. Way to go! She moved on eventually to the bean bowl (which had a new ladle and a container to fill) and she was set for a while. Playdough rounded out her day, as it has for the last few days of preschool. There were a couple cookie cutters and a rolling pin, and she was focused and quiet for a good half hour. In between somewhere she looked through a book we had read last week called Action Alphabet, and she practiced acting out the actions that were described.

Gene made a beeline for his work binder once school began. We started putting them together on Friday, sorting and hole-punching all the work the children have created and putting them in the binder so they can be organized. All artwork and drawing (and later math and language papers) go on top of the dining room table so I can put a name on them (though later that can be done by the children) and they stay there to dry if need be. They are then put in the work box (just a big red box with a lid) until Friday. On Fridays we will sort through the work box at the end of preschool, and everyone can choose their best work to keep in their binders.

Gene had not finished putting in all his work on Friday, so on his own initiative he got the hole puncher and finished (Lucy wanted to watch). Then he took out the newest work I had shown him, writing on a chalkboard. He wrote a few letters (tracing the sandpaper letters with his fingers if he forgot how to make them), before wiping the chalkboard down with a wet cloth and putting it away. He did a Winnie the Pooh puzzle, the butterfly puzzle, and then worked on spooning beans. The first time he had done that in a long time. He also drew a few pictures with a pencil, and then I showed him how to use a ruler to make parallel and horizontal lines, and he colored in the squares that resulted with markers. He read a few books as well before preschool was over for the day.

Lucy had a puzzle day- she did the butterfly puzzle, a duckling floor puzzle (thanks Reenie!), and a small ABC wooden puzzle. She got a new letter drawn in her sound book (now she has r, a and m) and also spent a good deal of time using playdough. We took a picture of her creation, though, because it was quite unique:

She cut out a bunch of stars, made a hole in the center of each with the end of the rolling pin, and then gave them each two "eggs".

To go home, everyone could reach their own coats, mittens and hats, and Lucy even tried to help Norah button her coat. We really should put that coat on the floor and let the childen practice on it. It seems a little more appealing than the button frame, and maybe it would entice them to the frame...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Brown tower breakthrough

Geno actually built the brown tower with the prisms!! He has never, ever attempted even using them before, and we have had them since about a year ago. I made a booklet last week of different things that could be built with the brown prisms and pink cubes, and combinations of both of them...took pictures, developed, laminated and put them together in a booklet that sits on the shelf with the prisms and cubes. Well, that booklet really peaked his interest, as I was hoping, and he built the tower. He had also just spent the previous evening building towers with the family, so perhaps he was still feeling motivated to build.

The funny thing is, I had been thinking that he was avoiding them because he thought they were too easy. But, perhaps it was that he really didn't understand, and it was actually a bit too challenging, since he has never been very interested in building. Whatever the reason, it was great to see, and I look forward to seeing all the children take more interest in these materials!