Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Three New Works

So, I've come to the conclusion that I can't say "children" anymore! It's driving me crazy! I re-read some of my blog entries, and they sound so formal and boring...not like how I would talk at all. So, I'm turning over a new leaf and just writing "kids". That's how I refer to them, and it doesn't seem like slang to me. It makes them seem more personable. "Children" are very well-behaved and intelligent..."kids" are fun and cute and I love 'em!

So...back to what I was writing about. Here are a few new things on the shelves for the kids:

Shelling peanuts has been a VERY popular work (and also very messy!) Above is how it's laid out on the tray. And this is how it is laid out on the table:

A close-up of the nutcracker. I got it from Montessori Services- they said it was easy for kids to use, and it really is. Just keep twisting, and voila- a nice snack! Here's a close-up:

It has been messy, but everyone is learning to hold the nut-cracker OVER the bowl to crack the peanuts. A hard concept, I'm realizing...but they learn when they have to sweep both the table and the floor afterwards. At least, I hope they learn. I would welcome any suggestions on making it easier for kids to clean up this kind of mess after themselves. What if they don't know how to sweep a floor yet? It's easy for me to get frustrated when there's a huge mess, and I have to mostly clean it myself. We have to work on sweeping lessons, I guess...

Here's another work that has been fun, and produced nice results: pasting! Or gluing, or whatever. We started calling it pasting in the fall, so that's what it's remained. I cut a bunch of circles with the help of a wonderful friend's die-cutting machine (thank you!), and this is the tray on the shelf:

When someone wants to paste a collage, they bring the shot glass to me and I put a little glue in the bottom. It really takes just a little (maybe just covering the bottom, or even less). Then they can lay it out on an art mat:

The brush and shot glass are great. It took me a few tries to figure out the best method for us, but so far this is a winner. We don't have any painting works out (and I don't know if we ever will...maybe!), so this gives them a chance to practice using a paintbrush. It's easy to control, and doesn't waste glue. Here are some of the pictures that we've made so far. They're hanging up on our front door where I see them every day, and I really like them! They actually make me smile when I look at them, and I can't say that with the average kids' art project!

Here's one more, sorting nuts and bolts.

The pieces of felt give the kids a place to put the nuts and the bolts, and then the trickiest part is matching them up again. And then getting the nut on the bolt. Just the right challenge, so far.

We have school tomorrow...maybe I'll remember to take pictures of the kids actually using some of these materials. I do like to do that...the problem is remembering. And then not getting distracted by a crying toddler, someone needing more toilet paper in the bathroom, or someone begging for a sandpaper letter lesson. We'll see...the chances are slim.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What We've Done Lately

Here is a brief overview of what the children have been working on (at least what I've been able to photograph):

Everyone has been working with the puzzle map of North America. It is a fun, large puzzle and they are starting to grasp rudimentary geography.

Beginning in January, my youngest daughter Jane joined our class...it has been an expected challenge (she is not quite 17 months old) but she is adapting. Gene really helps out, and gives her attention when I cannot. We keep some of her things in the schoolroom where she can reach them.

Lucy using one of the dressing frames- small(ish) buttons.

Lucy using one of the geometric drawers- this drawer is a conglomeration of shapes that don't fit any other category. The other drawers have circles, triangles, rectangles, polygons, etc. Children can use them as puzzles, finding where the shapes go back in, and also match them up to cards. In the process, it is easy for them to learn the names of all the shapes.

Norah was the first to build a maze with the red rods (originally used to learn length- short, long, shorter, longer, etc.) But this is a fun extension, and the other children begged to walk in it as well.

Here's an example of our snack table. The children love snack! They usually check to see what snack is as soon as I lay it out (around 9 am!) and some of them choose to eat pretty early. These pictures show our "cutting a banana" snack. I started laying this out about a month ago (before Christmas) and they love to use the little knife and cutting board. The bananas have a small slit in the peel so the children can peel it without help. Then they can eat it whole if they want, but they all choose to cut it in slices with the knife, put the slices on their plate, and then eat from there.

There is always a control card laid out with snack. It has the name of the food written on top, and then a picture. The point is for the person having snack to lay out the food on the card, and then put it on their plate. This helps especially to control quantities, so one child won't eat all the snack. Though it still happens sometimes...

There is always a glass of water and a plate for each child. They eat snack, wipe their hands and face if needed on a wet cloth I leave out, and then dry them on a dry cloth, or the kitchen towel. They bring their used dishes to the "dirty dish bin" left on the floor of the kitchen. They wipe their place, and leave it ready for the next child. Only one child at a time can eat snack, but their is often someone else waiting to race into the kitchen as soon as the snack table is vacated.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

So, I just rearranged the whole school area. I gave each child their own set of shelves, with their own materials on them, and after one day of school (Friday) I can say that it is a very good arrangement!

My reasoning:
1. We were running out of room on the shelves, but I didn't want to put away some of what I considered to be essential materials of the school, in case someone was interested in doing them. And I was having trouble deciding what to remove to make room for new works.

2. Some of the materials were not being used AT ALL. This would usually not happen in a Montessori classroom, because there would be at least 15-20 children and one of them would certainly be interested in a certain work... But I didn't know how to excite interest in some of the basics...pouring, spooning, the sensorial materials.

3. The children seemed a little bored. They would do their 3-4 favorite works, and then want to be done! Even though there were some things that I thought they should be interested in...I couldn't force it. And I have had Janie (my 16 month old) for a couple weeks now, and she'll be staying with us for the rest of the year. While I enjoy having her home more than sending her away, it makes it a little more difficult for me to give quality attention to the other children...and they also tend to be more distracted by her as she likes to babble and move constantly around the classroom. We just have to work with her, and around her...

So, I am feeling really good about the shelves as they are now. I am able to put out just a few of the materials that each child is working with (the ones they tend to choose most), and I put all the rest away. Now they have a more limited choice (maybe 9-10 options total, plus one shelf full of things that are for everyone to use- mostly art materials). I also put out some things on their shelf that I WISH they would work with, and we'll see how it goes. I can talk those materials up a bit, because they are specifically for one child and there is a sense of ownership there that I think helps them be more interested.

If someone wants to work with something on another person's shelf, they may come to me and request that it be on their shelf soon. I don't want them working with another child's materials, even with that child's permission...I would rather they focus on their shelf.

We'll see how this works. It has just been one day, but I can't see how we can go too wrong with this!

I'll post pictures of new works soon. I know the pictures are what really makes a blog appealing...so I'll do my best!