Friday, February 27, 2009

Practical Life - How can it look so appealing?

I love, love, love, the practical life area at the school I teach Spanish at. There are 3 Primary classrooms and they all have beautiful practical life areas that change monthly and are color coordinate by themes. I have the great experience of being able to go into three different Montessori schools weekly and observe.

1. The school I teach Spanish at, Montessori School A (Grades Primary-Upper El.)
2. I volunteer in my son's classroom. Montessori School B (Primary Montessori/ Traditional 1st-8th grade)
3. I spend a little time in my daughter's classroom observing. Montessori School C (Toddler/Primary)

My son and daughter attend different Montessori Schools about 8 miles from each other. The school I teach at is further away from our home, this is why I have not enrolled them there but I AM considering this school for my son when he enters first grade.

So, what I want to write about today is what I've noticed about these three schools and their Practical Life area. I am VERY drawn to the practical life activities in Montessori School A and also Montessori School C but more in A. Some practical life areas look very messy and disorganized. What I have noticed about Montessori School A is that it does not look disorganized. So what is it I thought that makes it so appealing to my eyes?

I took pictures and figured it out!

1. The same color tray is used for an entire shelf.

2. The bowls that hold the items match from tray to tray. Example: two wood, two glass, two silver, etc..

3. The items that the children work with (beads/stickers/water/buttons/pom-pom's/etc. are color coordinated)

4. The shelf's are not crowded.

Here are some pictures of one shelf unit in Montessori School A's Practical Life Area.

Note 1: I was not planning on using these pictures in my blog so I did not do a great job taking them and I also took them with my iPhone.

Note 2: there are four shelve units dedicated to practical life. This is only one.

On the shelf unit below, the two top works are on red plastic trays that work very well with the rest of the wood trays because they color coordinate with the items on the shelf unit!

Notice in the pictures below that the trays are all wood, the containers for the two trays on the first shelf above and the second shelf below are glass, all of the items in these practical life activities are color coordinated. Even in the basket that has items for opening/closing there are items that coordinate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Montessori Education for the Elementary Years?

Why should my family continue to stick with a Montessori education for the elementary years
by Tanya Rykind and Jenny Schanker
Source: International Montessori Council Website

Your daughter is turning five years old and the next door neighbor asks you if you have registered for kindergarten. You haven't. Your daughter has been attending a Montessori school and you have been pleased with her progress and development. But you are not sure if she should continue on in the Montessori elementary program.
For most families, the question triggers a variety of different emotions. Memories of "school" become more vivid for most of us. It is one of the few experiences we all have in common – "school". We remember our teachers, our lessons, our playground, the homework, and the friends. We tend to believe that we received a good, if not, a great education. And if we are successful, it is hard for us to imagine that our elementary education didn't contribute partly to our success. So, why should your family stick with a Montessori education for the elementary years?

There are five compelling reasons why a Montessori elementary education adds significant value to the future success of your child.
1. A Montessori elementary education does more than most traditional programs to develop independent and critical thinking skills.
2. A Montessori elementary education gives lessons and presentations that nurture the multiple intelligences of each child and capitalize upon recent scientific research.
3. A Montessori elementary education offers children a wider array of academic work than traditional educational models in a safe and age appropriate environment.
4. A Montessori elementary education offers children a community dedicated to creating a peaceful world.
5. A Montessori elementary education does more to celebrate differences and understand of world cultures.

Children who continue their Montessori education into the elementary years will continue to develop their potential as independent, critical thinkers. Beginning with infants and toddlers, Montessori environments guide children to become physically and emotionally independent and self sufficient. Young children are given the tools to set the table, prepare the snack and wash the dishes. Your child has washed dishes, sliced bananas, swept crumbs, and put her work back from the place she got it. She has also practiced problem-solving skills such as using appropriate words to express emotion, and used mechanisms like tally stones and peace roses to cope with interpersonal conflicts.
In Montessori programs, elementary children learn to balance a striking degree of freedom with a sense of responsibility and self-determination. The children learn to allocate their time between academic responsibilities and caring for their classroom environment, and to understand the importance of developing and expressing their own opinions. When 10-year-old Noah was asked to give his observation about the differences between his public school experience and his Montessori school experience, he said, "You can disagree with the teacher and not get into trouble here."
A group of 16 Montessori elementary children were asked to contemplate whether it is important to have their friends like the things they like. The children were asked to go to one side of the room if they agreed with the statement and the other side of the room if they disagreed. At first blush, all the children agreed with this statement. Then, one child, age 9, stepped out and said, "I'm changing my mind. I think that it is easier to make new friends who have things in common with me but when I have more time being friends with someone, I am able to disagree with them without hurting their feelings." Her experiences in a Montessori classroom, where she was confident that she was valued as an individual, allowed this child to step out of a group, act independently from her peers, and think for herself.

The Montessori elementary classroom is prepared to honor the multiple intelligences of each child. Multiple Intelligences is the work of Howard Gardner who brought to light the various ways in which our brain learns. Some children are visual learners, some learn through logical reasoning and mathematical deduction and others may learn from the natural world. Gardner's work has determined there to be 8 intelligences which predominate in some greater than others.
Montessori elementary education addresses the needs of children who learn by doing, seeing, hearing, building, dancing, drawing, socializing, and listening to their inner self because it follows the child and changes the environment to enhance learning. It is common to see a variety of hands-on materials in every subject area. There are globes, models of the solar system, skeletons, sandpaper letters, calligraphy pens, and yes, there are beads. Beads are used to engage children kinesthetically. Beads are a visual tool to show abstract concepts concretely. And beads, especially the traditional glass beads, offer the child the beauty of color, shape, and texture.
Aesthetics are extremely important in the Montessori classroom. Rooms are prepared very carefully, to be beautiful, calm and peaceful. Music may play softly in the background. There may be headphones in baskets on work shelves. An area is dedicated to the study of sound, tone, and pitch. There are the Montessori bells, recorders, drums. Children are encouraged to sing, hum, tap, and move their bodies rhythmically while working. Children are invited to use their senses; to taste, smell, hear, touch, and see. Instead of worksheets, Montessori classrooms have children working with food, smelling perfumes to explore how smells dissipate, listening to concertos, and knitting. Songs are sung, poetry chanted, plays recited, stories told. Students have access to an outdoor environment to study nature, watch birds or sit and listen to the sounds.
Children who learn by doing are encouraged to do while children who learn by reading are invited to read. Montessori invites children to learn the way they learn best while strengthening the other intelligences they are capable of using so that they can reach their personal potential.

Walk into a Montessori classroom and you may see children conjugating verbs in English, Spanish or Japanese. You may see a group of students conducting an experiment to demonstrate the differences between acids and bases. You may even see a group of children knitting, discussing how to make patterns with a purl or a knit.
Every Montessori elementary program will have works that expose, encourage and invite the child to learn concepts and ideas about history, geology, geography, mathematics, language, astronomy, ecology, chemistry, anthropology, astronomy, physics, biology, microbiology, sociology, and geometry. The geography curriculum, for example, distinguishes itself from a traditional program because it offers so much more in depth action and hands-on activity. Children who have been in a Montessori infant/toddler program or primary program have touched and seen the small globe of the earth. The globe is made so that each continent is elevated and coarse. The continents are sand papered giving the child a "feel" for the shape and size of each continent.
The elementary program offers students opportunities to make continents and land forms. Classrooms have trays with water and clay so that children can mold, make and see the land form. In an upper elementary classroom materials are given to the children to expand and deepen their knowledge. Children are given access to maps, compasses, graph paper, and over head projectors, helping students to understand the making of a planet, the concept of plate tectonics, and the evolution of the cosmos. Traditional classrooms may touch upon concepts and ideas, but only the prepared Montessori environment gives children the breadth, depth and time to experience intellectual work without interruption.

The Montessori elementary program is different than all other educational models in that it is committed to giving children a "Cosmic Education" and teaching universal values of respect, tolerance, and trust that will create a peaceful world.

Dr. Montessori believed that children who knew who they were personally and in the big picture of the human experience were more likely to care for themselves and for the world around them in ways that would foster peace. Cosmic Education offers the child opportunities to understand the interconnectedness of all things and the personal responsibility needed for the care and well-being of all things. According to one father, "the common goal is the well-being of my children. I want my children to know they are part of a bigger community than just their family or school. I want them to know they are cared for and listened to. In turn, they care and listen. For me, Montessori teaches the importance of being responsible for each other, not just acquainted with each other." Because of this commitment to "Cosmic Education" and Peace Education, there are lessons, activities and resources on the shelves that teach about the birth of the cosmos, evolution of the species, fossil records showing the recent understanding of the growth of the human being, and timelines of the development of language and numbers.

There are lessons describing the major world religions, what they believe, how they practice. There is a peace corner, dedicated to quiet and stillness. Classrooms have community meetings where children are invited to discuss classroom issues, concerns or activities. Children discuss, decide, and brainstorm solutions that work for them. Children and adults work together to build a peaceful and harmonious community of learners.

Service to the community is also an active way in which Montessori classrooms teach the web of relationships. By reaching out to the community, students see the greater community. Students may visit assisted living centers, fund raise for a homeless shelter, or work at the local center for stray animals. All of these experiences are integrated into the work of the Montessori student. The commitment to offering children opportunities to belong to a community by participating in real life experiences as well as asking children to examine the mysteries of the universe prepares children not only to live in the "real world", but assume responsibility for its well-being.

In Montessori schools, developing an appreciation for diversity and understanding cultures form the backbone of the academic curriculum and enliven the social atmosphere. Most Montessori schools actively recruit a diverse student body, and involve the whole family in activities that foster intercultural understanding and a playful exploration of the global village. This unfolds as a strong international education where lessons delve deep into the habits, life styles, arts, religions, and languages from around the world.

Because the Montessori "family" is international, many schools choose to have international dinners, dance and art workshops, cultural performances, international pen pals, and exchange programs. School-wide celebrations of world cultures enrich the communal life of each Montessori family. Around the school and in the classrooms, there may be expressions of world cultures. Flags from around the world may be displayed. Outside, a pole proclaiming peace in many languages may stand prominently in a garden space. Artifacts and clothing from around the world may be hung on walls throughout the building. Students may research other places in the world and go so far as to invite guests to share experiences and stories of their culture. Children may sit down to meals prepared by classmates, appreciating different foods and different ways of preparing foods.

Through field trips, Montessori elementary children learn to appreciate the culture of the communities in which they live and attend school. Visits to local businesses, surrounding farms or ranches, sites of local industry, and hospitals help them understand the influences that shape their surroundings. Hands-on study of regional geography, history, and natural environment gives the children the sense of connection necessary for the development of thoughtful, culturally literate citizens.

The goal of the cultural education program in Montessori elementary programs is to teach interconnectedness and social responsibility. The focus is the celebration of differences and an understanding of how those differences enrich our lives. In the end, the answer to the question, "should my family continue to stick with a Montessori education for the elementary years?" must grow from the answer to some further questions. What skills do I believe my child needs to succeed in the 21st century? What do we value as parents? Is it important for my child to be an independent and critical thinker? Do we want our child to learn to use the full potential of his multiple intelligences? Does she need opportunities for true intellectual work in a variety of subjects? Do we value a safe, peaceful environment where our children's needs are paramount? Do we believe in the power of cultural understanding to build the tolerance and appreciation necessary to create a better world for future generations? If your answers to these questions are a resounding "yes", why look beyond your Montessori environment for the kind of education you seek for your child?

Dr. Tanya L. Ryskind works with the upper elementary students who attend Brookview International Montessori Academy in Benton Harbor, Michigan, U.S.A. She is the mother of two Montessori children, Serena Chapman, age 10 and Caleb Chapman, age 6. She has been a Montessori guide for over six years and a Montessori parent for over nine years. Previously, she was an administrator with Western Michigan University where she directed the Regional Campus in Southwest Michigan. As an adjunct professor she taught graduate level courses in school law and business ethics. She has been actively involved in the promotion of peace and serves on the school accreditation committee for the International Montessori Council. Jenny Schanker is Chair of Transitional Studies at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Along with being Chair, she is a writer and a faculty member in English Composition at the College. She is the mother of a Montessori child, Gwen age 9. She became involved in Montessori 7 years ago when her daughter began attending the toddler program at Brookview Academy. She has been active with the school as a board member, chair of the marketing committee, and writing process facilitator for the Lower and Upper Elementary students. She has authored and co-authored several articles on Montessori topics for local and national periodicals, including Tomorrow's Child.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Time Line Rope

Time Line Rope and Labels. This color coded 50 foot rope displays the relative time spans of the Pre-Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic, and Neozoic eras.

Last month, my son was studying Dinosaurs in the classroom so I talked to his teacher and asked her if I could make this work and present it to the class.

This is the Time Line Rope I made at home. I had a yellow rope already and some of the spray paint. I purchased the other spray paint colors I needed and created the eras labels on my computer. It took me maybe 1 hour to create this work. I suggest using tape, instead of spray paint so it lasts longer.

The white part of the label is white card stock glued to construction paper. Notice that the label colors match the rope colors. Pre-Cambrian (Yellow), Paleozoic(Blue), Mesozoic(Purple), Cenozoic(Green), and Neozoic eras(Red).

Here are the children using the work in school. The other little thing I added for interest was two little dinosours. When I told the story, I placed the dinosaurs in the era that dinosaurs appeared, Mesozoic Era. This work was very popular. I loved how my son asked me "Mom, what is the Era of the Dinosaurs again?" and then he tried to say it! I am still amazed on how these materials work so beautifully!

We went outside to the playground when I presented this work. Here is the story I told the children as I presented the work. I got the story from

In my sons classroom - 2008

Here are a few pictures of students working in my sons classroom. I spend every Friday morning assisting in my sons class and go on other afternoons if possible. There are 15 children in his classroom with no assistant so the teacher really needs the parents to volunteer their time. We are required to volunteer at least 60 hours a year. I have no problem putting those hours in. I really enjoy being part of my children's schooling.

Above is my son working on reading with a Kinder student.

These kids worked on this after nap time. Notice 3 year old still napping!


Some working and some watching/chatting! This was also after nap work.

This is a Kinder student teaching a younger student.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Phonics Swap

I participated in Jojo's first swap of the year. A phonics miniatures swap. When I received my swap partners packages I told my kids that I had a Spanish work that just arrived from....and the place it came from. I was very excited so they were excited also. We opened them together and named all of the objects in Spanish. These miniature items are for my home. My purpose is 1. to make sure my children know what the name of the items are in Spanish 2. create sound boxes.

As I started to write earlier today my son helped me out! He took the pictures and helped me to name the objects so I could type them here. If I forgot to say the objects name in Spanish, he would ask me "What is it in Spanish?". It is funny how he now knows this is the "Spanish Work"! I also took the opportunity to show him how I looked up the words to make sure I had proper spelling and punctuation and if I did not know the word in Spanish I showed him how I used a translator.

The following is my package from P.S. Montessori. A third year Primary Montessori teacher in the DC public school system. The igloo is hand made. The nest egg was mine and my kids favorite! Thank you!

1. la manzana - apple
2. el lazo - bow
3. la pinza - clothespin
4. el huevo - egg
5. el pez - fish
6. el tiesto - flowerpot
7. el corazón, - heart
8. el iglú - igloo
9. el nido - nest
10. la tortuga - turtle

This is the package from What DID we do all Day? A homeschool mom of two boys.
The grapes are definitely our favorite!! Thank you so much!

1. la pinza - clothespin
2. la
brújula - compass
3. el doctor - doctor
4. el
bombero - fireman
5. las uvas - grapes
6. el angel - angel
7. el venado - deer
8. el globo de nieve - snowglobe
9. el
árbol - tree
10. la nuez - walnut

Along with the miniature items, "What we DID All Day" also sent a nice letter with information about her children and pictures of them in the snow!! My kids loved to see all of that snow. We do not get any snow in our neck of the woods! Also included were homemade post cards. "P.S. Montessori" also sent some great homemade postcards of The White House and Washington, DC".

Saturday, February 7, 2009

This week in Spanish

In the Primary Classroom I have had several lessons that go with the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This week I began teaching the children the song La Oruga Muy Hambrienta to the Tune of Ten Little Indians! Very cute! I used the same props as last week as we sang the song.

In the lower and upper elementary classes we began to play the game Guess Where?. I wrote about the game here. Here is a link to the rooms of the house in this game and the questions the children asked. Guess Where Game

I usually try to keep the same vocabulary for Primary as I do for Elementary but I just have not found a book or a song to teach the rooms of the house and the family members. If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it!

In lower elementary I started this week by placing two family members in the rooms and then going around the room having each child ask me one question. Once they found those two family members, I picked two others. Once I feel they get it, then I will place them with a partner to actually play the game against one another. First graders are the ones the ones that need a lot of help.

In the upper elementary classroom they started to play against each other but I did narrow down the game from 8 family members to four because we only meet for 30 minutes. It takes time for them to setup the game and then find all family members. Four family members guarantees they will finish at least one game.

I was out sick one day last week so we will be playing this game both days next week. The kids are really having a great time and once again it surprises me that the boys that never want to participate love this game! So, so far, the girls love everything and the boys love games but some boys not songs so much!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Activites at Home

On the other shelf in the dinning room I have a few more activities for the kids.

On the top shelf I just added these drawers so the kids can keep the work they create. I never had a good place to put all of the crafts they created (all of the paper). Next to that is a file holder that has a coloring book, stickers, and some envelopes. Putting one coloring book out has really worked out well. It is actually getting used!

On the second shelf is the PLAY-DOH work that I always have out just changed it up a bit. The kids can add beads to their hearts and I changed the roller pin. I found this roller pin at target in their $ section.
On the bottom shelf I have the paints that I always have out. Next to this shelf (not in the picture) I have the aprons they wear for painting and next to that is a little table that holds place mats, white paper and construction paper. The kids will tape the paper to their easel for painting or paint at the table.

This picture is from this summer but I wanted to show you the small art table next to the white shelf. I currently have it setup with two chairs but it is really just for one person because it is so small. It contains two cup holders. One cup holder has crayons and the other cup holder I use for water when the kids paint at the table. I purchased the table at Target over a year ago and do not really like it but I am having a hard time finding an affordable wood table that is at least 21" tall and sits two comfortably.... It needs to be tall for my 5 year old. I would appreciate any suggestions!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I love Valentines and I love Target $1 section!!!
Here is our fun activities at home for February. I put them out last week and they have been used A LOT!!

On the top shelf there is color pencils, markers, scissors, tape, glue and ruler. The tape is something new I added. The kids love to make signs and tape them around the house and they also make things and use tape more than glue. On the top shelf there is also a castle puzzle from Wendy's. My son decided to put it there because he said it was a "work"!

On the second shelf there is a white basket with a snowman sticker work that has been out since January. Next to that is this work pictured below.

This is a Valentines card making tray. The kids are making Valentines cards for their friends. They have already made and given their Grandma her Valentines card! They love this activity. They are also making envelopes for the cards they make!

On the 3rd shelf is this work that my 3 year old LOVES. I made columns and rows on an 81/2 by 11 piece of paper and then cut the rows out to make these slips of paper. She then puts one stamp in each square. I got this idea from her cutting work at school. At her Montessori school the students put stickers in the squares and then cut the rows and columns. We just stamp!

This is still out from January because the kids are still using it to make snowmen.

On the last shelf is this spooning work. Both of my kids love this one.

I will write tomorrow about the other shelf of activities.
Happy Valentines!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Last Week in Spanish


In the primary classrooms I told the story "La Oruga Muy Hambrienta" - "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". I printed the items to tell the story from this DLTK site.

Lower and Upper Elementary
In the Lower and Upper Elementary the students filled out the following worksheet with the rooms of the house.

Here is the worksheet labeled. I received this worksheet at my summer training. I do not have an electronic copy.

I presented each room and the children write the room name in Spanish on the Worksheet. They then glued the worksheet to their Spanish spiral notebooks. (We started using spirals last week). In the Upper Elementary we had enough time for the students to put a family member in each room and get with a partner to see who could find the most family members. They asked in Spanish "Is the mom in the bedroom?" "Is the dad in the kitchen?" etc...