Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sound Cards

I made a set of sound cards last weekend to help children in the first stage of the "Sound Game". We try to play the sound game every day, but I'd like to have a work with which they can explore beginning sounds independently. I grouped contrasting sounds together and separated them into 4 baskets: "s,a,m,r,o,t"- "c,i,b,n,e,g"-"l,u,d,f,h,y"-"g,j,k,p,q,v,z,w". (A child would have to be familiar with the sandpaper letters of each group before they could do this work). I haven't made a control chart for them yet, but am planing on doing so. In the meantime, they can ask a friend to check their work.

To work with them, a child places the letter tags at the top of the rug or table, mixes the cards, and then matches the initial sound of the word with the letter it belongs.

They are available for you to download here: sound cards.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kite Flying.

By osmosis (I didn't realize it was kite season in Aruba) I planned a kite making project for the children a few weeks ago. Unburdened by any expertise, and completely open and humble to the possibility of the project failing, I read and re-read the instructions in my kite book (optimistically named) "25 Kites that Fly." The instructions in the book are not really that great- the author's ability to make kites that fly is not in question, but his capacity to explain in simple terms how to get there is (a little bit).

The project ended up involving MOSTLY adult assistance- kite making is pretty difficult and we don't have any nimble 6 year olds in our group yet who could manage the tying(the 4 year olds are getting there though!). The children ended up doing a lot of observing as the kites were being formed. Later on children decided colors and cut/pasted decorations on their kites. They sure were excited when the kites were done.

And after having the kites on display this week to talk about their parts and function, today we took a trip to the nearby local soccer field and tried out the kites.

I'd say that more than the success of the kites themselves (which was arguable), the children's enthusiasm for the process and the fun they had out in the field today made it feel worth it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dave Eggers on TED.

This is not a new TED video (2008) but I stumbled on it by chance and was moved by it. It is author Dave Eggers making some kind of Prize Speech on TED. I loved Dave Eggers' memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" because of how honest, straightforward and funny it was. His non-literary self is just as much so. It is amazing how people with vision can so easily create momentous change when they reach out. The video inspired a sense of urgency in me to find ways to involve more community in our work at school, to share the great work we do with others who are less fortunate.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Color Theory.

These past weeks I've been dabbling with some lessons in science/art about color theory. My original motivation was to try this because I want to do more in depth work with water colors and pastels, and in order to do it, I'd like the children to make their own colors.

I printed out a great image of a color wheel from an art website (here). This site has a great simple explanation of the color wheel. At first we looked at it only from a geometric perspective.

We took out the large hexagon box from the constructive triangles as well, and recreated the shape inside the color wheel.

Then I introduced the language of primary and secondary colors. I did some 3 period lessons with some of the children with the color tablets box II to introduce them to the primary and secondary colors.

I took out the color tablets from color box III that are needed to recreate a color wheel and put them in a basket on the shelf, and put it on the shelf as an extension of the color boxes for a week. We also reinforced the comparative language for "dark" and "light".

Then with a set of small glasses and water, we created a color wheel with food coloring. This was the introduction to color mixing. We noticed that depending on how much of one color you put as a base would determine the shade of the color when you mixed it. It was amazing how much the children were wowed by the changing colors, it is nothing short of magic.

Later that week we made an edible color wheel by mixing food coloring in vanilla pudding. (An indirect tasting lesson on artificial coloring...)

And finally, on our science table, I made a color mixing work available. We put 3 glasses on the table, each full of water in one primary color. With an eye dropper, the children can mix colors in a small ice cube tray. Needless to say, it has been the most popular job of the week.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clock cards.

I should have made these forever ago, but today was the day. This is the first exercise with the clock cards- for telling time to the hour. After presenting the clock to the child, giving a 3 period lesson on the hands of the clock, and noticing the numbers on the face of the clock, I explain how to tell time to the hour. Then I present THESE cards to be worked with just like with other Reading Classification cards. You can print them and draw in the hands with a black felt tip marker and then laminate them on your lovely little Xyron 900 laminating machine.


Last night I was thinking that being an early childhood educator is really a career based on endurance. It takes a long time to learn things. A lot of the techniques that you learn that work at one point may not work next year with the new children, or even mysteriously the next week with the same children. In the midst of the hard times in the classroom to be able to let things go at the end of the day, forgive the mistakes, and not to take things personally, and return the next day refreshed and excited about the work... it's really a marathon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sandpaper Letters Tutorial

We made a family effort to put together a set of sandpaper letters for my lovely niece in Costa Rica. She will be turning 3 very soon and it's high time to start learning the sounds!

The sandpaper letters are the first of the tactile language materials presented to a child in a Montessori 3-6 environment. They are meant to be practiced EVERY DAY with the child until they have mastered them.

The genius in this material lies in the fact that they appeal to the child's senses and they isolate one concept. When presenting each letter to the child, the adult traces and says the sound as the child watches. Then the child traces and says the sound. This means that for each sound the child will use the sense of sight, the tactile sense, and the auditory sense- it is a bombardment of the senses with a single piece of information.

3 letters are presented at a time, and the adult is meant to say the sound the letter makes instead of saying the name of the letter. This will facilitate the emerging reading process later on.

The letters are traced every time they are used to develop the child's muscular memory of formation of letters. When the child is ready to write with a utensil, their hand will remember how to make the letter because they have traced it so many times.

Here is how we made them:

I printed out a lower case alphabet (here) it is size 500 and the font is Primer Print. Primer print was the best font I had available on my computer- the b p q and d are a little short, so I elongated them later on when tracing.

I sandwiched a piece of carbon paper between the backside of a 200 grit piece of burgundy sandpaper (what was available), and the back side of the letter print outs. Then I traced the letters with a pen. The impression was left on the back side of the sandpaper. (The print out paper has to be placed backside up so that the letters will face the correct direction when cut out)

Meanwhile, my dad sawed out 26 little boards, 5 inch x 7 inch (approximately).

Then I glued the letters onto the boards (using spray mount glue).

My brother and I sanded the edges of the boards on the porch while my mom brought out hot tortillas with fresh cheese. Yum!

When they were all done, we found a basket where they fit nicely. And then my mom had a lesson on how to teach them. Best karma in these sandpaper letters ever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

100th Post- Free Montessori Cards!

I'm on vacation visiting family in Costa Rica- still could not resist early morning material making with coffee and birds on my parents beautiful porch. And I remembered the classroom, on an island far far away... where we have had so much work with the puzzle maps in the classroom recently that I decided to make a set of World Landmarks 3 part cards. Click here and you can have them too! It would be really cool to make little flags or write the location of where the landmarks are in the future. I think they'll be great for generating discussions on architecture, design, and geography.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kicking Ball Tutorial-ish. Hear Ye mothers who want to make soccer players out of your babies.

Next week I'm going to Costa Rica to visit my family and my very pregnant beautiful sister. I am making all kinds of goodies to help her outfit the infants' room/areas. Among them, my favorite A to I material, the Kicking Ball.

The Kicking Ball I was shown how to make was originally designed by a material maker in Japan by the last name Takane who, along with his wife runs a Montessori school there.

The Kicking Ball is a really versatile material. It can be hung close to touching the baby's feet at around 3 months of age when the baby is lying down. At this age the ball is meant to encourage kicking motions, controlled leg movement. The feedback that the little bell gives when it is kicked is a pleasant sound that lets the baby know that he did something and there was a result. This is the secret weapon of Brazilian mothers who want to start their children with soccer training early on. We're on to you ladies!

When the baby is a little older and can sit, the ball can be hung in front of the baby. The purpose at this age is for the baby to bat at the ball. From my experience of babies and this toy, let me tell you, they are fascinated by it!

In some months when the baby can sit and is beginning to crawl the ball is great for mouthing and chasing. Because of its shape it won't roll too far away from the baby. So the baby can be holding it, drop it and then will be encouraged to reach/crawl for it.

I think it is a very striking toy with beautiful geometric patterns. It is easy enough to make, but looks very difficult. So you get some praise for it too. Very nice.

So here's how you make the thing:

Trace 6 circles of about 16-18 cms on your fabric and cut them in quarters. (Now if you're me AFTER you made this ball, then you can cut them in halves instead and spare yourself a little extra sewing.) I just a traced a kitchen bowl directly onto the cloth. But you can make it in paper first and then you'll see why.

Next you need the "eye" pieces. The measurement for these is made when you superimpose two of the quarters you cut from the circles (this is why a paper pattern is best first).

Trace and cut 12 "eye" pieces from a high contrast fabric.

Now we can sew...

Do as I say here, NOT as the picture shows. Sew the "eye" pieces first onto the fabric quarters. You want to sew the quarters last, and leave a little slit open so that you can turn them inside out to stuff them.

What I did though, was sew the quarters first and then sew the "eye" pieces on. I left the open slit on the "eye" piece and then had to stitch them closed by hand. The eye pieces are the most visible of the ball, so you'd much rather have the slits for stuffing on the quarter's side instead of on the "eyes".

After sewing the pieces together, turn them inside out.

Then stuff the pieces with some fluffy stuff. My suggestion is to over stuff them. The ball is best when it is really almost bursting at the seams.

Then stitch them shut. Now you have a nice little bundle of 12 triangularish pieces. It is time to figure out how to put the ball together. Good luck to you. In my course, people did all kinds of strange things to get their kicking balls in order. My suggestion is to put 4 pieces together for the top (see below), and then 4 together for the bottom.

Then sew the middle pieces on the top, and finally sew the bottom on. I know this sounds simplistic, but trust me. I don't really know how to sew and I could do this.

Now your ball is finished. It is beautiful!

Sew about a yard of some nice bright ribbon on it (for hanging) and top off the ribbon with about 20 cm of elastic (for a bouncy and happy effect when the baby kicks or bats at it). All you are missing is the nice sounding bell for the bottom. Sew that bell on VERY tightly because when a baby gets this in their mouth they will try to chew it off. Also make sure the little ball in the bell has no way of coming out. In other words- use common sense and be safe.

Ta da! The kicking ball is ready.