Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Observation and Record Keeping

(Jessica with observation clipboard, after helping the child will write down what the child had difficulty with.)

I am very pleased so far this year with the observation format and record keeping that Jessica and I have been using. Part of it was passed along at the AMI Refresher Course last year by Molly O'Shaughnessy and modified somewhat for our classroom. I have needed quite a bit of help in the organizational department to keep a solid record of daily/weekly observations and after many years in the classroom, feel more confident than I ever have with our record keeping system.

My trainer Ginni said different things work for different people, and then described in a little detail her method of using index cards and recipe boxes to keep track of what was happening in her room. I've tried different approaches during the year, but feel most comfortable with what we're using now.

For daily observations, we have form that we put on a clip board that we keep with us in the classroom during the day. On it I write the works I see used with deep concentration, general works chosen, issues, moments of distraction, lessons given and possible lessons for the future. This is what it looks like.

Once a week or so, we also chart the work flow of the group during the 3 hours of uninterrupted work. This gives us a general idea of how the days are developing, and at what time we should be ready to give small or whole group lessons. The work flow chart is can also be found in the book The Absorbent Mind.

On the clipboard also goes a sheet of possible individual and group lessons, taken from a master work plan that I keep in a bound book. I refresh this sheet about every two weeks adding to it as the weeks progress. I use it as a reminder of what possible lessons to give children who are free or need help making choices during the day. (this is what it looks like: weekly lessons form) At the end of the week, I track the lessons given to each child in the book, and this serves as my master individual work record.

At the end of the week, I meet with Jessica and go over our observations sheets of that week. I used to file these observation sheets, but more recently I admitted to myself that I NEVER refer to them again and that I needed a more structured weekly summary to help me with lesson planning and general history of the work going on. So I made up a weekly summary sheet where we are filling in the most useful bits of information filed in a binder that I feel will be useful also for future reference. This is what it looks like.

In the end, what I keep as permanent record are the master individual and group lessons book, the weekly summaries, and the work flow charts. It sounds like a lot of bureaucracy but in the end, I do feel like I have a grip on what's happened, and a useful tool for preparing for the future.

I'd love one day to find and learn to use a digital record keeping device that could magically spit out a paper that details the work each child has done that week, and the lessons they've received and mastered with exact dates, and even suggest the lessons for the next weeks but until that magical Montessori app is developed and made free (heck, I'd even pay for it!) I will settle on my old fashioned whole bunch of semi organized papers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jamming- Child made holiday gifts for parents

This year, we made placemats and orange jam for holiday gifts from the children to the parents. It took several days to make them, but they were well worth the effort.

For the placemat, the children drew a picture of their family and colored it on one side, and on the other side, the children's handprints in paint. Then I ran the cardstock through the cold laminator and rounded the edges with scissors.

The orange jam is marmalade, technically. We had orange grating available as a work in the classroom for several days and I showed it to four and five year olds.

Then eventually we peeled the grated oranges as a group, sectioned them, and removed seeds.

And then the cooking part was made with mostly teacher assistance. Children could do all the measuring though.

We collected jars for putting the jam in and the children decorated their own labels.

I super recommend this easy and yummy gift for the holidays. In the future, I think we'll give a small loaf of child made bread to go with the jam.

Recipe (tripled for 22 jars):

2lb Oranges/Rind
4lb Sugar

2 pints water/collected orange juice
2 lemons

Wash the oranges thoroughly.

Grate the peel off of as many as you can.

Peel off the remaining white parts, remove seeds, section by hand (keep all the juice).

Squeeze two lemons worth of juice.

In a very large pot, cook the oranges, juice, and water for about 40 minutes- rolling boil (we cooked it for about 1 hour because it was 3x the recipe).

Add the sugar and boil again for about 30 minutes. (If you don't trust the setting or the jam, add a few boxes of gelatin- I did.).

Let it stand for about 15 minutes and the ladle into very clean jars.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Butterflies and Moths

(Caterpillar observation station, plus coloring moth life cycle)

You have to be flexible like that and work with what comes. We had planned to focus for some weeks on conservation and had a trip to the recycling facility scheduled, and a beach cleanup, but in the middle of it, one of the children brought two ENORMOUS moth caterpillars and that was that... the children were consumed with interest in the moth life cycle. It was prime time to study insects.

We have collected a few more butterfly caterpillars and begun a "unit" on butterflies and moths. This is how it's developing:

*Identification of local butterflies and moths (with classification cards)
*Identification of caterpillars (classification cards)
*Identification of pupae (classification cards)
*Matching of caterpillars and host plants (with live samples of the leaves when we can find them)

*Life cycle of the moth/butterfly (true story and in our observation station with live caterpillars)
*Parts of a butterfly/moth (with a labeled chart and coloring booklets)
*Differences and similarities between moths and butterflies (comparing two pictures)
*Sorting butterflies vs. moths (with mixed classification cards)

*Planting a simple butterfly garden at school (I've been collecting seeds of local butterfly host plants, and small flowering plants for nectar)

*Field trip: visit to the Butterfly Farm

We are lucky enough to have a lovely Butterfly Farm on our small rock in the middle of the ocean to bring to life all of the identification preparation we will be doing in the next days. And because two years ago we visited the butterfly farm, our third year children are ready for new classification cards (hence the pupae and caterpillar cards). I am as excited to learn about these insects, plant our butterfly garden, and visit the farm as any of the children are!

For You:
If you'd like to print our butterfly/pupa/caterpillar cards you are welcome to! Find them HERE. They are related specifically to the species we encounter locally, and the ones we will see at the Butterfly Farm.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From The Happiness Project

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
There are three happiness killers - doing work you do not love and are not passionate about, surrounding yourself with people who you do not really like (someone who just fills time), and living somewhere that does not let you be you. Just stop it. Life is far too short. Also, materialism. We know that experiences matter so much more to happiness than material goods, stop the madness. That's why your place, community or neighborhood is so important - it is not just where you live. It is the center-piece or should I say center-place of your experiences.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Yes, each day, every day. Someone once asked me, "What is my perfect day?" Every day I try to have one.

(I copied this off of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog a while ago and found it in my notes. Unfortunately I didn't copy who was asking and who was answering the questions. In any case, the words plain work for me.)

Parent Conferences

At our school we have parent conferences three times a year. It is not obligatory for all parents to sign up, so we send out a sign up schedule for observation times in the morning, and conference times right after school and parents pick whether or not to come for one or both. Usually I have about 75% of parents sign up for conferences, and 50% sign up for observations. If I have any child that is really struggling with something, I usually make sure that parent finds a time for conference.

As much as conferences represent extra effort and time in my part both during school hours and after work, they are well worth it in terms of the impact they have on the smooth running of the school. A thirty minute session (or more if necessary) to address any concerns, to give suggestions for the home, to ask for suggestions for school, and to highlight the child's strengths works wonders on both the parent/school relationship and ultimately influences the child in the classroom. The way I see it, conferences are an investment that can make my work in the classroom a lot easier (by helping the parent work WITH me).

The way that I structure conferences in general is the following:

1) Invite the parents to talk about their impressions of their observation. Clear up any questions or concerns. I usually offer a clip board with written observation guidelines and suggestions that really helps direct the parents attention while they observe. This keeps their hands off of their cel phones (believe it or not), and usually helps translate what they are seeing.

2) Ask parents if there is any subject in particular, or aspect that they'd like to focus on during the conference. Address it if they have one.

3) Go over the conference notes. These are usually a two page written "report" that highlights the child's development as follows:

  • General development comments (this is where I talk about sensitive periods, transition times in development, etc.)
  • Motor development (both gross and fine)
  • Practical life (including bathroom, nutrition, clothing issues)
  • Sensory development
  • Language development (spoken, reading, writing)
  • Math work
  • Social Development
  • Independence

As I go over each topic, I try to suggest ways in which they can parallel what we do at school in the home. If the child is having difficulty in any area, I ask a lot of questions about if they see the same thing at home and if so what their response is to it.

My goal is to make the conference feel as much as possible like a conversation instead of it feeling like an evaluation in any way. I like to notice the all the areas of progress that I see, especially if there has been prior difficulties with the child. I like to think that when parents leave the conference, they feel proud and inspired about their child (at best) and that they have new ideas to work with at home (at the least).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the end.

I read this on a shirt somewhere:

Everything works out in the end
. If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end.

Monday, October 25, 2010


"Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. Forgive everyone for everything."

It has been an introspective time, and the quote above sums it well for me. Pondering roads not taken is like comparing my life to other people's- who knows what the troubles would have been then? I am working on forgiving myself for everything I chose, and didn't choose. There is a difficult acceptance that when we choose one thing, we are not choosing another (sometimes I mourn the loss of a road not taken). I run into the inescapable fact that choices come loaded with consequences (there is a price). I'd like to meet my life deciding in full awareness and with full acceptance of what I have chosen.

Appropriately timed, in the last Conscious Discipline session we touched on the subject of choices- it was my favorite session to date. Choice being the realization that we are responsible for our own situation. Or at the very least, for our reactions to our own situation. Like Dr. Viktor Frankl puts it:
‎"The last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
As regards to working with children, I have to remember that choice is an internal power. The only person that I can change is myself. The choice I have is to decide how I will respond to the moments of the day. (I have been asking myself at different moments of the day, "What is the quality of this moment?" and touching base on my feelings and interpretations.)

I can create the conditions for a child to learn and thrive, but I cannot do the learning for the child. He must ultimately make the choices. Creating the conditions means preparing the environment for children to make the choices that we'd like to see them making: through materials we offer, the structure in the environment, encouragement, and modeling.

These thoughts are a comfort when I am confronted with a child who has made a not so good choice. I am not responsible for his choices, but I can help him realize the consequences (the price) and responsibility that his choice carried. I can also find a way to adapt the environment to his needs to help him make a better choice in the future.

Making choices takes effort and carries a great responsibility- it is easy sometimes to lose sight of our own power and just let life happen at us. But I think about the children in the classroom, and how sometimes the four year olds get lost and all of a sudden lose the power to decide and come to me for help, "Help me choose a work".

During the CD session, I celebrated our Montessori environment privately among the group of teachers and felt so fortunate that in our environment choice is built in naturally. Children generate will power and self worth every day when they come in and take the responsibility for their own education. I think of Montessori's idea of internal obedience, it is the ultimate product of conscious choice making.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A perfect film

"A few times in my life I've had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be."

A Simple Man

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peace Week and Independent Conflict Resolution

This past Tuesday we celebrated International Peace Day. We marked it on our calendar in advance, and when the day came, we had a large group lesson on peace. I made a small book with about the meaning of peace to read to the children and to talk about. The pictures and words were to make a very abstract concept, such as peace, more tangible and relative to the children and to school life.

Here is what I wrote in the book:

Peace is solving problems with words.
Peace is taking care of everyone in our community.
Peace is playing together and helping each other in the game.
Peace is wishing well for others.
Peace is letting others have a turn.
Peace is helping others understand.
Peace is waiting your turn.
When we are peaceful, we feel safe and happy.

I illustrated each sentence with a photo from the internet, but ultimately the best thing would be to have pictures of the children themselves illustrating these concepts. We left the book all week in our book corner for the children to look at and read.

This week we also reintroduced the peace flower back into our classroom. This year is more challenging with the peace flower routine because we have a lot of non-English speakers. Because of this as well, we have been practicing a lot more using the peace flower in large group lessons.

Our peace flower is a plastic flower that sits on our tiny "peace shelf". The way I introduce it to the children is during a large group lesson I tell them that it is a material for helping them solve their problems with words. Then I show how to use it by inviting one of the children to stand with me (I pick an old friend who knows what they are supposed to say) and say:

Me: "Henry, I don't like it when you rip my paper."
Henry: "What can I do to make you feel better?"
Me: "Help me fix it and don't do it again."
Henry: "Ok." (carries out the solution)

This is for simple conflicts. But as the weeks progress, we give lessons on how to solve more difficult problems like when two people have done things to each other that they don't like.

At the beginning, the peace flower use requires some adult supervision (especially for the new and younger children) but in time, the children use it independently. I have had some families tell me that their child has asked to have a peace flower at home as well to solve problems with their siblings (or parents).

Of course, there are myriads of complexities when it comes to children's problems and this is just a very simplified template for dealing with all of it. But it is one of the tools we choose to give to the children in our room to help with the day to day difficulties.

Our use of the peace flower use tied in perfectly to our Conscious Discipline session, which was about Assertiveness. Here's the low down about conflict resolution that they gave us:


  1. Go to victim first
  2. Validate their feelings (You look very angry about that, you look like you are feeling very sad...)
  3. Ask the child if they liked what the other person did.
  4. Go with them to the other child. And have them say "I don't like it when you..."
  5. Help them find a solution: "At school you may not ... because it is not safe (or whatever the reason)... If you want to ... what could you do next time?

The bottom line is that, whether we use a prop or not, our job is not to be the judges or detectives of what happened, but to help children solve their problems in a peaceful manner.

Aside from practicing conflict resolution as part of grace and courtesy in the classroom, teaching children how to use an assertive voice when something happens that they don't like, as well as making pictures of the rules of the classroom and explaining them clearly can help as well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Softness and Safety

"Softness triumphs over harness" Lao Tzu

It rained a lot this morning, which is unusual here and which brings back a lot of memories of home in Costa Rica where it really RAINS (not our meager 5 minute sorry sprinklings) for about half of the year. While I was driving, I was remembering when I was little. I grew up in the rural mountains of San Jose and sometimes when it rained I would impermeate myself: putting on my very synthetic material sweat pants and sweater (so synthetic that they were virtually waterproof), my black rubber boots (they didn't make the nice patterned colorful ones that we have now back then), socks on my hands, and a small purple umbrella. And I would go and slosh around the puddles under the clusia trees.

For some reason, remembering this triggered a feeling memory. An emotion memory. I remember what it felt like to be home in the afternoons after school, on raily ones in my "waterproof" gear, on worn corduroy couch, watching TV, or playing with my brother and sister. The feeling of safetly and softness.

I thought about those two feelings and how perhaps they sum up what children WANT to be feeling at all times. Safe and soft. And that perhaps, especially during these first weeks of orientation at school, especially for new and very young children, those two feelings are very important. To trust me and to trust the environment they have to feel safe. And I can help them do that through many ways (routines, patterns, rules, consistency, etc.- hard ways), but also I can help them develop that feeling that by exuding a softness that means "everything is ok."

I will try, even when the little chaos is erupting, to be firm and clear, but also make sure that I make that softness accessible to them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Silence as a Celebration

See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.... We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~Mother Teresa

During the recent ceremony for the passing of a dear friend, a group of us sat together to observe a moment of silence. It was a very powerful and bonding experience. The silence brought us closer together and through it, we acknowledged the loss more eloquently than with anything that could have been spoken.

Making silence together as adults is usually reserved for special moments, and unfortunately in my life, it has been mostly reserved for times of grief. Silence has become a consciously important part of my life this year, and as a meditation practitioner, silence in my mind as well as from my mouth has become a haven that I turn to at the end of most days. In this way I've found there is a very joyful side to silence.

I've been thinking recently about the importance of regular practice of the silence game in the environment and how, if done consistently, it can also be a very bonding experience for the group. (The best example of the silence lesson I have ever seen was at the Colegio Montessori San Juan in Puerto Rico, where the master teacher Rosemarie raised her small chalkboard that read "Silence" and there was immediate and absolute stillness in the room. It was textbook "The Secret of Childhood." Lots of tears from me when I experienced it sitting in my little observer's stool. It scarred me with an image of what quality Montessori can look like. )

Today it occurred to me that as much as I like to share moments of silence with the children, I could share it with the adults of the school as well. Our celebrations at school (birthdays, special events) tend to be quite boisterous with lots of song and rowdiness (it doesn't get more boisterous than the end of "Happy Birthday" in Dutch where everyone stands up and shouts HOORAY!!!! three times.) How about introducing silence also as a way to celebrate? Along with adults as well... As an experiment, I will try a modified version of the silence game with the adults at our first parent evening next week. I am curious about how it will feel.

Monday, September 6, 2010



During the first week of this school year, as a way of introducing the new children to the returning children, we once again had a "Helping Hands" ceremony.

To further kindle a feeling of togetherness among the group, we invited all the children to bring to school a photograph of their family. We sat together at the end of the day and each child introduced their picture and said, at the very least, the names of the people in their family. I took the opportunity also to share about what I feel that family means. We bound the portraits together in a small book and made it available to the children to look at in our book corner. This helped the children get better acquainted with one another, it helped bridge the school and home, and also served as a great language prompt in the book corner.

Later in the week, I invited the older children to take the "Family Book" to a table as a work and make a portrait of their family on large white paper with color pencils.

Last week, we once again discussed the meaning of family and I mentioned that our community at school is like a family. After the discussion, each child took a turn taping small photographs of themselves into the heart we posted at the entrance of the school to symbolize our school family. At the end of the exercise, we noticed that we have a large school family, and that we are fortunate to have one another for friendship and assistance.



Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kinesthetic Intelligence

"control of one's bodily motions and capacity to handle objects skillfully"

"a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses so they become like reflexes"

"the abilities to watch, observe keenly, imitate, and re-create"

"working skillfully with objects, both those that involve the fine motor movements of one's fingers and hands and those that exploit gross motor movements of the body"

from Howard Gardener "Multiple Intelligences"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grace and Courtesy at the Beginning

(With week 1 under the belt and feeling like the anxiety has turned into enthusiasm.)

It was a good thing that I've saved the lesson plans for first days of school of the last couple of years. These help me to compare and plan and remember about first weeks and what I'm supposed to be focusing on, which is (in my case), mainly practical life and grace and courtesy.

Since we have so many newcomers this year (11 new children and most of them just 3 years old), at this point it's all about laying the foundation for future work.

Someone out there asked me for it, so here is the general grace and courtesy list that I'm using (and of course modifying according to the need I see in the classroom):

  • How to enter the classroom
  • How to wash hands at the sink
  • How to have snack
  • How to use the bathroom
  • How to work on a table
  • How to work on a rug
  • How to observe someone working at a table
  • How to observe someone working at a rug
  • How to come to group lessons
  • How to sit for group lessons
  • How to stand in line to wash hands, wash dishes, use the bathroom
  • How to walk around a rug
  • How to get the teacher's attention (hand on the shoulder)

This is most of what we worked on last week. I enlist the help of the returning children when giving these lessons #1 to remind them of the lessons #2 acknowledging a bit of seniority to the older children (I put a word in about the responsibility of being role models for the new children)

Now our second week is coming up, so after observing the results of these lessons I refine these basic grace and courtesies and add what we saw problems with. So this week, for example, I'll be showing how to get up and sit down gracefully from the floor, how to tuck in your chair soundlessly, and try to fix the glitches like "how to turn the bathroom sign back to "GO" after you use the bathroom."

And from here on it's all refinement and continuing to strengthen the foundation all while trying to keep things fun... adding movement games here and there certainly helps me keep the youngest ones with me.

Every day I'm adding a few more materials onto the shelves now that I see that the new children are understanding the rule of not taking something they don't have a lesson with. I pick carefully what to add each day because it is like resurrecting a material... things like the shoe lace frame which in my classroom was gathering dust for weeks at the end of the year is being used with love when there are no other dressing frames available. (Insert evil laughter here)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Practical Beginning Stuff

(tasting lesson with some of the new children- food is a great indirect motivator for learning how to join and leave a small group lesson)

I inevitably get anxious at the beginning of new school years. I struggle with the uncertainty and feel a bit like a rusty teacher after the long vacation. The comfortable (if I am not romanticizing it) atmosphere that we ended our school year with undergoes a makeover- the new group of oldest children and the new children change the society every year.

To prepare, there are "rituals" that help me feel more ready for the change: Writing a letter to both new and returning children about how I am excited sharing the coming year with them, visiting the new children in their home, reading the chapter in my album about the first days in the classroom, and of course, setting up the environment.

At our school, only the new children come for the first 2 days of school. This gives me the opportunity to focus on them exclusively and make sure they get all of the introductory grace and courtesy lessons. I strip the classroom of materials and leave out plenty of transitional materials and just a few of the very basic and indestructible Montessori materials.

In those two days we try to prepare the new children enough to be able to function somewhat independently. We shorten the work period considerably and give lots of group lessons. On the second day of only new children, we focus on grace and courtesy such as not taking a material if you haven't had a lesson with it (in preparation for lots of other materials that "appear" on the shelf the following day, when the returning children arrive.)

Everything shifts once again with the return of the "old" children. A really nice thing is that since the old ones are used to a 3 hour work period, and are eager to be back at school, they really INJECT a surge of work force in the environment. I could feel this yesterday (it's our 4th day today) how the new children were able to work a little longer, and a little more carefully because of, I guess, the "energy" in the room.

Tomorrow will be the end of our first week of school. And by next week I will add a considerable amount of materials on the shelves for the "old" children to get back in gear from where they left off last school year.

It is great being in an environment that is so dynamic and changing, and to work in a field where things are in constant flux. Just when you think you've got the formula right, something or someone comes along and you have to modify it again. Observation, observation, observation. Flexibility. Enthusiasm. Love.


Some excerpts from Pema Chodron's book "When things fall apart" which has been uncannily appropriate literature for beginning this new school year:

"The main point is that we all need to be reminded and encouraged to relax with whatever arises and bring whatever we encounter to the path."

"Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news." (This may be out of context but it makes me smile a lot to associate it to classroom life.)

"Sticking with uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic- this is the spiritual path."

"Just be with your experience, whatever it is."

"This is the liberation that naturally arises when we are completely here, without anxiety about imperfection."

"Beyond all that fuss and bother is a big sky."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shelves Setup

This summer, because I decided to stay on the Island, I got a chance to do something I had been wanting to do for a couple of years now: a deep review of each area with it's corresponding theory and purposes.

I set EVERYTHING out on the shelves to make sure there is still a space for everything. In our classroom, I don't think we've ever had ALL the materials out at once so it was a good opportunity to take a picture of the complete classroom so that I can remember later on in the year where I had planned on putting everything.

I thought this might be useful for someone so I'm posting the pictures of my work in progress. Mind you, cultural objects are missing as well as all of our plants which are outside under intensive care from my week off at sailing school. The shelves are not in their "final form" but it was a good moment to take the pictures.

Like my trainer taught us, materials are arranged on the shelf in order from simple to complex, and grouped sometimes by purpose or by activity. Not everything is exactly where I will put it eventually, but in general the shelves are organized as they will be.

Practical Life 1: This is one side of my main practical life island.

From top left: objects for waking on the line, and then some random stuff that I didn't put away before taking the picture.

Second tier: opening and closing containers, opening and closing matroshka dolls, opening and closing locks and keys, opening and closing nuts and bolts, stringing large beads, stringing medium beads, stringing seed beads, spooning with a spoon.

Third tier: transferring seeds with tongs, transferring water with a sponge, transferring water with a dropper, dry pouring, pouring a glass of water (with various pitchers behind it that I have to store together).

Fourth tier: wood works. Opening and closing wing nuts, using an Allen key, using a flathead screw driver, using a Phillips screw driver, (sanding: missing), (hammering: missing).

Practical Life 2: "wet" works on the other side of the island.

Top of the shelf from left to right: Folding cloths, folding socks, folding clothes, folding laundry cloths. (all of these available for washing, hanging up to dry, and ironing.)

Tier 1: dusting a table, dusting a material, brushing a rug, washing windows, washing an underlay, washing the paint easel.

Tier 2: table washing, washing the floor, washing dishes, drying dishes.

Practical Life 3: mostly plants and polishing works.

Top of shelf from left to right: wood objects to polish, watering plants.

Tier 1: dusting a plant, cleaning a plant, misting a plant, flower arranging.

Tier 2: polishing a mirror, polishing a table.

Tier 3: polishing brass, brushing shoes, polishing shoes.

Not pictured because they're not on a shelf: handwashing stand, dressing frames stand.

Sensorial 1: early sensorial works.

Top of shelf : Cylinder blocks and markers.

Tier 1: Brown Stair, Pink Tower. (I'm trying to find a setup where my pink tower can be vertical, but haven't been successful yet).

Tier 2: Red rods.

Sensorial 2: sense of touch.

Top of shelf: geometric solids, bases, geometry cabinet cards, geometry cabinet, and on it are the blindfolds.

Tier 1: touch board 1, touch board 2, sorting 1, sorting 2, baric tablets.

Tier 2: Fabrics box, thermic bottles, thermic tablets, touch tablets, pressure cylinders.

Sensorial 3: visual sense, and other senses that fit on the shelf. :)

Top of shelf: puzzles of animals, animal labels and cards, botany puzzles, botany cards and labels.

Tier 1: color box 1, color box 2, color box 3, smelling jars, sound cylinders.

Tier 2: knobless cylinders, tasting bottles.

Tier 3: constructive triangles.

And that's it for sensorial. I have a geography setup that's apart (we made a new shelf this summer for it). And a science shelf for botany that's apart as well.

Language 1: pre reading and beginning of writing.

Top of shelf: sandpaper letters, phonograms.

Tier 1: sand tray, small chalkboard, brush and water, sounds bingo.

Tier 2: classified objects (I use them for the sound game), classification picture cards, sounds box (matching sounds to objects), sounds cards(matching sounds to cards).

Tier 3: word tray (phonetic objects and letters cut out to make the words), moveable alphabet objects, moveable alphabet cards, moveable alphabet.

Language 2: reading.

Top of shelf: phonetic objects box, pink reading cards, blue reading cards, phonetic sentence and picture cards (matching), phonetic books.

Tier 1: phonogram bingo, phonogram box, phonogram booklets, phonogram cards, phonogram sentences and picture cards (matching), books with phonograms.

Tier 2: alternate spellings booklets, most common reading words lists, labels for the environment and sensorial area, puzzle words.

Tier 3: (missing on the trays) reading classification cards, definition booklets, definition in stages, word study. (I am making a lot of these materials, so all of it is in a jumble in my office.)

Language 3: writing, grammar and sentence analysis.

Top of shelf: writing materials.

Tier 1: farm setup, noun, article, adjective, logical adjective.

Tier 2: preposition, conjunction, verb labels, verb with object, double commands, adverb, logical adverb, grammar symbols box, grammar pencils box.

Tier 3: This is where sentence analysis goes. (I don't have trays that I like for this work yet.), message game, project box.

A lot of my material making this summer is in the language area- the work never ends.

Math 1: numbers 1-10, and fractions.

Top of shelf: small number rods, cards, sandpaper numbers, wooden numbers 1-10 puzzle 1, and numbers 1-10 puzzle 2.

Tier 1: spindles box, animals/dots and number cards game, cards and counters, memory game of numbers.

Tier 2 and 3: Fractions, fractions labels, fractions equations.

Math 2: Continuation of Counting and Decimal System

Top of shelf: bead stair, teen beads, teens beads hanger, tens beads, square chains bingo.

Tier 1: 100 board, dot game, stamp game.

Tier 2: introduction to the decimal system, large number cards, tray of 9, small number cards.

Tier 3: thousands, hundreds, tens, units, trays.

And right next to that shelf we have a small wall shelf with the teens boards and tens boards.

And on the other side of that we have the square chains and then the bead cabinet. (That Yair built.)

Math 3: Memorization work.

Tier 1: addition snake game, addition strips boards, flash cards.

Tier 2: addition charts.

Tier 3: subtraction snake game, subtraction strips boards.

Tier 4: subtraction charts.

Math 4: memorization work and passage to abstraction.

Top of shelf: multiplication bead bars, multiplication bead board, and the two bead frames. (I wish I had a different space to put these but math is so HUGE.)

Tier 1: multiplication charts.

Tier 2: division bead board, division chart.

Tier 3: division chart.

There are a few other shelves for other things in the classroom and I might post those some other day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

summer voyage

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

Marcel Proust

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shyly venturing into online learning...

Since I decided to spend the rest of the summer here, on the rock in the middle of the ocean, a few weeks ago I enrolled in an online course with the Center For Guided Montessori Studies.

I've never before taken an online course, and had been very skeptical about them in general. However, since my assistant at school completed the NAMC online Primary Training, I've found that a guided online study can complement work done in the environment. Obviously, there is nothing like attending a course in flesh and blood, especially an AMI course, but when you are "geographically disabled", to put it in discreet terms, the online world can certainly have its benefits. It is nice to have the foundation of AMI training, and be able to supplement areas such as Art and Science through other means. I'd really love to create a coherent Art and Science album for my personal use.

I'd been getting a steady flow of messages from Tim Seldin from the CGMS (online groups sure have a thing for long acronyms) and had for the most part skimmed them with not a lot of interest. As summer approached, one of the courses mentioned caught my eye: "Adventure in the Arts". It is offered as part of their "Professional Development" series.

The course is 6 weeks long, 4 weeks for art and 2 for music. The art part is meant to supplement the art curriculum in the classroom through 4 components:
  1. Color Theory
  2. Studio Art
  3. Art Appreciation
  4. Projects
Getting any guideance at all in the art area was the deciding factor for me when enrolling in this course. I enjoy art personally outside of the classroom, but have had trouble keeping our art shelf cohesive and fresh. I do a lot of extensions with art in the other areas- Sensorial and Language in particular, but felt strongly like I could use more practical knowledge and suggestion of materials and techniques to offer.

I'm 2 weeks into the course and it has been thorough, organized, and clear so far. I put in about an hour a day online (5 days a week) for it plus time making materials. The lessons are presented sequentially, in short videos accessed online. Each lesson begins with an introduction to the material, it's purpose, and when and to who to present it to. After the introduction, there is another short video of the presentation being given to a child.

What I've been gaining so far, is a sequential understanding of art theory and studio techniques broken down and made accessible for children of different ages. I'm feeling confident in what I'm learning and am sure that it will translate nicely into my classroom next year.

A cool technological experience was our first online meeting yesterday- with course students from all over the world coming together in a chat room to discuss relevant topics.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

You are nothing. You are everything.

“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality.
When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”


Time to listen.

Another thing I love about the summer is that I have AMPLE time to listen to podcasts. I listen while I walk my dogs, in my car, sometimes while I cook, and sometimes while I eat what I cooked. However, I'm not constantly with the earphones on ignoring the world while I'm cradled in good radio bliss. I promise, I value human contact!

Although I'm probably the only person I know who doesn't own an ipod, and wouldn't know how to use one anyway, I have a regular mp3 player. I have to say itunes does come in handy for quick and easy downloading of each week's new episodes. I've subscribed to them via itunes and each week they get automatically updated into a folder on my desktop where I simply copy/paste into my mp3 player. Oh the smug feeling of mastering some technology.

Instead of guarding my precious list of favorite podcasts like a wide eyed Golum, I'll share my list with you:

Non Fiction:

This American Life- True stories revolved around a topic. Danger, you will be late for things if you subscribe to this.

The Moth- live stories told onstage with no notes. I cry and laugh and look insane to others as I wait in line at the bank listening.

Great Speeches in History- often the live recording of the speech. I love to hear the scratchy recordings of significant people in history riling up others with words.

To the Best of Our Knowledge- pieces, both fiction and non, about a specific topic. Just the opening theme of this show makes me giddy with excitement.

Ted Talks- audio version of a TED conference. Probably the most thought provoking, best quality media time possible that I've found.

Radiolab- from WNYC. Pieces on a question in science. I suggested this to a friend of mine and now she wants to major in college in something that will lead her right into the Radiolab studio. It's great science radio.

BBC World Book Club: I don't know what it is about the host of this show, but I would really like to be her, just for one day. She seems like the smartest woman on radio.

60 Minutes: Good old fashioned news reporting just so that a person like me who doesn't regularly read the news can me somewhat informed of things that are happening in the world.


Selected Shorts: 2 or 3 excellent stories read by professionals, sometimes it's classics of short story and other times very avant garde pieces.

New Yorker Fiction-I don't think this needs an introduction.

About meditation and mindfulness:

Zen Cast: Never fails to inspire me to be a better human.

Audio Dharma: Much like the above, so I get a double dose of dharma talks weekly.

If you have any podcasts that you love and want to share- please DO! I can't get enough.