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.