Different Styles and Methods

All Montessorians have their own little ways of running the classroom. Some things are not set in stone and are left up to the individual style of the teacher. Methods may be learned in training or from your mentor. Sometimes they’re borrowed ideas from observing other classrooms. What are some of the different areas that a Montessori teacher can shine with their own personality? (aside from the obvious decor) I’m going to examine different areas one at a time, starting with the Snack Area.

The self-serve Snack Area is a truly beautiful part of the Montessori classroom because you see so many fundamentals learned coming together at once. The child must use Practical Life, Math, Social, and Language skills to properly serve themselves. I’ve seen many examples of individual teacher’s snack areas and through my own experimentation have come across many different ideas for a well-loved area of the room.

In my own classroom I generally had two snacks available for the day. One was a self-serve style snack usually for two children at a time. The other was some sort of Food Preparation that involved the child doing all of the work themselves and then serving friends first, then enjoying their own portion.

Self-Serve Snack Areas

A Snack Table at a school I visited during my training. Healthy options are always important!
An entire snack cupboard at a different school I visited. I love the real plates they used and how everything was contained in this cabinet.
This was the snack setup in my classroom. I made a set of the cards seen in the back. All of the cards were color coordinated with the beads from the math area to promote continuity in the classroom and had the appropriate bead pictured. I had a set of 1-10 and multiples of each card for the snack table inside and outside.

The snack area is really an area that is dictated by the individual teacher’s style and the ability of the children in the classroom. I know there are many different ways to set this up, I would LOVE to see pictures of everyone’s tables!

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Sun Celebration

Birthdays are wonderful. Even if you don’t love the number you’re celebrating, it’s very fun to have a day of your own to enjoy. To celebrate this occasion we do a “Sun Celebration” or as my kids call it, a “Birthday Walk”. The Sun Celebration isn’t a Montessori concept, but I see that it does get used in many other Montessori classrooms. I suppose that is because it seems to have more of a representation of what age actually means to a child. In preparation for this article I intended to use more pictures, but it is difficult to do so when there are so many faces around the Line, so you’ll have to manage with the few I have.

Before a child’s birthday I ask the parents to bring in whatever healthy snack is the child’s favorite and one picture for each year of the child’s life. We’ve had a large streak of birthdays this month, celebrating about 6 so far and February isn’t even over! I set up our snack table at 8:30 am each day, and the children know if it’s not out right at 8:30 that must mean there is a Sun Celebration to do for the day! (There isn’t yet one child in my room who can read a clock either, but the daily classroom rhythm is the indicator to them I believe.) On days that we have a Sun Celebration, the children come to sit on the line very excitedly knowing we’re about to celebrate someone’s life.

I ask an older child to retrieve our globe from the Geography shelf as the child sets up the months on the sun. As I pass the months to the child one at a time we recite the months in order as a group. A lit candle is then placed in the center of the wooden sun that lies in the center of the gr0up, and the child holds the globe. I use very specific language when discussing the child – we use the mother’s, father’s, and siblings’ names as we discuss who all was expecting the child on their birthday. I usually start off with “On this day, (date)  (mom’s name, dad’s name) rushed to the hospital (or stayed at home, as I’ve had to say before!) and welcomed a beautiful baby into the world who they named ______!” (When we get to the child’s name, the entire group of children shout the name with joy.) From this point on we discuss one year at a time of the child’s life. Questions are asked for what the child was capable of doing at that point, and the corresponding picture is shown for that age. We discuss abilities, friendships, siblings, and work-related milestones as well.  When we complete talking about milestones in that year of life, we walk around the sun one time, coming back to the current month. When we arrive at the current day and current age, we sing Happy Birthday. The child then blows out the candle, and gets to share with their friends what they brought for everyone to enjoy as a snack.

The Sun Celebration is so riveting to the children, that even the ones that don’t join us for Line Time because they keep working want to be a part of it. The children are very respectful and make sure to maintain the quietness of their peers. We’ve also used this sun for so many lessons in our current topic, The Universe. I spent several lessons discussing why we walk all the way around the sun to signify a year in the Sun Celebration. When doing lessons on why the Moon has phases, I used the Sun on the floor with a flashlight on it to show how the Earth casts shadows on our Moon, and vice versa.

I’d love to hear how your classroom celebrates birthdays! I know everyone has slightly different traditions, or special songs to sing while doing a  Sun Celebration. Please share!

Checkmate

A parent volunteered to come to our Afternoon Academic class (our 4-6 year olds who don’t nap) and teach them chess, as she’s had success at home with her son. Again, I was a a horrible Montessorian, thinking “Really? Chess? Could the kids really do that?” I promptly ate my own words. One of the girls in my class who had never played before our Volunteer came in captured my queen, saying  (in a very dismayed tone) “Nena Nena Nena…”.

Our older children are pretty good at chess, comparable to myself really, as they frequently beat me at it. (I’m learning along with them!) The 4 year olds even enjoy setting up the pieces and practicing which pieces can move in which directions, and who can capture where. It really doesn’t seem like they’d get a lot from it, but they really do. Some of the younger children enjoy watching the older ones play, and occasionally pipe up to say “Hey, the Knight can’t move like that!”

I can see how this has been a great outlet for some of the kids, because they are training their focus and concentration by trying to plan out future moves and even some basic strategy! The boy I played today set a pretty clever trap for my queen, which affected the rest of my game.

I was thinking of some great ideas for possible ways to teach this in the future: Some 3-part cards would be great, or just a board and pieces out with a color coded diagram for available movements…