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!

Thrifting Montessori

As much as I adore Montessori, I recognize that the materials are quite costly. I’ve recently gone through a big move, and I’m trying to rebuild my stock of classroom items that didn’t make the move. Here I have been rather lucky and have found many awesome items – However I’m rather short on cash, so I’m thrifting everything. Is it possible? Let’s look!

Small Dish Set
Thought this would be great for a snack table. Cost = $1.50 at Goodwill
Oriental Tray
Bamboo Tray. Cost = $.25 at a Yard Sale
Tiny Tray
Cost = $.25 at a Yard Sale
Blue Compartmented Trays
Cost for both trays = $.25 at a Yard Sale
Sake Set
Cost = $1.25 at a Yard Sale
Test Tubes
Awesome for color mixing experiments or for single-seed growing. Cost =$.75 at a Yard Sale
Mini-Easel with Painting
Cost = $.10 (yes, cents!) at a Yard Sale
Small Boxes
The same boxes used in Montessori Math Materials – a set of over 50 boxes of all sizes. Cost $1.25 at Goodwill
Pitchers
Set of 3 Stainless Steel creamers. Cost = $.75 at Goodwill
Teapot and Creamer
Cost = Free from a small church thrift-shop clearing out it’s inventory.

This is just a small sample of the things I’ve gotten. Forgive the somewhat dim pictures, my camera’s flash has decided to quit on me. My husband and I go to the local Goodwill every Half-Off sale and see what we can find. Yard-Saling has also been great to me, however I can admit I do need work on my bargaining skills. I feel somewhat guilty taking things away from people so I tend to give what they ask for. Everyone keeps telling me to just walk away if I think it’s too much, but I really only offer to pay for what I’m very interested in! Oh well, it’s a skill I’ll keep practicing each Saturday morning.

The Little Things

I was recently observed by my Field Supervising teacher as a requirement for my Montessori training class. As nerve-wracking as my first Observation was, I learned A TON from it. I’ve focused for a long time on the major things I’ve been changing in order to be a great teacher, but this visit gave me the opportunity to examine the small things.

  • Positioning when talking to a child

I’m sure many people have heard that kneeling to talk to a child is better than leaning over to talk to them. It’s about respecting the child by giving them the opportunity to look you in the eye. You’re showing them that what they say matters to you by being on their level. I try to do this often, but I do notice I don’t do it if the child is seated.

  • Eye Contact

This goes along with your positioning when you’re responding to the child. I try to always look people in the eyes when they are speaking to me, and I notice this is something that seems to be less prevalent as I meet people in life. It’s sometimes quite hard for me to focus on what someone is saying unless I’m looking directly at them. As a part of Grace and Courtesy in the classroom I try to always turn to the child and look at them while answering their question. I’ve noticed that if I am not looking at the child and answer their question without making eye contact, they don’t seem to realize I’m speaking to them. Perhaps children actually NEED to have eye contact to successfully communicate?

  • Tone of Voice

There are those times when you know you’re at the point where you need a few moments alone, but that won’t always happen. It’s hard to remain cool and composed at this level. When I feel myself getting upset, I try to step back for a moment and think “How would I want someone to talk to me right now?” It’s hard sometimes. However I have noticed I’m getting better at not carrying my attitude towards a different child. Little steps!

  • Independence

I am finally starting to see the product of an independent child. I’ve been in the same classroom now for going on 3 years, so I’ve seen the full cycle of several children coming into our classroom and leaving at 6 years old. What a wondrous and beautiful change it is! From the 3 year old who needed lessons on everything in their reach to the 6 year old working independently for hours at a time making fully colored and labeled World Map. Every little step of independence we give these children leads to a magnificently self-confident child. It’s very tempting sometimes to constantly assist the youngest children in the class because they’re making a large mess, or not doing something in the most efficient manner. However if we don’t interfere and instead let the child see things on their own, they blossom into self-aware and self-confident children.

Of course knowing that you’re being watched causes you to focus on your every move. “Did I use my left hand instead of my right hand? ” I found myself turning to see if she was watching me sometimes to find that of course, she was. I want to do as great as I am capable! No more silly mistakes! “Oh man I should have knelt down with that child. ” Being a teacher is a work in progress – what a ride!

Picture time!

Pumpkin Counting
Tracing Sandpaper Letters
Soap Whisking
Water Pouring
Brown Stairs and Pink Tower Extension
Binomial Cube
Banking Game - Hundreds and Units
Removing Grass from the Garden

Have a Happy Halloween!

The things I ponder most

  • What work should I direct _____ to?
  • Where on earth did I leave my pen?
  • Has _____ had a lesson on that yet?
  • I’m hungry…is it snack-time yet?
  • Why does this child move around this way?
  • How can I assist this child?
  • This would make a beautiful picture – OH NO! Where’s my camera?
  • What is the best way I can enlighten this child?
  • Really now, where is my pen?
  • I thought ____ was here today, you mean they aren’t?
  • Should we talk about our latest “You’re not invited to my birthday party” issue during Line Time, or not…
  • Which specific sense of the child is engaged at this moment?
  • Where is the child’s current fixation?
  • What can I do to be more organized?
  • Her name isn’t coming to me, what is it, what is it, what is it…OH RIGHT
  • When can we go outside again, it’s soooo hot….
  • Am I being the best teacher I can be?
  • What will my next blog post be about?

Some pictures:


A Montessori Work Day in Pictures

Making the Parts of a Tree Book
Exploring the Geometric Solids
Crumbing on a tray

Labeling the States
Leaf Shape 3 Part Cards
Tracing and labeling the parts of a horse
Cards and Counters
Bow Tying Frame
Paper Punching
Listening to tones
Reading

It was a busy and wonderful day!

Practical Life and Sensorial overview

One unique aspect of the Montessori classroom is the inclusion of several subjects that are not typically found in any other classrooms. Of course there are the standard Math, Language, and Science areas, but in a Toddler or Preschool/Kindergarten classroom in Montessori, there are a couple other areas that deserve just as much educational credit as the others.

Arguably the rest of the curriculum in a Montessori classroom becomes harder to teach without the presence of the Practical Life and Sensorial sections. These both are crucial because they both provide the child with the opportunity to refine and improve the motor skills necessary to move about independently and successfully in the classroom. Exercises in this area also give the child a wonderful development of what those of us in Montessori refer to as O.C.C.I. – Order, Concentration, Coordination, and Independence. Without the crucial refinement of these skills, the child is unlikely to succeed in the classroom. Order is important because it has been proven by many researchers that child have a strong desire and need for order. They need a routine, for things to have a place, otherwise their world is chaotic. Concentration is necessary to complete the longer and more time-consuming works. Coordination gives the child the grace they need to complete the work successfully and with confidence and less frustration. Independence makes for a happy child capable of doing many things for themselves and not relying on an adult to do things for which they are completely capable if given the chance. The two of these sections give ample experience for the child to improve their skills while learning more about their surroundings as well. This is part of the beauty of Maria Montessori’s didactic materials.

Practical Life

Sweeping the patio

The name of this section almost seems silly if you don’t realize how wonderful the materials are for the child. However after seeing the independence and control each child gains from working with these activities, I cannot imagine why all schools do not have something similar. Not only does this section work on a child’s independence, it also gives them the ability to use a lot of the more involved works they will later encounter in the classroom. A child can take out an activity that involves nothing but pouring water into glasses, then pouring the water back into the pitcher. What does the child gain from this? Refined, steady movements, the ability to pour water, and the confidence to do what is normally considered an adult-only task themselves. Without this practice, the child would have frustration encountering works later on that require the ability to pour water delicately. Without being able to use an eyedropper correctly, how would they add soap to a washing project, or colors to a color-mixing activity. Practical Life gives the child a wonderful base for skills used in everyday life. It allows them to perfect these movements which then creates a more independent and successful child. Some more examples of Practical Life activities include – Using tongs, using tweezers, using spoons to transfer objects, pouring various pastas, using a sponge, slicing and preparing food, cleaning up an area, sweeping, sewing, and many many more activities. Teaching these at a young age to children is amazing. They are completely capable of doing all of these things, even at the age of four. It is mesmerizing to watch a 4 year old wash, peel, slice, and serve a carrot as a snack to several other children and then completely clean up their workspace independently.

Clothes Washing

Sensorial

Colored Cylinders

A very aptly-named subject! The Sensorial section allows for refinement of the 5 senses – Taste, Smell, Touch, Sight, and Hearing. The materials here are designed in such a way as to isolate one of each sense to allow the child to examine it fully, and rely on it for the completion of the activity. There are Sound Cylinders which the child matches to each other, Tasting Bottles to experience the various tastes our tongue processes, Rough and Smooth tablets for the child to refine their sense of touch, and so many more activities. The Bells I referred to in my last post are a wonderful Auditory exercise. And what is the purpose of this section? First of all, it helps the child learn control of their movements, and gives them practice for identifying the world around them more clearly.  Sensorial also has a heavy mathematical undertone. Most of the works in this section are in sets of 10, providing the child with a habitual mental image of sets of 10 for the decimal system. The Binomial Cube and Trinomial Cube seem like simple wooden color puzzles to the 4 year old child, yet later in an older classroom they can dissect the cube’s mathematical equations. Language is also heavily developed in this section providing the child with more descriptive terms to apply to the world around them – Thick, thin, heavy, light, short, wide, skinny, and so many more terms to be used instead of “big” or “small”.

Hue Matching Tablets

Two wonderful and amazingly beautiful sections of the classroom come together to help the child be more independent, successful, and observant in the big world around them.