Help me do it for myself.

Montessori in a Dene Kindergarten – Montessori in a Dene Grade One Classroom

Archive for January, 2010

Mini Week, Mini Class, Maxi Fun, Maxi Learning!

Posted by mrsmelva on 10/01/2010

Our community lobbied for an altered school year that fits with traditional community values and activities. One of the advantages of this altered year was that we had a longer Christmas break. This was wonderful because many of the teachers here come from far away; either the east or the west coast and it takes a long time to travel in either direction. It is important for these teachers to maintain their family ties while teaching so far from home. For myself, I now consider this my home, but I still need to maintain family connections far away. Having the longer break allowed us to travel and visit and to have some time after we returned home to rest and to visit with family and friends here. We started back to school on Wednesday, January 6, so we only had a 3 day week. I had a mini class, as did most teachers, because on Wednesday and Thursday we had extremely cold temperatures, too cold for the buses. As for Friday, it warmed up but for some reason I still had a mini class. I took advantage of the smaller classes to reinforce routines and procedures, introduce some new individual and group activities and to observe the children as they worked. I also rearranged some of the classroom furniture.  I took time to re-present the pink tower, brown stair, and red rods, and to review procedures for taking and replacing work from the practical life shelves. The children had gotten into some bad habits the last week of school when they were out of routine, excited about Christmas and had a substitute because I was sick. My original plan was to start the whole group directed drawing/writing/reading lessons based on Animated Literacy, but when I read -46 on the thermometer, I knew that I wouldn’t have many students. I did do a whole group activity building stacks of cube-a-links in quantities from one to ten. That went over well, overall. A  few students struggled with the idea at first, wanting to simply build very tall stacks, and a few just couldn’t focus, but with some guidance and support they got it. The afternoon students had two opportunities to do the activity and I noticed a definite improvement the second day. The children build the stacks onto a mat that I made by photocopying actual stacks that I fun-tacked to paper, so they have a good guide. In the past I have found that repeating this work until they can do it quickly and accurately really helps their understanding of number quantities to 10. One afternoon student really struggled with the task the first day, even with help. I now have the help of a tutor in the afternoon class, she will be working with a student who will start on Monday and is in a wheelchair. This week she worked with us getting to know the children and the routines. On the second day she worked with the same student again and he really showed an increased understanding of the task. The morning of the first day back one student kept going to the language shelf and choosing work that he had not had presentations on and that I did not feel he was ready for. I was busy when he first went there so I asked him to find other work, but said that I would work with him a little later. He chose a difficult for him puzzle matching lower case letters to pictures. I sat with him and we worked together, with me naming each picture and him repeating it in the manner of the first period of a three period lesson. we did the Animated Literacy gestures and the sounds for each letter, and when applicable, I also mentioned members of his family whose names began with the letter in question. We worked together for half an hour, and since there were so few kids, it was easy for me to scan the rest of the class, and monitor their learning and behaviour while focusing on one student to maximize his learning. It was a productive and fun week, but I am ready for full house tomorrow and looking forward to seeing all my students.

Student building stacks 1-10 with cube-a-links on a prepared mat.

Cut and paste activity - focus: visual discrimination, fine motor skills, following directions. working carefully at a steady pace.

New location for art shelf, metal insets shelf and a practical life shelf, backed by the alphabet chart actvity.

With this move, I had also moved the block shelves, reconfiguring them so that hopefully the students will be able to clean up more efficiently. I moved the curved work table, the storage tub units, chart stand for free drawing and snack table as well. So far, so good with this new arrangement, although more tweaking is needed.

New location for the curved work table and the snack table and reconfiguration of the tub storage units.

The size of the room hasn’t changed, but it does seem a bit more open with this new arrangement. I do hope that I get more tables soon, I would really like to open playdough, but I don’t think it will go well on the floor. Just as I was typing that I got an idea, if the tables don’t come soon, I can alternate sand and playdough and use the top of the sand table for playdough, as long as I cover the hole so that the sand doesn’t get full of playdough. I might be making playdough tonight, if hubby can fix the mixer. Both sand and playdough are/will be language activities so I won’t be losing a skill, just offering a different medium. I didn’t say anything about the art center, but after I moved the shelves, several students became very interested in the items on the shelves and did some creative work. Just a small change in the environment can pique student interest.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Practical Life and Snack

Posted by mrsmelva on 04/01/2010

Folding the Laundry, a genuine practical life activity

I had washed our classroom laundry – tea towels, table cloths, dish cloths and a few extra sweaters. I dumped the hamper of clean laundry on the rug and the students got busy folding, helping each other as needed. They already had folding experience with folding their shoe bags each morning after putting on their indoor shoes, but other than suggesting to a few that they fold the towels “the same as you fold your shoe bag”, they did the work quickly and independently.

First step in snack, find your name tag, put it on a placemat and wash your hands.

Snack table with placemats and nametags, basket for name tags after snack, bowl with cloth for wiping up after snack.

I have changed this set up slightly, adding two more placemats so that 4 children can have snack at once, and placing a damp cloth in a basket instead of a bowl of water. If the cloth needs rinsing and wetting the student takes it to the sink This prevents water being dripped in other people’s snacks by overly enthusiastic cloth wringers!

Morning snack, cheerios in the coffee can, fruit, juice, milk.

Yes, kindergarteners can pour their own juice!

When they finish eating the student puts his/her nametag in the basaket, puts dishes in the dishwasher and wipes the placemat.

Most days snack is an option during the work period. Occasionally we all eat together when we cook something as a group (usually as follow up to a story or activity) or when there is a special celebration such as Thanksgiving dinner. These are a challenge since we have so few tables, but we use our trays and careful procedures for getting our supplies and food, and for cleaning up.

Step one, after we say grace, students get a name tag, tray and cutlery and choose a spot on the floor to eat.

Go to the serving table and choose some food - this time we had blueberry pancakes, butter (put a little on the side of your plate to spread when you sit down), bacon and syrup.

Pour your syrup and you are ready to sit down and eat.


Choosing from a selection of desserts after eating pumpkin soup at Halloween.

Cutting vegetables for pumpkin soup.

Yes, the students use real knives. I show them how, and I stay nearby to offer guidance if needed. In 21 years I have only had 2 students cut themselves badly enough to need more than a bandaid and in both cases, they chose to play with their knives rather than cut the food. Our next cooking activity will be making potato wedges for snack. Our pumpkin soup is a basic hamburger soup. I brown the hamburger with onions and garlic in dutch ovens while the children are coming into class, the smell gets them very curious. Then I introduce them to cutting the vegetables, we use carrots, celery, pumpkin, sometimes potatoes. The pumpkin is hard to cut, so I peel it and precut it into strips (preparation of the environment, think of early scissor snipping activities). The cut vegetables are rinsed and put in with the hamburger and we add water. When it boils we add some macaroni. Sometimes I add canned diced tomatoes too. It is a very flexible recipe! We season it with some seasoning salt. Everyone is given a small serving to start with and those who like it can have seconds, and some even have thirds! I serve this every year at Halloween, rather than having a sugar laden party. Invariably some parents still send a sweet treat which we have for dessert. I teach the children to sit and wait until all (or most) are done eating before cleaning up when we eat together. I set out a garbage can for scraping plates, and a pail for liquids (soup or juice) and then they place their dishes in the dishwasher. I have them stagger stack the trays since there is often food on the trays and I sanitize the trays before putting them away. I also sanitize the snack table and placemats between classes.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

I’m Back to Blogging – Slowly

Posted by mrsmelva on 03/01/2010

My goodness, it has been a long time since I posted anything. It has been a very busy school year, and a very busy holiday. I will slowly get back into the blog, sharing a few things at a time. Sometimes the ideas just run around in my head faster than I can type them and faster than I can make them for the classroom. I did make up quite a few actvities for Halloween and some for winter/Christmas. I have some new thrift shop finds for making things too, so I will post pictures and explanations over the next while. The next pictures will show more patterns, since that is where I left off. These are fall/Halloween patterns with items from Dollarama (or Dollargrandma as my grandson calls it!):

ABC leaf pattern

AB spider pattern - look closely, the eyes and legs are different colours

AB jack-o-lanterns

ABC Halloween items

ABC - Leaf, Pumpkin, Cat - this pattern matches the picture pattern on our classroom calendar

Here are a few pictures of the patterning works being used and some of the other Halloween works.

Sorting rings by colour, rings are stored in the spooky drawstring bag

Getting ready to build the pattern.

Building the pattern (actually another student, as I didn't get another picture of the first student's work.)

Spooning and 1:1 correspondence with mini koosh balls

Spooning and 1:1 correspondence with sticky eyeballs - VERY popular!

The sticky eyeballs were so popular that one “disappeared”, so after a search and discussion, we closed the activity for a while. The eyeball was not returned (the chief suspect was absent the rest of the week – hmmn) but when it was re-opened there were no more losses. The spooning items came from Walmart. The spoons are from Dollarama. They are log handled parfait spoons and came in a pack with several colours, 10 or 12 spoons for $1.

At the block center I added some spooky props. I put away the woodland animals and the people. Unfortunately, we also lost a few animals. I sent notes home asking parents to check and talked with the kids about the importance of keeping school things at school for everyone to use. We agreed as a group that if someone returned the items we would thank them, but nothing came back. The animals were very good quality, from an expensive Lakeshore set so I will have to wait for science budget to replace them.

Haunted House, constructed by a group of girls

The girls worked very hard building this haunted house, with a lot of discussion and interaction. Often the boys just took the props and chased each other with them – or at least started to chase each other until I would intervene and discuss what the expectations were for their use.

Christmas spooning, note the patterning

Winter spooning, "snowballs" 1:1 correspondence

I decided to put the Christmas/Winter spooning 1:1 pictures here since it is the same concept as the Halloween/fall ones with different items. I will look for Valentine items for this activity and Easter/spring items. I will also look for other seasonal items for patterning. The ice cube trays for this activity came from Superstore, the green one is trees and the red one is snowmen. I also had a sorting activity with three sizes of white pompoms. I didn’t get any pictures of that one. Some of the children sorted the pompoms by size and one boy made snowmen in a row, still sorting by size but a different arrangement that also repeated a pattern. After he did that several others copied his idea.


I apologize for the blurry picture, I took it in a rush and only took one. It is a disinvitation to learning. In the workshops I have attended recently about the new pre-k and k curricula there is a lot of talk about creating invitations to learning. This is really preparation of the environment if you are a Montessori teacher, and there have been some very interesting examples shared at the workshops. However, after one too many chase events with the rats, bats and skeletons, I closed the block center and created this disinvitation, covering the blocks with quilt batting. After a time of closure, the disinvitation will become an invitation and the blocks will be re-opened.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »