Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who was/What is Montessori?

Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was the first female to carry PhD in Italy, over 100 years ago. She was later put in charge of the project of creating a school for children in a low income housing district. Using her scientific background in anthropology, she simply observed the children. She began developing materials for the children based on the idea of giving the children tactile experiences with real life concepts. She observed that "play" was the work of the child. This was at a time when it was thought that children couldn't "learn" anything academic. It was felt at the time that children had to be sitting still and quietly listening to learn. Her work was radical as far as thinking in that time period. She developed a set of materials and a standard for their use that is still in use today.
The Materials and the Method.
These are what make a school a Montessori school. The materials she carefully thought out, tested and refined were inspired by the children and their abilities. The way she described their use, in her writings, are simply a method of presenting them to a child in a way that helps them gain the most use and knowledge.
Some people think all Montessori schools are only catholic.
Maria Montessori was catholic, but that does not limit those who employ her methods and materials to any religious preference.
Some people have heard that only "advanced" or "exceptional" kids go to Montessori.
(I think that might be a chicken before the egg thing ;) ) The beauty of Montessori is that a child can learn whatever they are ready to learn at their own pace. Children of different abilities and ages work well together and help and teach one another in the prepared Montessori environment.
Some people think Montessori is not academic enough.
I have heard some parents say "I want my child reading by______." The problem with this is: 1-It is not the parents goal to set
2-It does not consider the child's ability or interests.
Children learn skills much faster and more solidly if it is on their own terms. Montessori allows children to grow and learn on their own time and at their own pace. The secret is that kids WANT to learn! They want to progress! I have seen over and over a child who is allowed enough space to grow, flourish faster than anyone else could expect from them. (that, by the way, is why it is called Children's Garden Montessori ;) )
Some people think Montessori is too academic, rigid or structured.
This probably stems from the fact that there isn't a lot of fantasy play in Montessori. Maria Montessori wasn't against children role-playing and using imagination. She observed that children between the ages of 3 to 6 have a hunger for real life and learning the skills that come with it. Montessori materials are very fact based. I believe it is important to distinguish between fantasy and reality at this age, but I think it is wrong to restrict fantasy and pretend play.
The structured accusation might be because the Montessori prepared environment looks a little "O.C.D." to the untrained adult, but children thrive in that order and learn sequence and placing naturally. Along with grace, courtesy and personal responsibility.
Some people think Montessori classrooms have no "discipline" and the children have no rules or structure.
The Montessori Classroom is "child led" this does not mean it is Lord of the Flies in there :) What it does mean is that the child is allowed to progress at their own pace. They are moving through a series of materials prepared to help them grow to their fullest potential. Again, this "non-forced" approach helps children develop.

Classic Montessori Materials - The Pink Tower

This is the first in a series of posts about the "Classic" Montessori materials that make our class a "Montessori" Preschool. These standards are always on our shelves. It is worth knowing what these basics are and what they teach.

(on the Bottom Left)

I chose the Pink Tower first because it is the most recognized and iconic of the Montessori materials. Also......O.K. I'll admit....It's Pink and I'm still feeling all Valentine-y :)

The Pink Tower has 10 cubes ranging in size from 1000 cubic Centimeters (each side has a length of 10 centimeters) to 1 cubic Centimeter.

When Maria Montessori developed this material she had dimension, sequence, order and relationship in sizes in mind. She first used in on a green mat because of the way the pink and green looked together. Although, neither the pink or green color are what matters in this work; what matters is the size of and the amount of the blocks. This is considered a 'Sensorial' material, But like most sensorial materials it leads easily into later math skills. (think: relationship in amounts, order and much later cubing numbers.) It also gives us an opportunity to add vocabulary like "biggest" "smallest" "bigger" "smaller." While the child practices building this in the right order, they are "inputting" the information into their brain on many levels, by touch as well as sight. They hold onto the information learned from direct experience with a very real concept until this information is needed to expand upon. The control of error is that if it is out of order, you can see it, and sometimes it falls over.

After the child has mastered building a basic tower and has done so several times, they are ready for extensions of this work. These include tracing the cubes, building all kinds of other creations, looking at a control card on a mat and going to the shelf to choose the correct sized cube and bring it back to verify (pictured below), building along with the brown stair, and many others. The extensions help to refine and solidify the sense of size and dimension, and the new vocabulary.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine/Heart Works for Feburary

These are some of the Valentine-y works we have on the shelves right now. I have several more in the works though. By the end of the month our shelves are always completely different than the beginning. :)
Count the hearts and pin the corresponding number to the card. The back side of the cards and both sides of the clothespins have the correct number written on them, for control of error and the kids can check their work when they finish.

I found this idea on My Montessori Journey (again :) ) The player rolls the die and places the landed on number of chips onto the game board until it is full. This has been great for those who want to work on something with others.

Build a Heart Chain. I found these heart shaped links at Oriental Trading.

Conversation Heart Sorting. Those are not real candy, they are foam beads. I found them at Oriental Trading too! They are ALL ready to progress from this simple sorting and I already have a more complex one ready for Tuesday!

Heart Cutting practice. This has been a big hit. They all love hanging them up when they are done to decorate the classroom in hearts. The added satisfaction of making something "real" is always extra fulfilling.

This transferring activity was kind of an accident. I originally had it out on the shelf with wooden toast tongs and no one really seemed super impressed or interested. My 19 month Old got a hold of the tongs and tore them in two :( I ran up to my practical life bucket and grabbed this Olivewood spoon from Montessori Services to replace it. THEY LOVED IT!! The little red marbles fit perfectly into the spoon, I think that is part of what makes it so appealing.This work always has a line-up to get to now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


We always have "movement " at the end of class. After the kids have been working so hard in the school room they need to let loose a little before they go home. We do things like:

Balance Beam

Find the sound Race
(I call out a sound and they all race to touch it or hop on it or put their ear on it.)

We also do things like: yoga, dancing, musical instruments and parachute.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Indoor Snow

For our Science Project on Tuesday, we made SNOW!! (We decided there wasn't enough on the ground outside!) I just put bagged ice in our monster of a food processor until it was a nice snow like consistency.

While we played we got to talk about a lot of science-y things like
Crystallization and Liquids and Solids and Density.

Several interesting Igloos and Miniature snowmen were constructed.

Then we decided to see if an ice cube or snow would melt faster and had some practice with observation.

There might have been some tastings........ for purely scientific reasons. ;)