Monday, February 28, 2011

Our Science Corner

Last May, I set up a proper science/nature/geography corner in the classroom. However, I was a bit disappointed with it, as I thought it lacked inspiration. I knew that children are  fascinated with the universe. They love observing nature and discovering more about the world they live in. However, my science corner didn't really cultivate the kids' fascination. I needed to do something about it and it took me a while to find what I wanted. I spent a lot of time googling new ideas and read a lot about what the Montessori mehtod recommends in a well-thought and prepared environment. So with that in mind, this is what I came up with. We now have a science corner with an interest centre, a geography shelf, and a nature section.

This is our general interest shelving unit. Children can observe and play with rocks, pebbles, snail shelves, sea shells, acorn, pine cones, wood logs etc...

This shelf is dedicated to nature (zoology and botany).... I stretched it by including a section for dinosaurs (OK, OK... dinosaurs are long dead, but they were animals, weren't they?). Dinosaurs are also part of our history curriculum but I haven't got a history corner yet, as our approach to Time has been more eclectic. I actually will have to create a post on that one.. Included are our Montessori botany and zoology cabinets. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture! But you get the drift.

And finally, our geography section. It is still a bit bare but I am working on it. You can see our Asia continent box on the middle shelf for this month.

Please leave your comments. I would love to know what some of you teachers have come up with in your classrooms. And you, parents, any suggestions would be welcome too!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Rock!!

The kids and I were very busy this week during our mid-term break. Between camogie & soccer trainings, orchestra rehearsals and the tops practices, we didn't have a minute. So much for relaxing…. Yet, we managed to grab a wonderful afternoon of rock collecting! Thank god we live by the sea!!

 In between a few drops of rain, we looked for everybody’s perfect rock and combed the water’s edge for some special ones.  It was a wonderful feeling to slow down enough to appreciate the "intricacies" of each little pebble.

When we returned home with all of our treasure, the girls kept their favourite pebbles and brought them to their bedroom, while Stefan and I had a brainstorm: we organise the rocks in different categories just out of fun. This gave me an idea for the preschool and I printed a list of their attributes on a page which I then laminated. Stefan had a go at it.

 I use a little wicker basket to hold our the rocks on our interest shelves. I hope the kids at playschool will enjoy the activity as much as my 4 year old little man did!!! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So what is coming up over the next few weeks?

    When we return to playschool next week, we are starting a new theme: “Spring time”. This theme is quite large and will be divided into sub-themes over the last few weeks: introduction to Spring, animals and their babies, flowers and plants, etc…. We are lucky to have 4 distinct seasons here in Ireland (though some of you may argue that summer is just an extension of our rainy spring!!!). Yet, our children are very fortunate to be able to witness the uniques changes to each season. Ad we certainly will celebrate the arrival of Spring at playschool. I have planned to go outside (when the weather permits) to observe the buds on the trees and the bulbs sprouting up from the ground (as you can see from the photos below) .

Our snow drops in front of the playschool

Tulips shooting up at our door

    We will also do planting activities in the Montessori preschool classroom at a later date. Our Nature Table will also display a variety of items to reinforce the current theme. I will, of course, keep you posted on all our new activities.

     St Patrick’s Day
I have decided to use St Patrick’s Day as a way to incorporate our other themes. St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland. We will incorporate “green” as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as well as a contemporary term for being environmentally conscious. Over the next few weeks, we will look at recycling, how to save natural resources. Themes will overlap too as we will begin to plant in our school garden, an extension of our Spring theme.

Of course, we will celebrate Easter … but that is a bit too far away yet to elaborate


New stuff

I just purchased new Montessori materials for the playschool and I will present them to the children after our mid-term break, next Monday 28th. It is always very important to rotate activities on the shelves to keep their attention focused. New materials at playschool is always like going on an adventure!!

Hanger for coloured bead stairs - Maths

New insets tracing tray with new inset paper holder - Pre-writing skills

Shape stacker - Sensorial and Maths

Constructive triangles - 5 boxes

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Simon & Friends storybooks

I went to a meeting organised by the RSA (Road Safety Authorities) last Wednesday 8th. I was tired and not in the mood for going. And it was a miserable evening, to make it worse. So there I was at 7.30pm, on the road battling wind and rain, wondering why I hadn’t stayed in, warm and cosy by my fire. Well, am I glad I went! The Childminder coordinator from the Wexford County Childcare Committee (WCCC) presented everyone present with a program called Simon & Friends, created by the RSA to promote road safety amongst preschool children.

 This program is easy to incorporate into our curriculum: through stories, games and songs, the important messages of road safety can be embedded. There are 4 storybooks teaching the children to always hold hands, stop, look & listen and cross safely.

What I really like about the series is the time and care that went into the design of great characters children can relate to. The books are colourful and adorable.

 So I thought we would wait until after our mid-term break to introduce this new program to the children. It will take us approximately 4-5 weeks to go through it. There are lots of activities to go with it and I’m sure the children will love it. Be ready to be told off if you don’t follow the rules at the pedestrian crossing!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A few practical exercises

Here's a collection of photos from our Montessori practical exercises shelves, so you can see what we've been doing these last few weeks.....

Fine motor skills coordination

Balance and coordination

Pincer grasp

Fine motor skills

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Amazing Africa

We are still studying Africa. It is coming to an end though. So before we close for our mid-term break, I wanted to show you what we have done so far.
We introduced Africa to the children by reading Handa’s surprise.

Handa's surprise
 I had a poster illustrating the story that I got from Scholastic.

 After reading the story to the children, we studied the poster. I explained to them that Handa and her friend Akeyo come from a small village in Kenya, Africa. We talked about the similarities and differences in appearance between the children in the poster and the children around us (skin colour, hairstyle, clothing et..). The book also gave us the opportunity to talk about animals who live in Africa. Which one eats grass & leaves, which one eat meat (carnivore/herbivore). It also showed the children which fruit grow in Africa (I had to explain how they come from Africa onto a big boat to Ireland and then onto a truck that delivers fruit to Tesco!!!!!)
The favourite part of the study for the children is when we pretend we are going on a safari! I have binoculars and I pretend I can see some animals. They have to guess which animals I am talking about. Then we have a break in the African grasslands and we take out snacks from our backpacks : mango, guava, tangerines... Yummy yummy. Let's not forget a drink as it is very very hot in Africa. And we check our map to see which route to take.. The children always ask for more!!!

Our new geography unit

One of the things that I love so much about Montessori education is its emphasis, from a very early age, on geography.  And to be perfectly honest, my knowledge of geography increased tremendously when I became a Montessori preschool teacher. Montessori education helps children develop an understanding of their place in the universe.  One thing that I like to do early on in the school year is to teach the children the "continents song" at circle time.  The version of this song that I have used in the past is as follows:
Tell me the continents, tell me the continents.
Tell me if you can
North America, South America,
 Africa, Asia and Europe
Don’t forget Antarctica, don’t forget Australia
Tell me the continents, tell me the continents
Tell me if you can.
While singing this, I have the continent map in front of me (see photo above) and I point to the various continents as we sing them.

Borrowing the name “Expedition Earth” and ideas from another blog called Confessions of a Homeschooler, I designed and adapted our own geography curriculum. I needed something which was fun, simple for 3-5 years old kids and general. I don’t want to bombard the children whith too much facts ; I just want them to become aware of the world around them and of the different ways of living. This unti is also a nice way to embrace the theme of cultural diversity,  tolerance and equality.
So this month, we have started “Expedition Earth”, our geography unit study that covers the 7 continents across the world. In this study, we learn about children and how they live on the continents, new songs about different countries, animals, food and we have some fun activities along the way (crafts, games etc..). 
Of course, no world wide expedition would be complete without a fun souvenir for the children! As we visit continents, we are adding documents and photos to a fun passport, created for each child. The children will bring this home at the end of the year along with their work copy and their portfolio.

We started  with Africa at the beginning of February and the topic will run until the end of the month. Our curriculum has planned as follow:
Now-February / Africa
March / Asia
April / Australia
May/ North & South America
June / Antarctica
I am afraid we won’t have time to go over Europe this year as I started a bit late in the year. I apologise if this post is a bit long. I have so much to mention, so much to display. I promise I will try to refrain my enthusiasm. Blogging is so much fun though, and it allows me to put all my ideas out here, at easy access, all clearly and retrievable at the click of a button. It is helping me so much clearing up my head and getting organised!!! So if this blog was initially created for parents at my facilities and for other green Montessori teachers like me, I have just realised how valuable it is for ME!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day preparations

When we started talking about Valentine, I explained to the children that Valentine is about love. And we went over the many different kinds of love there are: family love, love for friend, love for pets etc... It was so sweet when a little boy exclaimed proudly that his girlfriend was his little sister!! A little girl also said shyly that her daddy was her boyfriend! I sang our little valentine tune:
“you are my sunshine, my only Sunshine, You make me happy when skies are grey, You’ll never know dear, How much I love you, Please don’t take my sunshine away”.
 For arts & crafts, we made the following using check peas and cereals cardboard boxes :
Get some chickpeas

The children glue the chick peas onto a red painted heart template. Once dried, they paint over.

Et voila! So easy, so natural, and so effective! I am really pleased with the results. And the kids REALLY enjoyed it.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This is an exciting day for me.  “Blogging” has changed the way I teach and the way I organise myself. I opened my Montessori playschool in September 2008. I am French and have 4 children of my own (Alice 11, Mollie 9, Nel 7 and Stefan 4). This has been the greatest adventure of my entire life. I have qualifications Fetac 6 in Supervison in Childcare, in Early Childhood Education, Child Development and in the  Montessori method of education. During the past year, I have enjoyed reading the blogs of many other moms with young children, or many Montessori teachers, eager to share their experiences (and failures!! Let’s face it: “Man plans, God Laughs”!!). I have been collecting information and ideas from a variety of sources over the past 3 years, adding to my materials in practical life, maths, science etc.. It dawned on me one day that I should start my own blog.  Why?  I guess because inspiration should be shared and communicated. I am absolutely passionate about the Montessori teaching philosophy but I have tried to “modernise” it. Kids have changed. Needs have changed. I wanted a progressive approach of Montessori teaching.  I have scanned the web for other blogs/sites that feature Montessori education in an attempt to learn and adapt what I learnt during my courses.  It is my sincere hope that this blog will help others learn about Montessori education and how to adapt it to everyday’s needs.  I am also hoping that Montessori teachers from all over the world will share their ideas and experiences to enrich thisjourney in creating a progressive Montessori learning environment. Please send me your comments. Positive criticism is good!So don't be afraid topoint out my mistakes!
 Creating a blog is also a way for me to include parents from my playschool into our curriculum and our programs. As a parent, I know how frustrating it can be when you ask your little one after a day at playschool: “so, what did you do today? Anything interesting?” And all you can get is “no, nothing at all!!”.  I want parents to know what they child is learning with me, what topics we talk about with her etc…  
As you may have understood, I am very new to this blogging thing and I hope you will make allowances for all my errors and mistakes (including grammar mistakes).  So welcome to the rants and raves from a green Montessori teacher!