Monday, August 22, 2011

How to record progress on sandpaper letters and numerals

One thing I needed to do this summer was to get a bit more organised as far as my record keeping in our language area is concerned. While I used to be able to know exactly which letters and sounds a child had mastered from the top of my head, this very inefficient and poorly thought method let me down many times as the number of my children started to rise last year. For this reason, I needed to find a better way to keep my observations in order. I needed something easily accessible and practical.  And then, I found an very interesting post on To the Lesson. Sasha shared with us how she uses little booklets with  the entire alphabet on the inside cover. Each time a child has been introduced to a sound /letter or has mastered it, she records it in the booklet. So I “stole” this fantastic idea and adapted it to the needs of our classroom. You see, in Montessori education, we tend to introduce letters by phonetic sounds rather than by their names. Each letter/sound is introduced in an order that permits the child to make out words.  Different schools have different orders. The one I chose to follow is suggested in How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin.
How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way
This is a wonderful book written by one of America's most respected Montessori educators and authors.  Here it goes:
  1.  c  m  a  t 
  2.  s  r  i  p
  3. b  f  o  g
  4. h  j  u  l
  5. d  w  e  n
  6. k  q  v  x  y  z 
So using Sasha’s idea, I spent a few hours making little booklets. In the inside cover, I have written the 6 sets of letters studied in our classroom. Each page of the booklet has picture (an apple for a, a tractor for t etc..) to represent the sound. Under each picture, the child can trace the letter. I have decided that once a child has completely mastered a sound/letter, I will let him/her trace the letter in question. When opening a booklet, I  will be able to see straightaway how far he/she has gone in her learning of the sandpaper letters. By the way, I got the pictures from Homeschool Creations.

As I mentioned in my post on our new calendar (here), we have a Letter of the Week added to our routine at circle time. It goes without saying that each letter will also be introduced following the order mentioned above. I will not introduce any other set until I am satisfied that the children have mastered the set. The children moving faster will be able to do extra work using our letter boxes and the moveable alphabet.

And to keep the momentum going, I decided that I could create the same type of booklets for numerals. No sooner said than done:

What do you think? What do you do in your own classroom? Let me know.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To all my readers....

Hi everybody.. I am sorry if I haven't been blogging much lately. I have been really busy, getting my kids ready for school, visiting friends before the end of the summer, and doing bits and pieces in my classroom in preparation for September. I have worked on paperwork and administrative tasks these last few weeks (not worth writing about!!). However, I have also sorted a few issues I had in language and mathematics in terms of observation and organisation. So, I am writing about that (and other bits and pieces) at the moment and I should be able to post very soon. SOoooo, bear with me a little while longer and I should have a lot to share with you in a couple of days. Thanks again for all your support.
Aude x

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Linking our cultural corner to our initial theme

It was raining today and the children were at their friends' house playing. So I spent another few hours in my classroom today. After the science/nature corner I tackled our cultural corner. You can see what it looked like before by clicking here. I have decided that the month of September will be dedicated to a topic called "we are all the same and we are all different" which goes hand in hand with our first theme of the year: "All about me" (I will write a post about this theme in a few weeks as we are about to start preschool again). This is why I will firstly concentrate on showing the globe to the children and teaching them to recognise our 7 continents. To do so I have put up on the wall a big picture of the continents (it is actually the control of error map used in connection with the Montessori geography puzzles) and have replaced the Asia and Australia jigsaws with the continents one and the one for Europe.


I have also added a new little game which will surely please the children. I recently found a book on Amazon called Sugar & Spice: Around the World. Initially, I thought this would be great as kids can discover cultural outfits in ten different countries and dress up Sugar and Spice in hundreds of outfit combinations. I was excited when it arrived home but was a bit disappointed with the whole presentation. You see, dolls and magnetic clothing come at the back of the book, which I do not find very practical at all  So I photocopied each page and laminated them (tearing the pages was not an option as they are made out of thick cardboard). Then I placed everything in a see-through box, easy to open. This way the children can dress up the cardboard dolls much easier I find.

After the continents, we will then focus on Europe as this is our continent. I haven't got a set timetable as I like to  be flexible in the way we learn. This year I have different nationalities in our classroom which will make it so much more interesting. Children will be invited to bring items from their parents' country (flags, stamps, photos, or even food). Studying Europe as our first continent should help to promote positive identities and a strong sense of belonging. It also should empower every child and to develop a confident self and group identity. From birth, children develop a sense of who they are. Relationships with family members, other adults and children, friends and members of their community play a key role in building their identities. Children’s sense of who they are is shaped by their characteristics, their behaviour, and their understanding of themselves, their family and others. Belonging is about having a secure relationship with or a connection with a particular group of people. When children feel a sense of belonging and sense of pride in their families, their peers, and their communities, they can be emotionally strong, self-assured, and able to deal with challenges and difficulties. This is going to be a sub-topic of our main theme "All about me".

I have more or less finished our Europe continent box. I am sure I will be adding more to it but so far I have 5  countries represented: obviously Ireland, France, Greece, Hungary and Holland.

Here are the few boxes I have in our cultural corner (Asia, Europe and USA)


Here you can see some stickers from Bretagne where I come from with a traditional hat. And of course, some wine bottles of Bordeaux!!!!

Hungary (chilli plant used in a lot of recipes over there, a traditional cards game, coins and the hungarian symbol - a blue bird)


Believe it or not but finding items for Europe have been trickier than I thought. But do not despair because I lately got involved in a cultural exchange organised by Melissa from Chasing Cherios. I got involved in a group of 11 other women around the world. There are other famillies from Singapore, Argentina, Australia, France and the UK... The exchange is supposed to benefit the children in each family and are addressed to them. Our first package arrived a few days ago from Ohio. Once my kids opened the parcel, they read the letter, played with the trinkets and whatever they didn't want, I was allowed to use for my box. Great, eh? Especially as I am currently working on my North America continent box.  I will update you on this cultural exchange as soon as I have received more letters. And I should be able to post more on my continent boxes tomorrow.  Blogging is wonderful, my dear friends, wonderful!!!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

My 100th post!!

I never realised until today but my last post was actually my 100th !! I can't believe it!   Little did I know last February when I started this blog how much fun I would have! Starting a blog was the best learning experience I have ever had to be honest! And it is constantly full of surprises. I love my little spot in cyberspace. This is where I have made so many new friends and have connected with many kindred spirits.  And of course I love sharing away thoughts or ideas with other people who find what we do in our classroom useful. Every single comment  I receive are so important to me. So thanks from the bottom of my heart to all you readers who make my day every time you open up one of my posts or leave a comment. Thank you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My list of science books

Here are a few books I use for science. Check them out. They are full of ideas, tips and tutorials:

Science Is Simple: Over 250 Activities for Preschoolers (Large Print 16pt)

Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do (Usborne Activities)
Not just a craft book. All the activities are designed to demonstrate fundamental scientific concepts and bring them to life in an interesting way.

Science in Seconds for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less

Science Experiments You Can Eat: Revised Edition

See Inside Space (See Inside): With over 50 flaps to lift & a little book of Star Maps (Usborne See Inside)

Obviously, some of them are far too advanced for preschoolers, but I adapt the activities to their needs. Check them out.

Working on our science/nature corner

Throughout  my 3 years of teaching, there is something that has never stopped amazing me: the amount of questions we get. Questions such as:  who makes the clouds? how many starts are there in the sky? how do your bone grow? why is the sky blue?  The questions are endless. But the proof is there: the children are inquisitve by nature and a Montessori classroom should quench their thirst. Science should an integral part of the Montessori curriculum in which children develop problem solving skills and pursue their curiosity.  In our classroom, children are introduced to zoology, botany, astronomy and chemistry and they develop a fascination for the universe, nature and the world in which we live.
 I already wrote a post regarding our science corner (right here)  and I haven't really modified it. I removed the geography/culural shelf as I have created a special corner for it and I also took some activities away. Relevant materials with graded instructions will be slowly reintroduced throughout the year as we follow our curriculum, our themes and each season.

Science for young children need not be complicated or expensive.  The important thing is that they see things happen firsthand and participate. So, here is what our science corner look like:

These are wooden wine boxes I nailed to the wall. It will hold all our botany and zoology puzzles cabinets. I have also placed a tray with our Lotto game (fruit theme). I have also purchase a little cabinet for leaf puzzles and cards. It hasn't arrived yet but I have left the bottom box on the right free. This is where it will go. I will use the boxes on top as an interest/season/nature table.

On the left hand side of the botany/zoology cabinets, we have a little "pretend" window with a sign placed above it that says "what can we see outside our window?". According to the seasons and the holidays, we place laminated pictures of landscapes, animals, plants, flowers etc..

This is a zoology shelf. We have our aquarium with rock pooling creatures, jigsaws about animals and their habitats, jigsaws about what animals eat, pictures of animals around the world, farm animals and dinosaurs etc.. Nothing new on that shelf really.

This is our nature and science shelf. I place shells, drift wood, rocks, whale bones etc.. on the shelf for the children to touch, play with and investigate. This is where I will also have the activity with magnets, the activity called "what make a sound" (this is a science center activity to explore sounds made by common objects), objects that spin or roll,  a magnifying board etc.. Again, everything will be gradually presented to the children. No need to overwhelm them with too many new experiences. 

This is what our science/corner looks like when you stand out a little bit:

You can see our science/nature shelf on the left hand side, laying against our Mathematic shelf, partiotioning the 2 areas)

What do you think? What do you do at home or in your classroom? Please share with us.