Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Best Part of Me

Remember my post about The Best Part of Me last week? Well, the children have once again surprised me.. They came up with brilliant answers and ideas were fusing across he room. The idea of making a little book about themselves really captured their attention. I am putting everything together and I should be able to show the end result to the children and the parents by Monday. But for you all, here is a glimpse at what the children came up with:


I like my mouth because I can use it to eat my favourite sweets (coke bottles, pig faces) and sausages. I love sausages. They are my favourite!!


I like my hands because they are small but they move all the time. And my hands like playing with cars and me too!


I like my ears because I can listen to music. And I can listen to the telly too. And can you see my pretty earrings? My mammy bought them. They are nice and I  like them a lot.


I like my eyes. They are blue and I can see lots of things with my eyes.  And I like wearing sunglasses when it is sunny. I like to watch telly too with my eyes.


Well… I think my feet are the best. Because I like to kick the ball and splash water with my feet when I am in the bath or in the swimming pool. Mammy doesn’t like when I splash but I like it. And sometimes, my mammy puts nail varnish on my toe nails. And it shows when I wear my sandals when it is hot!


Do you know that my eyes are green? I love green. And pink too! But you can’t have pink eyes! I like my eyes because I can see stuff with them, and I can sleep or blink. And if I didn’t have my eyes, well, I would be sad because I wouldn’t be able to watch Dorothee and the Wizard of Oz.. and that’s my favourite!


The best part of me are my legs. I wiggle them, stretch them and bend them because I have knees. I can jump, run, walk and ride my bicycle. I run much faster than my little brothers  Sam and Max because my legs are longer and stronger. There re bones in my legs!

I love this project... I love my job!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pincer Grasp - Practical Life Activity

Today, I introduced a new practical life exercise: collage. Usually, I let the children use a stick of glue. BUt today, I decided to be a bit more adventurous and to follow the guidelines I have received during the first part of my on-going Montessori training. The idea is to show the child how to transfer glue onto pieces of paper and then place them onto a colourful sheet of paper.

This exercise aims at developing the chidren's hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills. I think this also helps them to practice their spincer grip fo future use when holding a pencil for writing. And of course, I love watching the attention the children put in choosing where to place each piece of paper. Some of them needed to cover the whole sheet, others picked the same colour, and several decided that less was more! Their creativity is unique and this is what I like watching them painting, building, colouring, drawing and in this instance gluing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Helping Hands!

Starting the year, one of my main focuses is to build the sense of community or team work among children. As I mentioned earlier on this year, we work introducing general grace and courtesy of our environment. One thing we also do  as much as possible is to direct the children to reach out to each other when they need help or a partner. So to further kindle a feeling of togetherness among the children, as well as to bridge our book The Kissing Hand with our work team concept, I invited the children to make handprints on a plain white sheet of paper. Each child chose a colour (blue, green, yellow or pink) and made a print on the page. I then wrote their name below it. The effect is fantastic!! It is simple but effective as one little clever young man exclaimed proudly: "We made a patchwork with all our hands!! That's because we are all friends!!". So young and so aware. All my efforts were rewarded today!!

One more sheet to go and we will be finished!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

All About Me - Part 2

Knowing the correct names for their body parts is a very important task for the 2-3 year old for 2 reasons: firstly, 2-3 year old children begin to interact more with their peers and need to express what they feel (for instance, if someone threw a block at them, they need to be able to explain where they are sore etc..). Children also need to feel confident in asking adults or bigger kids to help them. Secondly, knowing the exact term of each part of their bodies develop their awareness of themselves and their understanding of how they move or play. By the age of two, most children can point to their noses, knees, feet and other several body parts. However, knowledge of the work that these body parts actually perform is acquired more gradually. Preschoolers aged 3-5 learn to dress and undress themselves in the classroom using the Montessori practical life exercises or simply when getting ready to go home.

 As children become more adept at dressing and playing physical games, knowledge of body parts evolves into a better understanding of bodily functions. Additionally, since toilet training generally occurs during the late toddler and early preschool years, children at this age will begin to use language to name their body parts and bodily functions because they are becoming familiar with a certain cause and effect relationship that controls their urination and defecation. It is important to teach children the correct words for body parts and functions so that they do not become frustrated and discouraged by ambiguous language.

 So as part of our All About me theme, I have introduced a few little rhymes about body parts for the children to memorise such as:

I have 10 little fingers and 10 little toes
   hold up ten fingers
Two little arms and one little nose
   raise arms and then point to nose
One little mouth and two little ears
   point to mouth and ears
Two little eyes for smiles and tears
   everyone smile
One little head and two little feet
   shake head and feet
One little chin;  that's ME, complete!
   hold up arms

or this little rhyme:

2 little eyes to look around
2 little ears to hear each sound
1 little nose to smell what’s sweet
1 little mouth that likes to eat

As a science project, we have a chart ready in the classroom. Measure each child and record the height on it so that children can see it.

The following preschool activities with body parts are what we are currently doing in our classroom. They provide a great number of learning experiences. Front and center, of course, is the ability to recognize and name the parts of the body. Secondly, these lessons are ideal for basic counting as well as an introduction to the concepts of left and right. The art component is instrumental in emphasizing small motor skills and especially the correct holding of a crayon with an eye on future pencil positioning for writing. Cutting out along outlines is another learning outcome that these lessons offer. These activities can be done during circle time, group time, or during outdoor play.

Counting Body Parts:
Have the children find different parts of their body. As a group, count how many of each part you have. For example, a child might say "fingernails". All of the group will find their fingernails and count them
Body Part Riddles :
Say riddles to the children such as, "I'm thinking of the body part that you put your socks and shoes over. What is it?" or "It's on your face. You use it to eat and talk with. What is it?"
Color me Perfectt!
There are a number of names and variations of this diversion. Preschoolers love this fast paced game. I ask the children to touch a specific number of items of a certain color with a particular body part. For example, I might call out: “Touch three red things with one knee.” The children will now look for red items and then seek to apply their knees to the items. This is a wonderful game to play outside!
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
We sing this classic song while touching the appropriate body parts. We include fun, less common ones, such as tongue, toenail, or knuckle.
Follow the Leader
We use various body parts in the instructions. For example, the leader (my assistant, myself or even an older child) might say “Wiggle your toes.” 

For Art and craft, this week, I pre-cut some fabric in rectangles and triangles as well as coloured/patterned paper in circle and rectangles. I invited the children to use the various pieces together to make a portrait of themselves. As it happened, the girls decided they wanted to become princesses and I had to find a quick way to make crowns. I don't know if each character is actually a self-portrait but the kids had a ball creating these little men and women!!!

Today I started reading abook called The Best Part of Me, is a wonderful resource.  I started out by telling the children that I had an important question for them. They asked me what the question was and I told them that I needed to read them a special book before I could ask them. 
                                 The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About Their Bodies in Pictures and Words

This book combines black-and-white illustrations with real children's words describing what they love most about their bodies. The objective is for children to identify a positive physical feature of themselves. They ABSOLUTELY loved reading the book, which consists of photographs and is written by children.  Each child in the book was asked to choose and write about the best part of themselves.  The text is actually printed in the child’s own handwriting. At the end of the book I asked them, “What is the best part of you?”. So, what I did is: I rolled up my sleeve, hold my elbow out toward them, and look at it like it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. Then I said: "So tell me, what do you think of my elbow, because I absolutely love it? I think it IS the best part of me." some of them started giggling and others blushed. SO cute!!! I began making an oral  list of what I loved about my elbows: "I love my elbow because even though I can't eat my soup with it, it is the perfect tool to nudge my friend when I think of something funny!They are so pointy and so strong that I can rest them up on my knees just like this to hold my head when I am tired!".  Then, I asked them again to think about a art of their body that they liked th emost. Needless to say that answers were fusing from every directions. SO armed with my camera, we went outside to take pictures.  Tomorrow, I will write write down whatever words tey dictate to go with the pictures. BY next Monday, I should have all he pictures developed and with the children, we will create a display board for everybody to have a look at it. Today, it was the first time I did this activity and what a success!! The children loved it. I can't wait for Monday to finish our little project. I really believe that this experience is a great way for developing a healthy self-image. It is also a good catalyst for discussions about how we are all different and the same. So stay in touch because I hsould have a lot more to show you about this project by the beginning of next week!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Kissing Hand

OK... Our first week back to preschool is over... What a whirlwind of emotions!!! Everything I had planned went down the drain... I had to use PLan B nearly every day.. But you know what? It all worked out and all came together at the end. I always seem to OVER plan my first week, when there is no real need. This wek was more about settling the newcomers and let them appreciate their new environment and their new friends. On the first day of school there are always mixed emotions everywhere!  Some children are thrilled to be at school while others have much difficulty making the home to school transition.  So this year,  I read the Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. 

The children can relate to the little raccoon who feels a  little bit scared about his first day at school. It is a great way to discuss how the Chester Raccoon is feeling. It also allows children to see that they have a connection with Chester. Many children will state to their classmates that they too felt the way Chester felt on the first day of school. It is definitely a great way to tackle the topics of emotions and how to express one's emotions. This also shows children that their mam or dad are always there with hem in their heart no matter where they go. There are many different activities to be done with this book and all you need to do is google the book to see for yourself.

This is what we did: I prepared little booklets (one colourful A4 sheet folded up) with a picture of Chester in the front and  a poem inside the page. The children then printed their painted hand onto white paper. When dry, they added a heart-shaped sticker in the middle of their painted hand to represent the kissing hand:

I got the idea from Peace, Love and Learning blog. Great ideas there and Donna also has a great Maths and Literacy unit based on the Kissing Hand.

A Handful of Love
By D. Conway
It was my first day of school,
And now that it’s done.
I can’t wait to tell you,
About all the fun!
We read a book called The Kissing Hand
About Chester, a sweet raccoon.
He went to school up in a tree,
Beneath the shining moon.
Chester was scared and a little shy,
Until his mom kissed his hand.
It sent the love right up his arm,
Towards his heart for it to land.
Just like Chester, I was brave
Because of love from you.
I made this gift so I can show,
How much I love you, too!

Then yesterday the children coloured Chester. I laminated their picture and cut it out. The tail is articulated with a pin. We then added some fur on Chester's tummy and threaded a furry pipe cleaner through the tail. Finally, the children sprinkled some glitter on its nose and added googly eyes to make it even more fun.

What do you think? What do you do during your first week?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

All About Me - Part 1

In my post yesterday,  I outlined the SPHE program we like to follow in our Montessori classroom. I explained how closely linked it was to our first theme of the year,  "All About Me". Let me now show you a bit more in details  what we actually do at the beginning of the year, and you will understand what I mean.  Learning to care for and respect the environment and other people is one of the cornerstones of the Montessori method of education (and also a strand unit in our SPHE program).  At the beginning of the year, there is always an immediate need to focus on the rules in our classroom (practical life and courtesy). We are welcoming  9 new children this year and at this point, we just need to do lay the foundations for the future.

On a practical level, Montessori has always believed that the Practical Life Exercises (PLE) were essential to her method as they provide a sane and wholesome range of activities which allow the children to develop control and coordination of movement, awareness of their environment, orderly thought patterns, independent work habits, responsibility etc.. All these can only be attained through spontaneous purposeful work.
And this is what we work on in particular during the first 2 weeks:

- How to wash hands at the sink
- How to use the bathroom
- How to work on a table
- How to work on a rug and walk around it to respect each other’s work
- How to stand in line to wash hands, wash dishes, use the bathroom
- How to walk around a rug?
- How to get the teacher's attention
What else do we focus on? Well, of course, I feel it is very important to teach the children how to tidy their classroom, clean it and organise it. And we nip it in the buds straight away, from the first week at preschool. Everything in our classroom (like in any other Montessori classroom) has a place, and it stays in the same place all year, so that children can find things and put them away more easily. During the first few weeks of school, children explore almost all of the main materials in our classroom while learning rules for using them. 
I do a lesson for each center before the kids use the materials, and we go over each center’s rules every day for the first few weeks. The first day of school, I split the class in 2  halves. My assistant takes half of the children to the practical Life Exercises and the Sensorial Centres and I take the other half to the maths and Literacy centers (afterwards, we switch). We show them where everything goes, and we explain safety rules. We take a few things down and put them away asking the children if they remember where they go. Then, each child is given one or more items from that center and the children take turns putting them away. There are times when we have to repeat this. These lessons last as long as needed. There is no set end time for beginning school lesson.

We also tackle courtesy lessons and outline behavior rules at the beginning of the year. On the very first day and every day thereafter, we review the rules carefully as a group.  I begin by asking the children “Does anybody know why we come to school?”.  After a few responses (usually not correct ones) I prompt them and say “We come to school to LEARN.”  Next, I tell the students that learning is like “getting smart” (they usually understand that much better) and in order to learn we have to follow some rules; this is when I introduce the rules chart with pictures.   I tell them that there are five very important things we must do in order to learn and I say the rules out loud as I point to them on the chart.  The next day when I ask these questions a few more students will be able to answer them, and finally after several days everybody should be able to answer the questions.  After the initial few weeks of this type of review I switch to having our Leader of the Day (LOTD) point to the rules on the chart and the Leader says them for us or picks friends to say each one.  This process helps the children internalize and take ownership of the rules.

Another great way to introduce the rules is to read from the series of books titled The Best Behavior series (click here to have a look on  There are many books in this series that address behaviors such as sharing, cleaning-up, kicking, hitting, biting, and unkind words. I read one of them every day at the beginning of the year during circle time

  Feet are Not for Kicking Teeth are Not for Biting

Finally, making friends and feeling that we belong is a very important aspect in the children’s normalization process in the Montessori classroom at the beginning of the year especially. So during the first 2-3 weeks of the school year, we also tackle this topic. The first thing is to get the children to know each other’s names as quickly as possible. Especially for the newcomers. I like to read Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff.

 Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

 In the story, the teacher has 26 students and each student's name begins with a different letter of the alphabet.  In turn, each student is an animal that begins with that same letter of the alphabet. (Adam is an alligator, Brenda is a beaver)  Their last names rhyme with how they're getting ready for school (Adam Krupp wakes up; Brenda Heath brushes her teeth). We identify students with names that matched the alphabet letters in the book or with names of animals. I write down each child’s name on a colourful card sheet, place a photo of the child beside it as well as a picture of an animal whose name starts with the same letter). By the time we are finished with the book, everyone will have heard everyone else's name, know the first letter of their name and their friends’ too.  Don't worry, I will probably write a post on this activity too.

It would be interested if you could share with us what you do in yor classroom or at home at the beginning of the school year.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

OUr new SPHE corner

This first month at preschool is crucial to the establishment of positive dynamics in the classroom. And during that month, the emphasis is usually on the SPHE curriculum (soical, physical and health education). The curriculum is structured in such a way as t treat the dimensions of a child's life holistically. It aims at developing value, attitudes and skills important for a child's health and well-being as well as giving him/her the tools to deal with any situations he/she may encounter in a classroom, at home or out in the community. Because SPHE permeates all aspects of school life, the program is usually implemented all through the year. Depending on the objectives needed to be achieved,  they may be introduced through a book, an art activity, a specific exercise on the PL shelves, a group game etc... and through the everyday happenings in the school and in the context of the classroom atmosphere.

To the purpose, I have added a SPHE corner in our classroom. 

The tree will help me to represent all the different seasons and the concept of the changing weather. Of course, as the corner is new, I have been able to gather all the materials I would like. Not yet.. At the moment, this is where "official" materials can be found:

cards about the 5 senses

dressing up teddy bears
a game differentiating the tools used by various professionals

Joey Magnetic Dress-Up Playset
dressing up game

Yet, the whole program is presented in a number of strand units that can be approached and studied informally through a wide range of activities across the classroom:

  1. Myself ( self identity, self awareness, taking care of my body, knowing about my body, food and nutrition, feelings and emotions, safety and protection)
  2. Myself and others (Myself and my family, my friends and other people, relating to others)
  3. Myself and the wider world (My school, my local community, the different continents)
And as I said at the beginning of this post, our first few weeks at preschool are going to be closely linked to several aspects of the SPHE program. Aspects which I consider essential to establish the foundations of our little "community" and a sense of belonging in our classroom. I wrapped all of these aspects in a monthly theme titled "All About Me" and I will dedicate 2 to 3 posts on the subject. SO keep in touch!!