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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Where in the World are We?!

One of the things that I have always loved about Montessori curriculum is that it has a heavy geography component.  Maps and flags and country and culture studies are a major feature any Montessori classroom at every age and stage of development.
When I started in Primary (working with 3-6 year olds) we sang the continent song and traveled around the globe as the year progressed focusing on a different continent every few months.  Even for small people it brings the world closer.  When I taught Lower Elementary we studied countries and worked on pin maps and puzzle maps.  Fast forward to Upper Elementary and the geography fun continues!
When the school year began I stepped into a brand new classroom with a group of young veteran Montessorians.  I knew very little about the 20 learners in front of me and as most kids claim, they didn't know any Montessori lessons! :)  It wasn't long into the school year that I was losing my mind and they frankly were bored to tears waiting for me to figure it all out and find things for them "to do".  And then someone asked if they could make a map...and the angles sing!  Of course, let's make maps!
So, armed with butcher paper and colored pencils and a little bit of direction (that you can grab for free from my TPT).

Click here to access resource in my TPT store!

They traced maps, did research, labeled maps and prepared to present to the class.  When they finished creating they proudly displayed them in the hallway.

The pictures don't do the work justice but the maps ended up giving me a great deal of insight into the abilities and needs of my kiddos.  It gave them meaningful purpose filled work and it got our school year off to a great start!

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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Conversation Journals

I've always believed that the best ideas in life come from those around us.  There are no new ideas just different renditions of old ones.  Many years ago when I was just starting out in teaching I had the grand opportunity to attend an SDE conference on multiage teaching.  I had visited a few multiage classrooms and read a lot and convinced my principal to let me try a 2/3 grade multiage classroom.  I truly believed its how kids should learn.  While I was at the conference I had the opportunity to hear Ellen Thompson speak.  She was a multiage educator in Vermont and I still have the notes I took back in 1996!  She had so many gems and I couldn't write fast enough!
I still employ many of her ideas in my classroom but one of my favorites is conversation journals.
Everyone has their own little journal with their name on it and I write them a note daily.  When they come in each morning it is part of the morning work they do while all of the kids file in.  They write me back and a one-on-one personal conversation happens with each kiddo every day.
We quickly needed to set ground rules for acceptable responses and writing structure.  As a teacher my #1 reason for using convo journals is to get to know my kiddos better but a fabulous bonus is that I learn so much about them as writers.  I can do a quick check of writing, punctuation, and spelling skills.  

I can model correct writer moves and they can mimic those moves when they respond.
I can listen to the celebrations as well as the tough stuff that is on kids minds.
We are currently negotiating what it means to "write back" and that we are in essence, texting on paper.  Sometimes I won't ask a question or write something that they can respond to but that doesn't mean they can't carry on the conversation.  I'll look for them to ask me something to keep the conversation going.

They are tiny for a reason...TIME.  It takes me about 20-30 minutes each afternoon to write in each journal and I usually take the small basket home with me and do them while I wait for my boy at soccer practice or while watching a little tv at night.  They are about .30 a piece but with the amount of knowledge I gain from them, I'd pay $5.00 a piece if I had to!
Although there is a time investment and you have to stay committed, it's one of my most favorite teaching moves.
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Full Circle

     Sometimes you have to wait a minute to be where you really know you should be.  Sometimes my patience is really short with that sort of thing.  This time I waited a quick 20 years! :)  And I do believe its gonna be worth every minute of adventure and excitement and growth!
     When I first came into working with kids as a real live paid professional I had just moved to the University of South Carolina from Glendale, Arizona and I landed a job as the Director of an after-school program for kids from our local housing projects.  Every day, we'd go to the church we worked from and take the bus down the big hill to the projects and pick up a busload of kiddos to spend the afternoon with.  We helped with homework, did art projects, played sports, went on field trips and got lots of love (never as much as we could give) from this amazing bunch of young people.  Fast forward two short years and I started student teaching and soon found a full time teaching position and was no longer able to run the program.
     Over the last 20 years of teaching I have had one amazing teaching opportunity after another but none have shaped me like that very first taste of teaching did.  I always said I would get back to a similar situation and I think I may have finally struck gold!  I have just taken a position as an Upper Elementary Montessori teacher (4th-6th) grade in a downtown Charleston school that apparently is situated directly across the street from one of our housing projects.  I feel like I am coming home.  Coming full circle.  And I couldn't be more excited about all the learning and growing and love I have ahead of me!
     Year number 22 is gonna be the best yet!
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Montessori Math...What's not to Love!?!

I'm gonna have to go ahead and say that my most favorite part of the Montessori Method is MATH.  I know, I know, you may be saying, NOOOOOO!!!  Curses to math! but let me tell you what, after 5 years in a Primary Montessori classroom watching kindergartners work through all 4 operations with confidence and ease, I gotta tell you there is no other way that leaves kids with a solid understanding of mathematical concepts!  
Today while I was working with one of my kiddos on adding teens it hit me that I really should share the love because even non-Montessorians can make this happen!
Without further ado...adding teens.

I have two small banks set up on our math shelves.  We have a larger bank set up in the classroom.  There is a lot of research behind the importance of giving kiddos the opportunity to walk back and forth building their numbers but in a small space, pre made banks have proved to be a great option to cut down on traffic around the room.

Included in the bank are units, 10 bars, 100 squares, a ten frame and 2 unit holders.

I write problems on our problem blanks and the kiddos get a bank and go to work.

I love these problem blanks because I am able to individualize each child's problems.  This means that I'm not expecting all kids to be able to do the same work which seems logical because rarely do all kids need the same work!

So, Olivia gathered the 10s and units needed to build the numbers in the first problem.  Once that was done she then moved all items down to add them together.

Now it is incredibly easy for Olivia to see how many ten bars (10s) and how many units (ones) there are when you add twelve and eleven together.  This is so important because all to often kids don't see that those are tens in the ten column, not ones!  The Montessori method let's them see just that!

Stay tuned for how this translates to my Lower Elementary classroom and kiddos who are working with bigger numbers!
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