Category Archives: Activity

Application: Hundred Languages

So, when I first began looking at Montessori, homeschooling, and everything else I really wanted to put out activities/toys for Cam to engage with. There was a lot of trial and error (more error than not) and some searching around for a good philosophical fit for guiding the creation of those activities and choosing the toys, but I think we’ve finally hit our stride. I mixed my two favorite philosophies and have both Montessori-inspired activities and Reggio Emilia-inspired materials out.

photo 2-1Our table is set against the wall with two sets of shelves on either side. I chose these shelves to contain the Reggio inspired art materials: markers, pens, pencils, paper, foam sheets, stickers, chalk, toilet paper tubes, etc. This is part of the Hundred Languages, in that children can use (amongst other things) art and art materials to express what they are learning. Cam has free access to the materials and knows (mostly) how to use them and does. She’s learning how to hold a pencil/marker and control her strokes, so she spends a fair amount of time with the pencils/markers out making lines and squiggles.

photo 1I also have out some open ended materials, that in theory target Montessori skills (pincer grasp, fine motor, visual discrimination), but because of their open-endedness feel more Reggio to me. She’s free to learn skills with them that are not necessarily what I would have chosen to target.┬áSo there is a bin of doodads that Cam LOVES to put into bottles and boxes and people’s cupped hands. We have some nuts and bolts that she can put together, loop over each other, and put into bottles. There is a basket of marbles that she likes to transfer to the floor and other baskets. She also likes to put them in a bottle and shake them around.

While we also have Montessori materials, I love the open endedness of these baskets and Cam seems really drawn to them. She is free to carry them around the house or the room. Sometimes I catch her sticking them in her shirt and shorts pockets. She also plays with them in the intended way, by threading the nuts, bolts, and doodads together. And I don’t need to spend time teaching her a proper way to work with the materials.

Music Appreciation

Music BasketI recently came across this post about integrating music into your day. I just thought I would chime in on music. Our house is normally full of music. I am no singer, but I do enjoy listening to most types of music. My favorites are world and classical, but we also do electronica, pop, jazz, and a lot more.

One thing I remember about growing up was how full of music my life was. My dad is a luthier (violin maker) and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we had music in the house. Many of my early memories are of listening and dancing to a variety of music. Now that I have my own daughter, I want that experience for her. I want her to love music and find a connection to it.

To that end, I have a basket of musical instruments for her to play with and I make a point to have music on at all times. Most of the time it is our local classical station (thank you Capital Public Radio!). Other times I turn up an old favorite (or new favorite) and let Cam dance around while shaking an egg shaker. She thoroughly enjoys this time and I am trying to be good about working it into our everyday routine.

Busy Board

Cam is really into keys, locks, latches, lids, boxes, buttons and the like. Anything she can flip, switch, push, and spin she wants to play with. Sometimes this is a problem, like when she keeps opening and closing the wine fridge. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t letting all the cold air out and causing it to switch on more frequently. It does make a very satisfying thud when it closes, though, so I understand.

She is also fond of taking people’s keys from them when they come in the door. You see, she’s figured out that they are usually carrying them or just getting ready to put them away as we answer the door. Guests think it’s very cute, until she gleefully presses the panic button, chortles to herself, and fusses when they are taken away.

So we finally decided to channel this interest into a busy board. This is, essentially, a board with a variety of doodads to fiddle and fidget with. You can certainly buy them- Etsy has them as does Amazon- but Tom is handy so I asked him to make one. He’s been planning it out in his head for awhile now, but we finally made it over to the hardware store to collect pieces.

And boy did we collect pieces! This was not an especially cheap project, although the boards available for purchase are also expensive and I am sure there are ways to cut down on the cost of a homemade one, but it is totally awesome. The board is also intended to grow with her for several years, as some of the “activities” are more difficult and require either more or better hand strength and coordination.

 

Front of Busy BoardThe board has (refer to picture for a visual):

  • an outlet with two plugs for her to put in
  • a switch next to the outlet that lights up four reflectors next to it
  • a cabinet or cam lock
  • a mirror
  • a wheel
  • a chain lock
  • a loop to hang a padlock on
  • a latch to close or lock shut with the padlock
  • a hook to hang the key ring with the padlock keys
  • a bar with metal rings
  • her name spelled with Scrabble tiles and backed with Velcro
  • a door bell (that also lights up when the light switch is turned on), when pushed it lights a reflector below it
  • a faucet

Back of Busy BoardThe boards that the things are mounted on are chalkboard material so she (or we) can draw on it. And the back has a toggle switch that turns on a circle of lights set up like a clock. When she is older we can use this to write in the numbers on the clock and practice telling time.

Cam is thrilled with the board and spends a lot of time playing with it. It’s been interesting to see which items she takes an interest in. At first she was fascinated with spinning the wheel, but she has moved on to the letters and the door bell. A great big thanks to my husband for such an awesome toy. It was a lot of work. Not unreasonable, but a lot of work nonetheless. But Cam appreciates it.

Sensory Walk

Last week we got a lot of rain, so I came up with a couple of activities to do inside to combat the cabin fever. One of these activities was sensory walk, which sounds a lot fancier than it really was. I collected up several different textures and laid them out on the floor. Then I had Cam walk across them and feel them with her toes.

It wasn’t anything complicated and it only lasted about 15 minutes, but Cam really enjoyed it. After walking over each texture she sat down and began feeling them with her hands.

Textures I Used:

  • package of sponges from the dollar store
  • rag towel
  • velvet gift bag
  • waffle weave blanket
  • Duplo base board

Resources Series: Free Printables and Downloads

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There are a lot of free Montessori materials out there and really this is just an extension of the previous post in the series. However, many of the links below are to sites that sell materials but also have a freebie page. I was just trying to collect the links in one place with other free resources.

Free Printables/Downloads

The Helpful Garden is amazing. The author of this blog is a Montessori teacher and she puts together free printable nomenclature cards, activities, etc. They are all very beautifully done, an issue I have with some of the other printables out there. There are a lot available and she is even beginning to use D’Nealian script on some of them.

Montessori for Everyone offers some free downloads in various areas of study.

Maitri Learning also has some free materials which include some audio files that are lectures on the theory behind portions of the Montessori Method.

Montessori Print Shop has a monthly free printable. I like the majority of their products and I’ve just gone through and downloaded them all (the free ones, not the ones that cost).

3 Dinosaurs offers a lot of free printables. She has even grouped them into themed packs which I find helpful.

Resources Series: Classroom Materials and Presentation

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There are a lot of resources out there for classroom materials, many of them can be found on blogs or on Pinterest. Here are a few I have looked at.

Classroom Materials

Montessori for Everyone has lots of printable materials. They do cost though. For a link to their free printables see below.

I came across a woman who does videos on eHow that show how to present various lessons. I’m not sure I need to be shown how to tell my daughter what a cylinder is, but I can see these becoming very helpful when presenting unfamiliar activities (pink tower, for example).

Montessori Outlet makes beautiful Montessori furniture and lesson supplies. I was really put off by how expensive some (most) of the Montessori equipment can be. Montessori Outlet is actually a reasonably priced company. It isn’t cheap and it doesn’t have loads of stuff, but it isn’t the sky high prices I have seen in other places. I intend to invest in some of the more difficult to make items like knobbed cylinders.

Updated 12/4/2012: There is a great suite of apps for the iPad, if you are inclined to use technology. It’s pretty ubiquitous at our house, so I like the idea of working it into our curriculum. There are four different apps, each of which costs about $4, that focus on geography, math, letters, and spelling. You can see the Montessorium website here to read more. Thanks to my friend’s husband for alerting me to this. And possibly my own husband, but I’m not sure. Sometimes my mommy-brain gets the best of me.

Updated 4/29/2013: I have found several more websites that sell a variety of Montessori and Montessori-style materials. I have even ordered from Kid Advance. Not only was shipping very speedy, the products are beautiful and were extremely reasonably priced.

Kid Advance

Adena Montessori

Grandpa’s Montessori

A+ Montessori

Resources Series: Scope and Sequence

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I should say that when I think scope and sequence I think of a list of skills or pieces of knowledge that are written out in the chronological order they need to be learned in. Each skill is then broken down into a list of either smaller skills and tasks that need to be completed to gain mastery of the larger skill. In other words, a scope and sequence is a little more dynamic than a checklist. I have yet to really find one I am satisfied with, although David Gettman’s book Basic Montessori gets close as does the one available through The Helpful Garden. That isn’t to say they aren’t out there. I just have yet to find one. Although my hope is really to use these to create my own.

Scope and Sequence

The Helpful Garden has a very good scope and sequence. I personally would like to combine it with more information though.

Montessori for Everyone sells comprehensive lists that are checklists grouped by area of study. They cover skills and activities for a set age group. It isn’t exactly a scope and sequence since it isn’t more detailed about the skills, but all in all it’s extremely helpful and does the trick. They do cost and a couple seem a bit pricey for what they are, but not unreasonable.

Maitri Learning offers some free sequence and order lists for practical life, sensorial, math and language arts for the 3-6 set. They are very nice.

Montessori Teachers Collective also has an album of activities and the categories they fall under. They call them teacher’s albums and they are, but I am using the beginning list, or table of contents, more as a scope and sequence. I didn’t find them to be the most complete teacher’s album out there so I hadn’t intended to use them as such. They also have a scope and sequence and I thought the two together were much more helpful than when apart.

Update 11/2/2014: I found a site this morning that has a scope and sequence of sorts, although it isn’t complete by any means. The real strength of it lies in that it shows a picture of the activity with brief, simple instructions on how to DIY it (or just buy it, if that’s easier). Check out Montessori Homeschool (MontHome).

Update 2/1/2015: Montessori Compass offers a scope and sequence that is even linked up with Common Core Standards. It’s a paid service and is really designed for the classroom teacher, but it looks pretty comprehensive and useful. 

 

Resources Series: Teacher’s Manuals

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Here is Part One of the Resources Series. Hopefully you find something you need. I would also like to encourage you to post your favorite source for teacher’s manuals if you do not see it on the list.

Updated 2/1/2015: I recently read a really great blog post from a Montessori teacher on her blog Montessori 101 where she discusses what teacher albums are supposed to be and why we probably shouldn’t buy them. I agree with her mostly, although as a someone who wants some idea of what I’m doing the idea of the albums is appealing. I’ve said it before, but I have yet to find a Montessori book that breaks down the activities, their sequence, what they are, and what they are teaching. There are tons of blogs out there that have “Montessori” activities, but most of them are themed variations of the same four or five “Montessori” activities, like three-part cards and counters with cards. This is why the teacher’s manuals are so appealing to me, in theory, they should help you grasp the method as a whole and give you a sense of the entire curriculum. However, Aubrey makes some excellent points. I suggest reading her post and her subsequent posts about making your own that I will link to here and using that in your decision about whether or not to purchase one.  Make Your Own Albums 1

Teacher’s Manuals

Montessori Primary Guide is a free online resource that walks you through various aspects of the Montessori curriculum. It gives you foundational knowledge for each area (practical life, math, etc.) and then gives you activities with detailed instructions on how to do them in each section. They also have videos.

Shu Chen Jenny Yen’s Online Montessori Guides is similar to the Montessori Primary Guide. She has pedagogy and activities. These are really nice and are free!

Montessori Print Shop has teachers manual’s for practical lifesensoriallanguage arts, and math. You can buy them separately or as a bundle. The manuals are based on AMI principles and concepts. One nice thing about these is that they are essentially eBook versions. Instant Montessori gratification. :) They are not free, but the cost seems reasonable. These are only for primary ages (2.5-6).

Montessori Research and Development also publishes teacher’s manuals. There are some sample pages available for viewing before buying. Again, they aren’t free, but the price seems reasonable. For me, the most important thing here is that there is a manual for the 0-2.5 set. While I feel ill prepared to follow the Montessori Method in the primary years I feel even less confident that I am “doing it right” currently. These manuals were developed and written by several certified Montessori teachers and child development experts, another plus in my book.

Montessori at Home! is an awesome eBook with the Montessori Method adapted to the home environment. It’s easy to follow and there are lots of activities. Plus it has some pedagogy and history. It’s not free, but again it isn’t unreasonably priced. And if you buy it through Montessori Print Shop you have the option of purchasing it bundled with the printable materials you will need for the activities.

 

Resources Series: Intro

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After my post last week I spent some time this week focusing on researching Montessori scope and sequences. In the process I stumbled across several excellent resources for teacher’s manuals, products, free printables, scope and sequences, and more. I thought for my own sake, as well as anyone else looking for some guidance, I would create an annotated bibliography of sorts. I figured to make it more manageable I would break it up into a series of posts each one with a different type of resource. The list is by no means exhaustive and if you have a favorite resource feel free to post it in the comments. I am especially glad to have found the teacher resources as that is the area where I feel least prepared to follow Montessori principles.

Obviously I haven’t actually put all of the resources into practice or even read each material cover to cover, so I can’t give them ringing personal endorsements. However I think if you are looking for places to find information these would be good places to start and would be worth taking the time to see if you are interested. If nothing else, it may give you peace of mind that there are materials out there to help you.

Under the Sea

Photo by Tom Wroten
Photo by Tom Wroten

Photo by Tom Wroten

This month we have a conference in Monterey, so we’ll be paying a visit to the fabulous aquarium┬áthere. In preparation I’m trying to expose Cam to names of sea creatures, but also to colors, number and stories. I’m also hoping this month she really transitions to one afternoon nap so we can get into a better routine than we had last month, but I know kids don’t always follow your plan!

Cam is currently really into putting things into containers. She is also totally into putting lids on bottles and jars. In the Montessori fashion, I’m trying to create activities that encourage and reinforce those skills (and maybe sneak in a bit of an ocean theme). I have to admit, though, the lids thing makes me nervous. She’s most interested in small lids, like those on water bottles, but she isn’t totally out of the phase where she puts things in her mouth. It had created a dilemma for me, since I worry she’ll choke, but I don’t want to discourage her. She has really good fine motor/dexterity, so the large lids don’t really do it for her. If any one has any suggestions I would be more than grateful. In the meantime I haven’t made it an activity that can sit out on her shelves and she has to be very closely supervised while she plays with them.

I just recently went back and looked at a little chart I created that shows the phases or “sensitive periods” that Maria Montessori based her method on. I was very surprised to find Cam going through several of them just as predicted. Not really surprised that it was true, but just amazed by my daughter. I have to admit being a parent is really cool and it’s so gratifying and rewarding to watch my daughter explore and discover the world.