Thursday, August 30, 2012

First Days of School

We have had so much fun these past few days learning new things and meeting new friends! We had a centipede and turtle shells for show-and-tell. Two birthday girls had their mommies read to the class. Maps became extremely popular, we danced with rhythm sticks, and learned new yoga poses! 

It has been a joy meeting all of our new children and welcoming our returning students. 
Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Tour of Our Classroom: Part III - Language

Language is an essential part of the Montessori classroom. We use it in Practical Life when we show our children how to politely interact with their peers. We use it in Sensorial when we give three-period-lessons and introduce our children to curvilinear triangles, square-based pyramids, or the concept of dark/darker/darkest, and we use it in Math when we teach our children simple addition and multiple songs.

Our language area includes handwriting activities and all the fun art projects that the children do to strengthen their pincer grip before they even attempt to draw their first letters. This area also includes materials that introduce basic concepts such as opposites, items that go together, sequencing, classifying, and dozens of sets of nomenclature cards (categories of items we think children would be intrigued to know the names of: different insects, occupations, dinosaurs, mammals, landmarks, etc.) that are rotated frequently to maintain interest. It includes a phonetic approach to reading, an introduction to grammar, and it includes all the songs, poems, and finger plays we learn throughout the year.

Our teachers are a wonderful source of language, for they are trained on how to interact with children in a way that will foster language development. For instance, when giving a lesson on the names of different articles of clothing, the teacher will not only name the item as a skirt, but note that it is a red and black plaid skirt, that you would most likely find a skirt on a girl, that skirts can be either long or short, that sometimes, girls like to wear skirts on special occasions, etc. They also read to and listen to our children read every day. Except for special occasions (such as when a Mystery Reader visits our class), we make a point to only read to a small group of children at a time, for our mixed ages makes the children's interests and experiences differ greatly. When a teacher is reading to her small group of students, she is careful to ask listening comprehension or sequencing questions, introduce new vocabulary, and encourage participation in predictable books. Most importantly, our teachers engage our students in conversation, pose questions that encourage them to be more descriptive, and model expressive story-telling.

It is our goal to instill a love of language and literature and help our children become completely fluent readers. We believe this special combination will allow the whole world of learning to be opened to them.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Our New Playground

We are so excited to start school tomorrow!  Thanks to all our wonderful families for their generous donations! I know the children will love their new swings and soft play-surface. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Tour of Our Classroom: Part II - Sensorial

Blindfold games are a favorite in our classroom. The children delight in precisely folding our handkerchiefs, finding a friend to tie them up, and matching different textures, temperatures, and weights. Closely tied for second place are the mystery bag (a sack containing ordinary objects which are routinely switched out) and sound cylinders (two sets of six matching cylinders, which when shaken produce a slightly different sound). Little do our students know just how much these fun activities are helping their development.
In the nineteenth century, Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin designed many materials to aid in the classification of the child’s “inner world”. We use their creations to help our students create order from the host of sensorial impressions they have absorbed from birth.
Sensorial materials help our students learn about size, weight, form, and dimension. One aspect of each material is either highlighted or perfectly isolated so that every other quality is unapparent or subdued. By highlighting these qualities, attention is brought to a particular focus. We isolate certain qualities such as:
  • Touch: texture, temperature, weight 
  • Sight: color, shape, or form
  • Sound: volume and pitch
  • Smell: categories (floral/culinary/medicinal)
  • Taste: bitter, sweet, sour, salty

Through the use of sensorial materials, we encourage multiple explorations of all of the senses so our students are able to differentiate greater differences in their environment. This ability to perceive differences strengthens the basis of intellect and enhances the power of reasoning, thinking, understanding, and appreciation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Tour of Our Classroom: Part I - Practical Life

School is out for the next two weeks, and I thought this would be the perfect time for me to give an introduction to each part of our classroom. The following is a bit theory intense, but I have provided it for anyone who is interested in learning more about the day-to-day activities in our classroom. Enjoy!
Part I - Practical Life

We wait upon children; and to serve them in this way is not less fatal than to do something that would tend to suffocate their own useful, spontaneous actions. We believe that children are like puppets. We wash them and feed them as if they were dolls. We never stop to think that a child who does not act does not know how to act, but he should act, and nature has given him all the means for learning how to act. As early as eighteen months, the child is quite capable. However, according to us, he cannot walk so we provide him with transport; he cannot work so we work for him. At the very moment of his entry into life, we give him an inferiority complex. – Maria Montessori

Practical life activities offer an opportunity for youngsters to gain independence and build new relationships. These activities are a collection of simple, ordinary tasks that aid in preparing, establishing, and maintaining order and hygiene as well as social relations with their community; they are the physical, psychological, and social foundations for everything that will happen in our classroom. The child is directed toward the goal of building concentration and coordinating the movement of the whole hand and body – especially the pincer grip. These exercises become a basis for activity and intellect. They must be real activities, for is psychologically necessary to offer opportunities for movement that has an intelligent purpose and is not pretend or fantasy based. Practical life allows the child to participate in the group and fulfill the child’s biological need to be engaged in life.

Movement should be guided by intelligence and directed by reason. Activities such as zipping, watering plants, and washing windows help children use voluntary muscles to express their personality. By interacting in his or her world, all the child’s muscles are able to develop as he or she moves, opens, shuts, and lifts. The child is not just engaged in physical education -- he or she is perfecting different movements. Thought and action come together in coordinated movements: hand/eye coordination, gross motor, equilibrium, posture, pincer grip, and crossing the middle line. The child should never be shown something easy, for effort is where we find engagement. The child's will develops through hard effort and choice - which includes learning to see an activity through.

Practical Life consists of four parts: care of self, care of environment, grace and courtesy, and movement. Transitional and preliminary activities are subsets of this area.

Transitional activities are activities such as puzzles the child has at home. These materials allow the child to work before they have been given any lessons.
Preliminary activities are activities that prepare the child for work in the classroom. Activities such as spooning, pouring, and folding help develop control, improve small movements, and help build toward real activities.

Care of Person helps builds image and self respect (dressing frames, hand washing, putting on coats and shoes). Care of Environment increases self worth by allowing the child to feel value in having something to offer. Grace and Courtesy allows the child to learn how to act in specific situations: how to make an introduction, apologize, open the door, give a present, etc. -- this part of practical life teaches actions that help the child live in harmony with others. Movement Activities, as in walking on the line and controlling one's self during the silent game, allows the mind and body to act in harmony.

 In our classroom, practical life activities are scattered about the room -- dressing frames are across from our coat hooks, sweeping and mopping are together near our trashcan, plant watering is nestled behind some flowers, and window washing is hanging on the wall beside our window. Apple slicing and sandwich cutting are inside our easel, which is where we keep all the paper products one would need for snack or lunch: paper cups and plates, napkins, plastic ware, tissue, baby wipes, etc.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Welcome to our blog! We are an AMS full-member affiliated, Montessori-based preschool in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. We're excited about starting a new year and can't wait for all the new adventures. Follow us as we discover, create, learn, and grow! 

Below are some pictures taken during the 2010-2012 school years.