Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Blog

I won't be writing a ton here until I'm back in the classroom, and that won't be for awhile : )

If you do want to keep up with me, I'm writing about my sweet girl and life as a new mom over here: The New Mommy Files: Memories, Missteps, and Milestones.  Otherwise, I'll catch you all when Annabelle is old enough for Children's House and I emerge from my blissful stay-at-home-mom cocoon!

Be well!

Monday, June 14, 2010

LOVE this Poem

Taken from the blog of a Montessori school (Sweetwater Bay Montessori Preschool), I had to post this here because I know I will want to reference in the future.

Today I did my math and science.
I toasted bread, halved and quartered, counted, measured, and used my eyes, ears and hands.
I added and subtracted on the way.
I used magnets, blocks and memory tray.
I learned about a rainbow and how to weigh.
So please don't say -


You see, I'm sharing as I play, to learn to listen and speak clearly when I talk
to wait my turn and when inside to walk.
To put my words into a phrase, to find my name and write it down.
To do it with a smile and not to frown, to put my pasting brush away.
So please don't say -


I learned about a snail and a worm.
Remembered how to take my turn.
Helped a friend when he was stuck.
Learned that water runs off a duck.
Looked at words from left to right.
Agreed to differ, not to fight.
So please don't say -


Yes, I played the whole day through.
I played to learn the things I do,
I speak a problem, find a clue and work out for myself just what to do.
My teachers set the scene, and stay near-by to help me when I really try.
They are there to pose the problems, and to help me think.
I hope they will keep me floating and never let me sink. All of this is in my head and not in my bag.
It makes me sad to hear you say -


When you attended your meeting today and do your work I will remember not to say to you -


- author unknown

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Montessori and Birth

The preparation for Annabelle's birth led to my becoming something of a birth junkie. I was absolutely amazed and exhilarated by my own birth experience and am now addicted to reading about, talking about, and thinking about birth. While most of the preparation for our birth experience happened in the 8 or so months that I actually knew I was pregnant, I started preparing mentally right around the time I started my Montessori journey.

What, you ask, does childbirth have to do with Montessori? I'll tell you ...

I come from a relatively large and more or less fertile family, so I grew up around babies being born. It wasn't a particularly scary thing, or a foreign thing, but I never gave it much thought. I did know that you showed up at the hospital and they gave you something called an epidural. Assorted family members hung around the waiting room and wandered in and out of the birthing room until that baby was finally out. Someone usually had a video camera and interviewed various family members, who gushed about their excitement as they waited. Eventually, the baby came out and everyone piled into the room where he or she was passed around from person to person for ooohs, aaahs, and photo ops. And that's how it was done.

When I began my Montessori journey, however, my idea of everything having to do with children changed. I was barely 18 when I began reading The Secret of Childhood and it was then that my whole picture of birth was completely turned upside down. Dr. Montessori writes,

But what care have men taken to assist the child as it makes the most difficult adjustment of all, that of passing from one mode of existence to another? At no other period in his life does man experience such a violent conflict and struggle, and consequent suffering, as at the time of birth...it has grown in a place where it was protected from all assaults, from every change of temperature, in a fluid created for its rest. And in an instant it has changed this dark and silent home for the hostile air... The doctor handles it without any particular regard, and when it starts to cry in desperation no one takes it seriously...
... a newborn child should not simply be shielded from harm, but measures should also be taken to provide for psychic adjustment to the world about it... The needs of a newborn child are not those of one who is sick but of one who is striving to adjust oneself physically and psychologically to new and strange surroundings.

Our attitude towards the newborn child should not be one of compassion but rather of reverence before the mystery of creation, that a spiritual being has been confined within limits perceptible to us. The manner in which we touch and move a child, and the delicacy of feeling which should inspire us at the time, makes us think of the gestures that a priest uses at the altar. His hands are purified, his motions are studied and thoughtful, and his actions take place in silence and in darkness that is penetrated only by a light that has been softened in its passage through stained glass windows. A feeling of hope and elevation pervades the sacred place. It is in surroundings such as these that the newborn child should live.

The first period of human life has not been sufficiently explored, and yet we are constantly becoming more aware of its importance. Hardships and privations in the first months of a child's existence can, as we now know, influence the whole course of his future development. But if in the child are to be found the makings of the man, it is in the child also that the future welfare of the race is to be found.

Too little attention is paid to the newborn child that has just experienced the most difficult of human crises. When he appears in our midst, we hardly know how to receive him, even though he bears within himself a power to create a better world than that in which we live ourselves.

The words which we read in the prologue to St. John's Gospel are in a sense applicable to the newborn child: "He was in the world ... and the world knew him not. He came unto his own and his own received him not."
How a woman chooses to birth is a very personal decision and what feels right for one woman may not for another. What this helped me realize, however, was the importance of birthing peacefully, gently, and consciously.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


My sweet daughter is finally here!
I'm a mom!
I'm thrilled!
My Annabelle is already 5 weeks old, and boy has it been an amazing 5 weeks!
Her birth was beautiful and gentle, just as I have known I wanted my children's births to be since I first began reading Montessori's work and things have been at least as beautiful ever since. What a gift a new life is!

I daydream about when she becomes mobile and we can start implementing more and more Montessori into our home. Oh, I do love this stage, though, and am in no real hurry : ) Her room is just about all ready for when the time comes (she's in our bed now)

I have baskets all ready to transform into 'treasure baskets' for when she is ready to explore and am eager to share those with you. If any of you have made them, what have you put inside? Hopefully, now that I'm home, my creative juices will be flowing and I'll be posting much more frequently : )

Monday, December 14, 2009

Math in Traditional School

As a disclaimer - if you are unfamiliar with or new to Montessori, please understand that the following is not a representation of Montessori math and none of the activities shown are part of the Montessori curriculum. This is a chronicle of my attempt to help a group of students deepen their understanding of some math concepts by bringing a tiny sliver of what I have learned as a Montessori teacher into a very traditional setting.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have suddenly found myself teaching 4th grade, not just in a traditional school, but in a traditional school on a military base! Yikes! ; ) Needless to say, it is different.

Dr. Montessori's math curriculum is one of the most beautiful things in the world as far as I'm concerned, so it hurts my heart to teach math from a textbook.

I was just wrapping up a chapter on multiplication with my class. I had used a modified version of Multiplication with the Golden Beads to introduce multiplication to begin with. I felt the best way to begin would be to demystify the operation itself. Multiplication can intimidate 4th graders (it still blows my mind that we're waiting until 3rd or 4th grade to introduce it for the first time, but that's beside the point), so I felt that introducing it as we introduce it in the early childhood classroom might help to create a clearer sense of what the operation of multiplication really is - simply taking the same number multiple times.

I set up an "Operations Table" and a "Bank," and designated a banker for our first lessons. The only difference is that the group was much larger than I would have liked, and we were using bright orange plastic "base ten cubes" instead of lovely golden beads. This did seem to help and the majority of the students seemed to really understand what multiplication was before we dove into the text. This chapter introduced a lot of terms, and some students were able to easily memorize all of them, but as we neared the end of the unit and prepared to test I observed that many students still didn't have the foundation necessary to understand the terms that were presented (and even those who had memorized them had done just that -memorize. They didn't necessarily have a concrete sense of the concepts taught). For example, we learned about Prime and Composite Numbers, and many students weren't even totally clear on the difference between odd and even! I wish I didn't have a textbook at all, but I do; and I wish I could do everything hands on all the time, but I can't. I decided that some work with concrete materials was absolutely necessary at this point, however.

I also wish I had enough materials and space to allow each student to work individually, but instead I set up the following in small groups and we worked through the following activities over the last week.

Odd and Even
To make sure that every student really understood the concept of odd and even numbers, I used the materials we have to give every student the opportunity to do the Cards and Counters as we do in the Montessori Early Childhood classroom. Unfortunately, I can't do one on one lessons in this environment, and the students are trained to do everything with worksheets, so I had to set the activity up with written instructions and a follow-up sheet for the students to fill out.

Below, you can see the instructions, the counters (I sure wish they were all one color! They're read on one side and yellow on the other), and the "Digit Deck" which contains the numerals 1-9.

Here's a close-up of the directions:

Another way in which all of this was beneficial was as an exercise in following directions. It was surprisingly difficult for some students to complete activities step-by-step. They often got ahead of themselves and became very confused about what was supposed to be next. I may need to reword my description of the layout if I do this again as well, as most students were confused as to what I meant for them to do with the last counter for each odd number.

After completing the activity, students had this to complete:

Not very Montessori at all, obviously, but I had to work within the system we're in.

Square Numbers

Prime and Composite Numbers
I am not aware of a Montessori material for teaching these concepts, although I've never worked in a school that had an elementary program, so maybe there is one. I tried to use concrete materials to demonstrate Prime and Composite numbers as they are defined by the students' textbook. The key difference here is that the concept had already been introduced, and only after the students learned it on the surface, were they given a concrete experience with the concept. If I were not just in this position temporarily, I would definitely change the way this was done for the future. Anyway, again, instructions, materials. Not a Montessori activity, but an attempt at using Montessori principles to better teach the material this class is working on.

The Properties of Multiplication
This one is really not very concrete, and it's not really Montessori at all either, but I'll add it in anyway.

So that's what I've been up to. After 6 years of teaching Montessori 3-6 this is really an odd and trying experience, but I love the challenge. I have never seen attempts at bringing Montessori principles into a totally traditional classroom and I have no real expertise in this area - I'm just trying what makes sense to me and modifying based on what I see working for my students. If anyone has suggestions or experience with such things - I would love to hear them! I'm going to spend Christmas break doing a lot of planning for our next chapter, which will be division. Hopefully I can bring in things like this earlier!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I have been struggling to apply all I know and believe from working in Montessori to the somewhat strained fourth grade DoD school situation I suddenly found myself in the middle of. I adore this group of children, and I want them to learn as much as they possibly can, and I know and have seen how children learn best. It's really tough to know that the methods I'm using are not the best methods I could use, and to keep using them anyway. I do my best, they do their best, and I'm enjoying it and taking it day by day, but oh how I want to do more! I came up with some exciting ideas this week, finally, that pull from my Montessori background and I have put them into action. It has been fun! I took quite a few photos today and I'm excited to get some time to upload them and tell you all about it this weekend!

Oh, and I'm 27 weeks pregnant today -- it's a girl!! : ) Hard to believe ...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A shift

As any of my regular readers (if you're still out there despite my slow updates) will know, I'm taking a year off from teaching 3-6 due to a major location change. I began subbing at a K-5 school recently to keep myself occupied, and while I enjoy working with children, as always, it sure does make me miss Montessori! Having never worked in a traditional school, I underestimated how extreme the contrast would be between the two systems.

Anyway, back to the point of this post - as of now, it looks like I may be taking more than one year because I'm pregnant! Hooray! I'm just over 17 weeks along and due on March 10th (the ultrasound picture is two months old). I'm just beginning the exciting process of planning the nursery and I can't wait to have everything together so that I can set it up. I suppose the focus of my blogging may shift a bit more toward the birth-three world in the coming months, until baby is 3 and we both head back to school! I suppose we'll see. Any pearls of wisdom are welcome, as I'm not trained for this stage (not that a momma needs to be trained, but I'd still love to hear from people who are!). Give me your patterns, your favorite birth-3 quotes, books, and blogs. I want to see/hear it all!