Monday, July 27, 2015

Montessori Bootcamp: Teacher Workstation

Happy Monday, everyone. I have to admit that sometimes over the summer I forget which day of the week it is. But, Monday it is and today I woke up feeling some excitement. Why, you ask? 

Last week I was invited to participate in a Montessori Classroom Set Up Boot Camp by Seemi from Trillium Montessori. Seemi is a wonderful presence on the web for the Montessori community. She runs a school in North Carolina and has some amazing materials, many of which she gives away for free. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Seemi at this year's American Montessori Conference in Philadelphia. It is always a joy to meet people you know from the web in person.

Anyway, last week I used the money I made from my Montessori Visual Schedules to sign up for Seemi's boot camp. She was offering it at a steep discount and I thought I would use it to get myself really prepared for the upcoming school year. 

So this morning I woke up with excitement because today I received my first email with my homework! Today's lesson was to set up the Teacher Workstation. I have to admit that this one was pretty easy for me as I cleaned and organized my classroom at the end of last year. It has still been interesting to see what Seemi deems necessary and how I will tweak it myself.

I have to admit that I split my work station between my sewing room at home and my classroom at school. I don't have photos of my home environment but took some when I went to school today to clear out the weeds from our classroom garden. 

Obviously I won't recreate everything Seemi told us in her email (you have to sign up for yourself for that!), but I'll give you a synopsis. First she mentioned all the office supplies you need for the year. Things like a three hole punch and different kinds of glue and brass brads and a first aid kit, etc. She also talked about different ways to store the items. 

The above photo shows my classroom storage cabinets. You can see that I keep clear bins on the top of the cabinets. These include one bin for trays, one bin for baskets and five bins for Practical Life. I break up the P.L. bins into autumn (Sept. Oct. Nov.), December/January, February/March, April/May. There are two bins of items that belong to the school. I don't get into these much as I have so much of my own items! I also keep my musical instruments and the botany cabinet up on top when it is not in use. 

The cabinet doors are organized from left to right as art, science/geography (2 doors), language, practical life and sensorial, math, and office type supplies. We also have a teacher closet at our school in which I always purge a few things and from which I take a few things each year.

The children each have a hook and spot under the cabinets for their tote bags, coats, shoes and slippers. It is quite full when school is in session! To the right of the cabinets is my 'teacher shelf.'

 Here's a close up of the shelf. It does not look like this during the school year. I do my best to keep this shelf looking tidy but I have to admit it gets messy very quickly. Right now I have some items I bought at a garage sale and also some spanish language and sewing materials stored on the shelf. These will be stored in the cabinet when school is in session.  

During school, I like to keep my lesson plans on the top shelf along with any notes that are pertinent for the current week (i.e.: children going home early or with someone new, etc.). The second shelf includes the sand tray (I don't keep it on the shelf anymore but get it out when using it for lessons) and on the paper trays I keep our purple folders (we send info. home once a week in the folders to each child), paper for map making (we pin punch our maps) and folders that include consumables that are currently on the shelf, field trip folder, folders with paperwork for my readers and anything else that is used often.

The fourth shelf holds large and small clip boards for the children and the lowest shelf holds my albums. I'm tweaking the use of the rest of the shelving space this year. I want to give my assistant teacher a shelf. She is in charge of the children at lunch and often wants to have books and music stored somewhere. I do usually keep library books that I plan to read and also materials for group lessons somewhere on the shelf. 

Like I said, it gets cluttered quickly!

Finally, here is the inside of my first cabinet. It looks very messy but is actually organized. I keep most office supplies here. Because we are a larger school, we have a small room for school office supplies and larger equipment (photo copier, large stapler, 3 hole punch, book binder, etc.). We also have a very large paper cutter and loads of paper in their own room as well as an art closet. So I do my best not to keep too much in my room that I can get elsewhere. Of course, as I'm the last room in the school I get my exercise going to the front of the school for everything!

At home I have a laminator, three hole punch, paper cutter and large table for material making. I don't make too much at school as there is really not much space (or time!). I use Microsoft Publisher to make most of my card materials. I hope to make a few more before the summer is out!

There was a lot more to Day One of the  boot camp including making binders for record keeping etc. but I'm not going to get into that here. I did bring home my record keeping binder from school. I have a three page record that I keep on every child over the three years that they are with me as well as all of their parent conference papers. For the children that have therapists, I keep a separate folder for those notes and file them in the child's personal file each year.

Tomorrow's lesson is on the assistant handbook. I have a WONDERFUL assistant but I am looking forward to seeing how I can put together a better handbook. I hope to blog about this experience but know that it won't happen every day as I'll be too busy doing all the homework!!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Las Frutas Freebie

Hola! I'm excited to bring you the next set of my Spanish language cards for the Montessori classroom or homeschool. This one is actually a two for one deal.

I completed a set of cards pertaining to fruit. For this work I purchased some fake fruit at our local Dollar Store. They did not have a banana so I had to go to Michael's for that one. Of course you can always use real fruit if you are working at home with your child. It's a little harder to use real fruit for a work that is going on the shelf in my classroom. We will use our new vocabulary during snack and lunch, however!

 I used a large and small basket to set up this work which will look lovely on the shelf once I get it to school in the autumn. As with most cards you can also use this as a card matching or three part card work by printing the cards twice.

I've included two sentence cards with this work. There is a card that asks, "What are you eating?" and an answer card that states, "I am eating.." with room for the object or photo.

In this way you can take turns asking each other about the food and practicing vocabulary at the same time. Of course I can see two students having a ball with this work! The download has a full page of instructions, too.

I have some great ideas for some more phrase and sentence work so keep visiting throughout the summer. I have also put a page tab at the top of the blog so that it is easy to see what Montessori Materials are available.

Oh, yeah....I guess you want the link to the download. Here it is:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Visual Schedule Cards for the Montessori Classroom

It's hot and humid here in PA! We've had quite a bit of temperate weather this summer and I was getting quite used to it. It's back to normal summer weather today. I hope you are all enjoying your summer, no matter where your place in the world.

I wanted to share what I've been working on. I posted about visual schedules a few weeks ago and how they can be used in the classroom. There's a free sample in that post so if you haven't already seen it, head on over!

That free download has just a few choices from each area of the classroom. I wanted to make a more complete set of cards for myself to be prepared when I have those kiddos with learning differences who need this kind of assistance. 

If you are interested in the full set, please go to my etsy shop! I have tried to price the cards very reasonably while still making a little money after the seller fees. 

Today I thought I'd share how I'm storing my cards.

I took one of my son's old binders, laminated some file folders and got out the sticky velcro!

I laminated one folder for each area of the classroom, punched three holes down the left side of the folder and added sticky velcro to the inside and front cover of the folder. Not every folder needed velcro on the front.

You can fit thirty cards on the inside of each folder. Be sure you stay far enough away from the holes so you can still put the folder in a binder easily. 

You can see I didn't use too much velcro. I attached the velcro to the back of the photo and then attached the whole thing to the folder to make sure I had enough room to fit the photos.

I was able to store my first/then cards in the back of the binder and the student work folder in the font. So everything is nice and compact....a necessity in most classrooms.

I hope you will find these little cards useful. One of my customers mentioned that she plans on putting some cards in a basket for those children who don't need a schedule but are having trouble finding something to do. They can pick out a card and get to work! I thought that was a great idea.

Here's the link to my etsy shop: simplysewn. There is also a link on the sidebar of the blog. 

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful rest of your day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Los Animales

Wow, that's quite a jumble of animals! Most 3-6 Montessori teachers have a bag, a box, a drawer or some kind of container full of small objects. We use them in the classroom quite a bit. Many of these came from a friend from church who was cleaning out her basement. I've had them stashed away for several years and I go through them when I am making materials for the classroom.

I've been wanting to add some animals to my Spanish language materials and thought I'd make a card/object matching work. I wanted it to be shareable so I have been working on finding photos or clip art on the web that were free to share. I wasn't happy with what I was finding and then in how the cards ended up looking. So I thought I'd see how it would look to photograph my animal miniatures and use them. 

wild animals
I have to say I'm quite pleased with how everything worked out and since I own the rights to the photos, I can share them with you! You can click on the link at the end of the post to get to the cards. There are 23 cards for you to use. You can print the cards twice if you want to use them as matching cards or just once and find some little animals to match with them. My kiddos love using little objects so I think this will be a hit in the classroom. I plan to break up the work into farm animals, wild animals and home (cat, dog, boy and girl). 

I hope you enjoy this work and come back to see what else I'm making! I think next up may be food. I'm also hoping to add in some materials to work on phrases and sentences so stop by often!

farm animals

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First/Then Freebie

It is a glorious Father's Day here in Central Pennsylvania. I went for a morning bike ride through the farmland of our fair county. It was quite windy which I figure made the 12 miles I rode count for more like 15. It works that way, right?

Well, maybe not. I'm in the middle of making homemade ice cream sandwiches and really wanted that ride to counter balance the calories I'm planning on eating tonight during our yummy Father's Day dinner. We're having steak, potatoes and sugar snap peas right out of the garden. Can't get much yummier than that. Well, until dessert!

Anyway...I made this little download the other day and wanted to share it with you! If you are using visual prompts for your child/student, it can help to start with something very simple like a first/then card. In the photo below you can see that the child will first do some bead stringing and then can put together a puzzle.

You can also use a first/next/then card like the one below if the child is able to handle it. First work on a knobbed cylinder, then a metal inset and then you can choose a work. Remember that children with disabilities, especially those on the autism spectrum, often have a special interest. A special interest is something that they love to do and talk about. They will often work better if they know that after the work period they will be able to have time with their special interest. My son would have work periods that culminated in playing computer games for a limited period of time. 

Here's the one page freebie I made for you. I work in a school so I print on card stock and laminate everything for durability. If you are just at home, you could cut out the chart you want to use, tape it to a full sheet of paper and put it in a page protector. You can then just use tape to attach the cards to the page protector. As with what works for you! The link to the document is at the bottom of the blog post as normal.

Here it is!    First/Then download freebie.

If you are looking for the free visual cards link, go to this page. Please let me know if this or any other download I make available is helpful to you or if you wish I would change it or make something else! 

Most of all, have a wonderful Father's Day. Do something great for a Dad in your life.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

1-10 Spanish

This morning I woke up to the gentle sounds of rain and birds with a cool breeze wafting through my window. It was a nice way to wake after the past few hot days we've had here in PA. I hope you are enjoying your summer, wherever you roost!

I've been working on another set of Spanish language cards for my upcoming school year and thought I'd share them with you! These cards relate to the numbers 1-10. There are four sets of cards included in the file. Two sets that include stars to count for each number. They are identical except one has the Spanish word and one the English. The other two sets have the numerals and words, one in English and one in Spanish. I also created two title cards, one in English and one in Spanish.

These cards can be used in many different ways. Please excuse my scratched up sewing table! At school I would have the children do this work on a floor rug but you get the idea from these photos, right?

One way to use the cards is to count the stars (in English and Spanish) and match them up.

Another way is to match the numeral with the star cards.

You can also use the cards with objects. Below I chose the numeral Spanish cards and counted buttons (a cards and counters type activity). You could also use the star cards and have the child place the manipulative directly over the stars to be a little more self correcting. Of course the main point of the cards is Spanish language, not math but like I said, these cards are versatile!

If you don't want the words attached to the cards, simply cut them off! If you want to make three part cards, just print them twice. 

Once the child has a good understanding of the Spanish number words (can rote count), you can play 'pick a card'. In this game take one stack of cards (numerals or stars), mix them up and hold them upside down for the child to pick one. The child then looks at the numeral or counts the stars in Spanish. My school children love this game!

As I've been looking through the web for ideas and freebies I ran across Mudpies and Make-Up. She has a great blog post with free downloads of Spanish printables that can be used at circle time. I'm planning to incorporate these into my classroom as we study Puerto Rico next year. Click here to go to her post and get yourself some awesome materials. 

Click on the link below to print out my Spanish 1-10 cards. Let me know how you like them or if you have any questions.

Spanish 1-10 cards download

Monday, June 15, 2015

Montessori Material Free Visual Cards

Hello! It's summer and I've checked off most of the items on my initial summer 'to do' list. That list included things like my eldest son's graduation and awards ceremonies and graduation celebration. Things like cleaning the house and organizing my sewing/work room, finishing a quilt for my nephew who just got married this past weekend. I also read a few fun books to help recharge my aching brain. 

I find if I take a few weeks to work on the necessary jobs that have been put off during the school year combined with some much needed down time I am ready to get back to working on things for the upcoming school year. 

I was fortunate enough to attend the American Montessori Conference in Philadelphia in the spring. I completed the MACAR training (Montessori Applied to Children at Risk). This training was given by the Shelton School and focused on helping children at risk for learning difficulties. It was an amazing training. If you ever get the chance to see Joyce Pickering speak, do so.

It was during that training that they talked about visual schedules and their use in the classroom. I was very aware of visual schedules because we used them with our eldest son when he was young. For children on the autism spectrum, visual cues are often vital because they tend to be more attuned to visual than to auditory information. We used visual schedules and cards to help him learn routines like getting ready for school, work that needed completed (when we were homeschooling) and even to help him identify his feelings.

In the classroom there are often children who struggle to find and settle into work. If you are not familiar with the Montessori method, we refer to the materials on the shelf as work. The child is free to choose any work on which he has been given a lesson. He is also free to ask for a lesson if there is a work he would like to learn. A child is free to choose the work, take it to a table or rug, complete the work and return it to the shelf ready for the next friend. Dr. Montessori referred to this as 'freedom.' There is a caveat to the freedom of the child in the classroom. We teach the children to be respectful of the materials (clean up spills, don't bang things together, etc.), to be respectful of their peers (ask if you want to watch another friend, respect if that friend does not want to be joined, use kind words, etc.) and to respect themselves (come to school ready to learn, eat healthy food, exercise your body, etc.). These are the 'limits' in the classroom. 

So you see, the child has freedom with limits. 

For most children, providing lessons will give them the excitement to choose and work on new materials throughout the year. However, for children with learning differences or some other issues (emotional, foreign language speaker, etc) they may need more direct guidance in order to choose appropriate materials to work with during the day. This is where the visual schedules and cards can be of great help.

There are many places online that you can find generic pictures to make your own visual schedules. There are also programs like PECS that are very helpful (but very expensive). What I have not been able to find were pictures directly relating to the Montessori materials. So I decided to begin making some myself. 

I started with a few photos from each area of the classroom. I have included a free download of this work for you. Click on the link at the bottom of this post to grab it. There are two pages of photos and two pages of instructions.

Here is one way to put together a visual schedule for a child. What do you need? 
  • The Montessori Material Visual Card download (print photos on card stock)
  • File folder
  • sticky Velcro
  • scissors
Laminate the photos and the file folder.

 Cut out the photos and attach squares of Velcro to the middle of the back of each.
 Lay the cards onto the inside right of the file folder to judge where you need to place the Velcro.
 Attach two strips of Velcro (the opposite side to what you put on the photos, obviously) to the inside right of the file folder. 
 Place the cards on the left strip of Velcro in the order you want the child to complete the work.
 As the child completes the work, she can move the picture to the right strip of velcro.
 You can also label the two velcro strips. Left side would be 'To Do' and right side 'Completed' or whatever you think would best serve the child. You can also place a photo of the child on the front cover or just his name to make it more personal. 

Remember, the child will need assistance in learning how to use this material. You may want to start with just one or two materials at first. I have also included a card for the child to choose his own work. You may want to make a card that has a material that is high interest to the child as something to work toward.

I will continue to be blogging about ways to use this material and other ways to help children at home or in the classroom who need extra assistance to get the most out of their Montessori experience. Check back often!

Click here to download the Montessori Material Visual Cards 
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