Today I had the priviledge just to sit and watch a 3-6 class at our local Montessori class. Our local school was so kind to offer an observation and Sarah, the gorgeous directress, let me just sit for about 2 hours. It was just wonderful.
Here are some of my observations (mainly written so I don’t forget):
1. Display of sandpaper letter – Instead of the sandpaper letters being in a box, they were laid out on a set of shelves. This meant the whole alphabet was laid out. I’m starting a writing wall, made from peg board. So my thoughts are to adapt this shelf idea, was to have a few letter displayed on the wall – as we don’t have the luxury of space.
2. What! In Cycle 1? I didn’t know, but the sentence analysis and small & large bead frame are introduced in Cycle 1.
3. Maths Bead Cabinet – At the Maths Bead Cabinet, there were two baskets. One held long black double layered cloth, that was rolled up. These were used for counting the short and long beads. It was just a simple roll. When I’ve made one, I’ll update this post. The other basket had small trays in, for putting their work into.
4. Bells – It was lovely to see the children playing with the bells. They used the mallet in one had, and had a simple wooden flat stick in other hand to stop the bell from ringing. There was also a booklet, with simple hand drawings, that explained the bells and how to use them.
5. Simultaneous Group activities – During the morning, Sarah just bought out her weekly sewing wool box. This was wool needed for their sewing cards. Simple small pieces of card with punched holes in, that the children use to sew. Kids just gathered around her to join her in winding pieces of wool around pieces of card. Sarah cut the lengths, started the winding of the wool around the card and handed it to waiting children. It was lovely to just see such a simultaneous group activity. I learnt that the children loved being part of the preparation of the class and that we don’t need to prepare everything ourselves – but to let them be part of this process.
6. Sewing cards – I thought that four or five year olds might be way passed these simple sewing cards – and onto more complex sewing projects, like buttons or sewing designs. But most of them choose this work during the morning. They choose a sewing card and wool card and put it onto a tray with a scissors and needle threader. They then unwound their wool and carefully threaded their needles, using a needle threader. Pulled the wool through, until the ends matched. Then they found Sarah, who knotted it for them. Off they went to sew. Then when finished, they would find Sarah to knot it for them. I have also seen for sewing, that they are taught to cut the wool, then sticky tape then loose end. One card I saw a girl doing was a capital letter.
7. Calendar work – I really liked how simple Sarah did her calendar work. She had a simple A4 laminated blank calendar calendar on the wall. Space for the month at the top. On the right hand side, was laminated cards for each month. The current month was tick-tacked on the month space of the calendar – so you could see all the other months, with one missing in the list down the left. Then she had simple real pictures of different types of weather and clouds. Simply during the morning, she would do this activity with a group of children, when one of them happened to ask if outside time was that day. They talked about what day it was, how weekend had passed. They then just put the updated numbers from the weekend, plus today (Monday), in the squares on the calendar.
8. Work papers – this has been bothering me for a while – what to do with work papers? Do you keep books? Sarah had no books, everything was on paper. Well, I just love this idea. What does one do with the maths work, pictures, stories, writing practise? This idea was so simple – I couldn’t believe it. During the morning, as children completed their work, they each had their own cubby – very much like at here at Montessoribyhand – in their cubby was their flat file, as you can see in this picture. These are economical files that the children will punch holes into their work and then put it into their file. There is one file per term – so you can see term by term the progress of work. If they gathered too many papers in their cubby, Sarah would ask them to sort their pages into their file.
9. Flags – I was so surprised to see that most of the children just loved the flags. There was a small tray, with a flag of the day on it. The flag was Germany today, so the children just made their own flag, by colouring it in. The tray had sticky tape, the flag and pencils on it. They took a piece of paper from a tray by the flags. When completed, they went and fetched a straw from somewhere in the room. They then sticky taped the flag to their straw. For flags in our home, I have just purchased flag bunting off ebay for around $15, including postage for 2 sets! I plan to make these into desk flags. This is what I bought.
10. Lists – a 5yo needed direction in class, so Sarah was writing a list of work for her. I ask Sarah about this, as this is something that is done in Cycle 2. She said this girl particularly needed a list to keep her focused, but the other kids ended up loving and wanting lists too. So she would ask them what they planned to work on that morning and Sarah would write these down. As they did their work, they would tick them off. These were simple little spiral note pads and I think each child had their own list, for those who wanted one.
11. Research – one thing that interested me from a previous observation was research. So I asked Sarah about this, as I saw some girls working on research. She said that she would enquire what interested them. She noted that girls normally like butterflies, flowers etc and boys more automotive. They would get a Children’s Encyclopedia and find information about that. They then drew a picture of this and any words/stories about what they discovered. From what I understood, this is normally 5 yo work.
I just feel so inspired about my homeschool and simplying loads. Sarah’s class was so simple – not so concerned about loads of new stuff, but just content in the basics. I need to refocus on this again and get repeated work happening. Thank you so much to our Canberra Montessori School and Sarah for just opening their doors so lovingly. I loved that during the morning, Sarah would just share some valuable tidbits to me about what was happening and her discoveries.