Monday, March 5, 2018

Botany in the (Almost) Spring

We love to tie our Botany lessons to the growing season, and in Florida, it can start as early as January!  A wonderful way to begin is to go on a nature walk to collect leaves.  We then sort and classify the leaves by various attributes (length, width, color, margins, etc.).  The students concretely experience the myriad variations of leaves and come away from the lesson inspired to observe botany in other settings.

After gathering leaves with a partner, the students sort and classify the leaves.

Here, we are sharing the Parts of a Seed lesson with a group of students.  They love to "dissect" a lima bean that has been soaked in water to discover the parts of a seed.  We also use the class microscope to look at the first leaves up close.

We will follow this lesson with the Parts of a Flower, Parts of a Leaf, Parts of  Fruit and Life Cycle of a Plant lessons in the weeks to come.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Word Study

Word Study Resources

In training, we learned about the importance of the Word Study materials (independent practice for concepts such as antonyms, synonyms, contractions, alphabetical order, etc.).  I've developed two sets of Word Study that address the Common Core standards for public Montessori- available in our TeachersPayTeachers store.  Level A is for first and second year students and Level B is a more advanced version- it allows the students to practice and apply the concepts.

Here is a free sample of the Contractions Level A and B so you can see the difference between the levels!

Level A- Contractions                                                      Level B- Contractions
Word Study A- Contractions     Word Study B- Contractions

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cultural Extensions

We love cultural lessons!  I believe they are the heart and soul of the Montessori Elementary classroom.  We try to link everything possible to our cultural journey, which begins with The First Great Lesson and follows the Great Lessons through the year.  Through observation, we noticed that some students were having a hard time expanding their exploration of the lessons past doing the nomenclature layout repeatedly.  We would encourage different extensions but if a teacher wasn't available to encourage exploration the students would continue with what was comfortable. Then, we hit on an idea that allowed the students to be more independent- extension cards with ideas!  I had a concern at first that the students would think that they could ONLY do what was on the cards, so we made sure to emphasize that the cards were just ideas and that we would love to see what the students came up with.  We have two sets available for purchase in our TeachersPayTeachers store- just click on the link below each picture.

 Set 1- The Classics give extension ideas for first and second year students who are building their foundational reading skills as well as their critical thinking skills. 
Cultural Extensions Set 1 The Classics

 Set 3- Critical Thinking is for students who are reading fluently and able to build content knowledge independently.  

Cultural Extensions Set 3 Critical Thinking

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our Cosmic Journey...

We ended the first week of school with the presentation of the First Great Lesson by our third years.  This has become a tradition in our class which the first and second years eagerly look forward to each year.  Last year, we had the fun idea of presenting the charts on our projector so they could be seen more easily.

The First Great Lesson is our springboard into lessons on space, stars, gravity, the Earth, rocks and minerals, volcanoes, mountains, the water cycle and more.  This year we also did some nebula art...

When do you present the First Great Lesson?  What special/different traditions have you added?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Transitioning to Lower Elementary- Who's Your Buddy?

The first day of school was momentous for one third of our class-  it was their first day in Lower Elementary!  We have found that the first year students' transition is to Montessori as beginning Kindergarten is to traditional schooling.  The first year students, having spent three years in their comfortable Primary classroom, have to leave the nest and hesitantly flap into our classroom- well, some glide in confidently, but the majority are cautious and slightly nervous.

After observing the difficulties of the transition for a few years, we decided to  pair up our first year students with a third year "buddy" to help them acclimate to the new environment.  While our Lower Elementary class retains many similarities from Primary, just navigating the new room and finding lessons can be daunting.  Our third year buddies relish their leadership role and gain important skills in patience and mentoring.  After the first week or two, the first year students gain confidence and rely on their buddies less and less.

Third year buddies helping new first year students during the first week of class.

 We'd love to hear how you help your first years transition to Lower Elementary!

Kick It Up a Notch!

Extension work can be one of the more dynamic parts of a Montessori classroom.  A few years ago we started calling our extension work "Kick It Up a Notch" work in honor of those young inventors Phineas and Ferb.  It also exactly describes what the purpose of an extension of a lesson is- to take the vocabulary learned or the basic concept and to elaborate, take it further and add some critical thinking components to it.

This second year student is working on a Kick It card for the Mesozoic Era of the Timeline of Life.

I feel that the ideal is to always let the student choose what he/she wants to do to "kick it up a notch", but we have found that sometimes students avoid extension work because they can't think of what to do.  To help with this, we started making Kick It cards that we place with each lesson.  Each card has customized suggestions for extensions for that particular lesson.  We tell the students that these are just some ideas to get their juices flowing- we love it when they come up with their own extension ideas.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Projects- the best of all worlds!

I believe one of the most dynamic and student-driven parts of the Lower El. Curriculum is the project.  The students love to choose a topic that interests them and research (read about) it, then write and draw to share what they have learned with others.  Ten years ago, when I started teaching in a Montessori Lower El class, our projects were a nebulous idea, something that the students worked on occasionally and rarely finished, since there was no formal process.  One of my Montessori gurus steered me in the right direction and gave me a project form to help guide the students in the process. (see above)  Over the years, we have tweaked the process and the form numerous times.  Most recently, we added a rubric to the form, helping students understand what the expectations for their work were.  When the students are finished with their project, we go over the rubric together and they self-evaluate (with a little input from me).

Why is the project such a meaningful learning experience?
-it is based on student choice!  I have read several articles lately on the power of student choice.  I love it when mainstream educational research "discovers" what Montessorians have known for years!
-it is interdisciplinary.  Working on a project ties reading, writing, content area subjects, graphing, and more together, making learning relevant to the real world.
-it allows students to practice skills (finding the main idea, writing expository paragraphs, etc.) in a  meaningful way.
-it provides a framework to develop and practice higher-order thinking skills.
-it builds teamwork and cooperative learning skills.  In our class, students self-select a partner (if they like) for their project.
-it provides a meaningful venue for public speaking when the student presents the project to the class.

I could go on and on about the benefits of projects!  Do you use independent projects in your class?  What has worked well/not worked for you?
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