Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week 3, day 1: First language materials

Wow, we actually had a good first day of the week in the Montessori room!

New materials:

putting toothpicks in holes,

wet pouring,

Pink Tower extension,

beginning sounds,

and rhyming cards.

In the Practical Life area, I removed all of the Valentine's themed materials. This meant swapping out containers and trays. I left the jingle bells, containers, and dressing materials. I added wet pouring (which she had no interest in, and didn't even ask for a demonstration) and putting toothpicks into the holes of a cheese shaker. Last week, when I had the pipe cleaners in this shaker for her to put beads on, she was only interested in inserting and removing the pipe cleaners on the few times that she engaged with the materials. I figured this might be more interesting.

In Sensorial, I added a Pink Tower extension, inspired by this post at "What DID we do all day?". I cut squares the size of the Pink Tower cubes out of pink construction paper, laid them out on posterboard in an interesting pattern, and glued them down. I covered it with contact paper for extra durability (although I didn't cover the entire back, and after one use it's got a dent/tear already). I thought Nugget might like this because she enjoys matching the Pink Tower cubes up to the side of a built Brown Stair.

And I put out our first Language material! Nugget's been interested in letters and sounds for quite a while now, and knows her letter shapes/names/basic sounds. She also can do beginning sounds in words, and has been playing around with rhymes for the last few weeks. So I didn't want to start in the beginning of the program, but I also didn't want to push too far and skip over something she hadn't quite mastered. So I decided to start with beginning sounds and rhyming.

I had some rhyming cards that I'd bought, but I really didn't like them. First off, with some of the pictures it was hard to tell exactly what word they were going for. Second, the cards had a number of different background colors. So you could just match yellow card to yellow card, without paying attention to the rhyme. So I decided to make some rhymes using pictures that I knew Nugget would understand quickly. The pairs that went out today were dog/frog, cat/bat, and cake/rake. I have 6 more pairs waiting in the closet.

For beginning sounds, I knew Nugget wouldn't be terribly interested in straight matching. I vaguely remembered a post on another Montessori mom blog about putting animal miniatures into "dens" based on the first letter in their name (if anyone knows where this post is, I'd love to link to it!). I knew I wanted to start buying some Safari toobs for use in continent boxes later one. So I decided to try to combine those, and bought the North American wildlife toob with a 50% off coupon at Michaels. (You should've seen me trying to sneak through the store without Nugget seeing the toob -- I knew she'd want it as a toy if she didn't see it in the Montessori context first.)

I made things a little more elaborate than they needed to be -- I ended up making a little scene with a river, mountains, forest, and grassland. I picked 9 or 10 of the animals that I was pretty sure she'd know and positioned them around vaguely where they'd live, then glued down their beginning letters.

When we went into the Montessori room, she took a quick look around and was immediately drawn to the animals (of course). We looked through the animals and reviewed their names (she needed help with otter and elk). Then I explained the idea behind the material, and she got to work.

As I expected, this wasn't difficult for her at all. She put all of the animals in their appropriate places, and then spent about 15-20 minutes moving them around, asking me about the animals, talking about what they eat and live, finding their letters again, etc. I know it's not traditionally Montessori, but it never really degenerated into full-on play (she was using them appropriately and learning things). I'm going to consider this to be in the same vein as the farm in a Montessori classroom. :)

The spell of the animals was broken when I had to leave the room to get a drink of water. She moved on to the rhyming cards (again, easy), then the toothpicks (which she did twice and even managed to remove the screw-on lid -- a first!).

She wandered a bit, and I offered to demonstrate the Pink Tower extension. After the demonstration, though, she wasn't interested in doing it. She moved on to the snap frame (too frustrating), then back to the animals.

I got the Pink Tower extension out to take a picture, and she decided she wanted to help me build it.

But that was the last of her interest in it.

She finished up with the containers and another visit to the animals.

By then, I was pooped! We'd been working for an hour and 15 minutes! So I laid down on the bed, and that seemed to signal to her that the work time was over.

All in all, I'm very pleased with how things went. She really enjoyed the Language material, and I think this will open up a bunch of new and interesting activities. I think the Pink Tower extensions will be engaging to her on another day. And I'm happy to be starting to take up shelf space with these new materials, squeezing out the tray-based Practical Life.

I have to admit, tray-based Practical Life is my least favorite. I can see how it's beneficial for her fine motor skills, but I'm not terribly interested in setting them up, and she doesn't seem to get a whole lot out of them. Maybe I just haven't hit the sweet spot in difficultly yet. In any case, I'll keep rotating them in and out. And I'm going to be working more on the around-the-house Practical Life materials. That seems really useful to me.


  1. The around-the-house practical life is probably what she should be doing. The tray based stuff works great in a classroom setting, but it's more meaningful for them to practice in a kitchen while making a recipe or in the bathtub or in various other settings. That's what we do with Jocelyn for the most part. :)

  2. Love the beginning sounds animal habitat!


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