Monday, December 22, 2008

What God Wants for Christmas

Wow - has it really been almost two weeks since the last post? My mom came into town last Saturday, and despite my best intentions, I have not been able to get a post up. If you've been checking in periodically, thanks for sticking with us!

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, we celebrated our last day of school before taking a break for the Christmas holidays. For Circle Time, Miss K read the kids a really neat book called What God Wants for Christmas:

The book comes with a nativity scene, six nativity figurines, and seven boxes that are wrapped like presents. As the reader reads the story, the first six boxes are opened to reveal the nativity figurines. Finally, after asking again and again what God wants for Christmas, the seventh box is opened to reveal a mirror, because...what God wants for Christmas is YOU!

This was the last day we would be meeting for quite some time, so we made it a little special. Everyone got dressed up, and we spent the day making Christmas crafts. Afterward, we even went to lunch together - how fun!

For starters, the kids made wreath picture frame ornaments...

...and then they decorated miniature gingerbread houses:

Miss D's daughter's ski chalet:

Hmmm, not sure what happened to the roof on this one, but it looks delicious:

Miss K's mother- and father-in-law were visiting from out of town. We loved their company, and they were extremely helpful - the gingerbread houses were kind of an "all hands on deck" sort of thing.

Finally, the kids made an ornament kind of like this one, although I can't find the exact one. We closed with the N story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses, "No one can serve two masters," and then we headed to McD's for nuggets all around - it was a fun way to end our first semester together.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Go Tell It on the Mountain!

This is the last week we'll be meeting before the holidays, so Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week is the nativity story. She brought in her family's Little People nativity set and read the nativity story:

The kids enjoyed this so much, they did it twice.

At the start of Independent Work time, my daughter and Miss D's son made plans for their day. Miss D's son chose the addition strip board, and my daughter chose reading, pin punching (I put out a new Christmas tree to punch), and the addition strip board. She sat on the couch and started reading a book, and Miss D's son plopped down next to her. She read to him for a little while before getting fatigued, so I sat down with them and read to them for a while. We don't usually read together in the classroom, and it was a nice (and somewhat refreshing) change.

Miss K's daughter chose (among other things) nuts and bolts...

...water transfer with a funnel...

...and pin punching...

...which was a very...

...very popular activity:

Miss C's son also chose sandpaper letters and the cornmeal tray, and then almost the whole crew worked together on the geometric solids matching cards:

Toward the end of the day, Miss D's son wanted to read some more, so Miss K picked up where I had left off - she attracted quite a crowd:

During Music Time, Miss D led the kids in a rousing rendition of "Go Tell It on the Mountain," which has been stuck in my head for days now! She also brought in jingle bells and sang all the requisite jingly Christmas songs. Then she gave the kids rhythm sticks and led them by donkey to Bethlehem, clip-clopping all the way.

We closed with the "N" verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses, "No one can serve two masters," Matthew 6:24.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More on Pin-Punching

Today, my 8-month-old was pretty sick and pretty contagious, so regretfully, I had to cancel school. The doctor recommended a 24-hour waiting period for the antibiotics to kick in, so we should be good to go for tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, I've been meaning to do a post about the pin-punching activity I put out recently, because it would be so simple for anyone to set up at home. I'd been searching for punches in all of my local craft stores and couldn't find anything, which left the internet. All of the Montessori sites wanted way too much money for punches and felt, and they wanted even more for shipping, so I wasn't sure what to do. Fortunately, I saw this post at My Montessori Journey and noticed that the "pin" in the tray was a simple push pin. Surely it couldn't be that easy, could it?

I emailed Laura at MMJ and asked her about it:

Hi Laura,

I’m trying to set up a pin-punching activity in our classroom. I was prepared to spend about $45 at Montessori Services (not including shipping!) for a set of punches, a punch holder, and some mats, when I saw this post. Do your kids really just use a push pin? Can they hold a push pin in their hands as well as they can hold the punches from Montessori Services? (I know you have both because I’ve seen them in other posts.) If money were no object (wouldn’t that be nice? :), would you recommend I go ahead and invest in the ones from Montessori Services? My youngest child is only 7 months old, and I know we would get a ton of use out of the punch set; however, if a push pin works just as well, I’d love to put that money toward something else in the classroom.

She graciously replied, and then even more graciously allowed me to share her advice with all of you (thanks again!!). Here is her response:

When I first taught in a Montessori school several years ago, we used push pins, but BIG ones. You can buy them at most office supply stores. I am talking about ones that are about 2 inches long, really big. When I came to my current school to teach, they had the wooden handled ones from Montessori Services. After observing the children in my classroom using the regular (small) push pins and the Montessori Services ones, here are my thoughts. If a child can hold a pencil well using a tri-pod grip, I think the Montessori Services ones are great because they are the same diameter as a regular pencil. However, I pulled out the small pins for my littlest students who haven't yet formed a good tripod grip. The small push pins pretty much force the child to use a tripod grasp. advice is to start with the regular small push pins. As far as the pad, I do really like the thick wool ones from Montessori Services. However, in the past I've just used a square of thick carpet padding. You could probably get a remnant piece of that for free from any home improvement store that installs carpet. That would be a cheap way to get started. Hope that helps!

I never made it to a carpet store to get carpet padding, so instead I got eight 9x12 adhesive sheets of felt and stuck two together to make four felt pads (I left the backing on the bottom sheet of felt). Voila! Pins and pads for four kids for about $4! For the outline, I did a Google images search for a leaf outline, copied the image into a Word document, and printed it out on construction paper (never knew I could do that!). Now that I have the pins and pads, it will be very simple to add new outlines to go with the current season/holiday, etc. Fun!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Gingerbread Baby

On Wednesday, Miss K introduced a variation on the gingerbread man theme: The Gingerbread Baby. She began by reading The Gingerbread Man story from the previous day, and then she read the new version. Then she and the kids did a lesson in comparing and contrasting using - of all things - a Venn diagram (remember those?):

Of course, the kids love anything having to do with babies, so they enjoyed the retelling of the classic story. As for independent work, recently I had seen a lot of posts about lacing beads onto pipe cleaners. When I saw this craft in Family Fun Magazine, I set it up right away:

OK, so ours didn't look quite like the ones in the magazine, but when do they ever? This was a great activity for the two-year-olds, because the pipe cleaners hold their shape, unlike string.

For Arts & Crafts, Miss K brought in a gingerbread man "glyph" she made. Basically, she gave each kid a gingerbread man print-out, and then they had to follow her instructions and color the gingerbread man accordingly (if you're a boy, color the gingerbread man's nose blue; if you're a girl, color his nose pink).

We closed with the M verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "My little children, let us not love one another in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Run, Run, As Fast As You Can...

On Tuesday, Miss K introduced her Circle Time theme for the week: The Gingerbread Man. She and the kids read the story of the gingerbread man together, and then Miss K explained that The Gingerbread Man is a fairytale that was written by a person. Next she explained that the kids could use their imaginations to write their own version of the story.

She asked the kids simple questions like, "If you were writing the story, what would your gingerbread man's name be?" "How would you keep him from escaping from the oven?" "Would the fox eat him, or would he get away?" She wrote down each of the kids' answers, and then they took turns reading the stories they had written. It was neat to see how everyone's stories came together at the end, and the kids really enjoyed this creative writing exercise.

Unfortunately, I didn't get many good pictures during Independent Work time (the two-year-olds were with us, and they definitely require all hands on deck :). Miss K brought in a Gingerbread Man story sequencing worksheet, and the kids spent a long time working with it. They really enjoyed reading the captions underneath each picture, cutting them out, and then gluing them in the correct order.

For snack, Miss K brought in some gingerbread cookies for the kids to try, and then they all voted on whether or not they liked them (the result was a resounding "yes" :).

During Music Time, Miss D led the kids in Christmas songs. She typically incorporates instruments or movement into each of the songs the kids sing, but I wanted to take a second to describe how she uses rhythm sticks. Every kid gets a pair of sticks (blue stick in the right hand, red stick in the left hand); while she taps out a rhythm that the kids follow, she narrates a scene or story. For instance (imagine you can hear sticks in the background going tick, tock, tick, tock), "We're walking down the street" (tick, tock, tick, tock). "There's snow all over the ground, and we're going sledding! We drag our sled all the way to the top of the hill (tick, tock, tick, tock). We're almost there! Just a little farther! And we get to the top of the hill so we stop." (She stops tapping, and so do all the kids.) "We sit down on our sleds and weeeeeeee," and the kids furiously tap their sticks as they sled down the hill. "And we get to the bottom of the hill so we stop" (sticks stop). "That was so much fun! Let's do it again! We walk our sleds all the way back up to the top of the hill (tick, tock, tick, tock)..." I'm sure you get the gist. She's taken them on some very fun "trips," including through the grocery store, where they "rolled" their carts through the store, etc. The kids love this activity, and Miss D does a wonderful job of vividly describing things so that the kids can use their mind's eye to visualize her stories.

We closed with the M verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "My little children, let us not love one another in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18.

This may sound presumptuous (as though you're waiting with bated breath for each new post!), but I apologize that there has been such a long time between posts. This is such a busy time of year! I definitely hope to post more in the future - it's just hard when so many other things take priority.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We're Back!

Last week ended up being pretty light - I had to cancel school on Monday because my daughter was under mommy-imposed quarantine. We had already agreed that we wouldn't meet on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so that left Tuesday as our only school day.

During Circle Time, Miss K and the kids talked about all of the things they are grateful for, and then they created this thankfulness tree:

In a twist on the cutting activity of old, I gave the kids strips of red, yellow, and orange paper that they cut into small pieces, which they then used to make Indian corn:

Finally, for Arts & Crafts, in a combination of both thankfulness and corn :), the kids created these cute little ears of corn with foam shapes and sequins:

Yesterday morning, our local MOPS group held its annual Birthday Party for Jesus, which we all attended. Today we were all back together, and I'll post more about it tomorrow. Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

Today during Circle Time, Miss D and the kids talked about the final three Fruits of the Spirit: faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They discussed these qualities and what they mean, and then they reviewed all nine fruits. She and the kids also said the Fruit of the Spirit poem from Monday. (And I forgot to mention that on Tuesday, during Music Time, Miss D led the kids in this Fruit of the Spirit song by Steve Green.)

During Independent Work time, Miss D's son finished up his paper weaving project...

...while my 4-year-old presented the brown stair to the 2-year-olds:

They had a lot of fun trying to build a tower with the brown stair...

...and then they got out the pink tower and tried a couple extensions:

Hey...'d that get in here? ;) (As I was uploading pictures to Blogger, I selected everything with today's date and unintentionally uploaded this picture - I couldn't bring myself to delete it. This is my seven-month-old :)

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, just in case you missed it, Stephanie at Montessori Free Fall has pictures of some beautiful brown stair/pink tower extensions. I haven't had a chance to present these extensions yet, but I plan to soon.

Miss D's son, my daughter, and I played the Bank Game today for the first time, and they absolutely loved it. (My daughter kept saying, "Let's do another one!") I used Elizabeth Hainstock's book as my guide for this activity, and here's how it went: We created a supply mat with about a gajillion units, ten bars, hundred squares, and thousand cubes. Then I handed the kids a tray and asked them to load it with as many beads as they liked. We took the tray to a separate mat, where we sorted the beads (starting from right to left) into units, tens, hundreds, thousands. Then we started counting units. Each time we got to ten units, we took them to the supply mat (the Bank) and traded them in for a ten bar, which we added to the ten bars on our mat. We did the same thing for the hundreds and thousands. When we had exchanged everything at the bank, we counted each category and assigned the appropriate number cards:

Wonderfully (and inadvertently) enough, we eventually did a number where we had zero hundreds - we had exchanged them all for thousands.

When it came time to count everything up and assign number cards, the kids kept asking, "But what about the hundreds?" I just said, "There are zero hundreds." (Montessorians out there, was that the right way to explain it?) When we assembled the 7000, the 60, and the 2 to make 7062, they were awed by the zero in the hundreds place (and so was I, frankly! I know I've said it before, but Maria Montessori was a genius.).

After we finished with the bank game, my daughter and Miss D's son worked on this puzzle, and then it was time for Arts & Crafts. I didn't get any pictures of this, but the kids decorated a bear with the nine Fruits of the Spirit, and Miss D and Miss C used it as an opportunity to review all nine fruits.

We closed with the "L" Bible verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Patience, Kindness, and Goodness

Miss K couldn't be with us today, so Miss D led Circle Time. She continued with Miss K's theme for the week, "The Fruit of the Spirit," which comes from this verse:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22 - 23

Today Miss D focused on patience, kindness, and goodness. The kids glued these three fruits into the basket they started yesterday, and then Miss D read them the Fruit of the Spirit poem from yesterday, too.

The batteries in my camera weren't charged, so no pics from today. However, Miss C's son worked with the cornmeal tray and the sandpaper numerals, the fabric box, and the metal insets. Miss D's son did the Thanksgiving matching cards from Montessori for Everyone, domino math, and the hundred board. My daughter did the hundred board with Miss D's son, bead sequencing, the pumpkin lifecycle cards from Montessori for Everyone, and she also pin-punched a leaf. Miss D's 2yo did bead sequencing. My 2yo did the cornmeal tray, and later her big sister presented color box 2 to her!

Finally, we closed with the "L" Bible verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

I can't believe we're already on the letter L! It has been amazing to see the kids' retention as we learn these verses. The older kids can recite each verse by heart, and even the little kids can recite some of them (particularly the shorter verses, such as, "A soft answer turns away wrath," "Even a child is known by his deeds," and "Do all things without complaining or disputing.").

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Fruit of the Spirit

On Monday during Circle Time, Miss K introduced this Bible verse to the kids:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22 - 23

Before she read them this verse, she presented the kids with two bananas - one perfectly ripe and yellow, and one rotten and brown. She asked the kids which banana they would want to eat, and of course they all picked the ripe one. Then she explained that life is like those two fruits: on one hand, we have people who do bad things and make us feel sad; on the other hand, we have people who do good things like helping others and being nice to others. She asked them, "Which fruit do you think God wants us to be, the rotten banana or the ripe banana?"

Next she explained that God wants us to be good fruit, to treat other people kindly and do things that make God happy with us. Then she read them the verse, and she and the kids talked more in depth about the first three fruits: love, joy, and peace.

Then Miss K read a poem to the kids to help them remember the fruits of the Spirit:

The fruits of the Spirit are peace, joy, and love.
All these things come from God above.
We can't have them, just trying on our own.
But if we stay close to Jesus, watch them grow!
Two more fruits are being patient and kind!
Treat others this way, and no one will mind.
One more fruit is the one of goodness.
Trying on our own just gives us stress!
Being faithful is doing what you say.
God helps us be faithful if we pray.
Another fruit is the quality of being gentle,
Not being harsh or judgmental.
The very last one is self-control,
Letting Jesus shine through me - that's my goal!

Finally, Miss K had the kids glue that day's three fruits into a fruit basket.

New on the shelves this week: paper weaving. I had a bunch of cutting strips left over from this cutting activity, and I didn't want to waste them. I used these instructions to set up a simple paper weaving activity, which was very popular:

For PE, Miss D brought in bowling pins and a (plastic) bowling ball, and she turned our kitchen into a bowling alley - how fun! She taught the kids how to set up the pins (in a nice 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 triangle that would make Maria Montessori proud ;)...

...she taught them how to hold the ball...

...and then she taught them how to roll:

A spare!

We closed with the "L" Bible verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Friday, November 14, 2008

Geometric Solids Matching Cards

OK, I think I've finally figured out how to use to upload files, and I'm going to give it a shot. I created a series of images to go along with the geometric solids - you can download the file by clicking here. I printed these out, cut them up, and then laminated them using a Scotch Thermal Laminator I bought brand-spankin' new for $10 (!!) off craigslist.

To use these, the child lays the geometric solids across the top of a mat, and then matches the pictures underneath the appropriate solid:

I didn't have any kind of reference to go by when making these cards - I simply looked around Google for things that were the correct shape. I tried to find six images for each solid, but I had trouble finding that many for the triangle-based pyramid (only found two) and the ovoid (only found four). If you have any ideas for those solids, please let me know and I'll update the file and upload it again.

I hope this is useful - I'd love to hear any comments anyone has!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Fun with Fall Leaves

On Monday, the kids wrote a Fall poem with Miss K's help. I didn't manage to write it down that day, but the poem was an integral part of Circle Time again on Wednesday:

An Ode to Fall :)

Fall is a time for long-sleeved shirts,
Fall is a time for falling leaves,
Fall is a time for a pumpkin patch,
Fall is a time for jackets,
Fall is a time for Thanksgiving,
Fall is a time for warm hats.

Miss K came back to class armed with pictures that matched the words in the poem, and the kids took turns reading each line and matching the pictures to the words:

Next, Miss K led the kids in a sorting and counting activity. She and the kids sorted a big pile of leaves by color...

...and then counted how many they had in each category and graphed the results into a bar graph:

Independent Work time was more chaotic than usual, because the two-year-olds came in right away, before everyone else was settled. In the future, I'll definitely make sure to have the older kids focused on their own work before the 2yos come into the room, because they definitely require management. One new item of note, though: Miss D's daughter worked with this beautiful Thanksgiving-themed matching activity that I downloaded for free from Montessori for Everyone (thanks!):

For Arts & Crafts, Miss K led the kids outside to collect a few more leaves, as well as a mum flower for each child. Then, using paper plates with the middle cut out, the kids glued the leaves all around the edges to make pretty Fall wreaths. I have to say that I thought the results were just lovely:

We ended the days with the "K" verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Keep your tongue from evil," Psalm 34:13.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Fall Poem

Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week is Fall. She asked the kids to come to class with some leaves, and then they spent a long time looking at their leaves, comparing and contrasting them, counting the number of points on each leaf, etc. Then she taught the kids a little more about Fall and about why leaves change colors and fall off. Finally, she and the kids talked about some of the characteristics of Fall, and they all worked together to write a Fall poem. Miss K hand-wrote the poem on large sheets of paper, and she used the exercise as an opportunity to review the connection between letters and their sounds. It was a really nice activity for the readers and pre-readers alike, because it was a creative writing exercise for the readers as well as a lesson on the connection between letters/words/sentences for the pre-readers. Unfortunately, I didn't hear the final poem, but I'll try to get a copy from Miss K and update the post.

New in the classroom this week? Pin-punching:

Miss K's daughter worked so diligently on this! She also built "towers" with the golden bead material:

I was able to give her a three-part lesson on the beads before she moved on to building more towers:

My daughter did the sandpaper numerals and cornmeal tray...

...and the 3-D Feel & Find puzzle with Miss D's son:

Miss D's son also did bead sequencing and domino math:

Miss C's son did the pink tower/brown stair extension...

...and the sandpaper letters and cornmeal tray:

Miss D led the kids in PE (they stretched and did some warm-up exercises, and then they had some fun with the parachute before kicking soccer balls through cones and into a net), and then we did the "K" verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Keep your tongue from evil," Psalm 34:13.

Tuesday is Veteran's Day, and we don't plan to meet. We'll be back on Wednesday!