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!


Anonymous said...

I have always had other places to spend my materials budget so I insert a small push pin into a rubber pencil grip. It works fabulously!

Hannah said...

I just introduced pin punching to my children as well, but though they seemed very interested during the presentation, only one of them tried and it (my three year old) and was frustrated at how long it took (and she never made enough holes to be able to actually punch out the shape). It would be great if you could post about how your children respond to it. Thanks!

Anna said...

I've never heard of this activity over here in jolly england. It was certainly never mentioned in my training year! How close together do you have to make the holes, and how big do you make the shapes they punch around? I am intrigued!!

Andrea said...

In case you ever need extra materials, I just bought a pin punch set for about five dollars at Montessori N Such.

Jennie said...

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all of the questions and helpful tips. Let's see...the kids all love the pin punching activity (there's something very empowering about being entrusted with a sharp object :), but they do start to lose interest after a while. At my daughter's old school, once the student had completed their work (or moved on to something else), the teacher actually cut the star or whatever out and made a book called "Pin Punching Star," for example (imagine a 4x4 book made out of construction paper with a title page, the cut-out object pasted to metal inset paper (the "positive"), the piece of construction paper that the object was punched out of (the "negative") pasted to metal inset paper, and then a back page of construction paper).

At first, when my daughter told me that her teacher cut her punches out (using a stencil knife, I presume), I was surprised - it seemed like cheating. After thinking about it some more, though, it makes complete sense to me. Kids can get the punches really close together and still not have the punch come out easily. If you don't help them, they don't have anything to show for all of their hard work, which was done with due diligence and in good faith.

I think it was Susan Dyer at the Moveable Alphabet who did a nice post about how a teacher knows when a child's work is complete. I think you can tell when it's time to call it a job well done and make a pin punch book. The books are very well received, and the positive/negative aspect is very cool to see (pasting to white metal inset paper provides good contrast). Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

I use extra large size push pins in my classroom, it is much easier for little fingers to grasp. I think i bought them at walmart for less than 3 dollars for a pack of 12.

Linda said...

The book idea is cool!

I have used these with 4-6 year olds at church. I have dotted outlines from an e-book I purchased several years ago. The title is something about fine motor skills, I think.

I got some foam "locker boards" at the Dollar Tree - about 5" x 8", maybe. One side is rough, the other is smooth. I think they're made to hang in a locker, then use like a bulletin board.

We use the smooth side of the foam board and large push pins (from Walmart). I use smaller pins to anchor the corners of the picture.

The book suggested putting the pattern on top of a piece of construction paper. My kids were satisfied to do the punching, then hold the picture up to the light. Several wanted to put them on the windows.

I've made my own patterns using a simple outline then adding the dots to help them know where to punch. I'm not real familiar with Montessori concepts, so this idea of giving them the dots to punch might not fit in, but in a church setting where I see the kids for 90 minutes a week, this allowed them to do the punching and get good results.