Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Delving into Montessori Methods

I've been curious lately about different preschool teaching methods, and the Montessori method really intrigues me.  I've watched videos from Montessori preschool classrooms, and I'm shocked.  The kids are so well behaved, so patient, and so very smart.  I can't help but wonder how they do it!  I think my kids are pretty darn smart, but sometimes I feel they are definitely lacking in those other two areas (actually it's me that's really lacking the patience).

So I did what I always do, I turned to Google!  What exactly is it about Montessori that works so well?  Well, I really don't have the answer to that question yet, but I'm going to give a few things a try and see if it works for us.

Something I keep coming across in my research is sensory tubs.  Now these aren't actually Montessori, but seem to be used commonly in preschools and with families who do Montessori at home.  My first thought when I see them is "my kids would just dump this thing on the floor".  Because that's what they always do!  My second thought was "well what's the point?"  After my husband explained it (without doing any research whatesoever, he's just knows everything), I was on board enough to put my first tub together.

I saw a great back-to-school themed sensory tub over at Counting Coconuts, an incredibly organized and very informative blog, that seemed the perfect place to start.  School supplies are definitely easy to find and very affordable right now, and our son is starting pre-k in less that 2 weeks.  So we are certainly in back to school mode at this house!

After a quick (haha just kidding) trip to the store, I came home and started putting together the tub.  I found these great plastic tubs with lids at the Dollar Tree.  I picked up three of them so I can begin putting together a fall themed tub and whatever else comes to mind!  Then I raided my school supply bin for all the other goodies.

Items I've included in our version of the back to school sensory tub:
  • shredded paper filler
  • flexible ruler
  • crayons
  • lined paper with three hole punches to look like notebook paper
  • pencils
  • erasers
  • crayons
  • reward stickers
  • glue stick
  • safety scissors
  • Play-Doh and a school bus and star cookie cutters
  • apple
  • paper clips
  • small book
  • small boy figure - because our son is the one going to school this year.  My daughter will probably be the one using this the most, and she can associate the figure with her brother going to school.

I've also been making some changes to the cabinet that was the "kid's pantry" in our kitchen.  The kitchen is where we do most of our preschool activities so I wanted to keep the trays we'll use in there as well.  The kid's pantry used to hold buckets of play food and dishes, and other toys that really were just always dumped and picked back up, never really played with.

I didn't take a picture of the top shelf, but the kids can't reach that one and it's where I keep all of the workbooks, coloring books, flash cards, and the like.  The next shelf now has our globe, and a sorting activity.  In the center is a mix of 4 different types of dried beans.  The beans can be sorted into the four outside dividers.

The next shelf has a tray with some plates, silverware, and play food.  When we have more space, I'll have a separate tray for items to set a table and keep the food on its own tray.  This is one of my daughter's favorite activities though.  She serves us this pizza all the time!  Beside it is a tray, also from the Dollar Tree, with a pouring activity.  

The bottom shelf holds my daughter's cash register and another tray with more of our back to school items.  This idea was from the blog mentioned above and can be a fine motor activity of placing erasers on top of the pencils.  One of the cups holds the erasers.  The other cup has more paper clips that can also be sorted, turned into paper clip chains or used to create patterns.  I know these are two separate activities, but like I said....we're lacking a little space right now!

I'm excited to get started and see how the kids take to these new activities and new rules that go with them (ie carrying the tray to the table, keeping everything on the tray, returning the tray to the same spot when finished, etc).  My son seems very eager and also very excited about it.  He immediately started with the pouring activity.  I followed this very detailed outline for a Montessori pouring activity.  He began by pouring all of the beans into the other cup as I showed him.  Then he started only pouring a little bit and would talk about which side had more (or which side had less).  Then he'd pour just a few beans and count them.  After a while he stopped turning the tray around and just moved the empty cup over to the right side.  

After a few minutes watching him I now totally get it.  He was learning independently with just a brief introduction, and he was excited and imaginative about it!  He also did great keeping everything in its place and has been telling his sister to do the same!  It all seemed so simple and frankly boring to me before, but seeing such a basic activity inspire so much was really eye opening!  I can't wait to learn even more about Montessori and create more trays and tubs for the kids.  Now just to find some more bookshelves!

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