Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to Start Using Montessori at Home or School

This post is designed for parents and teachers who have just purchased our Montessori teaching albums, but it should be useful for everyone else, too.

The albums are designed to be followed in section and page order, so the first chapter on Practical Life is where you start.

First, put together the shelves we discuss for each section: Practical Life, Sensorial, Cultural, Language, and Math.

Note that the Cultural section includes a group of topics ranging from geography and art to biology and history. Language includes reading readiness, reading, writing, and other overall language development work.

If you are working with one or several children at home, put out only a few pieces of material on each shelf. If you are starting with very young children, you may wish to keep the Language and Math sections closed for now until the children learn how to work with the material in terms of taking care of it, handling it gently, and putting everything away after using it.

For those of you in schools, put out key pieces in each section. The younger your students are, you need more Practical Life and Sensorial work. Also put out a few pieces for the other sections for the first month. Try a globe, a puzzle map of the world, the Pink Tower, and math spindles.

Make sure you have at least at least three types of materials ready per two children -- this allows children to have work to choose from as they move from lesson to lesson, but minimizes the potential mess until everyone begins to work smoothly.

After the first month, see how it goes. Are the children working without leaving materials scattered around the classroom? Are they moving from one project to another in an organized way? Avoid having so many materials out that they all end up on the floor. If this happens, remove materials to streamline the room and have a circle time discussion about putting materials away.

No matter where you are, if you need to jump start your classroom right now, here are some quick tips:

1. Put together a book area with two books per child.
2. Build your circle area on the floor with tape.
3. Introduce circle time with reading and activities.
4. Have a few repeat materials in the Practical Life section for presentations such as pouring dry peas. Make this simple Practical Life presentation to small groups while your assistant reads to the others (if you have enough children for an assistant, otherwise make the presentation to your children at home).
5. Make individual presentations in the Practical Life and Sensorial area. Include the Mystery Bag work so children can work in pairs or small groups without you.
6. Quickly intervene if material is being dropped, thrown, or left scattered around.
7. Make circle time presentations for such activities as mat rolling and carrying that are key to classroom order.

If you don't have any equipment yet, set up the Practical Life material with supplies from the kitchen (or Walmart), put together books, art supplies, and start taking group nature walks to collect leaves for identification and labeling. Then look for basic pieces of equipment to start with in the second month to fill out the lists needed in our albums.

Good luck!

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