Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Best Books for the Five Senses

We are starting to dive into our next unit- the five senses. Given the importance that sensorial activities have in a primary Montessori education, it's a great place to start and incredibly easy to integrate with Montessori activities.  As always, our first stop to building our shelves was the library.  Stay tuned for more posts about five senses activities and, eventually, a tour of our shelves.  And, check out my Five Senses pintrest page for more ideas!

Here are our favorite books on the five senses for early learners:
  1. Hello, Ocean!  This is a beautifully illustrated book. The poetic text is a great way to introduce young readers to different writing styles.  Poetry is especially important within a Montessori education as it highlights the beauty of language.  Introducing poetry early on provides for a basis for a love of poetry later in life.
  2. Rain. Another book with great illustrations- simple and colorful. Sing-song and repetitive text that is simple enough for a young child to quickly memorize and recite.
  3. Forest Friends Five Senses.  Q-ball loves this book. Like many children this age, she's currently working on role playing going to the doctor over and over and over and over.  Within this book, the forest friends each have to take a trip to Owl (the doctor) to get one of their senses corrected. I ultimately want to use this book to encourage Q-ball to create her own story about the five senses. 
  4. My Five Senses.  Great introductory book to the five senses. Simple text and illustrations.  
  5. Kevin's Big Book of the Five Senses.  I must admit, this author is not always my favorite.  But, I do enjoy this book.  It's highly interactive.  It's scaffolds activities by introducing the sense, giving examples, and then encouraging the child to find examples in her life.
  6. Bats at the Beach. We love this series of books!  I was excited to see how easily they fit with a five senses unit. Nearly every page includes a very descriptive verse that relates to one of the five senses. After mastering knowledge of the senses, the child should be able to read this book and identify the sense described. 

    Sunday, December 15, 2013

    Teaching Grace and Courtesy to a Toddler: Our Homemade Manners Book

         In lieu of a totally Christmas focused unit during this season, I opted to embark on a big grace and courtesy push prior to visiting family.  In line with the Dr. Montessori's idea that young children have a strong need for order in their environment (most often notable by a clean and neat space), social graces and acceptable behavior provide young children with clear standards by which to interact with others. These social courtesies also enhance the respectful atmosphere found in Montessori classrooms.  In our house, we have used three methods to teach grace and courtesy: modeling, role playing, and finding examples in books.
    Knock on a closed door. (Important for visiting family!)

        Up to this point, we have primarily modeled social graces for Q-ball.  According to Dr. Montessori, this is the most influential way to teach grace and courtesy.  We say please, thank you, and excuse me.  And, we model behaviors like gently opening and closing doors, greeting others, waiting in line, placing our napkins in our laps, expressing concern when someone is upset or hurt, and expressing admiration for other people's work.  Even without any previous prompts or instruction these phrases and behaviors have occasionally slipped into Q-ball's habits (the latter more than the former.)

       Recent holidays provided opportunities for grace and courtesy role-playing. Given that Q-ball's current favorite method of play is pretending, these activities have been a huge hit. Before starting the role- playing activity, I modeled the exact phrases and actions for Q-ball. For Halloween, we practiced how to greet and thank people while trick-or-treating.  Q-ball loved this so much that she actually still asks to play!  And, for Thanksgiving, we held several tea parties to learn basic table manners as well as practical life skills like napkin folding, table setting, and flower arranging.
    Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

       I've done several posts on books as they are always a favorite in our house.  When I plan a new unit or when Q-ball expresses interest in a new topic, my first stop is always our library's online catalog. Our manners unit was no different, and I checked out every age appropriate book I could find.  Sadly, I wasn't overly impressed with the selection.  Q-ball did enjoy the books, but I was a little more critical. I found many were a little too broad (I don't expect her to master manners from all aspects of life at this point) or too silly (many books were a bit tongue and cheek, making light of bad manners, but this may be a little abstract for a toddler just learning the appropriate social expectations.)
    Q-ball enjoying her very own Big Book of Manners

        However, some good did come out of not being able to find a great manners, book, as we decided to make our own! Q-ball was very excited to be in her own "Big Manner's Book" after reading so many others.
    Here's what we did:
    1.  Introduced basic social graces through Model, Role-play, Read (see above!): again and again and again and again and again
    2. Make a list of our most important manners: I guided Q-ball through this activity.  I asked her to recall our role-playing activities and what phrases or actions we use in certain situations.  We also went page by page through her manners books, and she identified selected manners using the pictures as cues.  We came up with a list of 12 manners.
    3. Take pictures! I tried to take pictures of Q-ball preforming the action or stating the phrase as it was actually happening.  This was pretty easy to do for table manners and cleaning up, but some pictures (like covering your mouth when you sneeze) had to be posed.  But, posing made Q-ball more excited to see the final book, so it worked out well.
    4. Make a photo book.  I used an online program for our local drugstore, so we'd be able to pick the book up together for more immediate toddler gratification.  This process was a little arduous for Q-ball, so I did this and let Q-ball see the product preview.
    5. Pick-up your photo book and read!

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

    Our Montessori Non-Nursery

    I love, love, love looking at pictures of Montessori nurseries on blogs.  While pregnant with TRex, I dreamed of having such a beautiful nursery. There was one significant setback, however: our apartment is one room shy of a nursery for a baby.  So, I've tried to recreate some of the best aspects of Montessori nurseries with a mobile, temporary twist.  Here's what we do...

    1) Mirror in Q-ball's room- This is key for any Montessori baby, so we had to ensure TRex had a mirror. Our toddler's bedroom is an ideal location. Q-ball was excited about its installation as she, of course, sees the mirror as primarily hers and is able to use it for dressing, fixing her hair, and watching herself jump on the bed.  And, while I'm working with Q-ball in her room, TRex is able to hang out in the corner and enjoy the mirror.

     2) A Mobile Mobile- With the lack of a nursery and the lack of any additional space in our apartment (see more posts on adapting Montessori for a small space here and here), we knew that we needed to create a mobile that was not permanent.  My crafty husband and helpful toddler worked together to build a mobile mobile. They used suggestions from here and here.  Our mobiles are from Bella's Casa- TRex loves them!  As you can see in the pictures, we move the mobile wherever there's space at the time.
    In one corner of the living room.

    In the dining room.

    In the other corner of the living room.

     3) High-Contrast Pictures- Given infants still developing eyesight, they are drawn to high-contrast colors, namely black and white. According to Montessorian theory, looking at black and white pictures develops visual discrimination.  Many of the nurseries I envy have beautiful framed black and white pictures hanging a the infant's eye level.  Key features of our non-nursery are cardstock black and white pictures (also from Bella's Casa).  I can set these up wherever I happen to set TRex down.
    In the bathroom while I shower.

    In the laundry room/kitchen during diaper washing.

    Do you have a mobile Montessori practice?  How have you adapted Montessori ideas to fit your home?

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Our Montessori Pumpkin Unit

    Before I seemed to realize it, Q-ball now over the 2.5 year hump, and quickly approaching 3 years old!  Toddlers who attend a traditional Montessori Children's House start as early as 18 months!  Thus, it is time for me to start to ensure their is direction in our learning. When following other blogs and even when reading books on the Montessori principle, it can be easy to get caught up fun activities to do, especially for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  So, I decided to reach back into the basics of my education education and start from the standards.

    Here's our Montessori unit overview, based upon the Montessori standards from Montessori Compass and our state's pre-school standards.  For those familiar with various curriculum planning methods, I'm using the Understanding by Design method here. From this unit plan, I developed specific lesson plans that follow the same format. If any are a smashing success or maybe a dismal failure, I'll share as well!

    Our first sensory box!

    Established Goals:

    From Montessori Compass

    • Holds crayon as demonstrated
    • Holds paintbrush as demonstrated
    • Demonstrates understanding of item’s position: top, bottom, high, low, etc.
    • Is able to understand basic ideas of day and night
    • Conversation pictures: answers specific questions about pictures
    • Works to complete a picture with pattern blocks with assistance
    • Independently works sorts items by size puzzle by size
    • One-to-one association activities

    From State Pre-Kindergarten Curriculum Standards

    • Child takes care of and manages classroom materials. 
    • Child uses category labels to understand how the words/objects relate to each other. 
    • Child engages in prereading and reading related activities. 
    • Child retells or re enacts a story after it is read aloud. 
    • Child uses  information  learned from  books by  describing,  relating,  categorizing, or  comparing and  contrasting
    • Child counts 110 items, with one count per item.
    • Child identifies and describes the characteristics of organisms.
    • Child describes life cycles of organisms. 
    • Child demonstrates an  understanding that  others have  perspectives and  feelings that are  different from her  own


    • All living organisms have a life cycle.
    • Books can describe both real-life experiences and make-believe stories.
    • We can re-enact events in books.
    • We can re-create images.
    • A single number is associated with a single quantity.
    • Every object has characteristics that distinguish it from another object.
    • Some objects share similarities.
    • Individuals are responsible for maintaining their own tools and space.
    • There is a proper way to use writing utensils.
    • Objects or symbols can represent holidays or a time of year.
    • Day and night have different purposes and characteristics.

    Essential Questions:

    • How does a pumpkin develop?
    • How can pumpkins be the same?  How can they be different?
    • How can you determine quantity?
    • How can you tell it’s Halloween time?
    • How can you tell it’s nighttime?
    • How can you tell it’s daytime?
    • How can you determine if a story in a book can happen in real-life or if it is make-believe?
    • How can you take care of your own materials and space?

    Learning Objectives:


    • Define the parts of a pumpkin.
    • Identify the elements of a pumpkin’s lifecycle. 
    • Identify colors, sizes, shapes. 
    • Define location words. 
    • Count from one to five.
    • Identify features of Halloween.
    • Identify features of night time. 
    • Identify features of day time. 


    • Uses a crayon or pencil to trace a line and color a picture.
    • Uses a paintbrush to decorate a pumpkin.
    • Completes a pattern puzzle with assistance.
    • Describe various pumpkins.
    • Describes a pumpkin’s lifecycle.
    • Sort items by size.
    • Retell a story.
    • Re-enact events in a story.
    • Compare and contrast items.
    • Use one-to-one association when counting from one to five.
    • Describe the events that take place on Halloween.
    • Cleans up materials when project is complete.
    • Demonstrates care when reading books.
    • Demonstrate concepts of print.
    • Student uses visual cues to identify feelings.

    Performance Tasks:

    Summative Assessment:

    Part 1:
    We will visit a pumpkin patch to select our Halloween pumpkins.  While there, you will do the following:

    • When possible, identify elements of the pumpkin life cycle.
    • Describe the pumpkins you see, to include location.
    • Compare and contrast pumpkins.
    • Place pumpkins in order according to size.
    • Describe why you selected the pumpkin you did.

    Part 2:
    We will decorate our pumpkins.  During this process, you will complete the following tasks:

    • Re-create actions from the book How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
    • Count pumpkin seeds using the one-to-one association method.
    • Use a paintbrush to decorate your pumpkin.

    Part 3:
    We will go trick-or-treating.  During and after this event, you will do the following:

    • Identify Halloween items.
    • Describe our activities.


    Describe our pumpkin activities.  Explain what you liked and what you did not like. Describe what you would like to do again in the future, and if you would do anything differently.

    Key Criteria:

    • Accuracy of information.
    • Participation.

    Other Evidence:

    • Completion of pattern puzzle
    • Completion of Connect the dot activities
    • Read-aloud involvement
    • Ability to follow directions
    • Ability to maintain workspace

    Learning Plan-

    1.      Day 1- Read Pick a Perfect Pumpkin  and How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? Introduce final assessment, which mirrors activities in both books.

    2.      Day 1- Trip to grocery store to see and feel pumpkins.

    3.      Day 2- Complete connect the dots activities.  

    4.      Day 3- Complete pattern puzzle.

    5.      Day 4- Re-read books for more involved student input based upon current experiences. Elaborate on plans/wish for final assessment activity.
    6.      Day 5- Complete one-to-one association activity.

    7.      Day 6- Read Halloween books. Go on a walk to identify Halloween related terms at decorated houses. E

    8.      Day 7- Introduce pumpkin lifecycle cards.

    9.      Day 8- Free play with all materials presented.  Extra materials like coloring sheets and gourds are available for exploration.

    10.  Day 9-10 Final assessment.

    11.  Day 11- Verbal retelling of assessment events.
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