Using The Montessori Method In Everyday Life

The Montessori method is a common practice in schools today, mainly the places that focus on early childhood education. There are also entire schools based around this method Maria Montessori created in 1897. Maria has revolutionized the way we foster learning in children with her research and educational practices. 

The basic idea of the Montessori method is children take charge of their learning. The adult provides the material, the child makes the decision on where and when to spend their time. Everything is eye level with the child, making it easy access. Wood is the preferred material for toys, not plastic, being aesthetically pleasing, as well as durable and practical. It’s a method that can be adopted in homes, daycares, preschools, elementary schools, even up to high schools. 

“Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.”

Montessori Northwest

I had the intention to use the Montessori method in our home when my daughter was born, putting toys on a shelf at her eye level and practicing other Montessori ways. However, soon I began to feel inadequate about my implementing based on research I was doing and others I was comparing to, especially with my limited funds. Here’s how I brought the Montessori ways into my house without breaking the bank. 

We found a kid-sized card table we bought second hand. 
Toys were organized on a cube shelf, all at my daughter’s level. 
I was more mindful of the toys we bought for her, trying to stick with materials that promote imaginative play and learning, not limited, one-time-use toys.
We incorporated more play into our day. 
I let her prepare and be more involved in her meals. 
She took the reigns on her own learning, I stopped pushing her to learn letters and numbers and instead accepted that she would pick it up by herself eventually. She did. 

The Montessori method doesn’t have to be complicated or perfect. Certain aspects did not fit into our daily lives, but others worked great. Placing her dishes at her level to claim responsibility worked wonders, but setting up a functioning child-sized kitchen set for dishwashing and food prep wasn’t practical for us. I stopped comparing my small acts to those who had more resources. My main takeaway, in the end, was that just because I couldn’t orchestrate a perfect Montessori household for my two-year-old doesn’t mean that my efforts went to waste. This can be the case in any classroom. 

Move art supplies to kid-level. 

Give students access to imaginative play materials. 

Allow younger kids to use messy things such as markers and paints. They won’t understand the responsibility of playing with messy items until you give them the opportunity to. 

Place learning and classroom functions in the hands of the students. 

Be an advocate for responsible, independent kids, who will turn into responsible, independent adults. 

How do you implement Montessori ways into your classroom? How can this elicit deeper learning in other areas?    


 

Ten Ways To Switch Up Your Read Aloud

I am all for promoting a good read-aloud in every classroom from daycares to high school students. I know the power and lessons picture books can hold when you choose the right one. However, I am also aware that simply reading a picture book to students can become mundane and routine when done often, so here are a few tips on how to switch up how you share books with students. 

  1. Felt board stories- For those that aren’t crafty (like me), check Etsy for links to buy sets of felt storyboard characters. Or grab a crafty friend or two to help you create fun sets yourself.    
  2. YouTube videos of books- The majority of popular picture books have at least one YouTube video of someone reading the story. There are whole YouTube channels dedicated to read-aloud books, sometimes with music or discussions at the end.
  3. Vooks- This is a subscription for an animated book collection of popular picture books, however, last I checked it was offered free for teachers for one year. It seems worth checking out. 
  4. Guest readers- For those parents, friends, and community members that are wanting to help in your classroom. How exciting would it be to have a REAL firefighter read a story about what firefighters do? 
  5. Students draw as you read- Let their imaginations do a little work, ask them to illustrate the story as you read. 
  6. The student reads- If you have students that are strong readers that wouldn’t mind a little time in the limelight, give them a chance to read their peers a quick story. 
  7. Coloring pages that go along with the story- I distinctly remember in 2nd grade my teacher read aloud Charlotte’s Web while we colored pictures of pigs, mice, cows, goats, and spiders each day and we hung a few favorites around the room. It brought the story alive in a new way, especially as it became part of our classroom. 
  8. Puppets- They don’t have to be extravagant. Put a sock with some button eyes over your hand to speak as the pigeon in Pigeon Drives The Bus and suddenly your student engagement skyrockets because it’s a little different and a little new. 
  9. Act it out- Once the story is over, let a few students act out their interpretation of the story. 
  10. Change Your Location- Changing up how the book is read seems to be the first idea of increasing engagement. However, changing something like location can amp up the excitement of the book as well. A dear friend of mine once brought her students outside bundled up and ready for a cool fall day while they sat under a big tree watching the falling leaves, and read aloud to them Fletcher And The Falling Leaves. What a magical way to have a story truly come alive for kids. 

What fun ways do you switch up reading for your students? How else do you increase engagement in your students while reading? 

You Probably Have An ESFJ Student In Your Classroom- Here’s How To Foster Their Personality

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Dedicated, loyal, social, and personable. Does this describe a student of yours? If you have an ESFJ student, this could be a great explanation of their personalities. ESFJ students are your cheerleaders, your star football players, your student council leaders. They like to be the ones who set the stage and lead others to success.

Extroverted 
Sensing 
Feeling 
Judgment 

When you’re teaching an ESFJ student, you are teaching a future nurse, teacher, or child care worker. Their careers lead them down a path to take care of others because that’s what they do best, therefore it only makes sense that group work is where they work best. In a group work setting, they are the ones to look over everyone, making sure each person is involved and participating. 

They learn best when the material learning is systematic and organized in a manner they can visualize. Having the study material beforehand to access helps them vastly succeed. They also thrive on hearing different angles of how to accomplish what they are learning. For example, it would be very beneficial to teach them two or three different processes for long division, instead of sticking with one. This can help them fully connect the concept in their minds. 

ESFJs don’t handle criticism well and can be uncomfortable in a classroom where they have been criticized in the past. They need to feel validated and will flourish in an environment with a happy, comfortable culture.   

How can you use this information to better teach the students in your classroom? How do you teach your ENFJ students? 

One Big List Of Sensory Bin Fillers

To all of the educators out there teaching in early childhood- the daycare workers, the preschool and kindergarten teachers, even up into first and second grade, this post is for you. First, to salute you for your noble work. Teaching littles can be difficult, emotions run high and logic doesn’t always seem to follow. But at the end of the day, we all know the work we are doing is worth it for those little brains to learn and grow. 

Here’s a tool for my fellow sensory bin lovers, something I’ve searched the internet, Pinterest, and Instagram for a few years now, and I am ready to share my findings with you. My best list of sensory bin fillers!

  • Good old fashioned rice- Fairly common, but always a hit. Dye the rice fun colors for an added twist. 
  • Shaving cream or
  • Whipped cream- make sure your students know which one is edible! 
  • Pom-poms 
  • Cardboard pieces cut up smaller 
  • Water with scoops and cups
  • Ice
  • Playdough 
  • Tissue paper
  • Water beads
  • Shredded paper 
  • Dried noodles 
  • Cooked noodles 
  • Foam packing peanuts 
  • Bubble wrap 
  • Cotton balls as pretend snow
  • A big bucket of snow! What’s more fun than snow indoors for littles? 
  • Dried corn for those fall months 
  • Straw or hay 
  • Fake grass (usually made for Easter baskets) 
  • REAL grass! 
  • Legos
  • Bubble Foam
  • Sand or moon sand 
  • Rocks 
  • Leaves 
  • Buttons 
  • If you’re feeling like you’re ready for a really messy day- Dirt!
  • Feathers 
  • Flower petals/ flowers- either real or fake 
  • Fabric pieces 
  • Beads 

The possibilities are endless! We have had so many successes and failures in our sensory bin activities. Some I find are not interesting right away, but left out can facilitate great play. This list is just a start to items you can find in a sensory table, but my hope is that it can get your gears turning for some fun, imaginative play for littles. 

What are some of your go-to sensory bin activities? What has worked for you in the past? Is there something new on this list that you are going to try in your classroom? 

A child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has aquired.

Vgotsky

Books Sure To Put You In The Spirit Of The Season

Awhile back I wrote a post about winter books perfect for these cold December days. Today, I want to expand on this and share some of my favorite Christmas books this holiday season. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, families gathering together, sometimes even traveling far to spend time with one another. Gifts are exchanged, people serve and help each other, and whole community happiness shines. Here are my favorite books that bring that spirit of Christmas in a little more for us. 

First, what is Christmas without the classic The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg? A magical story of a boy who rides the Polar Express to the North Pole. If this book doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what else will! 

Christmas Wombat by Jackie French is a favorite of mine as well. By the end of the book, everyone is smitten with this little wombat that follows Santa and his reindeer around on Christmas Eve, stealing carrots and taking naps.

Snowmen At Christmas, a book by Caralyn Buehner is a fun story about snowmen who celebrate Christmas in their own snowmen way. 

A newer Christmas book called Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht instantly stole my heart when I saw the beautiful illustrations by Jarvis. Once you start reading, the rhyming script almost sends you into a Christmas trance, reflecting on your own experience of picking and decorating trees for Christmas.  

How will you use Christmas books this holiday season? What are some of your favorites? 

Tips For Teaching Logical, Curious Students

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

The INTP personality is described as a logician, and for good reason. They thrive on logic and organized data leading them to discover theoretical ideas. They tend to spot liars fairly easy because they love to look for inconsistencies.

Introverted
i(N)tuition 
Thinking 
Percieving 

These students the ones who are quick to point out flaws or ask deeper questions in the material you may not know information on the depth they are inquiring about. Because they can be very critical in their speaking and questioning, they are often the students told to stop asking questions or to accept the material the way it is. This does nothing but infuriates them. INTP students are looking for deep, logical conversations where they can bounce theoretical ideas back and forth, sometimes not even making complete sense of their thoughts before moving on to the next. 

Most introverted students do not think group work is ideal, however, most of them do okay with limited amounts of it. For INTP students, it can actually harm their learning potential. In group work, they can feel limited by others because they cannot become lost in their own deep thoughts and instead are forced to listen to ideas from multiple peers.

A very interesting fact about INTP students is their lack of concern for test scores or grades. “INTPs are more concerned with meeting their own standards than they are with meeting an external set of standards. They have high intellectual goals for themselves and if the lessons they are being taught don’t align with what they think is worthwhile they will often spend their time thinking about other more stimulating ideas.” 

A tool to facilitate better grades for these students is to meet with them and figure out what their personal goals as a student are. This conversation can lead to a discussion about how their academic goals can line up to create better scores and grades, keeping everyone satisfied. 

INTP personality types can exude shyness from the beginning, but once they open up, the logical conversation can easily flow if it’s an interest of theirs. 

If you’re teaching an INTP student, there is a good chance you are educating a future architect, political scientist or engineer. However, there is a great chance you are also teaching a procrastinator. They work as quickly as possible, often finding shortcuts to cut down their workload in order to accomplish it on time, with the little time they do have. 

INTP students are constantly curious and challenging others. This can be a great tool in the classroom. Don’t underestimate these shy students, they can surprise you. 

Do you have any INTP students in your classroom? What tools do you have when teaching these students? 

Imaginative Play- A Product Of Boredom

Lately, my daughter has adopted a new favorite phrase: “Mom, I’m hungry.” Translated, she’s really saying, “Mom, I’m bored.” I think this is common among most kids. 

I used to jump on the opportunity to give her productive play or activities when she was bored, but one day I was busy. I didn’t have the capabilities to bend and meet her every need. I felt like a bad mom, not giving her the attention she needed, or more so, wanted. What followed made up for my guilt. 

A tiny glimpse into the block city- A product of boredom

I allowed boredom for a small time and her imagination ran wild. With a little prompting, soon our wooden blocks were spread throughout the house with castles and buildings everywhere. Then, the baby dolls were invited to crash down the whole city, only to turn around and rebuild it. All while I made dinner. 

I’m sure I could have stuck another sensory bin in front of her, or given her some crayons and paper. We are always stocked up with sticker books and paints, which would have sufficed and held her over until the food was ready. All of these truly are great, educational, enriching options for toddlers and kids, but there’s something to say about letting kids reach boredom. It’s incredible what can follow. 

Instead, I let her run free and allowed time for her little mind to create her own play, her own work. Instead of being limited to paper and paints or the stickers I have available, she used my house as her canvas to create her own world to escape in for a time with the plentiful toys we have lying around.

Had I facilitated another activity for her, her imagination would not have grown that day. It was a great reminder that we need to let kids be bored. 

What products have you witnessed as a result of boredom? How can we find time to allow kids to be bored in schools, as well at home?

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