A tour of Elizabeth's 6-9 Montessori Classroom
What I love about teachers is their creativity. In this tour shares about her classroom which has portable walls and is in a gym. It's great to learn from Montessori Teachers around the world.
Hello! I am Elizabeth Stead and I teach Lower Elementary at a private Montessori school in Nashville Tennessee. I am American Montessori Society (AMS) Certified for ages 3-12. I have been teaching Lower Elementary for eight years and was in a 3-6 classroom four years prior to that. I have six students in my class this year. This year we added fourth grade to my classroom due to the way public TN schools begin middle school at fifth grade. Our school shares our building with a church and therefore my classroom is in a gym and has portable walls for when I need to shut down and open up the space for weekend events. One of our 3-6 classrooms has the other half of the gym and our art teacher is on the other side of us. My students are wonderful at being flexible with the shared space and generally ignore anything going on outside our classroom walls.
Please pick one of your shelves and tell us what is on it. How is it arranged?
Our cultural area right now is focused on the history of written language, leaf study for botany, and our bird study. History of language is the first shelf followed by a shelf of leaf works, and two shelves on birds. My students have greatly enjoyed researching birds, so our bird shelf is full of things to help them get started on that research. It starts with a simple parts of a bird work and then goes into types of birds, the functions of different bird feet, the functions of different bird beaks, and the different types of bird nests. The second bird shelf is geared specifically for our owl study which will end with a dissection of owl pellets.
Tell us about another shelf you really like
I also love our math area. The shelves pictures are the first two shelves from our math shelf with the more advanced work across the rug from them. Here we have the golden bead works that lay the foundation for the Elementary math. In the middle we have the forty-five layout mat, exchange game, hundred board tiles, and snake game. On the lower level we have the stamp game, infinity street, introduction to checkerboard, and checkerboard. On the second shelf we have our addition, multiplication, and subtraction facts works. Because our shelves only have three levels, I keep all the division materials together on the third shelf. Some of my first years are still very much into chains, as you can see from the front of the photo. Currently, most of my students are choosing stamp game activities, checkerboard, or anything to do with fractions (which are located in our geometry section).
What is your favourite thing about your classroom?
I love our grammar shelf. It doesn’t matter what age the students are, if they are needing something to entice them, I can almost always find a grammar lesson that they are very excited about! I am limited to the one shelf so it is rather crammed, but I still think it has a nice flow to it. Our grammar miniature environment this year is a garden. In the past I have created a miniature environment zoo and ocean scene. With so many of the grammar works being things that stay on the shelf, I think it is important that the miniature environment changes to pull them back in! On top of the shelf we have two of our language towers which have our word study works in them. This year’s students greatly enjoy working with compound words, antonyms, and synonyms. They are also rather quick with anything that involves looking up words in the dictionary.
What are some challenges about your classroom? or teaching in your situation (e.g. country)
I would say our biggest challenge currently is that my classroom has only one electrical outlet. This means nothing extra plugged in that isn’t absolutely necessary. We have overhead lights which provide a lot of light so there is no need for lamps that would take up outlets. We do have a printer/copier machine in our room that generally uses the outlet unless we have brought the portable oven in for a cooking lesson. I don’t think it negatively affects us, if anything it has taught my students and myself that having more isn’t always the answer. It’s how you use what you have!
How have you changed your classroom in the last year?
The biggest change in my classroom this year has been the addition of our portable sink. Just outside our classroom entrance we now share a portable sink with our art teacher. This means my students are free to go to it whenever they need without checking in with me about going down the hall to the bathroom. We spent the last three years with our only option of a sink being the school kitchen, which has tall hose type faucets that my students can’t reach, or the hall bathroom which wasn’t convenient when you just wanted to wash your hands for snack. Everyday I fill up the clean water jug underneath the sink and empty the dirty water jug to get the sink ready for the day. This sink has made such a difference in our day to day experience!
What does a 'typical' day look like in your classroom?
Most of my students arrive during before-care. This means they arrive sometime between 7:30 and 8. These students put away their belongings and settling in a quiet place with a book or chat in a small group. Our official start time is 8am. Our morning work cycle is between 8 and 11:30 with a morning group from 11:30-12:00. During this time, I give individual and small group lessons and make time for my observations of the class or individual students. Students keep a log of their work on their daily work log which is turned in at the end of the day. These work logs are sequenced, stapled, and taken home on Friday along with a weekly self-reflection from the student. I have found these self-reflections to be a conversation starter for the parents about how the student’s week has gone and a way for the student to be accountable for their decisions and focus level throughout the week. We have lunch from 12:00-12:30, a short work cycle from 12:30-1:40, and then their outside time is from 1:40-2:40. When they come back in the students help close down the classroom for the day. Then they head to hookup or aftercare. We do have a Spanish group and a Music group (both led by different instructors) that occur once a week in the morning and on Mondays we have a 45-minute tumbling class at the end of the morning.