A tour of Lisa's Montessori Class in NZ
Those of you that have followed me for a while know that I have recently been teaching in 'normal' classrooms. I am delighted to be back in a Montessori Classroom. I am teaching in a shared space. We have 45 children in one large open plan classroom and work as 2 classes with frequent shared learning opportunities. I am mainly responsible for the 5-9 children and my colleague for the 9-13 year old children.
We are in a Public School Setting and the classes have been running for two years, which means we are still in the process of gaining some equipment. The other children in the school make up the majority and are taught in mixed-aged classes in collaborative teaching spaces.
The parents of the children in our classes pay extra for having their children in our classes. The money goes to paying a teaching assistant and buying the Montessori equipment in the class.
Our current classroom used to be the school library which means it is a bit of a weird space to work in. We have multiple electrical sockets all over the place - including coming out of the floor. At the start of the year we had to also get rid of large built-in shelves. We also have large terraced stairs in the 9-12 area of the classroom which take up space that one might use for shelves or tables.
We have just started the school year here. The school year in NZ goes from January to December.
The first day of the new school year was a whirlwind as it was my first day and the first day for seven children, most of whom who were five!
One thing we did on the first day was a collaborative poster. Each child had a square to colour in. We talked about how we all have gifts to bring to our class using the Traditional Måori Whakatauki:
Ka koekoe te tūī
Ka ketekete to kākā
Ka kūkū te kererū
The tūī (a type of bird) chatters
The kākā (a type of bird) cackles
The kererū (a type of bird) coos
Which means: We are all different, We are all unique and we all have something to contribute.
As I have said I have some 5 year olds in my class. Here in NZ the normal starting age for Primary School is 5 years old, with some schools allowing children to start at 4. Legally though you don't have to enroll your child at primary school until they are 6. However, it is the cultural norm for people to start their children at age five.
Here is a tick chart I have for my many younger learners. It has visual cues to help the children know what they work is, many of these children are pre-literate.
At the top are the children's names which I hace cropped out for privacy.
Having a large number of young children and an uneven cohort in the 5-9 class makes it challenging as I don't have enough older children to pair up with younger children to be mentors.
We have two shelves which are dedicated to our younger students and have material that the children would use if they had stayed at Montessori between ages 5 and 6. I have got the pink series on the shelf and my teaching assistant is currently making the blue series materials for me to introduce to the students too.
I have some fine motor activities on this shelf and literacy activities including the moveable alphabet.
The children of both classes have access to the entire space so we don't have two sets of shelves, that is there isn't a set of geography shelves for the 5-9 class and a different set for the 9-12. We share all shelves, tables and teaching spaces.
This is one of our cultural shelves.
With space at a premium, you have to get creative. Here are some of our maps for children to learn their place in the world (photo below). We have been looking at the Maori names for the continents and the countries in different continents. We do have puzzle maps however we currently don't have paper that the children can trace around the countries on.
Astute readers will see that Oceania doesn't have a name label above it - I had to crowd source some help for the name of Oceania in Måori. I have it now! Just need to type it up. This map is not the traditional 'Australia' Continent map. You can read why I don't use that one here
A huge favourite has been our exploding volcano. Children make the explosion in the hole at the top with baking soda and vingegar. The children were shown this as part of the First Great Story and for a few days there was hardly a moment where it wasn't being used. I love that it has the names of the parts of the volcano.
Here is our Geometry shelf. It is right by one of our doors. Behind it are the maths shelves and behind that in the corner is our reading area.
What does a typical day look like?
- The Bell rings at 9am. Both classes gather together for Karakia and'Hui' (Meeting). Two children lead hui and choose a song to start the day and read and announce notices. The teachers take the roll
- 9.15 we move into our separate classes. The youngest children and some of the children who need extra support go with the teaching assistant to talk about what they are going to do for work. The other children in the 6-9 class go to me and the 9-12 children go to their classroom teacher. Required work or priorities are written on the whiteboard and children write these onto their workplans
- Lessons taken by the teacher between 9.30 and 12. Children go out for fitness and have morning tea when they wish. Morning tea is prepared by the children. The children go shopping for the morning tea with an assistant on a Monday.
- 12 noon circle time where we reflect on our learning and discuss any issues. Then we may have a whole class learning such as Te Reo Måori.
- 12.40-1.40 lunch
- 1.40 - 3pm Whole class activities or activities with the rest of the school such as singing. One day a week we go to swimming and another day we visit the public library.
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