Big Work in my classroom .... or how I help normalisation practically!
I don't know about you, but a lot of the Montessori books and texts I read when I first started made the Montessori class idyllic. From what I read children would bounce or skip happily into my class at age 6 able to read, write, count and independently construct their own work day. This has rarely been the case in my experience.
I work in a Montessori public school setting where some children come from a Montessori background and others don't. I also get children who are aged 5 and children who have extra learning needs.
One of the big challenges this year was the number of beginning readers. To be frank, you can't do a whole lot of independent self-directed learning in a 6-12 classroom with children who lack concentration or the ability to read.
In no particular order here are some things I have had operating in my class this half of the year to help with literacy and to simultaneously help grow concentration or 'light the fire' of interest in the world.
Stay tuned for part 2 which looks at integrating research into my class.
I did a music session based on beat and rhythm for 30 minutes a week for five weeks with my students. It had an algebraic focus. Students used percussion instruments to clap and compose beats with rhythms. We used a combination of individual and group work based around fruits. I've included an example of one activity below. The students arranged pictures of fruits into patterns to make up different rhythms e.g. app-le, app-le, ba-na-na (2 claps, 2 claps, 3 claps).
Integrating visual art activities
We have combined art with literacy wherever possible this term. There are multiple reasons for this art uses different areas of the brain and the physical act of holding a tool such as a pencil helps with fine motor co-ordination and crossing the midline. In addition, making a quality art work takes time which allows for deep concentration. If you can pick an art activity where all children can be successful you also allow an environment to grow a child's self esteem.
Here are a couple of activities I used.
-Our school wide literacy focus was narratives. For one session we read through the book Papa's Song. For one session we discussed character traits of the baby whale. At the same time, I showed the children how to draw a whale using a directed drawing approach. We then drew whales and on the back of our art work and wrote the traits of the whale. Children could use the directed drawing if they wanted or draw a whale in their own style. The children drew the whale, and used crayon to lightly show some features of the ocean or whale. They then used water paints to do the background.
-We did a similar activity about Maui. After reading a collection of Maui stories the children each drew Maui and then wrote about him. We then collected the art and pictures into a big book.
-Multi media art. We had been studying about festivals and celebrations around the world. The children drew, or coloured in the stars of Matariki and then coloured in the background of the sky using pastels or dye. I then put a picture of them reaching up to the sky touching the stars.
-Puppet Shows. I put the students into mixed age, mixed ability groups each group made a puppet show about a traditional myth or legend related to a given story. At the end the students completed an evaluation of how they did in relation to some 'soft skills' such as working as a team, listening, coming to practises and relaying what their legend was about. (I've attached a copy which went home with each child's work sample portfolio, children highlighted the section which explained how they felt they did, for younger children an adult read the descriptors to the child)