Introducing Montessori ideas to my traditional classroom

Introducing Montessori ideas to my traditional classroom

A couple of weeks ago I got a job in a mainstream or traditional classroom. I love Montessori and in the ideal world I want to work in a classroom where my 2 passions collide 1) Montessori and 2) Children from low income families. Sadly like many parts of the world Montessori is only available for wealthy families in my area which left me wrestling with what type of classroom I should go back into after my hiatus due to staying at home with Mr 2.5. Added to this mix is new legislation here in New Zealand about the amount of teaching practise a person has to do to stay registered as a teacher. With all that I applied for a fixed term (contract) job teaching ages 9-11 or years 5 and 6 of schooling until the end of the year. 
Upon getting the job I found quite a few interesting things. I am at least teacher number 3 for the year (the school year here runs Jan - Dec).  The class and school has few hands on materials compared to a montessori classroom.  The children had had a little bit of choice in how they organised their learning or day. Interestingly their last reliever (substitute teacher) had let them choose where they wanted to sit. 
Here are some of the changes I have bought about and my evaluation of how they are going. I have now been in the class for 2 full weeks.
I spent a lot of time rearranging stuff to be more child friendly. I moved a whole lot of old text books into storage. I rearranged the desks so that children who needed extra attention due to learning or behaviour were closer to me. I based the seating plan on notes I had been given about the class. 
At least 1/3 of my class is Māori (the indigenous culture here). There was little obvious Māori culture or language in the classroom. I introduced daily schedule signs in Māori and English. My top reading group worked on the meaning of proverbs. Using task cards I had found from Teachers Pay Teachers the children read short texts and picked the proverb that matched it. Later in the week I used giant pieces of wool for the students to connect Māori Whakatauki (proverbs) to traditional english proverbs or sayings and we discussed how different cultures come up with proverbs. 
On my first day I assessed where the students were for Math knowledge using a 10 minute test that we use here in New Zealand. The results showed me their was a class wide 'gap'  with fraction knowledge for example recognising fractions, ordering fractions and comparing fractions.  I have made some of my own and used things from Teachers pay Teachers to allow the children to see and manipulate things. Another key 'montessori' aspect I introduced was self correcting materials. Many of the children were worried that their peers might 'cheat' however after some discussion we all agreed that if this what a person chose to do with their learning time that was their choice and they would have to face the consequences in their own learning. 
Perhaps the biggest montessori inspired thing that I introduced this week was the 'tick chart' where children could choose there own order of work during literacy time and tick it off when they had done it. The children have loved this and although we had a few teething issues (such as people ticking things they hadn't done) it now appears to be working really well.  I am hoping to introduce somethIng similar for maths soon. Their is a schoolwide set time when literacy and numeracy must be done.
During the weekend I emptied out a giant cupboard that was full of 'teaching materials,' old teaching notes and manuals and random art supplies. It took me well over 3 hours to do! With  the help of my husband we moved the cupboard out into the hallway and replaced it with a language shelf. 
This is the old teacher shelf. The cupboard came up to about chest height, it was around 3.5 metres long and even had stuff all over the top
My new language shelf with materials. I am gradually adding to it. I currently have prefixes/suffixes, homophones, proverb work and synonyms
I printed off and laminated materials on homophones, synonyms and prefixes and suffixes. I introduced these activities to various groups of children who could then go on and teach other children. What was interesting was how they refered to the materials. All of the materials were called 'games' by the children. Due to the large size of my class (30 children) and the shortness of space some of my children have wanted to lean on the language shelf to do writing or to store their work. I have been teaching 'grace and courtesy' about the language shelf and this week we have been working on putting things back where they come from. 
Things I am thinking of doing next:
- More montessori materials for language e.g. language work
- more self correcting materials
- introducing nomenclature cards for botany / zoology and linking them to literacy work and next terms topic about 'caring for the earth'
- introducing mats for work done on the ground
- making māori montessori language materials for the children to use at 'language' time.

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I loved it! Blessed teacher, children, parents and school.

Beatriz Morales

Oh my, those lucky, lucky children! Hopefully the school management team will take note of improved attitudes, skills and general behaviour in your class and the “magic of Montessori” will become available to more learners!
This was so interesting and exciting to read!

Dee Gordon

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