Apr 30, 2007

Upload photos of your Montessori creations to the new Flickr group!

Sharing photos of our handmade Montessori materials - an easy way to pass on ideas and inspiration!

I've finally figured out this Flickr photo sharing business. Can you see the new photo badge in the side bar? I used to host a Flickr photo badge in the same spot, but it linked to my personal account only. Good news ... I've just created a Flickr Group, under the name of Handmade Montessori Materials. Here's the direct link:


All you will need to do is create a free Flickr account if you don't have one already, upload photos of your own Montessori-related creations to your account, join Handmade Montessori Materials, and send your photos to the group.

Here's what I'm not totally clear about - I think that once you have your own account, you will need to somehow search "groups" for handmade montessori materials in order to join. The catch? The group won't show up on searches until it is reviewed as "safe" by the folks at Flickr. Try joining by clicking on the above link, but if it doesn't work, wait a while until you can find it on a search. Flickr says that the review shouldn't take more than a week.

Please let me know how your sign up process goes by leaving a comment on this post so that others can follow your advice.

P.S. You don't need to sign up to view the photos. Just click on the link toward the bottom of the photo badge.

P.P.S. If you make a material, post a photo of your creation to the Flickr group. Period. No excuses. Think of it as a little bit of community service. Especially post the photos if you have made a material using one of the snazzy tutorials available on this blog. Or post photos of the materials/activities suggested in the blog in use in your classroom. Thank you, awesome readers! Let's spread the Montessori love!

Apr 27, 2007

Announcing the Saturday Song!

Okay, even though today is Friday, I couldn't wait one more day to post this! I had to choose Saturday because of the pretty alliteration. The Friday Song doesn't do it for me. From now on, every Saturday I will be posting an audio recording of a song that I sing with my children in the classroom along with the lyrics and explanations of any movements that accompany the song. The audio files are embarrassingly simple - it's just me singing a cappella. I would have accompanied myself with guitar, but my computer microphone isn't up to the challenge. Many of the songs you might already recognize, but please listen to the song before you write it off, as many of the English versions also have Spanish and/or French translations as part of the audio clip. Also, pardon the foreign lyrics, as they will be missing any accents or other letters that aren't easily available on my keyboard. I'm lazy. :)

To access the files, go to the side bar and you will find a box.net widget that is called "Songs to Sing With Children." Click once on the song title and the song will play directly from the blog - no need to download it, since you will only be listening in order to learn the song yourself. If you really want to download it, right click on the song title.

Today's Song:

It Rained A Mist / Llovio Ayer

It rained a mist, it rained a mist
It rained all over the _______, the _______,
It rained all over the _______.

Llovio ayer, llovio ayer
llovio por toda la/el ______, la/el ________,
Llovio por toda la/el ______.

The sample I give in the audio clip uses school/escuela. The Spanish translation is not exact, as the exact translation doesn't rhyme. The Spanish means "It rained yesterday."

We begin by singing the "school" version, then the children can raise their hands and suggest a place/thing that is rained on. For example, you would continue with "it rained all over the car/house/plants/trees/flowers, etc. for the other verses, whatever the children suggest.

Also, I want to make a plug for "The Garden Song (Inch by Inch)" which I have also posted in the "Songs to Sing with Children" box. This is a great time of year to be talking about botany, doing experiments with seeds and plants, and planting in your classroom garden (or indoor herbs/flowers if you aren't lucky enough to have outdoor space.) The Garden Song is perfect for this time of year.

Apr 25, 2007

On being role models ....

Okay, so this may not be entirely Montessori related, but it most certainly has to do with the example we, as teachers/mothers/administrators send to the children in our care and to the community at-large. U-handblog has posted a fab tutorial on how to make an eco-friendly, fabric grocery bag. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)Let's all make them for ourselves, our families, and our friends. Down with the ridiculous plastic (or paper) bag!!! What a waste - here in the supermarkets they tend to double bag things. And where do these bags end up? Not in a landfill because we don't have one, not recycled, not made into interesting eco-art ... well, right now I see that one is stuck in the tree in front of my house. Arrgh. Thank you, wind.

Plus, how cool is the small pouch that it fits into? With this pouch, you can toss the grocery bag into your purse, and you will never have to be without it! No excuses!

Here's another idea I found while perusing the crafty blogosphere, for all of the Assistants to Infancy Montessorians and moms/dads with newborns:Laura provides a quick tutorial on how to remake a newborn shirt and add this binding. She talks about dyeing the old, stained baby shirts, but I'm not too sure I would use dye for the newborn. I might consider organic dyes. Laura said she found these fold-over shirts at Target. They seem like a good idea to me ... why traumatize baby by forcing a shirt over his head and arms when you could provide a kimono-type shirt? I would think that these fold over shirts could be slightly altered so that the fold-over is in the back, closed with velcro, so that when the baby is on his back for changing you can easily get his arms out of the shirt without having to lift him up. However, this is not my area of expertise. I'm not yet a mom, and I work with 3-6 year olds. Any old pro's out there - moms, A to I trained Montessorians, etc. who might be able to offer some practical advice on newborn clothing?

By the way, my cat Amelie is getting much better. She's back to bossing me around and whining for cheese. Perhaps I should have thought of her post-spay recovery time as a bit of a personal respite! But it's good to have her back to normal.

Apr 22, 2007

Humble Creatures

Were you wondering why all of my mini-teapot cozy photos were shot outside? It's not as if things are green, blooming, and beautiful here at high altitude in Creel, Mexico. I do have some nice volcanic rock backdrops, though. Funny as it might seem, in between the oh-so-cute-cozy photo shoot, I was looking for earthworms. Hee hee.

We've been preparing the beds and planting our humble organic garden (with the help of our friend Tony, who is shown below in the foreground. He's an expert in all things gardening, having studied the subject at the renowned apprentice program at UC Santa Cruz.) We are lucky to have him.

I've been itching to get started with worm composting, or vermicomposting, the more socially couth way of discussing your little slimy house guests. It all started when I read this book:

Oh me oh my. You will also be a worm enthusiast after reading this cover to cover. You will DEFINITELY want to have one in the classroom! And this would be easy to do anywhere bait shops abound! In this situation, you don't have to worry about hunting in your backyard. However, this option is a lot of fun if you have a backyard and a green thumb. For more info on vermicomposting and the necessary supplies, visit this site.

I am using a smallish styrofoam cooler as my worm bin. More snazzy worm bins can be purchased. The book offers a lot of suggestions and also shows you how to build your own.

We filled ours with a bit of soil, started filling it with the cute little wormies, and put down some banana and papaya peels for their first meal. I later topped it off with moist, black and white newspaper. This prevents it from smelling bad, and the worms can eat the newspaper, too.

A worm bin in the classroom would be a great asset. I'm going to bring mine into my primary class for the rest of the year. The worms will eat anything except meat. (They will actually eat meat, but we don't want it in the bin because the smell would be pungent.) I won't tell you all about it here; the book gives plenty of instructions on how often to feed the worms and how to harvest the extremely rich vermicompost. (In short, by making little piles on a tarp outside in the bright sun. The worms will continue burrowing down, and you will continue removing compost from the outer layers of the piles. Eventually, you will just have a pile of adorable :) worms.) The worms are then placed back in the bin with food and damp newspaper. And you will have very rich compost to add to your classroom/garden plants.

For the elementary classroom, check out this companion book for science activities. I haven't read it, but it looks great.

Yum. For the worms, I mean.

For those of you in the swap, I will send out an email tomorrow letting you know who your partner is. This weekend has been a little crazy in my household. We took our car-phobic cat on the three hour (one way) drive to get her spayed on Saturday. It was rough on all parties involved. Plus, I've been worried about her because she still seems to be lethargic and not feeling so well. We've been giving her a water/wet food mixture from a dropper. Hopefully she'll start to feel better tomorrow. Anyone else had experience spaying their cat? How long did it take for her to recover?

Until the next post,

Apr 19, 2007

The "What's That For?" Cozy

Let's see if you can figure it out ... click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Do you have an idea yet? :) This is my new "Sensitizing the Fingers" Cozy! Hand - stitched with a double layer of wool felt, this will top my mini Japanese teapot, keeping the water warm throughout the day. The pot is filled with very warm water before the children arrive. The child pours out a tiny amount of water into an authentic tea cup. This tea cup will fit a child's fingers perfectly. No extra water is wasted!

Here's what you need to make the cozy:

1.) A teapot - any size will work.
2.) Kristin Nicholas's book, Colorful Stitchery. Here you will find easy instructions on embroidery and on making a wool teapot cozy. I had never embroidered before, and now I feel pretty competent. Embroidery is a very fun piece of cake. And what a great way to add some lovely detail to the classroom environment!

3.) Wool felt. Either make your own from wool sweaters, or buy it from Magic Cabin.
4.) Embroidery thread.

Have fun with it! And sign up for the swap!


Apr 16, 2007

Great Science Curriculum Resource

My material-making focus has veered from music to science. (But don't you worry - one of these days I will finish the tutorial for the world music curriculum CD pouches. I just feel the need to procrastinate a bit and give in to the magnetic pull of physics, biology and botany!)

In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you a nice resource I happened upon the other day. Lori, a trained Montessori teacher who is now a full-time mom, has a website where she sells some quality printable materials. I especially like her offerings in botany, biology and zoology. For reasonable prices she will either email (PDFs) or print and send to you a wide range of 3-part reading classification cards. If you order the vertebrate nomenclature series (parts of a mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird, and fish) with each 3-part card set also comes a definition for each part. This can easily be used to make AMI-style definition stages. Just print off two extra sets of pictures.

In addition to her online store, Lori has a great blog on Montessori topics. Check it out when you have a chance!

:) Meg

P.S. Have you signed up for our little swap yet? You don't need to have ethnic children's clothing sitting in your closet. Perhaps you could buy it, or buy some ethnic fabric and send a pattern!

Apr 15, 2007

Child's Smock Tutorial

As promised, a tutorial on the orange juicing / making limeade smock. But before I begin, have you signed up for our first Montessori swap? It should be a lot of fun!

This smock will be used by the older children only, so keep this sizing in mind if you want to make the smock for a child younger than 5 years old. You'll need to shorten the elastic band, shoulder straps, and overall length of the main skirt to fit a younger child.

The smock is pulled on over the head and requires no fasteners. The buttons are simply decorative.

1 yard/meter of fabric
22 inches of 1/2 inch elastic
coordinating thread
2 large, coordinating buttons
yard/meter stick and fabric marker

1.) Using your yard/meter stick and fabric marker to cut the fabric to the following dimensions:

1.) With right sides together, sew together the main skirt panels leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Leave an opening on one of the 48 cm sides to turn.

2.) Turn main skirt panels and iron, folding opening under 1/2 inch. Topstitch around three sides of the skirt, leaving one 45 cm side without topstitching. This will be the top - the part you will attach to the chest band.
3.) With a single strand of thread and a hand needle, hand stitch loosely along the top edge of the skirt. Do not knot the thread at either end. Pull gently on both ends of thread to gather.

4.) At this time, make the elastic band casing. To make the casing, simple fold the strip in half (long sides together) with right sides together and stitch down the long side with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Turn and press. Topstitch along both long edges. Insert elastic using a safety pin. Secure elastic at one end by stitching over elastic (in casing) several times. When the other end of the elastic appears at the other edge of casing, remove safety pin, continue pulling on elastic with fingers and sew back and forth several times to secure within casing. Set aside.

5.) Make the shoulder straps. Fold strip in half lenthwise, stitch a 1/2 inch seam down the long side. Turn and press. Topstitch along both long edges. Repeat for other strap. Set aside.

6.) With each chest band, fold over the long edges 1/4 inch and press.

7.) Attach the top of the gathered skirt to the back chest band (you choose which one is the back - it doesn't matter.) The total length of the gathered skirt top should be 12 inches or 30 cm. Center the skirt in the chest band and pin. Using a longer stitch length, carefully sew the skirt to the chest band, making sure to catch the 1/4 folded edge of the chest band in the seam.

8.) Attach the shoulder straps to the back chest band. Pin them to the chest band, about 5 1/4 inches or 13 cm apart in the center, and 1/2 inch from each edge of the back chest band. About one inch of each shoulder strap edge will be caught in the seam. Click on picture for a larger image. Make sure the straps are not twisted before you sew. They should look like these:

9.) Attach front chest band. Carefully pin the front chest band to the back chest band, wrong sides together. Topstitch down both long edges.

10.) Attach elastic band. Fold under short edges of shoulder straps and press. Pin the elastic band in place. Stitch in place, backstitching several times to reinforce the seam. Repeat to attach the other side.
11.) Hand stitch buttons to the front of the chest band directly underneath the shoulder straps.

Apr 14, 2007

Let's Swap!

A little while back I had a wonderful interchange with one of my readers in Japan. We decided that we were going to do a little materials swap - I would send her some miniatures and other lovely things that can be found here in Mexico, and she would send me some items for the Japanese tea ceremony. (I have in mind to set up a tea preparation material for practical life.)

Why don't we start a bit of a swap tradition? Every two months or so, let's pick a swap category and have an exchange with another Montessorian in a different part of the world.

This month's swap category will be ethnic/cultural children's clothing.

One of my (gazillion) little projects is collecting ethnic children's clothing from around the world. Here I have a silk robe, parasol, shoes, and hat from China:

I use this clothing as part of the cultural areas/geography curriculum. Along with the photos and object boxes of each continent, I make available an outfit, hat, shoes, etc. from that same continent. These are changed with some frequency to renew interest and to showcase clothing from many different cultures from within the continent.


Here's how the swap will work:

1.) Each participant needs to email me by Saturday, April 21st at montessorirevolution(at)gmail(dot)com
and give me the following information
a.) your location
b.) the kind of ethnic clothing you can offer. Live in the US? Have access to authentic African clothing? That's great - so your location might not correspond with your clothing.
c.) the size clothing you wish to receive (i.e. for a six year-old if you are teaching in a Children's House, larger if elementary)
d.) the mailing address where you wish to receive your package. This could be your home address, your school's, or a post office box.

2.) On Sunday, April 22, you will receive an email from me letting you know where you will be sending your package. You will be sending one package to one person - postage could be international, so keep this in mind if you want to participate.

3.) Prepare your package.
a.) Please include a main piece of clothing such as a dress or shirt. If the clothing is gender-specific, please include something for both a boy and a girl. We don't want just cute girl's clothing, folks!
b.) Also, please feel free to include ethnic accessories such as, but not limited to, necklaces, hats, shoes, bags, jewelry, etc.
c.) Do some research! Include in the package a note to the recipient, letting them know the country where the clothing originated and some interesting facts about it. For example, if you are sending a piece of African clothing made with batik fabric, tell a bit about how batik is made. Are there symbols on the clothing? What do they mean? You can learn a lot by researching ethnic clothing and style.

4.) Send your package by May 15th. in exchange, you will be receiving your own package shortly from another Montessorian.

5.) Email me and let me know that you have mailed your package! This will allow me to monitor who should be receiving a package when, and will help the sender know when to check on their sent package to see if it could have gotten misplaced en route.


How's that sound? It should be a lot of fun, and if we pull of this swap with flying colors, topics for future swaps are numerous! I look forward to your emails indicating your desire to participate!


Apr 12, 2007

Iron-on vinyl. The answer to all Montessori prayers.

Yes. You read correctly ... iron-on vinyl exists!!! This means:

1.) No more searching in vain for different kinds of oilcloth and water-resistant fabrics.
2.) Matching mats for any practical life activity that requires a cute apron!
3.) We are no longer limited by monochromatic color-coding for materials that use water. Envision coordinated prints for washing a table, making tortillas, preparing bread, etc.!

My first project with the vinyl was a coordinating mat for the orange-juice/lime-aid get up.
I found my iron-on vinyl at Reprodepot, but I'm not sure they have it in stock at the moment. I found it for sale here on the net. It comes in a matte and glossy finish. I used matte. It seems sturdy enough, but you might consider lining both the front and the back of the fabric with it.

I learned about this from Anna Maria, who used the stuff to make some really great lunch totes for her children. Yay for inspiration from other craft bloggers!

I'm putting together a tutorial for this apron. Check back! Hope your week is going well.

:) Meg

Apr 11, 2007

Who Am I? Cards and Composers Definition Stages

I've written up a set of Who am I? cards to go with the instruments of the orchestra and composer materials. Download by clicking on the Box.net "View My Files" button in the side bar. Print them out, write the answer on the back and laminate. Easy-peasy.

I've also written definition stages that feature 5 composers. This material should also be directly downloadable under the "Composers" folder at the "View My Files" button. The photos are there as well. You will need to print off two sets of the photos, cut them out, and paste them onto card stock.

Here's the pretty composer definition stages pouch made using Karla's tutorial.

I spent the majority of the day laminating and cutting (my husband arrived from his U.S. sojourn with two cartridges of laminate for my Xyron 900!) I went to the local stationary store and had the control books bound. I think I'm about all set with the music curriculum. I was even able to put some fitting music note buttons on as closures to some of the pouches. The only items left on my list are:

1.) Design and make CD pouches for the World Music Curriculum.
2.) Make pouches for the Who Am I? cards.
3.) Buy the world music instrument 3-part cards from Michael Olaf (one day!)

A note to those of you downloading this material. I use a font called Monotype Corsiva. If you don't have it on your computer, the formatting might be messed up. If this is the case, look to install the font or simply highlight the text and change the font to one available to you.

I can't wait to share with you some of the incredible material-making supplies my husband brought back with him ... more on this later! Oh, and a warm welcome to all the Montessori teachers of Nashville, Tennessee! Thanks to Debi for telling them about the blog at their meeting!


Apr 9, 2007

Sight Reading "White" Boards

Don't have enough money to buy the set of 17 white boards from Neinhuis? Make 'em. It's kind of a time consuming process, and you must be "in the present moment" with your sharpie or other permanent marker, but the results are classy. I was going to paint this book board stuff white with some spray paint before drawing on the notes, but I thought it looked unprofessional. This way, the boards match the rest of my music materials, which are mostly golden in tone. You will need to do some measuring to make sure that all the notes will fit on your staff. Pick a large coin that will serve as your note template. I used a 5 peso coin which is about the size of a quarter. For each note, I placed the coin on the board and traced around it with the sharpie, then filled it it.

You will also need a yard/meter stick to make clean, spiffy lines.

Each board is numbered in order of difficulty. If you need to know what note patterns the 17 boards have, order Susan Stephenson's (AMI) music curriculum from Michael Olaf. It's $5 and well worth it.

Also, thanks to Jo from Japan for sending in some Japanese music files! She also sent in this photo of a woman playing the shamisen - the instrument used on two of the three files she sent. The other file is a great Japanese remake of John Denver's Country Roads. It would be great to have the children listen to both versions! The three new files are available for you to download if you click on the small box.net button in the sidebar.

My husband comes home tomorrow! It's been a long week without him. I'll be driving three hours to the "big city" of Chihuahua to pick him up at the airport. Oh, and did I mention that I will be driving a thoroughly Mexican-ized car? The muffler fell off of our little Toyota Rav4 last week. Now I will totally blend in on the highway! No license plates (immigration didn't give us any and Washington, D.C. made us send our plates back to them) and a healthy engine hum. Too cool. Let's just hope nothing else falls off during the drive! Come Wednesday I'll be uploading Composer Definition Stages and Who Am I? stories for the composers and the instruments. Have a happy Tuesday.


Apr 8, 2007

Singing in the Classroom

72 song picture cards ... a late evening listening to some good music and I can check off another item from my music curriculum list.

This is an idea a picked up from Susan Stephenson, the owner of Michael Olaf. I ordered the 3-6 music curriculum and have found it to be a helpful resource. In the section about the Song Picture Cards, Susan says:

Song Picture Cards, like Poetry Picture Cards, make it easy for a young, non-reading child to ask for a certain song. Keep these in a box on the music shelves. A child can get out a card whenever she wants and sing it to herself, or ask another child or the teacher to sing it with her.

I would show the children the new song picture card when I introduce the song, either with the whole group at the end of the day, or to an individual child or small group. The new song card is then placed in the box on the shelf.

I made my cards with cardboard, tracing around a CD case before cutting it out with my paper cutter. (Bless your heart if you do all the cutting with scissors. You have more patience and hand strength than I do.) Once all 72 pieces of cardboard are cut, either draw or search Google images for relevant pictures for each song. For example, I found a painting of a partridge in a pear tree for The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Then, using your prettiest handwriting, write out the title to each song. Cut and paste title and picture to the cardboard, and laminate using contact paper. Use the same method as you would for making underlays.
Rotate the song picture cards according to holidays, time of the year, etc. I would have 10-20 displayed at any given time. 72 options would be overwhelming!

At a loss for songs? Rise Up Singing to the rescue! This is such a great resource, especially if you play the guitar in the classroom like I do. Along with lyrics to over 1200 songs, you get the simple guitar chords as well! You can order it from Michael Olaf.

And some photos of other things I've made in the past few days:

Silk dupion-lined storage pouch for the Composers material.

A silk obi-style pouch for the music note labels. This material should be placed near the bells.

Tiny orchestra fabric pouch that contains five labels: the percussion family, the brass family, the woodwind family, the string family, and the special instruments. Each of these has a different colored dot in one corner. The child can mix up all of the instruments of the orchestra cards (which now have color-coded dots on the back, indicating the family to which they belong) and, using this little material, sort them into their families. The dots serve as control of error. A more advanced child can sort the instrument name labels only, which also have color-coded dots on the back.

A simple CD pouch, hand-embroidered, to hold a special CD, such as entire works of a certain composer, music of a specific genre, etc. This material won't be on the shelf all of the time, only on special occasions.

Happy Easter to all! May you eat plentiful chocolate, and, in my family's case, may you emerge alive and covered in confetti. Here are some confetti-filled eggshells decorated by my talented aunt. Don't worry, these are not crushed on the heads of willing victims (see previous link.) I think these have been decorations in my parents' house for upwards of 15 years now!