Jun 28, 2007

memory books

Phew ... tomorrow is finally the last day of school! I'm in need of a recharge - a few delicious mornings of sleeping in, a few days of reading some good books, and a few trips to the hot springs.

But it doesn't stop yet! I have an entire week (plus this entire weekend) of doing teacher-y things. In fact, I've been doing teacher-y things late into the night this past week, also. Here's a little peek at some of my behind-the-scenes projects:

These are memory books that I've put together for the children who will be moving on to elementary school. Inside each book you will find:

-a picture of the whole class on the front cover
-several pictures of each child
-a handwritten letter from his/her teachers
-a collection of their "work," from their first drawings, first words, etc. to more advanced artwork and math work.

I used a thick construction paper, gluing examples of the children's work to both sides, making sure to leave enough space on the left hand side for the binding. Take the books to any office supply store and they should be able to bind them for you. I think that having the transparent covers adds a more professional, "important" look to the books, and it makes them more resistant to wear.

Not a Montessori teacher? No matter. It actually occurred to me as I was putting these together that once I have my own children, I'm going to collect and bind their artwork and other creations in memory books. Wouldn't it be nice to make one for each year? What a treasure. Because, hey, we can't frame everything, and the fridge has it's limits! You can cut out parts of certain artwork, especially if it's finger painting or foot painting. Yes, you heard me correctly. We paint with feet in our classroom. In the next post, I'll show you how it's done Montessori-style. Larger, easel paintings can be folded up, pasted on one side to the construction paper, and opened by the child when she is flipping through her book.
Let me know if you use this idea in your classroom or home!


Jun 26, 2007

tutorial - pleated pocket front door organizer

-- a place for the purse-less (a.k.a. MEN) to put their keys and wallet when they walk in the door
-- a place for incoming and outgoing mail
-- a place for extra change
-- a place for the random stuff that would otherwise end up on the kitchen table!!


- 2 26 x 45 cm rectangles of fabric A for main panels
- 1 26 x 45 cm rectangle of heavyweight sew-in interfacing
- 1 21 x 28 cm rectangle of fabric B for the larger pocket*
- 1 16 x 28 cm rectangle of fabric B for the smaller pocket
- 1 9 x 10 cm rectangle of fabric A for the key pocket
- 1.21 meters of bias tape (this should be made from a contrasting fabric C. This will need to be cut into 4 strips of 28 cm each, and one strip of 9 cm.**
- rick-rack or other trimmings if you desire
-two extra-large grommets and accompanying hardware

*If your fabric is not very heavy, you might consider using a fusible interfacing to back the larger and smaller pockets.

*Make your own bias tape! In fact, this tape doesn't need to be cut on the bias, because it will not be rounding any corners. It's easy - cut cut a 1.25 meter strip of fabric, 8 cm in width. Fold over both long edges toward the center and press. Fold in half and press.1.) Baste the heavyweight interfacing to the back main panel using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

2.) Attach bias tape to the top edge of all 3 pockets, topstitching and catching all layers in the seam. At this time you can sew on rick-rack or other trimmings to the edges.
3.) Fold over the side edges of the key pocket 1/4 inch and press. Make a pleat in the bottom edge and pin, right sides together, facing down on the large pocket. Stitch strait across edge using a 1/4 in. seam allowance. Trim excess. Pin so that the pocket is not laying flat, and topstitch sides very close to the edges.4.) Measure 22 cm up on the front large panel. Place small pocket right side down, facing down. Pin edges so they are flush with the front panel edges. Now, with the "extra" fabric, made an inverted pleat in the middle and pin. Stitch along the pleat edge with a 1/2 in. seam allowance. Unpin the top edges, fold up pocket, and press, and pin edges once again. Baste the edges to the front of the panel.

5.) Pin the large pocket to the front panel, right side up, lining up the sides and bottom edge. Pin the sides first, then make an inverted pleat with the extra fabric at the center. Baste all three sides in place.

6.) Pin just the long sides of the front panel to the back panel, right sides facing. Stitch using 3/8 in. seam allowance. Trim, turn, and press.

7.) Center the remaining pieces of bias tape along the unfinished edges and pin in place. Fold the edges toward the back, like you're wrapping a present. Sew along the edge, catching all layers in the seam.

8.) About 1 inch in from the top sides, on the bias tape strip, install the grommets using the manufacturer's instructions.

9.) Hang on some hooks by your front door and enjoy!


Jun 24, 2007

Chocolate Lollipop

I'm sure I'll dream in color tonight - Chocolate Lollipop hues to be exact. I spent a blissful weekend creating with Anna Maria Horner's new fabric line! I needed a dress to wear for a friend's wedding we will be attending when we travel to the U.S., and who doesn't need a little tote to go with it? Here's what I came up with - I did my best without a pattern, my first try at designing something more than Montessori materials and skirts. You can wear it with or without the sash - the sash dresses it up a bit. I've also found that the sash will double as a very useful scarf come fall.

For the tote, I used a great (and super easy ) tutorial from Belle Epoque.
Another shoulder bag with fabric from my stash. I found the tutorial here. This bag is a perfect size, and has a nice little pocket on the inside.

Jun 22, 2007

Yoga in the Classroom

I've had wonderful results with the yoga exercise I put together in my classroom. Here's proof - one of my 3 year-olds smiling with glee in Tree Pose.Here's what you need for it to be independent work in the Montessori home or classroom:

1.) A mat. The mat you see in the photo is not ideal, but it's what we have here in the mountains of Mexico. I would buy a cheap mat and cut it down to size. 1.5 meters in length should do the trick for the 3-6 year-olds.
2.) Two baskets for the cards.
3.) Laminated cards of children doing simple poses, with the name of the pose written below the photo.

**I wish I could offer you my files, but they were lost along with the school's old computer. But, if you can hang on a few more weeks, I promise to make an awesome yoga posture photo card set for you, with a few of my expert students as models. In July, we're traveling to California for a little vacation at my childhood home. Waiting at the doorstep should be a Canon EOS 30D digital SLR camera! Whoopee! I'm getting tired of having to push my camera in just the right spot in order to get it to focus - and getting over-exposed shots about 95% of the time, no matter what pretty incantations I offer up.

The presentation is simple:
1.) Place one basket with all the cards facing up just above the top of the mat. Place the empty basket just to the right of the full basket.
2.) Sit on the top of the mat and remove your shoes. Place them to the right of the empty basket.
3.) Remove one card and contemplate the posture. Place it face up in the empty basket, and slowly move into the pose. Take three to five deep breaths (you decide based on the child) and return to sit at the front of the mat. Continue with a few more posture cards.
4.) Replace the cards in the basket to the left. Invite the child.


Jun 21, 2007

The Year in Review

As the school year finally winds down here in Mexico, I thought I'd share some photos of my Montessori class. Enjoy!

Picking corn
Visiting the horse ranchLetter to brother

First sandpaper letter lessons

Vacuum experiment
Making Tortillas

Washing Hands

Serving coffee to a guest

Singing while making cookies

I've picked the winner, have you? :)

Jun 19, 2007

The Luxurious Life of a Tea Towel

Some tea towels lead an unenviable life. Be it bad karma or simply un-spiffed-up-blandness, most tea towels eventually go by way of the rag pile, sopping up spilled wine and other snafus. Some, on the other hand, enjoy life in the lime light, and will never stoop so low as to clean a spill. This is the fate of this little lovely: My mom found it for me, and bought me two, knowing very well that they would be treated like royalty, and not tea towels. Today I made one into a half apron, for use at home, in the classroom, and for photo shoots. :)

It was already embroidered with the pots, flowers, and dragonfly motif. I added orange rick-rack at the bottom edge, cut off a bit of the length, and added the waist band and ties. Here's a quick look at how I did it.For the ties, cut four rectangles, 1 yd x 2.5 inches. Two of one fabric, two of another. Leaving one edge open for turning, stitch along the outside with right sides together, using a 3/8 in. seam allowance. Clip edges and turn. Press.
Decide how long you want your tea towel apron to be. Then cut a piece of fabric slightly longer than the width of the towel. The width of this waistband fabric also depends on your taste. Mine was about 2 1/4 in wide. With wrong side of waistband facing right side of tea towel, pin upper edge in place. Stitch a seam along this upper edge. Flip up waistband and press.

Cut the tea towel, leaving about 5/8 in of space between the top of the waistband and the top of the tea towel. Fold waistband over 1/4 in and press. Fold over top of towel and press. Pin in place and topstitch all layers together. Then topstitch along the bottom of the waistband. Wait for the approval of the King of Everything. If The Cat Almighty gives his nod, move on to the next step.
Fold under the sides of the waistband and press. Make a ridiculously cute little pleat as you attach the ties to the waistband. Pin and stitch in place.
Flaunt your new uber-cuteness, and frolic in the frivolity of it all!


Jun 17, 2007

Let's Go Fly a Kite

The Saturday/Sunday Song is back after a little vacation. This week's hit single is:Oh, and you gotta love Chim Chim Cheree, too. Honestly, just about anything sung by Julie Andrews will be on my list!

As always, you will find my humble audio clip in the side bar, under "Songs to Sing with Children." Click on the title and the song will play directly from the blog - no need to download. Having trouble? You might be missing a plug-in. Read this post for troubleshooting.

Let's go fly a kite
up to the highest height.
Let's go fly a kite
and send it soaring.
Up to the atmosphere,
up where the air is clear,
oh, let's go fly a kite.


Jun 16, 2007

Number Cards & Counters

A few days back, a bit of my Amy Butler fabric, some lovely ladybug buttons from Reprodepot, and some heavyweight interfacing somehow turned themselves into storage cases for the number cards 1-10! Perhaps I'll put together a tutorial one day ... or maybe I'll offer these for sale when I move back to the U.S. and start up my Etsy shop! (But don't start twiddling your thumbs now - I won't be moving back state-side until summer of 2008. Even though I'd love to start making and selling right now, I have ZERO confidence in the rural Mexican postal service - for all I know, they might still use burros!)

In the meantime, here's how you can put together your own Number Cards and Counters material:

1.) Write the numbers 1-10 on 10 wooden blocks, or other material of your choice. Anything done on card stock should be laminated.
2.) Make some sort of storage case for the numbers, using these pics as inspiration, or make a small drawstring bag following Karla's tutorial.
3.) Collect several sets of "counters." You will need 55 of each item for each set. I suggest using pennies, cowrie shells, and pretty beads.
4.) You'll need a bag or box for the counters, as well.
5.) Make a control chart for this work.
6.) The child will lay out the number cards in order, and check the order with the control chart. Then the child places the number of counters called for by the card directly underneath the card.

Here's another idea - why not make more number cards, but this time write out the numbers (one, two, three, four, five, etc.) This is a nice way to meld math and language work. For an older child, you could also have a set of roman numeral cards. Bilingual? Write out the number cards in the other language (uno, dos, tres.) Or, tie this work to the cultural material. Learn the symbols for 1-10 in Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic, and ... you guessed it ... make number cards for these as well. In this case, I suggest having your counters correspond with the culture represented in the cards. For example, use coins from that country, beads from the region, or a mineral/rock that is particularly abundant there.

I'll post a new song tomorrow. In the meantime, happy counting!


Jun 13, 2007

Sensorial and Math Record Keeping

Diego's Rattlesnake with Red Tongue and Pink Rattle by Diego Alvarez

We often squeeze only a few drops out of the gargantuan, juicy orange that is the Montessori Material, especially when it comes to sensorial and math. For example, we often forget that arranging the 3rd Color Box as spokes around an object does not need to be the pinnacle of this box's illustrious career - Diego reminded me of this last week. Love the graded snake!

In the past two years of teaching, I've often been frustrated by my lack of memory regarding follow-up exercises and games. My record keeping system was also responsible for many a wrinkled brow. The problem was two-fold: First, I couldn't remember every possible exercise and game, and fishing through my anvil-weight albums during every lesson planning session was the pits. Second, my records for each child only allowed me to record the main presentation - there was no space to write down exercises and games. And what superhero can remember every little presentation given to each child in his or her classroom?

I think I've landed on a solution. My new system for record keeping has been downloaded at the Yahoo group, under "Files, Other, Record Keeping." For the moment, I've only uploaded the Sensorial and Math portions, but I'm currently working on the rest. That said, Sensorial and Math are probably the most universal Montessori areas, as they cross borders linguistically and tend to be very similar from school to school. (Whereas Practical Life might vary quite a bit, depending on your cultural context and the kind of materials the teacher has prepared.)

Please keep in mind that these files are based on my training as an AMI guide. Interspersed are tips given at the AMI mathematics refresher course that I took in February 2007, ideas from Maria Montessori herself as read in "Discovery of the Child," and a few ideas that are old AMI (1970's ish,) because that is when the women with whom I work in Mexico took their course. I say this because those of you who aren't AMI trained might open up the files and say to yourselves "Huh? What in the world does she mean by this?" For all I know, my fellow AMIers might have similar questions, because the lists are my "shorthand." The idea is to pass on the gist of it, and you can modify and fiddle with it to fit your own needs. In fact, this is the best way to go about it - sit down with your own albums, make a list of presentations, exercises, and games, and think about each sequence as you go about it. Then, fill out the individual child's record (Word Document) to correspond with your own list.

The record keeping is pretty self explanatory. Simply put a check next to the presentation given. These records will stay with the child throughout his years in the Children's House.

So, what are you waiting for? Why don't you mosey on over to the Yahoo group and see for yourself?


P.S. See the new banner in the side bar? It's something my husband has been working on at his organization, Just Foreign Policy. Reforming food aid is something that everyone can agree upon, regardless of political leanings. Click on it and check it out!

Jun 10, 2007

Memory Game of Numbers

Tiny envelopes with snap closures really liven up the Memory Game of Numbers. You will need about 1/4 yard of the main fabric for the pouch (here in green plaid,) but the rest you can salvage from your scraps. Just make sure you have enough scrap fabric to make all 11 envelopes, which need to be identical.

Large Storage Pouch
1.) Cut out two piece of your main fabric to about 24 x 38 cm. Add a triangular end if you like. If your fabric is lightweight like mine was, you should cut and iron on interfacing to the wrong sides of each main piece. With right sides together, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew together the two pieces, leaving a gap of several inches where you will turn the piece.

2.) Trim corners and allowances, turn, and press.
3.) Fold the bottom up and decide how deep you want your envelope to be. Pin in place and sew close to the edge, closing the opening in the process. Add a store-bought bias binding or make your own like I did. Starting at the bottom of the envelope, attach the binding. Check out this tutorial if you aren't sure how to go about this. I used a ladder stitch to attach the binding to the "wrong side." Tiny Envelopes
4.) Now make 11 little envelopes. Cut out a "arrow shaped" pattern with card stock. The rectangular base will be about 6cm x 9cm. The pointy part of the triangle will extend about 3 cm more, for a total length of about 12cm. Cut out 22 arrows. Pin them right sides together and stitch around using a 1/2 in. seam allowance - leave a small opening to turn, preferably on the upper side of the main rectangle. 5.) Turn and press. Fold up bottom half and pin. Topstitch (very close to the edge!) around the entire envelope, catching the open seam as you sew. Sew on the two snap pieces by hand, hiding the stitches between the two layers of fabric.
6.) Write out the numbers 0 through 10 on card stock. Laminate, cut, and insert them into their pockets.

C'est tout! Actually, this is a bit of a project, so be forewarned! You must REALLY LIKE small envelopes if you are to ward off insanity. :)

Oh ... the Saturday Song took a sabbatical. I was too into my envelopes. Back next week!

Jun 8, 2007

Spindle Box Ties

I've caught the math bug. Ever since attending AMI's refresher course last February in San Francisco, the math curriculum has seemed more inviting and more intriguing. Thanks to Monte Kenison, who lectured extensively on the subject, I feel motivated to make the math curriculum my own - delve into the theory, answer the "whys" that reverberate in my literature-loving brain, and get excited about what it has to offer. Of course, for me "getting excited" implies "making nifty materials." So here's what to expect in the next month or so:

  • A summary of all the math presentations in the Children's House, along with each exercise and game. This will be, in essence, an AMI guide's math curriculum cheat sheet. Don't we all need a reminder of all of the possible exercises for any given math material? I certainly do. Along with this will come a math record that you can print off for each child that will follow her through her three year adventure in the Children's House math area.
  • A series of tutorials and ideas for embellishing the math shelves. I will endeavor to put together a large chunk of my math curriculum with minimal cost and maximum creative output.
Without further ado, I present to you the Spindle Box ties!

1.) Cut 8 fabric scraps to 2 inches x 12.5 inches. Use different scraps for each tie, or make them monochromatic.

2.) Fold the tie in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew along one top short end, pivot, and continue to sew down the length of the tie. Backstitch 1/2 inch from the edge of fabric.

3.) Trim the corners and the seam allowance to 1/4 inch. Using a blunt-tipped pencil or other small turning tool, turn tube so the right side of fabric is facing out. Press, folding under open seam.
4.) Topstitch around all edges, closing the open seam as you stitch. That's all there is to it! It only takes about an hour to finish all 8 ties.

Happy weekend,