Montessori Inspired Learning (Part 1)

I had the pleasure of visiting Riverview Montessori last month with my youngest two children. As it was ‘bring someone you love to school’ day we felt particularly honoured to be joining friends and excited to play/work Montessori for an hour.

The individualized learning process particularly appealed to Rose.

photo 1 (3)

She was very excited to choose her activities and after watching how the other children were selecting their resources and finding a place to sit, either on the floor or at a table she did the same.

photo 2 (4)

She worked at a table to begin with, counting and sorting.

photo 3 (4)

Investigating fossils.

photo 2 (3)

Sorting and matching keys.

photo 1 (4)

Rose then moved to the carpet and unrolled her mat with the help of a friend to begin a letter puzzle. Yes, that is Freddy trying to ‘help’.

photo 3 (3)

Dancing and singing with friends was wonderful fun.

Rose did not need guidance with activities and she was immersed in her learning for the full hour. Getting her to leave was a challenge!

We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Thank you Riverview Montessori.

She did however ask in the car on the drive home “How come nobody played with me, Mama?’ which I considered quite insightful. I explained that her friend’s school works a little bit differently to her nursery program, friends tend to choose their activities and do them independently. It is more about free choice. She seemed fully satisfied with this answer.

Have a look at Quality Classrooms’ selection of resources suitable for Montessori here.

A second post exploring more of what Maria Montessori’s theory of teaching is about and what it can look like in a classroom, will follow.


Using a Time Timer

Classroom management is a hot topic at this time of year. Teachers are planning for their new students, daycares are preparing for their school aged student programming and parents are preparing to manage the mayhem of back to school routines and activities.

Anything that makes life easier is a plus.

Using a timer is something I have done in the classroom. I constantly referred to the clock and gave ten and five minute warnings to help students learn to pace themselves. To get attention I used “3, 2, 1”, both orally counting and visually with my fingers. It worked but the “1” could be loud if a group activity involved all the children talking and collaborating. Educators need to preserve their voice and using classrooms management tools can help.

I have used timers in the classroom and usually looked like this:


I have discovered a new timer suitable for younger children.

The Time Timer Plus has great new features:

  • Patented Red Disk
  • Precision quartz movement (1 AA battery)
  • Intuitive clockwise motion
  • Silent operation – no ticking!
  • Optional alert when time is up
  • Impact-resistant case
  • Oversize numbers.

Time Timer PLUS

Daisy cannot read the clock yet but does understand the passing of time, larger and smaller and numbers 5-15. So long as we only set the time for 15 minute increments we are good!

This timer would have been very useful for some of my grade 6 students who struggled to use the regular clock. It is also very handy to have at home and is used for reading time, teeth brushing, quiet play, bedtime, occasional time outs and general time management.

How would you use the Time Timer?

Laminating v Write and Wipe

I have been laminating signs and resources in work and it brought me back to teaching days.

I love laminating resources.

I detest tatty, falling apart resources.

Anything I used year after year, was beautifully encased in plastic, heated, and formed into an everlasting shrine to teaching!

Oh, respect to the laminator!

I have been cleaning and organizing my home office and throwing out old resources I don’t think I will use again and have discovered quite a few plastic encased resources.

Now I am a little more choosy with what I laminate. It has to be something I know I will use a great deal and needs to be laminated. Otherwise I am using these great Write and Wipe Pockets.

I have tried making something like this in the past with plastic pockets but they slip and the maker does not erase very well. These wonderful things on the other hand are great. Included is a dry wipe maker with an eraser tip. You can use: Dry Erase Markers or Wipe Off Crayons, Daisy has used both and enjoyed the process.

So why am I harping on about write and wipe pockets?

  • You don’t need to laminate to reuse
  • You can reduce your photocopying by using activity sheets again and again
  • Favourite colouring sheets can be coloured repeatedly
  • Go green!

I am always looking for opportunities to reduce my green guilt and these make me happy! Yes, I may still laminate, but will use these pockets when ever I can.

How are you choosing to save the world in your classroom?

Earth Day Ideas

I look around some days and wonder how I ended up surrounded by so many toys. We try to choose toys suitable for open ended play and different activities. Inevitably we end up with far too many even after a give-away every Christmas.  I thought I would share some of the great products that appeal to my ‘need for green’.

This gorgeous recycling truck is made from recycled milk jugs. I like the fact that recycling play can happen with a truck made from recycled materials.

This Hardwood airport is made from rubber wood. Rubber wood is used for harvesting latex and when they can’t produce it anymore, they are usually cut down and burnt. Instead you can enjoy flying around in an airplane and land at a beautiful airport. Feel better about playing with planes (and expanding your carbon footprint) by playing with rubber wood planes (and reducing your carbon footprint)!

Manufactured with Canadian made bio-composite material using recycled plastic food containers and sawdust from BC pine, each truck from Sprig toy is built for a happy planet.

Explore patterns, fraction, shape-sorting and sequencing with this sun sorter. It features 12 wooden pieces and circular tray and can be used with the tray or as an independent shape and color-matching manipulative. It is made from Eco-friendly rubberwood and stained with low VOC aniline dyes.

 Tree blocks are made of 100% recycled wood, each set is unique and stimulates imaginative building.

This tea set,  from green toys, is made from recycled milk jugs just like the truck at the top. Helping to reduce the amount of fossil fuels consumed and greenhouse gases produced. These toys offer all the same play value and then some while reducing your carbon footprint.

Explore our world with beautiful drawings and lyrical text that take the reader from the tundra to the tropics to discover a whole new world of baby animals being raised by their parents.

Why should I Protect Nature??? These stories answer questions that younger children are likely to ask about a wide range of topics. Children will be attracted by the amusing colour illustration on every page and parents and teachers will appreciate the note at the back of each book offering further suggestions on answering children’s questions.

As a teacher I was addicted to laminating. I guess covering paper in plastic that will last… a along time is not very green! Now I rarely use laminating but use these write and wipe pockets instead. The set of 5 clear pockets measure approximately 10” x 14”. Slide in a piece of paper and students can write directly on the pocket to save paper and Go Green. Includes 5 write & wipe markers with an eraser tip

Sproutz: A Breath of Fresh Air in the Classroom Studies show that using green materials in schools improves the indoor air quality, decreases illness and absentees and boosts students learning and performance. The Sproutz furniture is constructed of 100% recycled wood fibre with formaldehyde free resin. Features a kydztuff finish for supreme durability.

This cute and colourful rug provides a fantastic new way to encourage children to be good stewards of our planet. Teaching kids to be kind to the environment, treat plants and animals with care, and to keep the earth green, will be easier with this adorable rug. It also meets Green Guard Standards.

All these items are available at Quality Classrooms and a 15% discount is available to celebrate 15th Anniversary until May 15th 2012.

These picks are just some of the ways I ease can my green guilt!

Do you have green guilt? How do you ease yours?

Organisation and storage

So home and classroom storage is always an issue. There never seems to be enough space for all the stuff! I am struggling with organization of all the wonderful resources I am now collecting. I watch an episode of hoarders occasionally to remind me not to keep everything! So I am not yet brave enough to share before photos but I promise to share after photos.. cheating I know!

At the moment we are reorganizing, as everyone seems to be doing. I pinned a pic of onto our board at Pinterest and it was immediately repinned many times. It must be that January, fresh start feeling. I would like to share some sources of inspiration today.

MaryLea from Pink and Green Mama Blog likes to sort everything into rainbows. Here she is featured on a crafters blog showing her wonderful art studio space. Colour sorting makes it easier to find a colour, and really are you usually looking for a type of colouring material or a colour? I love how this method of organizing will encourage mixed media art. Her art studio is a dream space.

I have just discovered the joys of flannel bards and the creativity they allow. Flannel board sets however seem to be building in our office. Deborah from Teach Preschool organizes her flannel board sets into zip lock bags and then into plastic sheet protectors with the relevant activities and books and then into binders (lots of ‘and then’s!)

RL from Play at Home Mom has a beautifully organised art space for her little ones. The see though containers allow the children to spy what they want and help themselves.

Homework is not an issue for us yet but this cupboard is inspiring. Everything you could possibly need seems to be easily found.

There, that was what I needed to get my organizing buzz going again. I will fill you in on my accomplishments soon. In the mean time here are some lovely organizational products from Quality Classrooms that I covet:

Sign Language

Sign language is being used consistently in my house at the moment. Rose has just turned 15 months. She is quickly frustrated by her inability to verbalize but her communication is certainly developing quickly.

Not surprisingly ‘more’ was one of the first signs she used.

‘All done’ is also proving to be very useful as a way of telling me she has finished and either wants a cookie or to be cleaned up and let loose! Here Daisy is reinforcing the sign.

Other signs we are using at the moment are;


‘Thank you.’


Big sis loves to help with the teaching.

Other favourites for Rose are ‘change, poop, food, cookie, cheese, bunny and sleep’.

While there are many signs more specifically used with babies, these may not be so suitable for the classroom. When a toddler needs to poop we love them to use the sign for poop or potty but a student in grade one could use the sign for toilet. This would allow the student to communicate across the classroom without disturbing the teacher or the other students. Teachers use so many methods of non-verbal communication as it is, sign language just makes that communication even easier to understand.

The alphabet is a great starting point for older children and alphabet cards of the letters and basic signs are great for games and activities.

As ASL is becoming more widely used in the classroom, many videos are available to quickly bring you up to speed.

For young children songs are still the most popular way of teaching sign and Expanded Songs in Sign is a great way to teach basic sign. The songs are familiar with children and as early childhood educators we are likely to be singing these with children. Adding in sign language makes the experience even more engaging and enjoyable.

Having used ASL for 4 years with my children I can see the benefits in the classroom and will be using it in the future.

How do you use sign language?

The Back to School List of Supplies

I see many parents frantically shopping for back to school supplies at the moment and the stress is often showing on their faces. We also have schools and daycare’s stocking up on back to school supplies at Quality Classrooms. All in all it is a rather manic time of year for schools, daycare’s, parents and students.

I don’t have to worry about this for another year thank goodness but I was curious to find out what sort of items my daughter will need when she does go to school. Canadian Parents has a list starting with grade 1 and it came with a disclaimer that it did not include notebooks, binders or specialty items. It looks like a very long list to me. I am not sure I would want to send my darling daughter to school with a permanent marker and surely any school has soap and water making hand sanitizer redundant? Perhaps parents are now sending their children to school with suitcases instead of backpacks to carry all their school supplies?

While talking to a friend about Preschool recently we were discussing how she was doing collecting the back to school list. She is a bargain hunter like me and has been collecting slowly as she saw sales, making sure to buy quality products. As a teacher herself she knows the disadvantages to buying low quality school supplies; pencil leads break, crayons leave clear wax marks and pens dry up in a matter of days! We discussed the choice that many schools make; they buy the school supplies themselves and then ask parents to contribute. Some parent organisations provide the school supply list as a fundraiser. As a teacher she felt this was preferable as she could control the quality of the supplies and ensure that all the children had supplies.

When teaching in England, I was able to order all the supplies for my class during the year, in June. Many schools here in Canada do the same.  I prepared for children to bring nothing but asked the parents to supply; pencils, rulers, pens, coloured pencils and erasers. Some children came to school with a pencil case stocked with everything they could possibly need and more, others came with nothing. The socio-economical difference between students is noticed by some children and can result in bullying. As teachers we have the responsibility to ensure all children feel safe and equally treated in the classroom. Providing access to quality supplies is a wonderful way of making the ‘playing field’ more equal.

How do you feel about providing school supplies as a teacher or a parent?