Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Simple Cup Cakes

Little-N's cousins will be coming to visit today so we've been busy making cupcakes.
Here's a really simple recipe for soft tasty cup cakes.

110g Sugar
110g Butter
2 eggs
110g Flour
1 tsp of baking power
1tsp of Vanilla sugar
Mix all ingredients and place in a lined cupcake tin. Cook for 20mins at 160'c.
We made simple icing from icing sugar and milk. Then sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

Monday, 29 December 2008


Today we had fun with a spiramouse [an automatic Spirograph], its really easy to use and Little-N enjoyed the beautiful patterns he could make. The spiramouse is quite cool as you can place up to 13 pens at the same time to make all sorts of patterns. All you do is place the pens, press a button and watch.

Even Annabel [the cat] enjoyed it.
Little-N choose coordinating colours and when finished doing all the patterns he could fit on a single piece of paper, he cut them out and we made window hangers.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Origami star tree

I really shouldn't be blogging now, I'll be leaving for Cairo tomorrow morning and I'm not even ready [and seem to be going down with a cold]. BUT I couldn't resist sharing these beautiful Christmas trees with everyone. I wish I could take credit for them, but I won't I'll be honest. These cute trees were made by one of our teaching practice [intern] students as a gift for the school. We both share an interest in origami and made loads of stars months ago, however she spent 10 hrs last night [yes of course she doesn't have kids] making this big tree and a little one for each child. Just in case you didn't recognise this, each tree is made from mini origami stars.

These are extremely simple to make. All you need is lots of strips of papers varying in width slightly and some glue. You can find a tutorial for the star folding here and here. Make as many stars as you wish, then stack them and secure with a little glue. We told the children that all they need to do is build it like the pink tower. With the large tree we added some glue, glitter and golden foil. Don't you think they look great??

Thursday, 11 December 2008

End of Term 1

The time has past so quickly and i find myself preparing for the end of term. I don't know where all these weeks have gone, they've vanished. But I have enjoyed every bit of it, every moment and chance I spent with my class I cherish. During the end of term parents meetings I received lots of positive feedback from the parents, each one of them said I change their child for the better.
During this term the children have really progressed holistically and everyone who is around them can see it. I am honored to have been part of their lives and shall continue to do my best in the months that come.

Our last week of school didn't go as well as we wished due to an outbreak of the Noro virus. The school was closed for 3 days and now we only have half the teachers and children to attend the last days party :(. Once school is over I'll be heading to Cairo for Little-N to see his dad. It's going to be an exciting trip and I'll be going round to visit some Montessori schools while I am there.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Geometric Star Card

On Monday it will be Eid, many of the children in my class are Muslim and will be celebrating this festival. I needed to come up with an Eid card making idea that was original, fun and linked to something we have already been working on. After a lot of thinking and brain storming, I settled with an Islamic geometric star pattern for the card's design. The children have already developed a good understanding of how shapes fit together by working with the constructive triangles and pattern blocks. Many already make geometric patterns while working with the pattern block, so although this star might seem a bit complicated it's actually quite easy for them.

I designed a sheet with shapes that I can print off for the children to cut out. You can print the sheets from here. Each page needs to be printed on a different colour card inorder to have a multi coloured star. The cutting needs accurate cutters and great fine motor skills, so if the children aren't quiet ready for that then get an older child to help you cut a prepare them for the younger children.

Once all the pieces are cut, you simple start sticking them into place. Start with the octagon and then stick the small triangles around it and finally the large kite shape. Little-N found the shape arranging very easy and was very happy with his end result. We added some glitter and text to finish it off.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

About the EYFS

I posted earlier about the EYFS but didn't explain what it is. EYFS stands for Early Years Foundation Stage and is basically a quality framework for the provision of learning, development and care for children between birth and the academic year in which they turn five (0-5). In the UK we have to work within the guidelines of the EYFS and the development matters and we must provide proof of the child's achievements through observations, videos, pictures and samples of work. At the end of the school year we have to send off each child's scoring and have completed an EYFS profile which will prove the child's achievements and explain their level. So basically were testing the children without the children knowing. I don't like the EYFS and the time spent on doing it, however we don't have a choice.
You can find out more about the EYFS here.

Answers to Qs about the map work

First if all I'd like to really thank everyone for leaving comments on my blog. It's great to know what people think. I had a few interesting questions from on of my reads and I think its better to answer it in a post. The questions are to do with the Europe Map post.
The Qs are in green.

What would you do next?

Next I would give Little-N the choice to further his study about Europe by going through the European folders. These folders are a bit like the continent folders except each folder would be about a country in Europe. The folders would contain basic information about the country and a few pictures or postcards.
Or.. I would invite him to work with the flag pin board where he will place the correct flags for each country in Europe. He already knows this comes next so I wouldn't actually have to invite him.
Or.. I would see if he was more interested in working with maps from other continent. I think that's where he's going as he has already learnt many countries from around the world.

At what point, as a directress do you step in to say "The next thing you could do is....."

I try not to step in and say anything, he knows what materials are available and each time he goes to work on a map he can see the countries folders, the pin map and the other continent maps. So he indirectly knows what he can move onto, eventually when he feels he is done with the Europe map he will take out another piece of material and ask me if he can do it. Sometimes he doesn't even ask he just does it and surprises me. The key is to let him direct his learning and not me, self chosen activities are what leads to great achievements. If I feel a child is lost and unable to guide himself then I would say something like 'would you like to try this?' 'shall I show you how to use this?'. Also if a child is unable to figure out when they have had enough with an activity I might try to redirect their thoughts allowing them to decide if they need to move on or not, but this hardly happens.

If there is something that I need a child to work on or a new activity I need to present I would invite them to work with me with it or ask them if I can write it on their daily plans. Usually they agree and would come to me and say 'What work is this, can you show me it.'

and how do you encourage the child to engage and when do you back off?!

I'll be honest here, it depends on what activity it is that they need to engage in. I understand how difficult the EYFS can be and the strange requirements it has. The children in my class are self directed, I had one child who wasn't for a long time but due to the ground rules and work of other children he seemed to find out where he wants to go. Since I have a small class size , the children quickly pick up on each others interests, so when Little-N was interested in dragons, castles and knights, so was everyone else. This helps to keep the children who dont know what they want, engaged in activities, Little-N is a big trend setter by the way.

As for backing off, I try to do that as much as possible. For montessori to work properly, for the children to really absorb the learning they need to be the active ones, sailing the boat as I put it. I'm just there helping them out. I try not to correct errors, for example the other day one of the children was working on the table of subtractions, instead he added all the numbers!!! I left him, when he finished and was checking his answers he realised what mistake he made. HE simply added a line to made the minus sign a plus sign. The next time he was working with subtraction he said to himself 'this is subtraction not addition'. You have to believe that the children CAN do it, you have to think it in your head and say it to your self. Children pick up on our negative thoughts and know when we don't think they know something, consequently they'll think they don't know.

Some reception aged children are unable to sail the boat, so for them I would offer more guidance but be very in tune with them so that I can help them work out what they want to learn.

I am very interested in this as we are balancing Montessori with EYFS and this can be the hard bit!!

Our school is being moderated this year for the EYFS and I am so happy. It gives me the chance to prove to our borough that Montessori is the best. As montessorians we have everything in place to easily complete the EYFS we just need to work on the paper work, cross referencing and child profile. I don't actually teach the reception aged children, Little-N is the only reception aged child I have, however he already has scores of 8 and 9 in most area's except for the writing. Due to the nature of my work I have a responsibility to make sure the teacher who is working with the reception children does her work properly.

We don't separate the EYFS from the Montessori, instead we cover everything in the work cycle using the Montessori materials. We have all the Montessori materials and activities mapped to the development matters and EYFS scales. So we actually only do Montessori, but we use the EYFS and DM terminology to show inspectors that we have covered everything and more. The key to the EYFS profile is in your observations, you have to really dissect them, squish out all the proof an observation holds and then link it to the scales on the EYFS document. Once you have done that you'll feel much better.

I hope this helps, and if you have any more Qs then plse leave a comment and I'll be more than happy to share what we do.

Addition with golden beads

Little-N has been doing addition with the golden beads. He is able to do mental addition with numbers up to ten. Now that he is quite confident with that I decided to extend his knowledge about addition and go beyond the ten. I made some addition questions for him to work on by himself. On the right of the mat above, you can see the question card 53+35. He collect the small number cards and then the golden beads for each quantity.
He then counted them together at the bottom of the mat starting with the units. He collect the large number cards. You have to use small number cards for the adding numbers and large number cards for the answer so that they children can see that we add two small numbers together to form one big number.

He then turned over the question card to see if he got his answer correct... and he did this time.
You can download the cards for this lesson from here. It contains a few equation cards that the children can work through when doing addition with the golden beads. Make sure you glue the correct answer cards onto the back of the questions.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Want to play a game?

Why not..
The children in my 6-9 class love to play games together and so I try as much as I can to create games that are in line with the curriculum, giving them the chance to practice, extend their learning and learn from each other. Here the boys are playing the addition game with two dice.
Basically its a box with two dice. The children take turns rolling the dice and then they add up the numbers and write the question on the squared paper. The paper is just long enough to keep them engaged for long enough that they actually practice their mental addition. In case you didn't know most children develop their own unique way of doing mental addition, so this game has given them a great opportunity to share how they work out the total of two numbers. The other day I walked into the class to find 6 children playing this at one time, all at different levels. It was so cute to see them come together and support each other.

This game can also be used to do subtraction and multiplications.
You can use 2 dice, one green for units and one blue for tens to do sums with 2 digit numbers. The colouring matched with the colouring for the Large Number cards used with the golden beads.

Did I say Little-N wasn't writing

Well..... yes I did. But then this happened...

Yes Little-N has finally decided to document his thoughts and write a few things here and there. It feels great, Little-N isn't that little anymore, he's reading and writing. Now.. I know his letters are back to front and a mix of capital and lower case, but its a good start one that I will have to react to in a Montessori way so that he independantly improves his writing.

By the way, in case you want to know, he's working on the Antarctica folder. He chose a few pictures and stuck them in his book and then labeled them. I find that having colourful real picture ready for children to work with really helps inspire the children and sets off sparks. The 8yr old I have at school, choose some picture from Australasia, she researched about them and wrote up the information. Her and Little-N worked side by side for about and hour on this project. Its amazing how 4 years difference doesn't seem to be a problem when the children are in the right environment. She helped him with his writing and he helped her with her spelling.

Making 3D geometric shapes

At school today some of the children constructed 3D geometric shapes from print outs that I got from
here. This is an extension that I do with the children when they are working with the geometric solids. These pictures are of Little-Ns work and I am happy that his addiction to cutting made it possible for him to be very accurate with his cutting, I'm surprised he didn't accidentally snip off a corner.

All the children only made the cube and pyramid, Little-N decided to make more. After making the cone he begged to make another shape, but I told him we'd have to leave it to another day.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Map of Europe

Little-N is still engrossed in his map work. He's been learning countries all over the world, but I have focused more on Europe so that he knows the countries around him [Also because he has a mix of European blood and its fun to find all the countries in his ancestry] . Two days ago he took out the labels for European countries and labeled a blank map. Both I and my boss were speechless. How is it that he can read words like Portugal, Lithuania and Switzerland? How is it that he know where all these countries are were us as adults are still confused. To be honest I don't know and I never taught him that, all I did is give him the learning that lead to this. Now that he's reading and attempting writing, I realise he no longer needs my guidance as before as he is able to teach himself what his heart and mind desire.
The other day I noticed Little-N walking around the classroom with a piece of the Africa puzzle in his hands, he was showing it to all the children and naming it. I stepped closer to hear and he was saying this is 'Sudant'. He meant Sudan and had read it from the Atlas, however we have a boy in the nursery class called Sudant, so I guess Little-N was a little confused with how the name of the country is pronounced. It such a pleasure to see that he's learning on his own and teaching himself.
The pictures aren't very clear :(. The first shows some of the countries Little-N had matched by reading the named of the countries and matching them to a map of Europe without any clues. The second picture is a close up of the labels, I'm not sure if that is clear or not.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Hamsters: Wallie and Eve

We now have new hamsters at school : Wallie and Eve. One is a Roborovski Russian Dwarf who runs so fast we can hardly catch him. The other is Winter White Russian Dwarf who loves to bite anything she can see. It's been really hard to get pictures of them as they're always running to fast, I only managed to get a few pics of Eve when she was biting my camera strap. The children are delighted with them and have named them after the Disney Film characters.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A gift we take for granted..

A new student started a week ago, she attended the Montessori nursery class several years ago and left to go to primary school. Her mother brought her back to us in hope that we could help her. This girl is 8 years old and is deaf, she has very limited hearing with a hearing aid which is progressively getting worse until eventually she will no longer hear. In her previous schools she had no friends and everyone including the teachers were hurtful to her, her mum moved her to another school however she had an even worse experience where she was sent to the back of the class to spend a year not learning as she couldn't even hear the teacher [who refused to wear a device that would ensure the teachers voice would go directly to the girls hearing aid].

Her mum pleaded that we help her and I couldn't say no, I know that God has sent this girl in my path for a reason and I must do all I can to help her. God has taken from her a sense that we all take for granted and she struggles in her life, not only because she can't hear but because other people [adults and children] treat her differently and don't give her the love and respect every child deserves.

I am really happy that we took her on, there is lots of work to do with her academically and emotionally. She is very unsure of herself, she tells stories of being bullied, of teachers criticising her and stories of how she would plead not to go to school.

After spending a few days with us, she wrote me a poem in which she said ' Thank you for being such a nice and caring teacher and thank you for helping me with my work'. Apparently she's being going home everyday telling her mother how I am so nice and so kind to her.

Now that she has been with us for a week, her mother has noticed that she has changed and is much happier, she asks to go to school instead of pleading to stay home. She's so excited to learn and take part in everything that's going on. Although she can't hear everything that's going on in the class, she seems to be excellent at lip reading. I have to wear a radio device so that she hears me when I need to talk to her. I haven't worked with a deaf child before, so it's all new for me, but I am pleased that I have been given this chance to get things right for her. If anyone has any advice or information about teaching a deaf child then please let me know I would be grateful.
Picture: Her leaf rubbing work

Mini Tables

In my class the children may choose to work at a table, on a floor mat or at a mini table. These mini tables are great for when you don't have much space in your class [as with mine]. The children also use them when they have been working on a floor mat with a piece of material and then wanted to write up the work they are doing on the floor.
I actually find that the children prefer these mini tables then the big tables and they seem more relaxed and better able to concentrate on the floor. I love that Montessori gives children this freedom. In the picture above I have three tables stacked. In the picture below one of the new children is doing addition at a mini table.

If anyone is wondering where to get these tables from: they are just regular bed tables.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Peace Basket

Traditionally a Montessori 6-12 class would have peace table where children can go in order to resolve conflicts or quarrels without adult help. My class is to small for me to allocate a whole table for that purpose, so instead I came up with a 'peace basket'. I just added this activity to my class, but i haven't had the need to present it yet.
When two children quarrel they are directed to go and take the peace basket to discuss their problem. They lay the activity out on the floor or table as in the picture above. The child who suggested the peace basket holds the shell in his hand and explains how he feels. The other child has to sit and listen to his friend. When the child has finished talking, he gives the shell to the other child so that he can now talk. They have to discuss their feelings and why they are upset with the other child. Only the child holding the shell can speak and they take turns until they have solved their problems and made up.
Traditionally the children will hold a peace flower instead of a shell. Once the problem has been sorted the children are supposed to ring a bell, however because my class is small I decided not to use a bell as it may disturb the other children. Instead i have put a little box in the basket which contains cut out hearts, the children can give one another a heart to show that they have now solved their problem. Here's a close up picture of the hearts:

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Grammar: The farm

Recently Little-N has been working with the schools 'farm game'. I am really amazed that he knows all about verbs, nouns, adjective and articles at such a young age. I was playing a game with him trying to catch him out, 'Is laptop a verb', 'Is fat a noun'... and he really knows what is what. This is what I love about the Montessori language materials, they make very very complex concepts so so easy! I'm also taking the grammar materials at my 6-9yrs training course, Maria Montessori had a reason for everything! Ever wonder why she made nouns black and verbs red?? Nouns are black because nouns are the oldest part of language, as old as black coal that takes many many long years to form. Verbs are red because she likened them to the sun that is always fiery and full of energy. Each part of speech actually has a story that you tell when u reintroduce it in the 6-9yrs class.
Here's Little-N's work:
Here's how its set up on the shelf:

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Our primary class [as in 6-9yrs] schedule

I recently received a comment about my primary class schedule. Its been trial and error for last few months to see what works for the children, this is our first primary year and so everything is new for us.
At the moment my class only has 6 children plus a few younger children who pop in every once in a while. The children are aged 5.5+ to 8 yrs. The children move into the primary class when they reach a certain level in the materials.
Our schedule is as follows.
9.15- 9.30 the children arrive. Each child will have to empty their lunch bags, take of their coats and put on their indoor shoes on before coming to my class as all these have to be done in the nursery class area.
As the children walk in my class, they go straight to work choosing an activity they want to work with. Many will want to read a book or do a creative or practical life activity. I like to start the day with a circle however the children walk in my class at different times, so it's just easier for everyone to go to work and if I can I would give a presentation or two as the children walk in.
Sometime from when the children walk in and before 10.15 I would sit with each child and write up their Daily Plan. Giving them a chance to choose what they want on it, but i also word my speech in away that the children get excited and choose some work that i want them to do. I aim that they each do at least 1 activity from the literacy and mathematics areas each day.
The children are then free to choose their own work as long as they also do some work from on their Daily Plan. I have a few rules, like the children should have completed three things from their daily plan before going for snack or going to the garden. The reason I did this is because some of the children will spend a good hour having snack or two hours in the garden, when the children do that they don't manage to do enough work for us to prove that we are covering the British national curriculum. Although I don't like giving restrictions to the children this rules is benefiting them and they don't seem to mind it.
The garden is attached to the nursery class and they have free access to that.
The work cycle continues to 12.30. During the work cycle I might spontaneously do a circle or read a story or call a group. At 12.30 the children gradually start to have their lunch, our lunch time is a very gradual thing, one child will notice the time and start to get ready for lunch, then another might join. We don't actually end the work cycle! Sometimes they decide to go to the garden at lunch as the nursery children will be indoors and the primary children have the garden to themselves to do big children things!
As each child finished their lunch, they tidy up and get back to work, completing their daily plan if they haven't yet. I usually have science or cultural group activities set up for the afternoon session.
We don't have a set time for literacy or maths and each and every child is working on something else and at a different level. I love that Montessori allows each child to learn at their own pace in their own time without any pressure and without comparisons.
The way i have set up my class is working well and the children are certainly achieving. The children who weren't reading in September are now happy confident readers [except for one boy who might have a problem but we're still giving him time]. Some of the parents have commented about the leap their child has taken in their learning. Many have said 'My child is always trying to read everything', 'my child's always doing addition', 'my child wont stop writing', 'my child showed me where Austria is on the map'. Its nice to know when others can see the benefits of Montessori, not just the academic but all the other benefits to.
I will post more about covering the British National curriculum in another post when I have more time as that's a long topic!!
Picture: My autonomous learners teaching themselves about TEETH.

Practice with his letter writing

Little-N has been doing really good in all his areas of learning. The only thing he's not doing so good on his his writing! I'm not bothered tho, I know he'll do great at the right time and perhaps it hasn't come yet. He'll write something when he wants, but he isn't interested in writing the letters with the correct formation. So Today i wanted to see where he is with his writing. I got him to write all his letters [from mind] with colourful crayons.

He can write most of them in his own sort of way, but for someone who is 4.5yrs some parents and teachers might be worried [Lucky for him I'm not! he does so many other things I can't expect anymore]. After he wrote them we painted over them with black water colours. This idea was adapted from one of nopinkhere's ideas for a sun picture.

Anyone got any other suitable unusual writing activities that a 4.5yr old boy who isn't interested in writing might like?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Poetry: The Sun

Every two weeks I introduce a new poem to the children. Last week we did 'The sun' poem as it runs with the classroom theme. The children love poems, especially engaging poems. At times the want to recite it and at times they just want to listen. I am planning that with each poem the children will do a piece of art work that goes with it, so that by the end of the year they have an illustrated poem book. Here is the poem we did[I found it somewhere on the Internet]:

Don't you think the sun is bright?
I wonder where it goes at night?
Does it sleep or does it hide?
Or is the moon its other side?

Does it hide behind the hills?
Late at night as outside chills?
Do you think it needs to rest?
From all that warming it does best?

Could it even have a home?
Maybe in London or even in Rome?
Or does it just float around?
Moving slowly from town to town?

Yes, I think it must do that!
After all the earth's not flat.
So the sun goes round and round
Spreading sunshine on the ground!

I love that this poem is full of questions, the children are so eager to answer them each time the poem is recited.

We did a collage of the sun, I wanted to do something different, new and exciting however everything I tried wasn't right! So if anyone has any ideas of art work to do with sun plse do let me know.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Water colour painting

Last week I added a water colour painting activity to my class. The children love it and surprisingly they're all managing fine with the wash in between colour changing.
I have set up the activity as follows:
A tray which contains:
-water pot
-water colour pallet
-paint brush
-paper towels.
The child gets the tray from the shelf and also gets a creative mat and paper. The child then goes to fill the paint pot. Next the child removes the lid from the pallet and places it above the tray. The child wets the brush with water from the paint pot, taps it on the edge of the paint pot twice and then taps it twice on the paper towel. The child then chooses the desired colour and paints with it. To change the colour the child has to wash the brush in the water pot, tap twice on the edge of pot and twice on paper towel and then goes to the colour. The children seemed to get that fine and I only had one child who messed the colours but she wasn't from the primary class, she had come in from the early childhood class for a while. At the moment the children are just having fun experimenting with the paints, soon I will show them how to paint flowers and landscapes. I love painting and hope that I will soon find the time to return to it as a hobby.

Nature Walk

Yesterday I took my class on a nature walk. Each child took a bag with them to collect autumn things. It was a lot of fun, the children were so excited and happy. Here are a few pictures of the walk:
When we got back, some of the children made autumn mobiles using the things they collected. On Monday I hope to have a leaf rubbing activity set up for the children using this idea.
And before I forget we have just planted our bulbs in hope to have some colourful flowers in spring. Each child planted a pot of tulip bulbs, crocus bulbs and daffodil bulbs. Here is a picture of all the pots on our classroom window sill.

Many thanks to everyone that left a comment on my earlier post about comments. It's great to know that there are people out there that enjoy reading my blog!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

How NOT to melt crayons

I've been wanting to melt crayons for quite a while, but I didn't have wax paper. So today I decided to try melting crayon sharpenings in a laminating pouch. AND... it made a terrible mess. The laminator squished all the crayon pieces out of the laminating pouch and it went all over the place. Luckily I was able to stop the laminator and get some crayons out before it got worse. I'm not sure if it will work anymore, it took 4 pieces of paper to get all the wax out of the machine and it had a strange smell. I can't believe I made such a stupid mistake. So don't try it. I'll have to find another way to melt crayon pieces without and iron and wax paper.

While I was searching I came across this blog with a beautiful crayon art piece. I would love to try it sometime.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

12 months in a year

Some of the children at school are learning about calendar months. I find this topic rather boring as I can't find something tangible that a child can manipulate while learning the names of the months. At the moment we are doing a project about the sun so I decided to tie that in with the months.
The children already know that it takes one whole year for the earth to go around the sun as they do this in the birthday walk. After recapping on that I explained that the year is split into 12 months, what month is it now? what month was it last month? when is your birthday? We discussed a bit about the months that they knew and then we counted them.
I lay out a felt sun, then I lay the months around it. As we laid the months out, we sang the months song. The children loved it. Next I turned over the cards to check if I had them in the correct order. I wrote numbers on the back, so that when a child works on this independently they can check their own work and correct if necessary. The children love how the months look like the rays of the sun and even the youngest of children stopped for a peep. I also printed the 'Months of the year' cards from ‘Montessori for everyone‘, when the children get bored from using the plain cards they can practice with these. My cards are colour coded by season as this project will gentle turn into a project about the four seasons.