Monday, October 18, 2010

On Our Shelves - Back to School

We're shifting into pumpkin/Halloween mode over here this week, but I wanted to share with you some of the "Back to School' work we had on our shelves last week. You saw most of these works in the photos of our classroom tour.

Practical Life
Mirror Polishing. The set up for this comes right out of my training manual. James really enjoyed this work and repeated it a few times throughout the week.

Spooning Acorns. Ok, I have to be honest with myself and just admit that James no longer enjoys spooning work. Pity too because I really enjoy putting it together! He did this work once, quickly, and then gave it the cold shoulder the rest of the week.

Nuts & Bolts - a favorite!

Open & Close Basket. This is, in my opinion, one of the best works you can put out for a child - there are a lot of skills being practiced (snapping, buttoning, zippering, etc.) depending on what kinds of items you include and it's also great for one to one correspondence. I like that it's self correcting, too. There's only one small object for each container (see the pebble inside the glass jar?), so if there's a leftover object or an empty container, James knows he put too many or none at all in a container. He loved this and worked with it every day this week.

Tonging (mama-made) Knitted Apples

Zipper Dressing Frame

Texture Basket - I did not make these (I purchased them at a local shop), but you could EASILY make your own. Our one and only fabric store does not offer enough variety for me to replicate this. We talked about the differences and similarities between the materials.

Color Tablets (Box 2) - the matching aspect is too easy for James, so we've been using these in "Please bring me..." games with much success and fun! We'll be moving on to the 3rd box of color tablets as soon as I finish making them!

Knobbless Cylinders

This whole area has had me over-analyzing and stressing out far more than I should be. Long story short, I've come to realize James has been learning language in a manner that does not coincide with the traditional Montessori route (or the handful of variations within it). Mind you, I'm no longer stressed about it since I realized it's not the end of the world. James learned the names of letters before learning their sounds. A big no-no in the Montessori world. He is also learning to read before being fully immersed in 'pre-reading' (aka aural preparation). Another no-no. Am I worried? Nope. It'll all work out, I'm sure of it. Nonetheless, I've put out several 'pre-reading' activities on our shelves simply because I know James will enjoy them. And that's really what it's all about, right? This is where I give Montessori a *huge* hug, say thanks, and then walk off the beaten path to what's working right for us at the moment. I love having the freedom to make changes as we see fit.

Alphabet Puzzle

ABC Animal Cards

James makes me laugh every day and this photo is an example of one of those time - after he finished laying out all the ABC animal cards, he suddenly stood up, took a deep bow and said, "Thank you!" :D

Category Cards

Sequencing Cards

Sandpaper Letters & Sand Tray

Sandpaper Letters & Objects. Although James knows all of the basic letter sounds (a-z), I am reviewing through them (4 at a time) and including our sound objects for fun. I think we'll get through the rest of the alphabet next week at which point we'll continue on with phonograms.

American Sign Language (ASL) cards. James can sign the entire ASL alphabet, which was a big surprise to me considering I never taught him this! He picked it up during a viewing of this DVD which we rented from the video store. I decided to print and laminate some ASL cards for him since he was really eager about signing. I found these on He was very excited about these! His new favorite thing to do is to spell aloud and sign the letters at the same time.

This is another area, like language, where we did not follow the traditional route of Montessori as far as introducing concrete before abstract (i.e James knew the names of the number symbols before learning what they meant). That happened because we simply didn't know about Montessori when James began showing an interest in letters and numbers during his first year. As I mentioned above, I'm not at all bothered or concerned about it especially since he's grasping each area with ease. That said, we're moving forward in a modified manner whereby I'll be introducing concrete materials alongside the abstract works he's already familiar with. I'll do this for just letter/sounds & numbers/quantities, but for everything else beyond these basics I'll mirror my teaching with the traditional route because I do believe it has great merit, particularly with more complicated math concepts. Again, this is what we've decided works for us.

Number Rods

Counting Cookies - I made these last year and they were a huge hit with James. Alone they are too easy for him, but we use them for adding/subtracting games now.

Basic Anatomy Puzzle

Continent Puzzle Map & Globe. We worked with both all week and James knows 5 out of the 7 continents now. Does anyone know of a good "Continents Song" to sing?

Discovery Tray - this will take the place of our seasonal nature display (we just don't have room enough for both). However, I'll change this often to suit whatever theme we're working on or to match the current season (e.g. shells in the summer, flowers in the spring, etc.). James absolutely LOVES this tray and writes in his 'journal' to document his findings (ala Sid the Science Kid). :)

Tree Matching/Name Recognition - this was something I made during our Letter T week last year and I made a handful more this year to make it a bit more challenging.

Sorting/Matching Cats & Dogs. This ended up being WAY too easy for James, so he created his own extensions - he sorted them by which animals were sitting/standing, he counted how many cats and how many dogs there were, and then sorted them by color shade. Ahem. I guess that showed me. :)

Building a Farm. This was an impromtu activity that I created mid-way through the week. James said to me, out of the blue, one day, "Mama, cows live on farms and give milk and we milk them like this (here he gestured his hands to simulate milking)." Then we talked about sheep and wool and that's when I decided to create this activity. He spent a long time going through and talking about each animal.

Sorting Fruits & Vegetables. The cute little baskets shown in the last two works were a very thoughtful gift from Eva of Handmade Beginnings - thank you, Eva!

Art & Music
Instrument Nomenclature Cards. I created these myself - this is just a small selection of them (I only put out a handful at a time), but there are more than 30 in the set I made.

Cutting Straws. The cut bits go inside the brown box.

Art Memory Game. These cards come from this awesome game my sweet sister in law bought for James.

Glue Practice. James worked very hard on this and completed both sides of that paper.

I put together some new works - mainly pumpkin/Halloween themed - and I'll be sharing those later this week.

Linking up to Montessori Monday & The Preschool Corner.

~Thank you for your comments!~


AndieF said...

Really great trays! You have given me LOTS to think about for my trays this month. I have been getting in a bit of a rut lately - just putting out the same activities in the same way, etc. I usually have different children each year too, so at least there is that, but I don't think I'm always following the child by doing it that way either. Anyway, thanks for showing them!

Doman Mom (Liz) said...

I love all of your materials you make for your son. Do you mind me asking what different materials/textures are included in the bean bags you purchased? I am interested in making something like that, and would love ideas on different materials to buy. Thanks!

Counting Coconuts said...

Thank you for your kind words, Ladies!

@Elizabeth: the little bags aren't actually bean bags - I know they look like it though! There are 10 different textures/materials: mirror, leather, cotton w/ french knots, corduroy, silk, velcro, netting, soft 'fur', wool, and something like a jersey knit.

Lynn said...

Wow! Are you sure this wasn't what was on your shelves for an entire year? Really impressive! I love the idea of printing the ASL cards. I think I'll do that. I should also introduce cutting straws, because we need more scissor practice. It's funny, my son LOVES geography/maps/countries, so he can identify almost all of the countries in the Geopuzzles, but he is still iffy on the continents. Here is one video I know of on youtube (I should probably show it to my son too) --

Learning with Mrs. Parker said...

Here is the continent song I use.
It goes to the tune "I've Got the Whole World in my Hands."
I've got Africa in my hands, (x3)
I've got a continent in my hand.

Repeat with each. I usually take a map and laminate onto a file folder. I take the same image and have my students color. I laminate that and cut. I attach Velcro. They use this as they sing. It's fun, educational and interactive!

Montessori Beginnings said...

What a busy mama you've been! Such great activities! I'm so glad the pressure is off me now LOL
L was the same with reading but now she is crazy with sounding out words and breaking them into parts and sounding out those parts. I think some children find it easier in that order.
James is one lucky boy and such a cutie patootie!

Olives and Pickles said...

Mari-Ann, thanks a lot for the reply!! I love all the trays..and the activities. Thanks for sharing. big hugs!

Miri said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Great activities! I've been wondering if you mind sharing the Instrument Nomenclature Cards you have prepared for your son? They are gorgeous! I was just about to make our own set... Thank you!

Eva said...

really nice things on your shelf this week :) and what a great idea to use the baskets for montessori materials! (we've been using them for A's barrettes and things) thanks for linking to me :)
I can't wait to get some new shelves this week and start setting up a work environment for A, thank you so much for all your inspiration!

<3 Eva

Sippy Cup Central said...

I know the scooping activities are so fun to put together, but Jem is done in 2 seconds. We do love to cut and paste everything though. I can get you some good continent ideas. Good work. Karen
Sippy Cup Central Mom

Anonymous said...

WOW. Blown away at all the amazing things you do. So incredible.
We had a set of your tree blocks made this past weekend. I linked up to the people that gave me the inspiration! Thanks.

Alison said...

Wow, you two are soooo lucky to have all that space! What a variety of fun things to do, and what an inspiration for me, just starting to find my feet...

Jen said...

Wow. Just wow. Everything looks so inviting and intriguing... must make it hard for James to choose which thing to work with first!!!

LOVE his bow... what a cutie pie!

I know whatever you chose to do for James will be the right thing. Look at how happy and smart he is, clearly you're doing a wonderful job.


Annicles said...

Don't worry about the order that letters and numbers have been introduced. To be absolutely honest, most schools will have some children who have picked names up before sounds or quantities and have to work around it just like you. In the UK we introduce both the sound and the name at the same time - this is and "A" and it says "a". We use Jolly Phonics at my school which has an action and a song to go with each phoneme and helps children remember the sound. We only teach 1 grampheme per phoneme to begin with, I am just about to introduce the startling fact that some phonemes can be said differently depending on the word!

Michelle Gibson said...

Mari-Ann, this all looks wonderful! I am fairly new to your blog, but fell in love right away! {especially with your sensory tubs} And now. . . well, I am looking forward {to say the least} to seeing all the great things you do in your homeschool!

I am working on a fabric texture lesson for a book we are rowing and was just going to do fabric swatches ~ but I love your texture basket ~ may I ask what the bags are filled with?

Thanks so much for sharing the fun learning going on in your homeschool!

Rebecca said...

LOVE LOVE your ideas! You are definitely one of my favorite blogs! I love the gourds with the magnifying glass.

Martianne said...

What wonderful materials and organization you have!

Anonymous said...

What amazing trays! Love the acorn spooning.. I'm pretty sure Sammy isn't going be all that excited about it but we will def. be doing that this week! Everything looks so beautiful!

Elle Belles Bows said...

You have so many wonderful ideas! Thanks for sharing! Elle has been collecting acorns non stop for her Nature table, but maybe I can start to use them for her sensory tub and spooning! Thanks! Kerri

Mommy Moment said...

We sing a song for the continents, but I'm not sure what the tune is (if it is actually from another song). Maybe I'll have to sing it to you over the phone LOL :)
Great post! LOVED it!

Jodi said...

You are so amazingly creative and inspiring!! :)

Montessori Bee said...

I love the knitted apples and the concentration on James' face during the mirror polishing is precious!
What do you use for mirror polish? Does he dip the q-tip in the bottle? Just curious about the procedure since I'm inspired to put this out for my son soon.
Lovely lovely materials

Darcey said...

Wow! These are great activities and trays. You are so creative! Thanks for sharing with us.

Leptir (Nataša) said...

Everything is so amazing!

Counting Coconuts said...

You all are SO sweet! Thank you!

@Montessori Bee: It's just water in that little jar. To demonstrate, you'll want to dip the q-tip in the jar and rub it around on the mirror. Then dry the mirror off with the cotton ball, then use the polishing cloth (the blue cloth in the photo) to polish.

Hope that helps!

vintagepark said...

Check out for some great Montessori songs. I love her song about the continents.

Zonnah said...

I love seeing what is on your shelves, thanks. Also, your new room looks great!

kewkew said...

I have gotten discouraged when it comes to introducing Montessori work. The girls use the materials for the first couple of days and then ignore it. And then there is the expense of trying to do some of the trays (even decent trays themselves). I am constantly looking in the thrift shop, but more likely than not lately I haven't been able to find anything useful. Your trays are amazing. And, am I understanding this correctly, you made your own color tablets? Wondering how.
I actually teach the sound and the name of the letter together. The Montessori where I worked the children learned the name of the letter in the toddler room then when they went out to the preschool room they learned in the Montessori way. Didn't hurt them any. Always bothered me that the toddler room was seen as babysitting and wasn't treated as part of the Montessori program.
So much I love from this post, but I have said too much already.
Sorry I haven't been checking in as much as I used to. Like I said I have been so discouraged with our Montessori aspect lately. You are doing such a great job.

2 Pequeños Traviesos said...

I made the same musical instruments cards. I recognize the images. hahaha! But I only got to the cord instruments. I haven't used them either. I do this a lot. I start a project then put it on hold forever. Shame on me!
Hugs my friend. I'm writing a post and linking back to you on your beautiful pumpkins.

Katie said...

I really want/need to make an open and close basket. You have such great ideas.

Lisa said...

I just came across your blog this week, and I wanted to thank you for all the great ideas! I've found myself lost in your posts reading all the great information you have!

Deb Chitwood said...

How fun to see what James was doing almost a year ago! I always love your open and close baskets. I featured your open and close photo and activity at Blessings on your very exciting day today! Deb @

Tamara said...

To the tune of "Yankee Doodle"

(We have a large map rug and hop from continent to continent, but you could easily do it with a map or globe).

North America, South America
Europe, Africa, Asia
Kangaroos hop in Australia
And penguins swim in Antarctica

These are all the continents
See how God has made them
Tell the people of His love
So they can serve and praise Him


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