Thursday, 27 February 2014

In The Classrooms With......Our Five Year Olds ~Part 2

Here is Part Two of our post discussing the work our five year olds are doing in our classrooms. These pictures were taken during January and February.  Please note that although these children are in their third year of the Montessori casa (preschool) curriculum, they are of Senior Kindergarten age.

Skip Counting with the Bead Chains

The Bead Chain Material is part of the Montessori casa and lower elementary curriculum.  It is in constant use by children in their second and third years of the casa curriculum. Each of our casa classrooms contain the Bead Chain Material.  It is quite an investment, and an integral part of the program.

This is a picture of the Bead Chain Material Cabinet. 

The Bead Chain Material Cabinet

This material illustrates the squares and cubes of numbers from 1 to 10. The chains sitting on the shelves illustrate the squares of numbers while the hanging chains illustrate the cubes of numbers. 

A Close Up of the Shelves

The top shelf of the cabinet holds boxes which contain colour coordinated numbered arrows for the squares (short boxes) and cubes (tall boxes) of numbers. The child must be familiar with numbers 1 to 100 for the short chains and 1 to 1000 for the long chains.

The Boxes Containing Numbered Arrows

This material is used for many different purposes in the Montessori casa (preschool) classroom and in the lower elementary classroom. Children often begin work with this material at the age of 4. 

At the simplest level, it is a counting exercise to practice the order of numbers. That after 39 comes 40 etc.  At the next level, this material illustrates skip counting, counting by ones, twos, threes, etc. all the way up to counting by tens.  Towards the end of the casa program and in the lower elementary, this material is indirect preparation for the memorization of the multiplication tables.  This material also illustrates the squares and cubes of these numbers and their relationships with each other.

S. and A. are working with the cube chain of five.

The Multiplication Bead Board

Multiplication work is always a favourite activity in our classrooms. There are many materials that are used for multiplication in the classroom - the golden beads, the multiplication bead bars, the bead chains, the stamp game and the multiplication operations boards. The clear favourite is the multiplication (bead) board.  (Please note that multiplication is part of the grade three Ontario Mathematics curriculum.)

The multiplication (bead) board is a square wooden board with one hundred little dimples carved into the wood in rows of ten. Across the top of the board are the numbers one to ten. There is a small grooved circle to the left of these numbers in which a small red marker rests when not in use. Halfway down the board on the left hand side is a little slot for a number card to be slid into. A cut out circle window allows the number to be seen. The white cards are numbered one to ten. There are also exactly one hundred small red beads for counting.

Before I get to how this material is used, it is important to discuss the language used. It differs slightly from more traditional methods. The language is the key. Instead of saying multiplication is two times four, we would say that multiplication is a number taken many times. In this way, we would say two taken four times.

So how does this material work? When this material is introduced, the child would be given a multiplication booklet consisting of ten pages. Each page illustrates a multiplication table one to ten.  In the photographs, Z. is working on the Multiplication Table of 5.

Five year old Z. is working with the Multiplication Bead Board

In the following photograph she is working on five taken eight times (5 x 8). The side window has the number five in it to indicate it is the five times table. She begins by setting out five beads under the number one. They then she sets out five beads under the number two and then the number three etc. 

The Multiplication Table of Five
Next she counts all the beads laid out and write her answer, five taken eight times equals forty.

The answer is written in the Multiplication booklet.

Z. has completed a Multiplication booklet and is also working with the other multiplication materials.  She so enjoys this work that most days she comes in to school asking if she can work with it again, and she often does.  When the Arithmetic materials are this inviting, the children seldom develop the Arithmetic phobias that many adults have.

Singular and Plural

The Montessori Language curriculum is rich in attractive materials and exercises that help the child build the skills needed for oral language, written language and reading.
A range of materials and exercises will be explored in future posts regarding the work of our three and four year olds.

The five year old child is in their last year of the Montessori casa curriculum and is able to read and write small sentences and stories.  The child is now on the path to reading with interpretation and analysis.

The Singular and Plural work is part of Grammar.  There are many singular and plurals in the English language.  The "add s" box is the first box introduced to the children.  In addition to introducing the child to singular and plural, it is a reading exercise.  The material consists of a black box containing individual cards and multiples of objects.  There are also two heading cards (singular and plural).   The object cards are black as they are nouns.

The heading cards are laid out and read to the child (singular and plural).  All of the singular cards are under singular and all the plural cards are under plural.   The child selects a singular card and places the corresponding object next to it. The child finds the same card in the plural pile and places the corresponding objects next to it. 

A. setting out the singular and plural objects.

All of the objects and cards have been set out.

 Once all of the cards and objects have been set out, the cards are examined and questions are asked about the cards.  The child will recognize that an s was added to words when we have more than one object.  The teacher will explain that this is one of the ways of making plurals.  This work is also revisited in the Montessori early elementary as part of the study of the Grammar Boxes.

The child may choose to write the words.  Our five year old girls love to print and draw pretty pictures.  A. wanted to make a book of the singular and plural work.

Making a Singular and Plural Book

A.'s Beautiful Work

This is just a sampling of the work the five year olds are doing.  In the Classrooms With......Our Four Year Olds coming soon.  

Sunday, 23 February 2014

In the Classrooms With ......Our Five Year Olds ~ Part 1

In the Fall of 2011, I wrote a series of posts about the work the children were doing in the classrooms.  They were titled Catching Up With.... and can be accessed through our archive.  Those posts illustrated what children of different ages and stages in the Montessori three year casa/preschool curriculum were working with at the beginning of a school year.  This series of posts will illustrate what the children are working with in the middle of a school year.  The photographs of the children were taken in January and February.

(Please note that the Montessori casa/preschool program is a three year program with children enrolling before the age of four. The children in the photographs have been with us for anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 years and attend school five days per week.)

Our French Language Program

Our French Language program is a vital part of the curriculum at our little yellow Montessori school.  The children receive daily French lessons in small groups with Madame D., our French teacher.  Many graduates of our three year Montessori preschool program attend French Immersion programs for grade one as they have both a very strong English and French base on which to build upon.  By the time the children are in their third year of our Montessori program, they are able to read and write small words and sentences in French.

A French Reading Book

A Page From a French Reading Book

Five and a half year old R. is working her way through our French readers with Madame D.  In September, R. will begin grade one at a French Immersion school.

R. enjoys reading our French books.

The following are some pieces of R.'s French work that she completed during the month of February.  One of the topics Madame D. discussed in February was the Parts of the House. The children have also been introduced to this work in English.  The five year olds (SK age) and some of our four year olds (JK age) completed this work with Madame D. (You can click on the images to make them larger.)

La Maison - The House

The Rooms of a House
The Puzzle Maps

In each of our Montessori classrooms, you will find a map stand filled with eight large rectangular Puzzle Maps - a map of the continents, and individual maps of Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, Europe and our own country, Canada. Each map consists of removable wooden pieces that represent the political or geographic divisions of land that are the subject of each individual map.

As part of the Montessori curriculum, children are introduced to the Land and Water Globe, the Continents Globe and the Puzzle Map of the Continents when they are 2 1/2 to 3 years old. When they can identify all of the continents, they are free to explore the Puzzle Maps of each individual continent as well as their own country.  Emphasis is placed on learning the names of the countries in our home continent of North America as well as learning the names of the provinces and territories of Canada.

Five and a half year old D. is very interested in the Puzzle Maps. He has been working his way through each of the continents, eager to learn the names of as many countries as he can.  His favourite maps are Europe, Africa and Asia as they have so many countries! Here he is absorbed in his work as he uses the Atlas to label the countries found in the continents of Africa and Asia.

The Puzzle Map of Africa
The Puzzle Map of Asia

After he labels the maps, D. can write the names of individual countries on a paper map of each continent.


The lessons on fractions are highly anticipated at our little yellow school. They are introduced to children in their third year of the Montessori casa (preschool) program. All of the children in the classroom are drawn to and fascinated by the two trays of red circles divided into many parts.

Parents who visit our school often marvel at the fact that we are teaching the children fractions as the Ontario Curriculum does not introduce fractions until grade three. For the children, it is just a natural progression of the Arithmetic materials. When the materials are as beautiful and concrete as these, it is very easy to grasp the concept of fractions.  The aim of the Fraction Insets material is to introduce the child to the idea of fractions as the division of a whole into equal parts.

The Fraction Insets

The children are introduced to the Fraction Insets and are invited to freely explore them.  This includes taking out the sections, counting them, comparing sizes, etc. Each circle represents a fraction, which is taking a whole (the circle) and breaking it into equal parts that are all exactly the same. The children are then introduced to the names for the parts of each circle - whole, halves, thirds, etc.

The children are working together to label the Fraction Insets.

The Labeled Fraction Insets

Five year old E. is making her own book of fractions.

A Page From the Book of Fractions

Children are then able to go further by exploring numerators and denominators.

In the Classrooms With...Our Five Year Olds ~ Part 2 coming soon!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A Dinosaur Workshop

Today Mad Science came to visit our school to present a Dinosaur Workshop.  Dr. Shrink was our Mad Scientist.  She told us a very funny joke. 

What is the name of a dinosaur that sleeps all the time?

A dinosnore!

Dr. Shrink is explaining the importance of raising your hand when you want to speak.

Dr. Shrink talked about dinosaurs and fossils.  She explained how fossils were formed and passed around some fossils for us to examine.

Looking at a Fossil

An Ammonite Fossil - A Marine Mollusk

She showed us some pictures of dinosaurs and shared some information about them.  Did you know that a triceratops was 9 metres long?  This is how long 9 metres is.

S. holding the tape measure at one end of the classroom.

Dr. Shrink holding the tape measure at the other end of the classroom.

The Xixianykus dinosaur was one of the smallest at just 50 cm.

This piece of rope is 50 cm long.

Seven children can fit inside the footprint of an apatosaurus!

Some dinosaurs were meat eaters called carnivores, and other dinosaurs were plant eaters called herbivores. Carnivores and herbivores had different looking teeth.  Dr. Shrink brought along boxes with dinosaur jaws and teeth so that we could see the difference.  Carnivores had sharp, pointy teeth, while herbivores had small, flat teeth. 

Dr. Shrink is holding up the jaw of a herbivore, the stegosaurus.

Dr. Shrink is holding up the sharp tooth of a carnivore, the allosaurus.

Dr. Shrink gave us some mirrors so that we could check our own teeth. 

Checking our Teeth

We discovered that we have small, flat teeth and sharp, pointy teeth because we eat both meat and plants.  We are omnivores.

Dr. Shrink helped us make a replica of an allosaurus tooth by pushing the tooth into a cup of sand and pouring in some plaster.

Pushing the Tooth Into the Sand

Ready for the Plaster

Paleontologists can't always take the fossils they find out of the ground.  In those cases, they will make a rubbing of the fossils. We also made some rubbings.

We learned so much about dinosaurs with Dr. Shrink today and we also shared some of our information with her.  Thank you to Mad Science for coming to visit.  We had a fantastic morning!

Roaring Like Dinosaurs

Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day and our annual party.  The children were dressed in red, pink and white.

The Half Day Children

We had a Love Machine....

Here is 4 1/2 year old N.
and a Ladies Man.

Almost four year old S. is our Ladies Man.
It was interesting how our little Ladies Man positioned himself amongst the young ladies when we were handing out our cards and treats.

Here we all are enjoying our Valentine's Day feast.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Our Love Bugs

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

He's Back! ~ Our Pileated Woodpecker Returns

Today the teachers noticed a bit of a commotion in the parking lot during half day pick-up.  Parents and children were standing in the parking lot all focused on our tall pine trees.  Can you guess what they were looking at?

A Pileated Woodpecker

Our pileated woodpecker is back!  He was unfazed by the commotion that he was causing and continued to peck his holes.  The last time he visited us was three years ago.  In fact, it was February 4, 2011 when we last published a blog post about our feathered friend.  (That post can be accessed through the archive.)  In 2011 the woodpecker began pecking holes in the very same tree.  The old holes are visible in the photograph above.   Last time the holes were pecked to find food.  

The holes our woodpecker is pecking now seem wider and deeper than those pecked three years ago.  There are also at least five fresh holes.

While we don't want to get our hopes up, a typical woodpecker roost (nest) has multiple entrance holes.  Could our woodpecker be pecking these holes to attract a female for mating?  Only time will tell.  Eggs are usually laid in April.

At recess the full day children had quite a treat.  We went out into the parking lot to get a closer look at the woodpecker.  We were so quiet and the only sound we heard was the peck, peck, peck of his beak.

I can't say who was more excited to see the woodpecker today, the children or the adults - teachers, parents and grandparents.  We are so fortunate to have such a large and mature property in the heart of Oak Ridges.  Each season at our little yellow school brings us into meaningful contact with the natural world.  This is something that seems to be disappearing from our everyday lives.  We are grateful for the gifts of nature that are all around us.