Tag Archives: Montessori Sensorial

Montessori Sensorial – Sense of Smell

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

This picture shows the front cover of the book, The Nose Knows.

A short book with a simple story that focuses on the power of smell.

Oh, how I have sadly neglected my ongoing series of reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle. I would like to make excuses, but the truth is that I spend most of my days creating, crafting and devising lesson plans that have little or nothing to do with a primary Montessori education.

My boys are ten and almost seven-years-old. We still read to them…though not every night. They are both solid readers. They love books and learning and they both have large vocabularies. I directly attribute their knowledge to the vocabulary-building, reality-based books that we read to them when they were young.

These days our library bags are often filled with chapter books and large piles of non-fiction materials. I don’t check out as many picture books as I used to, but I will continue to write and speak about my experiences as a Montessori-certified teacher. I have learned so much from her teaching and writings, not to mention my direct experiences of using her methods and well-designed materials. While I agree that no one method of education can meet the needs of every child, the Montessori way of ‘teaching’ is the perfect response to the current practice of drills, tests, and arbitrary grading policies that our schools use to ‘teach’ students. (Hint: Montessori doesn’t grade students).

Is it obvious that I am a Montessori advocate?

I believe in the power of a true Montessori education and will continue to spread the word about the Montessori philosophy. I still have a lot of Montessori-inspired projects that I would like to carry out, but in the meantime, I will continue to focus on technology, art and handwork. Montessori inspires me every day and I hope that you enjoy the reality-based picture books featured here.

This week, I am showcasing books that deal with our olfactory sense. In other words, our sense of smell. I have previously discussed many of the different Sensorial topics (colors I, colors II, systems, shapes & solids, visual training, and auditory). Dr. Montessori found that children’s senses were especially sensitive during the years between three and six. The following books contain stories (and rich vocabulary) that are based in reality. No talking animals and no imaginary characters. Under the age of six, children are deciphering the world around them and need help in determining what is real and what is fantasy.

Montessori Sensorial – Sense of Smell

Ages 2 – 6
Sias, Ryan. Sniff! Sniff! Abrams Appleseed: New York, 2015.

With very few words, this book manages to convey a dog’s strong sense of smell. A cartoon-like brown dog wakes up and the words “sniff, sniff” appear over his head. Suddenly, pictures of bacon, pancakes and oranges appear as thought bubbles. He runs downstairs to discover the human’s breakfast table, and proceeds to jump all over it and devour the food. Despite the dog’s bad manners, this cute book continues to feature his keen sense of smell as it takes him (and his owner) on many adventures throughout the day.

This is a picture of a dog running down the stairs as he has thought bubbles of bacon, oranges and pancakes.

Written by Ryan Sias

Ages 4 and up
Weiss, Ellen. The Nose Knows. Illustrated by Margeaux Lucas. The Kane Press: New York, 2002.

Peter is the oldest child in his family of five. His parents, brother and sister are sick with colds (and stuffy noses) so Peter becomes the family’s ‘nose.’ He helps around the house by getting rid of the stinky items, such as the old orange juice, decaying flowers and some rotting broccoli that his younger brother shoved in the back of his closet. Peter also saves the family by smelling ‘rotten eggs’ in the kitchen. The pilot light on their gas stove had gone out and the parents didn’t know. Throughout the book there are side notes about how our nose (and sense of smell) functions. Eventually, Peter gets the family’s cold, but everyone takes care of him.

This is a picture of a boy taking away a glass of orange juice from his younger sister. The orange juice has gone bad.

The Nose Knows by Ellen Weiss.

Ages 4 and up
Lin, Grace. The Ugly Vegetables. Charlesbridge Publishing: Watertown, MA, 1999.

Young Grace and her mother are preparing their garden for planting. As they turn over the soil, she notices that all of the other neighbors are planting gardens too – except that their gardens will be full of flowers while Grace’s will grow Chinese vegetables. Grace wants to grow flowers too, until one day she detects a delicious smell coming from her house! Her mother is making a delicious soup with all of the vegetables from their garden. There’s a knock on the door and all of her neighbors have brought flowers to share – in hopes of tasting the good-smelling soup. Grace’s mother passes out the soup and gives the recipe to her friends. The following year, all of the neighbors are growing some Chinese vegetables, and Grace gets to grow a few flowers as well.

This is a picture of the front cover of the book, The Ugly Vegetables, written by Grace Lin. It has a picture of a Chinese mom and girl digging a garden.

Written and illustrated by Grace Lin.

Although I didn’t have a chance to review them, these two books seem like they might work for a Montessori lifestyle: Mo Smells the Holidays (about a dog’s powerful nose), and perhaps, Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch.

And, of course, these books would be especially memorable if paired with a group cooking activity. Grace’s soup, anyone?


Book Reviews :: a parent’s guide to the montessori classroom

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A brief description of the learning that occurs in a Montessori classroom. By Aline Wolf.

A brief description of the learning that occurs in a Montessori classroom by Aline Wolf.

This little booklet was ‘one of many’ lifesavers during my first year as a new Montessori teacher. I was still learning how to facilitate, guide and present the materials to my students and there were days when I found the effort to be futile. Looking back, I still had a lot to internalize – both as a parent and as a teacher. This guide was a short, easy way to reinforce my Montessori purpose – and a great recommendation for parents who were considering the question, “why Montessori?”

Although I love the clear information it gives, prospective parents in today’s landscape might question the seemingly strong focus on “academics.” And, I will admit that I believe unstructured play to be very, very important for young children. Fortunately, I like to think that Dr. Montessori might have felt the same way. She just felt children should do that sort of free play at home – not at school.

The children she “honed her skills with” were poor children who were left to their own devices because their parents worked, in a reckless version of the free-range movement. Slightly older children teaching younger children to roam the streets. Yet Dr. Montessori found that they were craving this intellectual knowledge. They had gotten their fill of free play and were looking for other intellectual outlets. Of course, she did reject those children who could not settle down after a set amount of time, so we can’t exactly trust the ethos that Montessori is for everyone.*

Practical Life activities are an important part of a Montessori primary classroom.

Practical Life activities are an important part of a Montessori primary classroom.

Wolf’s slim book presents such compelling arguments for the practical life and sensorial “works” in a classroom that many parents will happily pay the high price tag of private school to let their children learn how to carefully pour water! The focus and lengthy concentration that three and four year-olds devote to these activities lend themselves to other pursuits. If anything, I think this extreme focus is the value of a Montessori education. The ability to lose oneself in a task – and to repeat it for the sheer joy of learning – is one of most beautiful things a teacher (or parent) can witness.

The focus of this book is the primary classroom, ages three to six, but Wolf briefly mentions the value of a Montessori education for both elementary-aged students and toddlers. She focuses on many of the different aspects of a Montessori primary classroom and to an uninitiated parent, it would seem as if your child will master all of these skills – geography, botany, reading, writing and advanced mathematics. That does set the bar rather high and I would caution perspective parents to view it more as a buffet of choices for your child.

If they are interested in botany, there are a number of materials to support a child’s interest, but most children will not delve deeply into that area. Parents need to understand that there is only so much time in the day and these materials are intended for a 3-year cycle of education. If your child only comes to Montessori at age three and leaves at age four, their education will look different. If they need an extra year to “settle” down, then they will need extra time to cover the other materials.

If you are considering a Montessori education for your child, grab a copy of this book and peruse the aspects of a good Montessori classroom. Not all schools that call themselves “Montessori” are true to her vision or even her philosophy. The very beautiful Montessori school near our area is only a “true” Montessori school through kindergarten. At that point, the children are given homework and the didactic materials disappear by second grade. That’s not to say that it isn’t a high-quality school, just that it succumbs to the pressure of being compatible with the local public schools.

Hopefully, this book can help you to determine if your prospective school is truly a Montessori school – and if you actually want your child to receive a Montessori education.

* If you have the time, check out the “unauthorized” biography by Rita Kramer for a more neutral take on Dr. Montessori and her method of education.

The teacher plays an important role - not for disseminating information, but for guiding a child has they follow their interests.

The teacher plays an important role – not for disseminating information, but for guiding a child as they follow their interests.


Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Auditory

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Various materials to help young children notice the sounds around them.

Various materials to help young children notice the sounds around them.

This week I’ve reviewed books that cover the concept of listening, hearing and sound – all concepts that fall in the ‘Sensorial’ section of a Montessori classroom. To see previous book reviews on other Sensorial topics – check out the posts on color, systems, solids and shapes, and visual observation.

Ages 2 and up
Carle, Eric. The Very Quiet Cricket. Philomel Books: New York, 1990.
A baby cricket is born and wants to be able to answer the other insects in the forest, but when he rubs his wings together, they don’t make a sound. After encountering a big cricket, a locust, a praying mantis, a worm, a spittlebug, a cicada, a bumblebee, a dragonfly, mosquitoes and a luna moth, the little cricket encounters a female cricket and is finally able to rub his wings together to make a sound. At the end of the book, a surprise chirping sound is created by opening the last page. Therefore, it’s worth it to purchase a new copy of this book (board book or otherwise) because the cricket sound will be worn out on a typical library copy.

Montessori Note: While the language of the book has the insects saying “good night” or “hello”, often it is used to introduce the sound that each animal makes. For example, the cicada screeches “good afternoon.” Teachers and parents could easily omit these words if they are concerned that children will be confused by the implication that insects speak.

A classic book with a built-in clicking sound.

A classic book with a built-in clicking sound.

Ages 2 and up
Aliki. Quiet in the Garden. Greenwillow Books: New York, 2009.
While very young children may have trouble sitting still long enough to hear things in their garden, preschool age children are ready for the chance to play the silence game. The little boy is Aliki’s story likes to sit quietly because if he is “very still, (he) sees more.” As he is quiet in his garden, he can hear different sounds (chirp, squeak, crunch). As he encounters different animals in the garden, he notices different actions and hears different sounds. In addition to the simple sentences, there is a “side conversation” that goes on between the two animals that are featured on each page. They do not add anything to the story and do not need to be read aloud. The colored-pencil illustrations are bright and vibrant and will have your youngsters poring over each page. Pictures might be great for an introductory art class as well. After reading, head outside and see what your students can hear in their garden.

From Aliki's Quiet in the Garden.

From Aliki’s Quiet in the Garden.

Ages 3 and up
Singer, Marilyn. Quiet Night. Illustrated by John Manders. Clarion Books: New York, 2002.
The moon is bright and the animals are coming out to hunt, play and be active during the quiet night. In the same rhythm as “the house that Jack built,” Singer’s story builds as the “four fish whap-slap, three geese honk-honk, two owls whoo-hoo, and a frog bar-rums on a quiet night.” Eventually, we see a tent and ten campers emerge as they ponder all of the noises of the night! A cute, easy-flowing story that will make children giggle while still introducing them to the concept of nocturnal animals and a ‘quiet’ night.

Great story to teach quantities 1-10, but also for a discussion about nocturnal animals.

Great story to teach quantities 1-10, but also for a discussion about nocturnal animals.

Ages 5 and up
Wood, Douglas. A Quiet Place. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York, 2002.
This large book lends itself to sharing with a group and the soft, oil- painted illustrations are lovely, realistic and add much to the abstract concepts of the story. A young, city-dwelling boy needs some quiet – a rest from “bells ringing, whistles shrieking, and grown-ups talking.” He ponders the places he could go – under a bush, in the woods, by the sea, in the desert, by a pond, in a cave, on top of a hill, in a snowdrift, in a museum, in the library, or just in his own room with his own thoughts. The concept of needing a quiet place may be foreign to many youngsters, but this could be a good book to use when discussing why someone might need a quiet space and how to recognize when that’s important. This book would also be most helpful for introducing a home or school “quiet” space.

From the book, A Quiet Place, by Douglas Wood.

From the book, A Quiet Place, by Douglas Wood.

Although I didn’t have a chance to read them, the following books seem as if they would fit into a Montessori curriculum.

Showers, Paul. The Listening Walk. HarperCollins: New York, 1993 (reprint of 1961 version).
This book has been perpetually checked out within my library system and I did not have a chance to look at it, however, the premise seems to fit quite nicely into a reality-based curriculum. A girl goes on a walk and hears all sorts of sounds, from natural animal sounds to man-made lawnmower sounds. A perfect book to read before you head out on your own listening walk.

Lemniscates. Silence. American Psychological Association’s Magination Press: New York, 2012.
As we ask our children to filter more and more information – at a younger age – books that help teach mindfulness are quite valuable. This is a story to read with children while it asks them to consider the sounds of our world.

Children's Books on noises and the value of quiet.

Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Visual Observation

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

One of the layouts from the children's book, Dreaming Up by Christy Hale.

One of the layouts from the children’s book, Dreaming Up by Christy Hale.

“The aim is not an external one, that is to say, it is not the objects that the child should learn how to place the cylinders, and that he should know how to perform an exercise. The aim is an inner one, namely, that the child train himself to observe; that he be led to make comparisons between objects, to form judgements, to reason and decide…”
– Maria Montessori, Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, page 71

Visual Observation

Although many of the materials in this area of the classroom are based on the decimal system (pink tower, brown stair, knobbed cyclinders, etc.) and fit together in a very specific way – it is the hope that a young child will begin to notice when things “look out of place.” You want them to walk past that pink tower and notice when one of the other children didn’t put it back quite right. You want them to begin to develop their observation skills – to realize there is a world outside of themselves. Therefore, the books I have found ask children to notice something; to be active observers.

Ages 2.5 and up
Swineburne, Stephen. Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes. Boyds Mill Press: Homesdale, PA, 1998.
Swineburne’s photographs showcase various brightly-colored animals and plants that exist in nature. The accompanying words (both Spanish and English) point out the concept of patterns and seasons, but the true gem of this book is in the details. Close-up photos of snakes, cut tree trunks and a sandy beach provide the opportunity to discuss patterns in everyday life. Younger children will enjoy identifying the objects in the pictures, but older kids may enjoy relating other incidences of patterns that they see outside.

Patterns in the sand.

Patterns in the sand.

Ages 4 and up
Hoban, Tana. Look! Look! Look! Greenwillow Books: New York, 1988.
The first page of each section provides the reader with a small square cut-out of the photograph that is featured on the following page. Excited youngsters will be eager to try and guess what the picture is – a surprise on every two pages. Photographs include: a border collie, a ferris wheel, a ball of red yarn, the back of an elephant, a pink rose, the leg of a Galapagos tortoise, a guitar, a lamb, and a pumpkin. Kids will enjoy looking over the book a few more times and “guessing” correctly. Use this book during a discussion about a whole item and its parts – or in an art lesson with a focus on detail.

From Tana Hoban's Look! Look! Look! Did you guess that this is a ball of yarn?

From Tana Hoban’s Look! Look! Look! Did you guess that this is a ball of yarn?

Ages 4 and up
Micklethwait, Lucy. I Spy A Lion: Animals in Art. Greenwillow Books: New York, 1994.
Micklethwait’s first “art” book was I Spy: An Alphabet in Art, a book where she asks children to look at famous art masterpieces and find objects that begin with “A, B, etc.” This book also features class art and children are asked to find certain animals in each layout. The animals are sometimes easy to spot and sometimes require a keen eye and a new way of looking at things. Similar to the I-Spy series of books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick.

Ages 3.5 and up
Hale, Christy. Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building. Lee & Low Books, Inc.: New York, 2012.
This fabulous book challenges children (and adults) to take a close look at the buildings and structures around them. In each two-page spread, Hale includes a picture of a famous architectural site and and displays a way that children can recreate it with everyday materials. For example, stacking cups can resemble the Petronas Twin Towers, while drip sand castles can recreate the La Sagrada Familia basilica in Spain. For the non-architects among us (and those older children interested in the reality of the buildings), Hale has included a detailed description of each building and its location, architect and date of creation. A fabulous book that makes the connection between art, free-building and purposeful design. Highly Recommended.

I love the picture of a real-world structure next to a child playing with similar building materials. What inspiration!

I love the picture of a real-world structure next to a child playing with similar building materials. What inspiration!

Ages 4 and up
LeSieg, Theo. Wacky Wednesday. Illustrated by George Booth. Random House, Inc.:New York, 1974.
Although this book has a lot of fantastical elements to it (there is a shoe on the wall, after all), the main backdrop to this story is the boy’s home and school. In typical Dr. Seuss fashion, this book rhymes and asks the reader to find an increasing array of out of place objects. Children will giggle as they see an extra large candy cane acting as a chair leg or find it incredibly odd that there is a turtle stuck up a tree. Since the book is not overly large, prepare to use this book in small group settings or snuggled up next to a child.

Wacky Wednesday is just one book in a large area of children’s publishing that asks you to find what’s out of place. Other interesting books include the Spot the Differences in Art series by Dover. These books are meant to be pored over within small groups, but accomplish the same task – asking the reader to look deeper.

Wacky Wednesday is a silly book. Do not read it at bedtime if you want your children to go to bed on time!

Wacky Wednesday is a silly book. Do not read it at bedtime if you want your children to go to bed on time!

To read more about reality-based books for the Sensorial section of a Montessori classroom, continue to the post about auditory learning.


Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Solids and Shapes

 In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Montessori Sensorial __ VisualTechnically, we refer to this category as the “visual discrimination of form,” but that seemed awfully stuffy for a book review blog post. Essentially, it’s helping a child to visually notice the differences in objects, forms, etc. Later, we’ll add other ways to distinguish differences, such as by taste, touch and smell, but at this point we’re focusing on the visual sense.

As you can tell from the chart above, I’ve broken down the “visual sense” into the three main Montessori-defined categories (as I learned them in my AMS-training). For a review on how the Sensorial work fits into a Montessori 3-6 classroom, check out my post here. You can also find book reviews on color – for beginners and more advanced youngsters.

From Jane Brocket's Circle, Stars, and Squares

From Jane Brocket’s Circle, Stars, and Squares

Ages 1.5 -3.5
Hoban, Tana. So Many Circles, So Many Squares. Greenwillow Books: New York, 1998.
As with most of Hoban’s books, this one features full-length, full-color photographs of various real-life items. Bicycles and car tires are used to express the shape of a circle, but no words are mentioned. Children (and their adults) will be the ones to seek out the shapes in this book. I don’t think this is the best book to introduce shapes, but it would work well if the Montessori metal insets or the geometric cabinet have already been presented. You will want to use this book as further reinforcement of the concept of shapes.
For Montessorians — Be wary of Hoban’s inclusion of oranges and grapes to represent circles. Use this book only with the very young (who aren’t ready to grasp solids) or once the difference between shapes and solids has been firmly established.

The inside of a paw-paw fruit, from the book, A Triangle for Adaora.

The inside of a paw-paw fruit, from the book, A Triangle for Adaora.

Ages 3 and up
Onyefulu, Ifeoma. A Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, 2000.
The real-life photographs of the African people (living their daily lives) makes this book a worthy choice for sharing with your young child. Thankfully, Onyefulu’s story flows nicely and helps to reinforce the various shapes that can be found in any environment. Adaora’s cousin helps her to find a triangle so that she will resume eating the paw-paw fruit. She had stopped eating it because it was such a pretty star shape. As Adaora’s cousin helps her to see all sorts of shapes, the readers are introduced to everyday life in presumably, Nigeria (as that is where the author is from). There are a number of local foods mentioned which would provide a great opportunity to introduce the children to the continent of Africa and some of its specialties (paw-paw fruit, cassava roots and plantains). This is a beautiful book that is worth sharing.

A Triangle for Aadora

A Triangle for Adaora by Ifeoma Onyefulu

My local library didn’t have the following book -and I have far exceeded my ILL requests for the year- but Shapes in Buildings looks as if it would blend in nicely to a reality-based way of learning.

Ages 4 and up
Emberley, Ed. The Wing on a Flea: A Book About Shapes. Little, Brown & Company: Boston, 2001.
Of all the artists to produce a book on shapes, no one knows better than Ed Emberley. His Go Away, Big, Green Monster book screams “shapes” without explicitly saying so and many of his instructional drawing books break down complicated objects in a collection of shapes. Therefore, his actual book on shapes starts with a supposition – “a triangle could be the wing on a flea or the beak on a bird; if you’ll just look and see.” His silly pictures continue to feature exaggerated shapes (an admiral’s hat, a piece of confetti, a map or eyes in the dark). Parents will note that the rectangle he mentions looks a lot like a square (which is technically a rectangle), but may confuse young children who are learning otherwise.

Ed Emberley's Shapes

Ed Emberley’s The Wing on a Flea.

Though I didn’t have a chance to review it, the book A Cloak for the Dreamer might be a good fit for an elementary classroom read aloud. Along those same lines, the book Grandfather Tang’s Story tells a fictionalized story based on tangram shapes. It’s quite appropriate for five-year-olds as they extend their work with tangrams (and constructive triangles).

Ages 4 and up
Brocket, Jane. Circles, Stars, and Squares: looking for shapes. Millbrook Press: Minneapolis, MN, 2013.
Brocket’s brightly colored photographs make this a book you will want to share with young children. Her proof of concept is especially useful as she clearly makes the distinction between flat shapes and solid shapes. Obviously, this book should be accompanied by hands-on activities that encourage children to simultaneously create their own shapes and solids. Montessorians should take careful note as the second shape that Brocket introduces is an oval, which looks quite similar to a Montessori ellipse.  So, do your research and make sure you aren’t confusing your kids (or yourself)!

Jane Brocket's view on solids.

Jane Brocket’s view on solids.

Ages 4 and up
Hoban, Tana. Cubes, Cones, Cylinders and Spheres. Greenwillow Books: New York, 2000.
This book features brightly-colored photographs that showcase geometric solids that we see in our everyday world. Traffic cones, bubbles, drums, dice and a globe are just some of the subjects featured in this book. This book is a great resource to use after a presentation on select geometric solids. Allow the children to apply their own knowledge of solids and ask them to keep track of other “solids” that they see on their way home. This book contains no words, so the resulting “answer” will provide a great starting point for a circle time discussion.

Ages 4 and up
Bryant, Jen. Georgia’s Bones. Illustrated by Bethane Andersen. Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers: Grand Rapids, MI, 2005.
“As a child, shapes often drifted in and out of Georgia’s mind.” Our story begins as we are introduced to celebrated artist, Georgia O’Keefe’s way of viewing the world. She is pictured as a young teenager gathering everyday objects – sticks, flowers, stones, leaves – to bring home and gaze upon them because they bring her pleasure. The story follows O’Keefe as she grows up to become an artist who was interested in the beauty of everyday objects. The text is short and simple and the drawings are soft and lovely, but it is Georgia’s own story of seeing different perspectives that will draw children and adults alike. Of course, you could also use this book during an art discussion with older students when discussing the concept of different perspectives and the science of observation.

Georgia's Bones

Georgia’s Bones

Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Systems

In my AMS-certified Montessori training, I learned that the very young child begins his Sensorial work by concentrating on the “systems” shelf. The work on these shelves are sorted into three prominent systems (sorting, matching and grading). All of these systems are found throughout the different tenets of the classroom shelves, but show up prominently in the Sensorial area of the classroom.

The Button Box

The Button Box

In presenting book reviews of Sensorial topics, I realized that I had jumped right into colors without really discussing the primary Sensorial work of a very young child – sorting. This work would occur at the same time as the beginning work in colors, or for a very young child (2.5 – 3 years-old), this might be one of the first places that they are brought to within the classroom.

Ages 4 and up
Reid, Margarette S. The Button Box. Illustrated by Sarah Chamberlain. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, 1990.
When visiting his grandmother, a young boy gets to play with her special box of buttons. He enjoys swirling them around and sorting them by color, size, material and purpose. Although this book is not a primer on how to sort, the boy displays a number of ways that he sorts some of the buttons he finds in the box.  The text is short, but concise a,nd introduces a number of unusual buttons (i.e. shoe buttons from long ago) which should start a great discussion at circle time. Extensions could lead to a discussion of other places that the children have seen buttons or sorting exercises. In addition, this book might make a good transition for those children who are ready to learn how to sew a button, as it includes a brief history of how the use of buttons has evolved over the years.

Although I didn’t have a chance to review it, the book Sorting at the Market by Tracey Steffora seems to fit a reality-based criteria and it might just help your child notice new things at the supermarket!

The Button Box

The Button Box

Marzollo, Jean. I-SPY: A School Bus. Photographs by Walter Wick. Scholastic, Inc.: New York, 2003.
The I-Spy books are quite well-known and delight users of all ages. I can still remember clambering for the current Where’s Waldo book as an elementary and middle school student. Although, Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo’s traditional I-Spy books contain a riddle to be deciphered, Scholastic has produced a simpler version which is just perfect for helping a young, pre-reading child to match in an abstract way. Be sure to begin with physical matching and then move on to matching with pictures. Once object to object matching has been practiced, use this book in a small group or snuggle up with a wiggly preschooler and refine your visual discrimination skills.

Look for the "easy readers" for a young child.

Look for the “easy readers” for a young child.

Children can "match" the pictures from the left to the right. I've also seen this type of work in the Language section of a Montessori classroom.

Children can “match” the pictures from the left to the right. I’ve also seen this type of work in the Language section of a Montessori classroom.

Ages 4 and up
Dillon, Jana. Sasha’s Matrioshka Dolls. Ills. by Deborah Nouse Lattimore. Farrar, Straus and Giroux : New York, 2003.

This lengthy tale features Sasha, an upper elementary-aged girl who lives and work with her grandfather, Boxer. He carves wooden boxes and Sasha paints them. As this is a story of peasants in late nineteenth century Russia, Sasha is not in school and the family is poor. This tale tells the story of how the Russian nesting dolls came to be. It all started because Sasha’s one and only toy (a straw doll) was ripped apart by mice. Her grandfather wanted to make her a replacement and carved her a wooden doll, whom Sasha named Matrioshka, little mother. But, it was too small and the mice carried it away into their den, so Boxer rescued it and decided to build another one to “protect” the little doll. And, the story continues until there are seven dolls and everyone in the neighborhood wants to buy one. A great way to introduce these dolls and the Russian culture. An author’s background note is included.


Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Colors :: Part 2

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

What better way to learn the names of colors than to use some paint! Outside, with newspapers, of course.

What better way to learn the names of colors than to use some paint! Outside…with newspapers, of course.

In Part One of the Sensorial color series, I focused on books for a younger audience. The books in this post are more appropriate for those children who are familiar with the concept of colors and know most of their names. They will be thrilled to point and identify the colors as you turn each page…anything to prolong the bedtime routine, right?

Ages 3.5 and up
Stockland, Patricia M. Red Eyes or Blue Feathers.: A Book About Animal Colors. Illustrated by Todd Ouren. Picture Window Books: Minneapolis, Minnesota: 2005.
Although the content and language are more appropriate for a one-on-one setting, this book would still be a good choice for circle time in a primary classroom. Each two-page spread features a brightly-colored animal with a brief description of how the animal’s coloring helps it to hide, hunt or attract a mate. The descriptions are short enough and the paper-cut illustrations are big enough (and bright enough) to hold a younger child’s attention. Use this book when discussing colors, animal adaptations or even when making paper-cuts in art (for an older audience).


Ages 3.5 and up
Tullet, Hervé. Mix it Up! Chronicle Books: New York, 2014.
This simple, yet interactive little book will delight those young children who need to touch the pages during storytime. This hands-on book invites them to “touch” the paint on the page and mix it to make new colors. The colors on each page are smudges that resemble paint and it looks as if the paint was mixed by hand.  Obviously, this book is best read on a one-to-one basis, but one could also read this book in a small group setting where each child has a chance to participate. Perfect for pairing up with a lesson on primary and secondary colors.

IMG_0583 IMG_0582I have found that young children have a hard time making the distinction between primary and secondary colors, but they all enjoy mixing colors to make new ones. Another great hands-on lesson is to make different colored playdough. This could be a fun and informative “work” for the Sensorial shelf in a primary classroom.

I’ve heard good things about Tullet’s other book, Press Here. I also like the book Mouse Paint for an older audience – around six-years-old. At this point, they have a solid foundation between fantasy and reality and this story emphasizes the primary and secondary colors in a very silly way (white mice and a black cat). For your less verbal children, this creates a story of pictures in their head, which is often an easier way for them to remember new vocabulary.

Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Color

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

Sensorial materials from a primary classroom

Sensorial materials from a primary classroom

According to my AMS primary training, color is a part of the “visual” branch of the Sensorial materials. The visual materials include size, color and form (shape and solids). Many late three-and four-year-olds come into a classroom already knowing their colors. Occasionally, I see a student who has a hard time distinguishing between gray, black and brown and a young three-year-old may still be confused as to the names of colors. Color concept books are a welcome addition to the home and classroom.

Eager parents can start these books at home with their young child. You will be teaching them new concepts without having to do any formal lessons. If only we could learn everything that way! All of the books for this week are for very young children. The books next week will continue to discuss colors, but with a focus on finding new patterns within our world.

Ages 2 and up
Hoban, Tana. Is it red? Is it yellow? Is it blue?: an adventure in color. Mulberry Paperback Book: New York, 1978.
Although this book was published the year I was born, it is still a relevant and intriguing book. Young listeners will want to touch the circles of color that show up on each page while adults name them. This wordless book features photographs of colorful objects and everyday scenes. There are red and green apples, a line of brightly-colored cars and a gumball machine. At the bottom of each page, Hoban has included dots of color – to be found within each photograph. This book is best in a one-to-one setting, snuggled up with your two-year-old. They will delight in finding the colors in the everyday objects and you will happily name them over and over again.

Tana Hoban

Tana Hoban

Ages 2 and up
McMillan, Bruce. Growing Colors. HarperCollins Publishers. New York: 1988.
With large, bright photographs, this book displays the different colors of select fruits and vegetables. The color word is written in block text and filled with the featured color. For example, RED is shown in red, with a full-size , enlarged picture of raspberries. PURPLE has a detailed picture of purple string beans. On the opposite page, a small picture of the bean plant is also shown. This book is perfect for a circle time discussion of fruits and vegetables and naming the colors. The only text is the color word, allowing young children the ability to focus on the crisp pictures.


Bruce McMillan’s Growing Colors

Ages 2.5 and up
Hopgood, Tim. Wow! Said the Owl. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux : New York, 2009.
A semi-realistic story, which follows a little owl as she stays awake one day to discover all of the wonderful colors in the landscape. The owl does not speak, other than to say “Wow” which could be translated into “ooh” by the teacher. A simple story introduces the concept of color and encourages youngsters to look for the color in their everyday world.

Ages 2 and up
Murphy, Stewart J. Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom! Illustrated by Chris Demarest. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 2000.
Kevin’s little sister, Molly, really wants to play with his red, yellow and blue cars, but Kevin is afraid that she will break them. Kevin also has a certain way he likes to line up his cars. So when Molly sneaks upstairs to play with Kevin’s cars, her mother finds her and helps her to put the cars away – but in the wrong order. Happily, Molly continues to play and her dad sees her and helps Molly to line up the cars in a completely different, but still incorrect, pattern. Savvy children will notice and remember the different patterns, but the author does not point it out. In the end, Molly remembers the order of Kevin’s cars and neatly lines them up before returning downstairs to join the family.

Stuart Murphy's Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom book of colors and patterns.

Stuart Murphy’s Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom book of colors and patterns.




Montessori :: Sensorial Materials and Books

Word Map of Montessori Sensorial Materials

Word Map of Montessori Sensorial Materials

In my AMS Montessori Primary training, we were introduced to the classroom materials in the same way as a new student of three. We began with the Practical Life section of the classroom and moved on to the Sensorial section. As with many aspects of my life, I believe that books should play a key role in a child’s life. Not only does it encourage reading, but it can often reinforce a concept. As a Montessori teacher, I was looking for reality-based picture books that I could read to my class that would reinforce the concepts they were absorbing. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the time to find and review a large number of subject-specific books. My students were read to often, but it would have been nice to have a guide for specific topics. This is my attempt to remedy that problem. You can find the overview of Practical Life book reviews here.

Next week, I plan to tackle the large subject of visual learning. We’ll start with color.

Montessori Octahedron Mobile


Ironically, this was the second Montessori book I ever read – before I had children. I was weeding the education section at the community college library where I worked and stumbled across a lot of books written by or about this person called Montessori.

I opened up these books to determine if the information was still accurate and ended up checking out most of them to take home and read at leisure (definitely before I had kids). After discovering that she had been around for quite a while, I had a hard time understanding how I could have missed Dr. Montessori’s writings. I hold a minor in secondary education and we had discussed Piaget and his writings ad nauseam. Piaget was a student of Montessori – why were her observations omitted?

Needless to say, I was hooked on this “new” way of thinking – respect the child, follow their interests and address them in a non-condescending manner. I knew this was how I wanted to raise my own children.

And while I had Montessori in mind when Ronan was born, we did not implement the ideas in the book. I hadn’t found my creative side yet- it was dormant beneath years of status quo – and so we didn’t implement anything Montessori in our home until Ronan was about 20 months-old.

With Calum, we hope to start a bit earlier. He’s been enjoying his Montessori-inspired fish mobile, but it is time to change his mobile and once again I came across Montessori From the Start. So, this weekend I made him a new mobile :: octahedrons.


Here’s what the book says about baby mobiles:
“For the first few months, a mobile over the child-bed helps to develop the baby’s abilities to explore     the world visually. The baby gradually develops focus on a moving object, tracking of an object, and     perception of color and depth. The mobile is changed every two weeks or so to accommodate the         infant’s habituation to that particular mobile and to match her progressive visual development.             Hence, the first mobile portrays flat, black and white geometric shapes and reflected light from a         glass sphere. Subsequent ones are introduced in ordered sequence: three octahedrons of colored         metallic paper, ideally each in a primary color; five Styrofoam balls covered with embroidery thread     in gradations of the same color and hung in ascending order from darkest to lightest; stylized paper     figurines of light metallic colored paper that move with the slightest current of air; and finally,             stylized wooden figures painted in pastel colors” (Montessori From the Start, p. 44)


It seems that this mobile is should have been introduced a month ago for Calum, but I think he can still appreciate the shape and colors. The next mobile is this one, and I think I just might cheat and buy this lovely version at Etsy.