Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Review :: A Force for Good

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.

Force_4_good_bookI know this book doesn’t seem to fit the mold of ‘science education’ or a ‘Montessori lifestyle,’ but stick with me – I promise I’ll make it work.

Toward the end of Dr. Montessori’s life, she began to talk more and more about educating children in an effort to achieve peace. She felt that through education, man could become fulfilled and then we could work toward a peaceful world. If you think about the context in which she lived – WWI and WWII – you can only imagine how strongly she must have wanted to find a solution to conflict.

It is this desire for peace – through education – that ties the above-mentioned book to a Montessori lifestyle. Part story and part biography, Goleman’s book walks us through the many facets of the current Dalai Lama’s way of thinking. Obviously he values compassion, understanding and forgiveness, but his comments eerily echo those of Dr. Montessori with regards to education. He feels that through compassion education we can open up communication and potentially avoid conflicts. World peace may truly be achieved if we can properly educate our children.

Of course, we need to begin with ourselves and be sure that we can identify our own emotions. As a Buddist monk, I imagine he’s had more practice than most of us, but this book shows how keenly interested he is in the science of being self-aware.

With an upbeat approach, Goleman recounts the numerous ways that the current Dalai Lama has made positive changes in our world. He also describes the ways in which the Dalai Lama delves deeply into scientific research, all to prove the value of his own mindful education. The result is a book full of hope – and a little despair – but with a positive vision for our future. It’s also a call to action and I am thankful for the reminder that I am part of a much bigger world.

 

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 Review :: Montessori Read & Write

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 Read and Write by Lynne Lawrence

Montessori Read and Write by Lynne Lawrence

For parents, Montessori teachers and all people who interact with young children
Lawrence, Lynne. Montessori Read & Write: A Parent’s Guide to Literacy for Children. Ebury Press: London, 1998.

Despite the 1980s clothing that permeates the photographs throughout the book, Lawrence’s book is quite up to date. She is a Montessorian and obviously cares deeply about staying true to Dr. Montessori’s original message, but she isn’t afraid to advocate for parents to “teach” their child to learn how to read and write. And, she isn’t afraid to suggest that a Montessori approach to learning is more important than the materials themselves. Many of the games and activities she mentions in her book are easily and inexpensively replicated. There is no need to run out and purchase an entire Montessori classroom’s worth of materials.

Many of Lawrence's suggested activities are easy to replicate at home.

Many of Lawrence’s suggested activities are easy to replicate at home.

I have a special attachment to this book as it furthered my understanding of the Montessori approach that only years of teaching and observing could have done.  To say that I was a bit overwhelmed during my Montessori training would be a colossal understatement. And, I already had a master’s degree! The initial training was crammed into a month-long summer seminar that ran from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Every day. For four and a half weeks.

At the time, my eldest son was only 20-months-old, so I was happy to have such a short time to have to worry about care. However, I was also trying to adjust to working parenthood and such a concentrated focus left me little time to reflect on my newly gained knowledge. That’s not a criticism of the training, more like a criticism of myself at the time. Even though I would go back and redo a few things during that time, I don’t regret my Montessori training in any way. It has helped me to become the person, parent, and teacher that I had hoped to be and it wouldn’t have happened if I was too worried about how to get it all done.

A chart of Dr. Montessori's observations on children's sensitive periods.

A chart of Dr. Montessori’s observations on children’s sensitive periods. Apologies for the bad picture!

That being said, when I was on my own and trying to make sense of the language component of a Montessori approach, I needed a bit more clarification. I didn’t have the luxury of having a lead teacher as mentor. I was the lead teacher, so I needed help and I needed help fast. Before the school year began.

Enter, Lynne Lawrence’s fabulous, easy to understand book on the language component of a Montessori classroom. As a Montessori teacher, I loved it for the straightforward way of explaining the sensitive periods and for having lots of charts and graphs that described (in general) the type of concepts a child had to work with to be ready for the next stage in learning.

From Montessori Read & Write by Lynne Lawrence. Increase concentration with other tasks.

From Montessori Read & Write by Lynne Lawrence. Increase concentration with other tasks.

Later, as a homeschooling parent, I loved that I could play a few verbal games, read lots of books and make some materials to use at home with my young children. The only true Montessori materials that I would recommend buying (rather than making) are the sandpaper letters. Trust me. I speak from personal experience. Buy these or these. You can thank me later.

So, this is less a review about what’s in the book and more a review that asks you to go out and find it and use it. Give it to new parents. Use it even if your child is attending preschool and, don’t worry if your child isn’t reading as soon as she implies in the book. Neither of my children love(d) the process of learning how to read. My eldest son, who is now almost ten, is a voracious reader. Voracious. He finishes books in a few hours (and then rereads them). But, he hated learning to read. So, don’t fret. They’ll get there.

So, here’s the kicker – unfortunately, this book is out of print. It was out of print when I found a used copy in 2007, but you can find old copies at Amazon. It’s worth it.

Children NEED choice. We all NEED choice.

Children NEED choice. We all NEED choice.

Book Review :: Batteries and Bulbs II

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.

From Batteries and Bulbs II - make a street light

From Batteries and Bulbs II – make a model street light

Ages 7 and up
Education Development Center. Batteries and Bulbs II: An Electrical Gadget Suggestion Book. Elementary Science Study. McGraw Hill: New York, 1969.
This very old, musty-smelling book has been loads of fun for me these past few weeks. In fact, as I picked it up from the library (on Interlibrary Loan – which means they had to borrow it from another library), the librarians were chuckling at my gleeful gasp as I grabbed it and started looking it over.

From the late 1960s

From the late 1960s

During the first week of my Tinkering class, my kids wanted to know more about electricity and batteries and how to make more things work. And I will admit, I am not a good “discover it by accident” kind of person. I like to have some resources and I like to try it the “safe” way and then I want to get at it and tinker. I am impatient. I’m trying to fix that. Truly.

This book and its predecessor, Batteries and Bulbs, were recommended by the Exploratorium as a resource for kids who were interested in learning more about circuits. Although I didn’t get to look at Batteries and Bulbs, this second book offers some extensions to our homemade circuit blocks. And, it has some really basic designs with items that would have been found in the 1960s – like creating a connection with a cut away piece from a tin can. (Oh, the Tetanus horrors)!

Love that there is NO mention of going to RadioShack for parts!

Love that there is NO mention of going to RadioShack for parts!

Since I wasn’t able to get Batteries and Bulbs I or II at my local library, I did pick out a few juvenile books on electricity. I found this book quite helpful. It was simple, but not boring, and nicely illustrated.

How to make a homemade bulb holder.

How to make a homemade bulb holder.

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.

SORTING
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

MATCHING
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.

GRADING
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.

 

Raising a Wild Child

A few weeks ago I was browsing the new book shelf at my local library (my favorite shelf, btw) and I came across the book, How to Raise a Wild Child. It’s written by Dr. Scott the Paleontologist (from Dinosaur Train). But, that’s not why I picked it up…I was quite intrigued by the title and while I think my boys are wild enough, I’m always interested in reading about how to help them become their own people while still respecting their surroundings. In fact, as I was checking it out, one of our local librarians commented that I could probably write the book…I’m not sure if that was a compliment or a criticism!

Our blooming Scarlet Hibiscus, a native Florida plant.

Our Scarlet Hibiscus, a native Florida plant which finally bloomed a few days ago!

As a big fan of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, I found a kindred spirit in Sampson’s book. His purpose is to foster a love of the outdoors within our children…and ourselves. Since it’s been almost nine years since I’ve read Louv’s book, I was happy to get a refresher – especially since we aren’t nearly as outdoors-oriented as I would like us to be.

Yet, as I was reading the book, I realized that we are doing many of the things that Sampson recommends. Since it’s blazing hot here right now, we aren’t “out” all that much, but we do a lot of observing. Last year, as part of my youngest son’s project, we planted a butterfly garden in our front yard, which is quite accessible from our large, air-conditioned front window. The kids will often sit – if only for a few minutes – and watch what’s going on outside. We have a family of bunnies that like to venture out in the morning and the hummingbirds are quite attracted to some of our nectar plants as well. Unwittingly, we had created a “sit place,” just like he mentions in the book.

Adding a butterfly garden - August 2014

Adding a butterfly garden – August 2014

We are also gardeners and compost our food waste, but I would like for us to have a better understanding of how connected we are to the the outside world. And, so this is the area that I am choosing to work on from the recommendations in this book. There are so many fabulous ideas and suggestions that you could become overwhelmed before even starting. So, I’m choosing one (especially since I’m not quite ready to allow them to explore the woods on their own).

I want to increase the attention that we pay to our “sit place.” Sampson recommends that we ask lots of questions and help our children to put themselves in the place of an animal that we observe. This is the one tiny step that I will implement in our home…inviting my children to sit with me and observe together. I will be asking more questions as to why the birds make so much noise in the morning and wondering why we’ve seen so many more snakes in our yard lately. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

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.