Now that we’re on our fourth week of the school year, students in Lower Elementary (both new and returning) have begun working with some of the traditional Montessori materials that they will be revisiting throughout their entire time in our classroom. A few examples of these essential works are:
The Montessori Puzzle Maps. Each continent (minus Antarctica) has its own puzzle map, with two corresponding “control” charts: one in which each country on the map is labeled, and one in which each country is left blank. Using the puzzle map itself, along with the two control charts and the individual country labels, students can complete this work in a variety of ways, depending on their prior experience and familiarity with the continent at hand. For example, one student might be asked to move the puzzle pieces onto the blank control map, then use the labeled control map to help him or her assign the right labels to the pieces they’ve just placed. Another student who is more familiar with the puzzle maps and the continents might be asked to place the puzzle pieces onto the blank control map and assign the country labels immediately, only getting out the labeled control map to check his or her work afterwards.
The Montessori Mathematics materials. The Albanesi Mathematics Curriculum, new to our classroom this year, helps provide a structured and easily-individualized pathway through learning basic Mathematics skills by using the classic Montessori materials. If you’ve observed students working in a Montessori classroom before, you’ve likely seen some of these materials: colored beads and bead bars, various checkerboards with tiles and/or markers as well as control charts, etc. Students in Lower Elementary are currently finishing up their Albanesi pre-assessments, and once they have done this, we are able to start them at a specific place in the curriculum and know that this is exactly where they are ready to start learning for the year.
Self-portraits. In Lower Elementary, students create a new self-portrait each month. This is a quiet, individual activity that the entire class works on at the same time, and it is astonishing to see how focused and intent our students become when they are working their hardest to capture themselves on paper. We encourage students to peek at themselves in a mirror if they need help remembering what they look like, and once they’re finished, we always ask each student if there’s anything they would like to tell us about how they’ve drawn themselves. Watching the progression of each student’s self-portraits over the course of the year (or even, in our classroom, over the course of three years) provides a wonderful perspective on how they are growing and coming to understand themselves as people.