Saturday, August 31, 2013

Montessori Primary Classroom Lesson on Using Spacers to Place Material Neatly on Shelves

This Montessori lesson used in our Primary classroom helps children to place material neatly on shelves by using a spacer, a technique that I have recently introduced to my students.

This year in our primary Montessori classroom (ages 3 through 6), I thought that block spacers would be a helpful tool to keep the shelves from looking too cluttered, especially in our abundant sensorial area.  Using spacers is a technique that not only can help with keeping things tidy, but can help students to be more mindful that the material on the shelves has a special place.  Further more, this makes for a great lesson that the kids can enjoy in order to help care for the environment. 

 A lesson will definitely be necessary, but I would recommend for teachers to prepare the shelves ahead of time with this technique in order to decide what type of spacer will work best.  The size of your spacer will depend on how far you want your material to be spaced out.  Try out different building blocks as spacers to figure out what works best on your shelves and how much space you actually have to work with...

Before the kids arrive to circle time, shift some of your material on a shelf so that it is not evenly laid out.  In the lesson below, I chose the cylinder boxes.

Lesson on using Block Spacers
Point out to the children how the cylinder boxes on the shelves are not evenly placed on the shelf.  You could also mention that they look cluttered and show how it will might be difficult to pick up the box if another one is up against it.  Take your block spacer and place it against the left end of the shelf that you are rearranging and make it flush with the edge of the shelf, like the image below.  Slide the 1st cylinder box up against the block and toward the edge of the shelf.  Carefully show the kids how you can place your fingers on either end and slide the block spacer out without moving the cylinder box.
Next, gently place the cylinder block on the other side of the 1st cylinder box.  Show how you can make the block spacer flush with the edge of the shelf and then slide the 2nd cylinder box very gently up against the spacer.   Making sure that the 2nd cylinder box is flush with the edge of the shelf and spacer, you show the children that the material is flush with each other by swiping your fingers across the box and block.  Use your fingers to carefully slide the block out from in between the two boxes.  Be sure to mention how careful and slow you must be so that you don’t bump the boxes out of place. 

Repeat the technique with the rest of the boxes until your shelf is in order.   Once each box is evenly placed on the shelf with plenty of space in between, you can share a sigh of relief and mention how nice and neat everything looks on the shelf.

We used a spacer for the cylinder boxes on the top shelf and another spacer on the bottom shelf. If you look closely, I just left the spacers available on the shelves for easy access.  

You can explain to the kids how this helps keep the material in order and that it also helps to grab each box carefully from the shelf without moving other material out of place.  As for how the material is displayed, I like I like to bring the material to the edge of the shelf, because it is much easier to see the material, and I usually explain this to the child with a visual:  I might push some material way to the back of a deep shelf to show them how it’s not as easy to see or notice the material when it is pushed so far back.  

I tell my students that spacers are completely optional and that they can also use their eyes to try to line material up.  So far the spacers have been a good way to start the year off to help children to get to know the order of the classroom.  I only use spacers in the sensorial area at the moment and do not find it necessary in areas such as practical life and art, so it all depends on what kind of material you are using and how you want items to appear on the shelves. 

I hope this was useful advice to other teachers out there looking for ways to keep their classrooms in order.

Thanks for reading along and please drop a line and share with me any comments or suggestions!


Snack Time Presentation for Toddlers in a Montessori Environment

This snack time lesson was presented to students ages 1.5 to 2.5 at our Montessori school.  During the beginning of the school year, there is a lot to introduce to new students who are just learning how to help themselves.  Before we can expect them to prepare their own snack, we show them how to carry items on their own such as glasses, plates and trays.  It may take many lessons before we should expect them to completely help themselves.  This is just one approach that we like to use with children who are just being introduced our Montessori environment:

During the first week, we give simple lessons at circle time including how to carefully carry a glass plate with food to a table from the snack shelf.  Next, we give lessons on carrying a glass of water from the snack shelf to the table.  We show the kids where to place their plates, napkins, and glasses on their table mats.  After lessons have been given, we give the children the opportunity to begin the process of helping themselves.  It may be necessary to serve their snacks to them for the first week as you are getting to know the abilities of your age group.

 Once the kids have had some lessons, a teacher prepares snacks on glass plates placed on a shelf that is several feet to several yards away from the tables that they will be eating at.  After our morning circle time, the kids are excused one by one to find a set at the tables.  Once all of our students are seated at their tables, we all sing "thanks for food," and then children are excused two at a time to walk up to the snack shelf and carefully carry their plates to their table.  Of course, we have demonstrated how to carefully carry the plates to their tables prior to asking them to do so, as well as how to push their chairs under the table and so forth.  Once these children return to their seat with their plates, they carefully place their plates on a table mat.  Before sitting down, they may return to the snack shelf to take a glass of water.  The water is already poured into the glasses for them and they have previously had lessons on carrying glasses filled with water.  Once they carefully bring their water to the table and place it in the appropriate spot on their table mat (which is yet another lesson that they would have prior to helping themselves to the snack shelf), then they sit down and enjoy their snack.  Lessons on pouring are also given with small pitchers so that each child may pour more water for themselves if they want more.

This is just one approach to introducing snack time to youngsters.  In our primary class, the kids learn quickly to serve themselves completely.

I hope this helps.  Enjoy your snack!