Monday, June 15, 2015

Montessori Material Free Visual Cards

Hello! It's summer and I've checked off most of the items on my initial summer 'to do' list. That list included things like my eldest son's graduation and awards ceremonies and graduation celebration. Things like cleaning the house and organizing my sewing/work room, finishing a quilt for my nephew who just got married this past weekend. I also read a few fun books to help recharge my aching brain. 

I find if I take a few weeks to work on the necessary jobs that have been put off during the school year combined with some much needed down time I am ready to get back to working on things for the upcoming school year. 

I was fortunate enough to attend the American Montessori Conference in Philadelphia in the spring. I completed the MACAR training (Montessori Applied to Children at Risk). This training was given by the Shelton School and focused on helping children at risk for learning difficulties. It was an amazing training. If you ever get the chance to see Joyce Pickering speak, do so.

It was during that training that they talked about visual schedules and their use in the classroom. I was very aware of visual schedules because we used them with our eldest son when he was young. For children on the autism spectrum, visual cues are often vital because they tend to be more attuned to visual than to auditory information. We used visual schedules and cards to help him learn routines like getting ready for school, work that needed completed (when we were homeschooling) and even to help him identify his feelings.

In the classroom there are often children who struggle to find and settle into work. If you are not familiar with the Montessori method, we refer to the materials on the shelf as work. The child is free to choose any work on which he has been given a lesson. He is also free to ask for a lesson if there is a work he would like to learn. A child is free to choose the work, take it to a table or rug, complete the work and return it to the shelf ready for the next friend. Dr. Montessori referred to this as 'freedom.' There is a caveat to the freedom of the child in the classroom. We teach the children to be respectful of the materials (clean up spills, don't bang things together, etc.), to be respectful of their peers (ask if you want to watch another friend, respect if that friend does not want to be joined, use kind words, etc.) and to respect themselves (come to school ready to learn, eat healthy food, exercise your body, etc.). These are the 'limits' in the classroom. 

So you see, the child has freedom with limits. 

For most children, providing lessons will give them the excitement to choose and work on new materials throughout the year. However, for children with learning differences or some other issues (emotional, foreign language speaker, etc) they may need more direct guidance in order to choose appropriate materials to work with during the day. This is where the visual schedules and cards can be of great help.

There are many places online that you can find generic pictures to make your own visual schedules. There are also programs like PECS that are very helpful (but very expensive). What I have not been able to find were pictures directly relating to the Montessori materials. So I decided to begin making some myself. 

I started with a few photos from each area of the classroom. I have included a free download of this work for you. Click on the link at the bottom of this post to grab it. There are two pages of photos and two pages of instructions.

Here is one way to put together a visual schedule for a child. What do you need? 
  • The Montessori Material Visual Card download (print photos on card stock)
  • File folder
  • sticky Velcro
  • scissors
Laminate the photos and the file folder.

 Cut out the photos and attach squares of Velcro to the middle of the back of each.
 Lay the cards onto the inside right of the file folder to judge where you need to place the Velcro.
 Attach two strips of Velcro (the opposite side to what you put on the photos, obviously) to the inside right of the file folder. 
 Place the cards on the left strip of Velcro in the order you want the child to complete the work.
 As the child completes the work, she can move the picture to the right strip of velcro.
 You can also label the two velcro strips. Left side would be 'To Do' and right side 'Completed' or whatever you think would best serve the child. You can also place a photo of the child on the front cover or just his name to make it more personal. 

Remember, the child will need assistance in learning how to use this material. You may want to start with just one or two materials at first. I have also included a card for the child to choose his own work. You may want to make a card that has a material that is high interest to the child as something to work toward.

I will continue to be blogging about ways to use this material and other ways to help children at home or in the classroom who need extra assistance to get the most out of their Montessori experience. Check back often!

Click here to download the Montessori Material Visual Cards 

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