Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Montessori Bootcamp Day 3: Shelf Mapping

I absolutely was not going to blog today. In fact, I was fairly certain I wasn't going to work on my day three bootcamp today, either. I spent most of my day working with my younger son on scraping, sanding and priming our shutters. It is not a fun job but it was nice to spend the day with my 17 year old. We talked about his thoughts about the future. He's spending his senior year at a full day Culinary program and hopes to work in (or own) a restaurant some day.

Our assignment for today was to create shelf maps for the main areas of our classroom (Practical Life, Sensorial, Math and Language). To summarize, we were to take our Montessori albums and organize the topics into grids and then take those grids and figure out how each material should fit on the shelf.

For instance, in Math I tend to break things down into 1-10, 11-20, decimal system, operations and other (fractions, money, measurement, etc.). So in a classroom you may decide to have one shelf with works that teach 1-10, one shelf for 11-20, one for the decimal system, etc. Of course, we are not all lucky enough to have shelves perfectly matched to our materials break down and often have to modify. 

Thus, the shelf map. 

To be honest, for the most part I don't have too much trouble deciding how to arrange my shelves and how to order them. However, I have struggled with the arrangement of my Practical Life materials and so I thought I'd use today's assignment to work on that one area of the classroom since I was going to rearrange it before school starts anyway.

I did not have my Practical Life album at home and so I went to Montessori Research and Development and looked at the table of contents for their album. Frankly, I think I like how it is ordered better than my own.

Here's my sunroom workstation
Seemi recommended we outline using a table method (which ends up looking like a shelf cabinet!). I had a hard time using that method and went back to my old favorite: the list.

The above photo shows my list. I broke down the areas as they were presented in the table of contents. For those of you not familiar with Practical Life in Montessori, this is not an all inclusive list. These are the materials that would be put on the shelf. There are lots of other Practical Life lessons that we practice like grace and courtesy, how to carry a tray, how to roll a rug, etc. So this list just includes things that I will be creating for the shelf throughout the year. 

  • control of movement
    • whole hand
    • 3 finger
    • wrist
    • arm movement
  • care of environment
    • plant care
    • washing
    • polishing
    • dusting and sweeping
  • care of self
    • hand washing
    • dressing frames 
  • food preparation
    • snack
    • table setting
  • sewing
  • art

Above you can see my "final" map. Each rectangle represents a shelf cabinet or area. Here they are in list format:

  • Easel
  • sculpting table (play doh)
  • art shelf (with plants on top)
  • control of movement shelf
  • sewing and care of environment shelf
  • hand washing
  • dish washing
  • care of environment hanging - dusting, dust pan, broom
  • care of environment shelf 2 - spill tray, crumbers, floor cloths, window washing
  • food prep (I forgot to add it on the map, oops!)
I'm quite happy with the change. This will also really help when I'm changing out the classroom once per month.

Finally, a word about why I really wanted to change this area of the classroom. The exercises of Practical Life are to assist the child in four ways: order, concentration, coordination and independence. 

The Practical Life area of the classroom is a vital gateway to all the other areas of the classroom. Without concentration and coordination it is difficult for children to go on to the more advanced math and language activities like addition and handwriting. 

I have found that often Practical Life exercises are not used properly in the classroom. Some children hide away in this area when they are really ready for more advanced work. There are times when the materials are used in fantasy play in such a way that the materials have lost their original purpose. In other words, they are not assisting the children to integrate order or to help them concentrate. The children are not acting in a normalized way in this area of the classroom.

I believe one of the reasons is that I had not had Practical Life set up in such a way as to best serve the children. With my new map in hand, I am hoping to see some changes this coming school year.

I wonder if I have time to tackle my Language shelves now?

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