Friday, November 27, 2020

Another busy term!

We have had a busy term with learning in all areas of the curriculum. Here are some photos of our learning in the past few weeks:

Exploring what shapes we can make with right angled triangles

Beach clean up

Planting herbs

Tree art

Examining the parts of a seed

More tree art

Doing triple digit division

Finding the relationship between diameter and circumference

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Cooperation and Collaboration

Recently we had a maths professional in to observe our children solving mathematical problems. Our students love solving these challenges and will either do so independently or in self-formed groups. It was wonderful to see the students work together to find the solution to this particular problem. The maths professional commented on the respectful, collaborative way the students talked to each other. How they used questioning skills and reasoned with each other in a harmonious way. The delight on their faces when they solved the problem after wrestling with it for some time was plain to see.

Cracking the Code


Saturday, September 19, 2020


 Tuakana-teina is part of traditional Māori society where older experts help those who are younger or less experienced. Montessori classrooms with mixed age levels allow for such interactions spontaneously. Our classroom is no exception and as the year has progressed, it has been great to see the nurturing relationships between older and younger students. Here are some pictures of tuakana-teina in action. 

I had planned to give a decimal lesson to a couple of students, however, two other students offered to do the lesson for me. I looked on in amazement at how engaged all the students were and how the child who was being given the lesson exclaimed: "I finally get decimals!"

Students also have the opportunity to eat and do fitness activities together. It is heartwarming to see older and younger students enjoying their time in the sunshine together. 

Learning square roots has been a favourite in the classroom recently. It all started with an older student asking for a review lesson. Before long, the younger students were intrigued. Even though these younger ones may not fully understand the concept they do enjoy the experience of patterning and the tactile experience of the small pegs. One young child looked on and then proceeded to tackle the square root material with a little guidance from me. You can see the look of engagement and concentration on his face as he completes the square to find the square root.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Movement and Light

 Over the past couple of months, we have been exploring the concept of Movement in our classroom. Our focus was on the movement of the Earth around the Sun and how this is connected to life on our planet. 

Younger children enjoyed learning about our calendar - where the names for the days of the week and the months of the year originated. During our weekly French lessons, they also learned the connection between French calendar names and our Anglo-Saxon calendar names. 

Making a shadow clock

We also explored day and night as well as phases of the moon. The children made shadow clocks and we connected this with learning to tell time in the classroom. It was fun going across to the school hall to explore the aspects of light on a darkened stage. 

Demonstrating phases of the moon

Older students were fascinated by how the human eye works and they embarked on a self-directed project to explore this further. 

A spontaneous project on how the human eye works

Presenting the eye project to the class

As a class, we discussed topics such as light and shadow, reflection, refraction as well as the opacity of various objects. 

Making shadow drawings

Exploring opaque, transparent and translucent objects

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Some Learning Pre-Lockdown

 Before the recent lockdown, our classroom was a hive of activity. Here are some photos of our learning.

Single digit division with Racks and Tubes

Finding the cube of a binomial

Using knowledge of the Binomial Cube to label the parts of a Trinomial Cube

Presenting research on human sight

Learning the names of male and female domestic animals

Finding and labelling places in Europe

Doing abstract addition

Using materials to solve a math challenge

Giving directions to a friend to navigate a route to hidden treasure

Making puppets for a puppet show

Friday, July 24, 2020

Big Work

"Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence." - Maria Montessori.

Montessori guides often refer to "Big Work" in Montessori classrooms. Big Work has  a number of characteristics.

  • is purposeful
  • satisfies an inner urge a child has
  • involves exactness and precision
  • lights up the eyes
  • creates flow
  • engages deep interest
  • answers questions and generates further questions
  • connects to something bigger
  • is spontaneous

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing Big Work in action in the classroom. I had told the children the story of our Days of the Week and where some of the names originated from. To encourage the older students to explore further, I gave them the option to either do a mini research project on one day of the week or the Vikings. To help guide their investigation I set up some minimum criteria (e.g. How did the Vikings influence our calendar? What is the history of one of the days of the week?).

Some of the boys in the classroom eagerly set to work on a project on the Vikings. Before long they had taken out paper to draw their own pictures of Viking longboats and weapons. Each day the boys came in, they worked constantly on the project. They scoured the storeroom to find objects to create a Viking helmet, sword, shield and a model of a Viking dwelling (complete with fire). They pored over books they had brought in from home and carefully drew and labelled maps to indicate where the Vikings came from. To share their findings, they took photos of their drawings and presented them as part of a Powerpoint presentation which they had researched and written up in their own words.

Three weeks later they were ready to present their project. All the children sat with rapt attention (including a row of younger boys who were enthralled with what their role models were capable of). One could hear a pin drop as the older boys shared their learning with deep pride. 

This was big work in action! The children were actively engaged in their learning, much of it was spontaneous, it took time and it connected to something bigger (e.g. the fundamental needs of humans and the influence of past cultures on our present one). It also was a great example of how older students can act as role models and mentors in a Montessori classroom. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Mathematics in the Second Plane of Development

In the preschool setting, it is not uncommon for tamariki to return to the same piece of material over and over again in a quest for the satisfaction that comes from mastering that particular piece of equipment. 

During the Second Plane (6 to 12 years), children usually enjoy more challenge and variety in their work choices. They are often inspired by work that other children are doing and are keen to move onto abstraction of mathematical concepts. However, it is important that children are able to consolidate learning, otherwise they could miss out on fundamental building blocks and end up with 'gaps' in their understanding. 

Learning basic addition and subtraction facts, identifying fractions, and practising times tables help students to use their working memory on solving more complicated mathematical problems rather than spending valuable mental energy on these operations.  However, since children in the Second Plane are less enamoured with repetition, how can these skills be practised whilst still keeping students engaged?

I have found that variety is the spice of life in our classroom. Students complete a number of different mathematical tasks which offer challenge but also include valuable practise of skills. Here are some examples:

Addition Snake Game

This student is adding and exchanging coloured beads for bars of ten golden beads. Later he is shown how to check his answer by laying the coloured beads next to the golden beads. The student starts to see combinations which add up to ten.

Other students have been introduced to ratio. They started off comparing different ratios using coloured play dough and coloured water. 

Mixing blue and yellow play dough in different ratios

Mixing blue and yellow coloured water in different ratios

The results

Later, students were ready to apply their knowledge to solving ratio problems. The challenge of this work keeps students engaged but all the while they are practising multiplication and division facts as well as refining their fraction knowledge. 

Ratio problems

Using drawings to solve ratio problems

Each week we have two different levels of math challenges. Here two students are solving the following word problem using drawings:

Solving the math challenge

These math challenges provide engagement for the children as well as opportunities to reinforce multiplication and division facts and fraction knowledge. The Montessori classroom offers children the gift of time to explore and understand different mathematical concepts without being rushed off to the next task. 

There are numerous other ways children can reinforce mathematical learning in our classroom. Playing games with other children, observing others working, returning to familiar equipment, etc. Maths is fun and engaging in our classroom!

Practising doubles facts

Using the checkerboard to reinforce learning times tables