Invasion of the Montessori Mice

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I LOVE Montessori materials for various reasons – but there is one drawback that made me never use them in the classroom: Montessori needs space. Lots of it. And then even more. (Much more than what my classroom allows me to set aside). So after a few years of longing to find a way I managed to come up with these seet creatures: Montessori mini lessons in mouse format.

Recently I have moved – and thus taken over a new class at a new school. This means I now teach 32 children aged 1 to 6 years from a troubled, very low-income neighborhood. More than half of my class are language learners, some with severe behavioral and attention challenges, a growing number or refugees. Under these circumstances I chose to really dive into self-directed learning – and Montessori seemed to be the thing to go for.

There is just this one problem: I don’t have any space to set aside. (Okay, today, after 4 months of working there, I convinced my one colleague to set aside 2 metre wall space for one shelf – but knowing about school finances I know it will likely take another half year to get it). So after thinking about ways to make individual learning possible: Here they come. My newly invented MONTESSORI MICE:

montemaus_1They aren’t much bigger than an adult hand each. But every single one holds a Montessori inspired mini lesson (all neatly stored away inside their drawstring bellies on hidden mouse tails – unable to be lost – ever).
Language, math, sensorial, cultural… I’m taken aback at not having discovered that potential before.

And the best point is: I could store them hanging on the wall (taking no space at all). Even now they all live in a pretty small box on a shelf I managed to set aside 🙂

These are the lessons so far:

montemaus_11Math – the 100 bead chain

Many of my children love counting – oftentimes not getting past 13, but really getting stuck past 20. Here’s a tool I can use to further their math skils. And my fit oldest children could even use it for simple calculations.

 

 

 

montemaus_5Math – the 20 bead chain

For all these that don’t yet get to 10 or 20. And to practise simple calculations and introduse the children to the ‘power of 5’.

 

 

 

 

montemaus_8Math – a replacement for the colored bead material
(shows growing number of beads: 1 green, 2 yellow, 3 green, 4…)

While some of my children can count quite well they fail to get past the ordinary quality of numbers – and mix up all the meanings numbers can have. (Some get upset every time I count the children in my class and their counting number doesn’t match their age: “I’m not 13, I’m 4 years old!”)

I hope this mouse will teach them that 2 doesn’t only mean age or “the 2nd in the row” but also a set amount of beads.

montemaus_4Language – vowels and “stretchy” consonants

This is the perfect material for my preschoolers: In addition to the vowels (red string) I chose the stretchy consonants (e.g. Mmmmmmm) and put them together. We are starting to play the “I spy” (Or “I know something”) game randomly pulling a letter. Later the mouse can be used for simple reading activities (am, on, in…).

 

 

montemaus_2Language – complete set of German graphemes

In accordance with the color coding of the previous mouse I made this mouse hold all the graphemes tyically used in the German languages: Vowels in red, consonants in yellow, umlauts in white and digraphs in green.

(And yes, while doing that I discovered there is much more to learn than I was ever aware of.)

 

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montemaus_10Language – storytelling

My class loves stories, both listening to fairy tales as well

as retelling them. I cannot even get close to printing and laminating as many kamishibai stories as we need. So here’s what i came up with instead:

The mouse holds beads of many different shapes and colors that can be used to tell and retell fairy tales or even think of new stories. It’s not strictly Montessori but still very much worth it.

montemaus_3Sensorial – replaces knobless cylinders

This mouse holds 10 beads in varying sizes – from 5cm in diameter to only 8mm in diameter. I’m still thinking of a way to make them “sortable” without always having to string and unstring them.

Currently I’m in favor of giving every single bead an own tail to be attached to.

 

 

montemaus_7Sensorial – feeling basic shapes

This mystery bag holds different shapes. Close your eyes and try to feel which one you hold in your hand. Pull it out of the bag and check if you were correct. At the moment my beads are a sphere, a triangle, a flower, a cube, a heart, a cylinder, a star and an egg.
As soon as I can find others I will try to replace them by more basic geometric shapes and spray paint them (preferably in gold 🙂 ).

 

 

montemaus_6Cultural – Geography – different stones.

This mouse holds some of my holiday treasures: 5 stones the tide has washed holes into. Give them to any child along with a magnifying glass and enjoy watching someone become a little scientist…

 

 

 

montemaus_9Cultural – time – the year chain

This is the one thing I dove into montessori for. The year chain holds one bead (I used my collection of pony beads) for every single day of the year, color coded by months. It shows the flow of the year, children can find holidays, their birthdays, the day they will start school….

 

 

 

One area I still want to go into growing my mouse family is the practical life, especially lacing, buttoning and tying laces. So stay tuned for more Montessori ideas.

 


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