Room 2 (Renee’s) Classroom Wishlist II

Classroom Wishlist

All teachers have wishlists, so when it was suggested that I post some of my colleagues’ (and not just my own), I jumped at the chance. It’s not just an opportunity to peek into the needs of each classroom, but it’s a fun way to learn about awesome new materials.

 ~~All wishlist items are linked through the images~~

Large Outdoor Blackboard Daisies from Nasco

These outdoor blackboard daisies hail from England (although, don’t worry, the link takes you to a retailer in the United States). I have to agree with Renee that they would be adorable and fun in her yard. Chalk art is one of those consistently enjoyable childhood past times, and the petals provide a perfect frame for their temporary yard art masterpieces.

Music Wall from Sam Houston Elementary School

If you’ve never visited a playground with an outdoor music station, you’re missing out. I love this homemade version that Renee provided, but I do know that some playground equipment companies, like Schoolscapes, Nature’s Instruments, and Meyer Design make prefabricated versions.

Outdoor Balance Scale from ABC Does

As soon as I saw this weighing (or balancing) station, I could picture Renee’s students using it! It has a simple design but is capable of providing endless fascination in the form of experimentation, especially for those exploring the world. If Renee gets nothing else on her list, I hope she gets this.

Colored Bead Chains with Rack from Pink Montessori

The Colored Bead Chains are an essential Montessori material. We use them to:

  • Reinforce linear counting
  • Introduce skip counting
  • Introduce multiples
  • Teach squares and cubes

This is some of the foundational work that prepares our students for understanding the more complex mathematical concepts they’ll face in their Upper Elementary, Middle and High School years.

Gift Certificate from Montessori Print Shop

Gift Certificate from Montessori Outlet

Of course, a teacher’s work is never finished, which is why gift certificates to Montessori Print Shop and Montessori Outlet are also on Renee’s wish list.

Happy last week of school!

A Peek at Student Showcase

All the classrooms are wrapping up the year with their stunning Student Showcase projects. I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer you a glimpse at the work in progress before you see the amazing final products tomorrow night. It’s an event not to be missed! If this post doesn’t convince you of that, maybe a few photos will…


Caterpillar and Ladybug Art at The Absorbent Teacher

Room 4 -Infant Program-Teacher:  Jeannette Luna

The students have been learning about nature and different habitats, so to finish out the school year, we have made beautiful toe-print caterpillars on leaf rubbings. Nature art at its best!

Parts of a butterfly book at The Absorbent Teacher

Room 3 -Pre-Kindergarten-Teacher: Jenny Lang

Room 3 has been learning about butterflies! Come by and see their awesome “parts of the butterfly” books.

Sewing Leaf Insets on Burlap at The Absorbent Teacher

Room 2 – Pre-Kindergarten-Teacher:  Renee Warner

Each student  is celebrating our Botany lesson with an embroidered leaf shape on burlap.  They are very proud of their work!

Room 1 -Pre-Kindergarten- Teacher:  Janet Lindquist Lang

Room 1 has been studying visualization through the camera lens and students are proudly displaying their photography work. Stop by and discover!

Dinosaurs by Room 6 at The Absorbent Teacher

Room 6 -Lower Elementary -Teacher:  Liz Cossairt

Our Dinosaur Dioramas are a window into the three periods of the Mesozoic Era.  You will agree: the dinosaurs and murals are amazing!

Clay California Missions at The Absorbent Teacher

Room 8 -Upper Elementary-Teacher:  Ruby Cossairt

Following their study of  the Missions, students have created clay models of the Santa Barbara Mission.American History Table at The Absorbent Teacher

Room 9 -Middle School

Teachers: Libby Hawkins & Kirsten Dalto

The Middle School has prepared Living Statues from the American Revolution. They have chosen significant figures from this time period to learn about.  Ask them their name and watch them come alive!


Art – Colleen McDougal

See the amazing robots the children have made from recycled materials!

Art – Vic Schiro

Mr. Vic’s goal is to advance the children’s innate curiosities and observations of the natural world through the use of high-quality watercolor materials augmented with oil pastels.  The children learn the basics of color (the color wheel) and grow their technical skills throughout the school year. Come see the beautiful watercolors!

Cooking – Sara MacCracken

Thanks to a gracious donation from Driscoll’s we have been cooking & baking with lots of berries! We made raspberry blondies, blackberry breakfast cookies & raspberry sorbet. Today we are featuring dinosaur cookies with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Eat em’ up!

Animal Husbandry –  Stan Schneider

Students will be walking around this evening with  Amber (one of our miniature horses), and Franky and Billy, our pygmy goats.

Garden –  Jon Ellis

Samples of produce from the school garden are available.  Talk to Jon about his vision for the future of the MSO garden and how the curriculum is presented to our students.

Sign Language – Lisa Batchelder-Hetrick

This year the children in Rooms 1,2,3, and 6 have been learning the basics of A.S.L. We have had lots of fun learning through the use of songs, stories, games and activities.

Please join us:

5:00-7:00 on Friday, June 10

End-of-2016 Classroom Wishlist for Room 9 (Middle School!)

End-of-Year Classroom Wishlist

The Middle School’s wishlist is, perhaps, a little different for those of you who are looking for the traditional Montessori items. The classroom has an entirely different flavor from any Early Childhood room and, of course, their needs are different. Take a look at some of the items showing up on their end-of-year wishlist:

Timeline of American History Research Cards

ETC Montessori, as I’ve mentioned before, is an excellent resource for those working with the upper grades. When we visited their booth at the conference in the spring, my Middle School colleague was excited to hear that they would be expanding their M/S emphasis and publishing some of their work as iBooks. The American History Research Cards pictured above are one such item. I love the idea! It makes the material more affordable and easily accessible. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a manipulative like the working Timeline of American History:

or the American Presidents nomenclature cards:

One of the hardest parts of teaching the writing process is teaching students how to outline. Once the thoughts start flowing, the next step is organizing them. Reading Manipulatives has created a work designed to help students develop this skill, first by practicing with provided thoughts, and then moving, step by step, toward creating an outline using the framework.

Outlining Manipulatives

Clocca Concepts is a small company I discovered at the annual Montessori Conference the year before last, when I purchased their Punctuation Boxes. They make a few other materials for very specific skills, one of which has caught our Middle School Math teacher’s eye–their Coordinate Graph Curriculum:

The Coordinate Graph Curriculum includes a 19”x19” coordinate graph, 2-colored wooden markers, 3-level command cards, and nomenclature cards. This curriculum provides students and teachers with a hands-on approach to understand and practice those concepts.

That’s it for Middle School. Their needs are few (and many)! Look out for more end-of-year wishlist posts from my fellow MSO teachers.

See anything that strikes your fancy?

End-of-2016 Classroom Wishlist for Room 8

End-of-Year Classroom Wishlist

One last wish list before summer! In my continual quest to improve my classroom and my teaching, I’m always on the lookout for inspiring new material. In March, you may recall, I went to the American Montessori  Society Conference in Chicago. I purchased a few items and added three (four? five?!) times that many to my wishlist. This year, I also finally invested in a personal laminator. BEST DECISION EVER!

Original Buddha Board

I’ve wanted a Buddha Board in my classroom since forever, but because I’m doing Japan for Summer Camp, this really seems like the time to invest. The board allows the user to paint with water, which means the image will disappear once it dries. It’s a practice in letting go, impermanence and all of those life skills which are challenging for children and adults.

Complete Set of Control Charts for the Biome Puzzles

This year, I was able to invest in Waseca’s new Biome Stencils and, while I’d love to get the accompanying Puzzle Map Cabinet, it clocks in at around $600. That’s just slightly outside of my budget. In the meantime, I’d like these control charts for the Biome Puzzles. They’ll just bring us one step closer to completing our collection.

3-Part Card Pouches from Montessori Materials by Request

I recently made a set of 3-Part Cards for the California Missions and I’d love to have a set of these pouches to keep all of my nomenclature material. I actually saw them at the conference and really liked them. (Of course, mine would be all red!) The woman who makes these is actually AMI trained and she does special orders. I’d also love the pouches for my Maitri Learning Land and Water cards.

Number Line Extensions from ETC Montessori

As the work itself explains, we’re learning more every day about the important role the imaginary number line plays in math, especially when students are making the leap from concrete to abstract. And since many of my Upper Elementary students are focusing on just that transition, I was very excited to see this new Number Line Extension work from ETC Montessori at the Conference this year. Even better, the number lines work with both whole numbers and fractions.

It’s been a wonderful school year. I’m always sad and excited to see a year end, but I know I’ll see most of you after the summer! Look out for more end-of-year wishlist posts from my fellow MSO teachers.

See anything that strikes your fancy?

Material Critique: Math Word Problems from Montessori 123

I am very pleased to be able to partner with Montessori123 for a product review today. They very generously provided me with their Math Word Problem Collection of Five Sets, Levels 1 and 2. Take a look:


Here’s the description from the website:

These story problems will sharpen your students reading and math skills at the same time. This collection includes five different sets (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and problems requiring two steps). Each operation includes twenty different cards, individually numbered for record keeping purposes.

The cards are illustrated to make the work more inviting. An answer chart is included to encourage independent work.

The level two set features word problems based on factual information with larger Montessori123 Word Problemsnumbers.

The level one set features situations that children are familiar with in their own lives.

What the description doesn’t tell you:

  • The cards are color-coded:
    • Red–Addition
    • Green–Subtraction
    • Gold–Multiplication
    • Blue–Division
    • Black–Multi-step problems
  • Each word problem card is about 2 x 2 in. The control (answer) cards are 4 x 7 in.


Whenever I get a new material, as excited as I am to share it with my students, my first Poppin Business Card Holderconcern is always how to display it. Fortunately, a Container Store just opened up nearby, so I stowed a pack of my shiny new Word Problems in my purse, hopped in the car and toodled on down the highway.

These Poppin Business Card Holders would have been perfect…except that I couldn’t continue the color coordination across the set. They have orange instead of gold, which could have worked, but the green is a mint shade, which could not. Also, there was the problem of keeping Levels 1 and 2 separate. Keeping them separate is easier if all the Level 1 cards are together and so are all the Level 2 cards. On to the next idea:

Like-It Bricks SystemThe Container Store’s Like-it Bricks system is nice because you can purchase the length, width, and number of dividers you need. This was the perfect solution logistically speaking, but it’s not the most attractive piece of equipment. I decided to hold off on a purchasing an imperfect storage system and use what I have: index card file boxes. Levels 1 and 2 fit into two boxes and I use index file dividers to keep the operations separate. I actually like the fact that they’re closed containers and that they’re clearly marked Level 1: Multiplication and Division, but the fit is far from perfect.

What I Liked

The cards are easy to read and I’ve found that my students generally have very little trouble identifying the question they’re meant to answer. Also, the topics really do interest the students, and they enjoy finding themes across the operations. The cards come without Montessori123 Word Problemsinstruction, so I decided to do my own thing with them, which was to have students working on Word Problems choose a card from each of the four operations and then one multi-step. This was great, as it gave them practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division–and then they had to identify which operation was being asked of them on the last card.

My students enjoyed the stories and enjoyed trying to find themes. “Today I’m going to all the stories about bugs!” Hey, whatever it takes to get my students excited about math, amirite? Also, like all Montessori teachers, I love the color-coding and the fact the answer is next to the matching picture on the control card. Students can check their work themselves–though I usually had them swap with a peer.

Some Suggestions for Improvement

I would have preferred more realistic pictures. I don’t know if the lack of them was a copyright issue, but I found the images too cartoony. They rather resembled clipart. Realism is a hallmark of Montessori materials, and I would have like to see that reflected in these Word Montessori123 Word ProblemsProblems. One particular card features an imaginary creature with two heads and four legs. Now, I’m no biology expert but surely there’s a bizarre multi-limbed, multi-ocular (if not multi-headed) true-to-life animal that would have served the same mathematical purpose? My students live for that kind of ephemera.

My second suggestion is for classrooms with Levels 1 and 2 on their shelves. The cards in the two levels often got mixed up. Students working on Level 1 would put their cards in the Level 2 box–the kind of thing that will happen in a classroom. Since there’s no way to tell whether a card is Level 1 or 2 without referring to the Control Chart, I ended up adding a symbol on the back of all the cards (blue stars for Level 1 and red circles for Level 2). An easy fix, but it would be nice if they came coded in some way.

One last note: a few of the cards did have errors, either grammatically or in subject consistency. My students were very understanding, if quick to point them out.

Final Notes

It occurred to me, as I used these story problem cards, that one of the primary things I want my students to learn is those key phrases that identify which operation they need to use. However, I went back to Montessori123’s website. They actually have a Word Problem Strategy Work, so it may just be that I was looking at the wrong work. I’m not sure, though. As much as my Montessori mind loves the color-coding, it’s a double-edged sword with the word-problems. If the color identifies the card as a division story, that’s half the work.

The other thing I wondered about was that the cards don’t require the student to filter any extra information. Obviously, this was primarily a concern with my older students, but one of the tasks they need to be work on is figuring out what is relevant and what is not. Maybe this is Level 3? Maybe this is also included in the Word Problem Strategy Work?

All in all, I’m very happy to add the Word Problem Cards to my Math Shelf. They’ve seamlessly enriched my curriculum and I’d like to thank Montessori123 for generously giving them to me in exchange for review.

Book Recommendations: Graphic Novels

Books for the Classroom
Of my many passions as a teacher, it can’t be denied that finding a true love match between a student and a book is one of my highest highs. Whether by accident or design, I’ve had quite the class of readers the last few years, and it’s been glorious fun to introduce them to books old and new. I’ve had as many failures as I’ve had successes, but when I win, I really win. Today I thought I’d share with you some of my successes from a particularly popular genre with my students, especially the reluctant reader set: Graphic Novels.


But first, a few words about Graphic Novels: I love them for the way grab they attention of those students that “hate” reading and books. If a flashy combination of words and pictures gets them to let go of the idea of reading as a chore, even just a little bit, then why not use them? Furthermore, the pictures often interest the students in the text on the page. Curiosity makes them want to read, which is awesome when you’re dealing with children who are discouraged by their lack of progress.


Another thing about graphic novels: readers of all ages and abilities love them. This is wonderful for those students who are hyperaware that they’re not reading at the same level as their peers. And if you’ve ever worked with a student who suffers from low self-esteem because of reading struggles, you can imagine what a boost it is for a child to know he’s reading the same book as a peer he perceives to be a “better” reader than himself.


Now for a word of warning. The love for a Graphic Novel can grow to be obsessive. Witness the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney (which can or cannot be considered a Graphic Novel). I no longer keep that series on my bookshelves, and I notice that I need to monitor Graphic Novel re-reading more than I do other books. I don’t mind re-reading, but if I notice that a student only ever reads Lunch Lady, I will intervene. My advice is to not be afraid to remove a series (or book) from the bookshelves if you notice obsessive behavior. You can always put it back for a special event (like book week). They’ll be just as happy to see it again after a break.
Now that I’ve shared why I love Graphic Novels, here are a few that have been particularly popular in my classroom, along with a few I’d like to add to my collection:
I actually discovered the Binky Adventures courtesy of my niece and nephew, who were experiencing their own obsession with them after checking them out from the library. The series is a lot of fun, especially for pet owners. Kids get a kick out of the way Binky refers to the outdoors as “outer space” and his cat carrier as his space ship. The shenanigans he and his friends get up to when their humans are looking the other way involve a spy element that perfectly tickles the funny bone. There isn’t a lot of text on the page here, but the author doesn’t shy away from complex words. I suggest reading with help.
A lunch lady as a secret super hero? The premise alone is enough to make my students roll on the floor with laughter. A little bit James Bond, a little bit sloppy joe, this is a series you’ll need to monitor for obsession levels. I mean it.
Otto’s Orange Day is published by TOON Books, a company that specifically publishes comics and Graphic Novels for early readers. It’s a pretty exciting concept and I look forward to seeing their future releases. This series is particularly good for those struggling readers because the language is more appropriate for a learning audience.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tale’s series are not so much Graphic Novels as Graphic Histories (TM Ruby), but my students love them nonetheless. They’re funny, fascinating and gruesome–basically the kid trifecta. The Holy Trinity of Middle Grade Boys, if you will. Get these for your more advanced readers, though. The text is dense and so are the concepts. Book three, for example, is called Donner Dinner Party.
No post about Graphic Novels would be complete without a Tintin mention. The series is currently experiencing a renaissance due to the 2012 animated film, but honestly, the books are better. More stories, more adventures and more Thompson and Thomson. I always recommend Tintin with a caveat: talk to you children/students about these books. Hergé was not the most enlightened individual, nor was he culturally sensitive. It always brings up interesting discussion when I mention that Hergé never even visited many of the places the Tintin books took place. Or the suspicious lack of female characters. And then there’s Captain Haddock’s drinking…


Of course, I’m always looking to add to my bookshelves. In my opinion, more books = more readers. Here are a few Graphic Novels that have caught my eye. I know they’d be a big hit with my students, too!
What are your favorite Graphic Novels?

American Montessori Society Conference 2016

Last month, I had the enormous pleasure of attending the American Montessori Society’s Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. As you know, I was extremely excited about the trip, so I’m happy to report that it was as amazing as I’d hoped it would be. Here are some of the highlights I wanted to share:
Peace Corner AMS 2016
I love seeing the Peace Corner display assembled at the conference. The display has different teachers’ ideas about how to bring Peace Education into the classroom, whether it be through books or items on a shelf. I got three new ideas this year–the Peace Ring, the Silence Meditation basket and the following book suggestion:
Sitting Still Like a Frog, which is book and guided meditation CD for children, was available for sale at the conference. Unfortunately, I didn’t grab my copy swiftly enough–they sold out too quickly!


The Exhibit Hall is, of course, a perennial conference favorite. I went in with greedy eyes and came out with a few goodies (more on my sticky fingers later), but I also got to see a lovely demonstration with these Montessori-themed Great Lesson matryoshka dolls. I took plenty of photos to show you the progression of the lesson. The largest doll represents the universe and each successively smaller doll zooming in on our “place in space,” with the smallest matryoshka doll being the individual. It’s a marvelous lesson and a touching demonstration.
Montessori Matryoshka Universe Dolls
I’d love to get this set someday. It’s available online from Where Am I in the Universe? 

Among all the magnificent workshops and keynote speakers, I have to say my favorite–and the one that made the deepest impression–was Bryan Stevenson. He was the Nancy McCormick Rambusch lecturer for this year, which is to say that he was the headliner, and they’re usually pretty fantastic. Still, I went into his speech completely blind and I’m glad I did. (It’s actually made me wonder if it’s not better to experience keynote speakers this way, rather than research them in advance. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

For those unfamiliar, Bryan Stevenson is the lawyer who began the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system (About EJI). He is also the author of Just Mercya memoir of his life as a lawyer and the experiences that led him to speak out against injustice. I was so moved by his speech that, after I returned home, I looked up Stevenson’s TED Talk. I have to admit–it did not have one-tenth of the impact of seeing him in person, but I’m including it here anyway.
One of the fun things about the AMS Conferences is that they make an effort to include the local Montessori schools. We don’t live anywhere there’s ever likely to be a conference, but I admit I do fantasize about what I would do if our school were chosen. Before the conference begins, AMS offers school tours. Sadly, this year we were not able to participate in any school tours. However! Here are a few of the art projects displayed in the meeting rooms at the conference. I particularly love the Montessori continent map, which was done with children’s thumbprints!More Montessori Artwork AMS 2016 Montessori Artwork AMS 2016
I mentioned the Exhibit Hall, right? Yeah, you knew we weren’t going to get through this post without at least one more Exhibit Hall mention. Anyway, I lost track of how many times I visited while I was there, but here’s a pretty picture of my acquisitions:
AMS 2016 Booty

Montessori Services Snack Cards

Flower Wooden Mosaic Puzzle

Montessori Services Preposition Work
The AMS Conference is a magical, inspirational, wonderful thing. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. I feel that I learn so much each time I go, but more than that, I gain an enormous amount of inspiration and excitement for teaching. It’s not an event to be missed.