Wednesday, April 3, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Color Tablets

I love the color tablets for so many reasons. Yes, they teach children how to match colors and how to name colors. But, they also teach children to appreciate the gradations of colors that exist in our world. Ask a child to name something green. Answers may include grass, leaves, peppers, broccoli, apples, etc. If you think about it, yes, those are all representations of the color green. Every one of them, though, is a different kind of green. That is something children realize with the color tablets.

Color Box 1 teaches just the primary colors. Two sets of tablets include red, yellow, and blue. 

Color Box 2 adds more colors for matching, including pink, orange, green, purple, gray, brown, black, and white.

The third color box starts to teach children how to grade colors, from white to black, and grays in the middle. Some people use one color, grading lightest to darkest.

I learned Color Box 4 as being one in which you grade a color from lightest to darkest, as well as matching those tints and shades with two sets.

Color Box 5 is the best of them all. It grades all of the colors from Color Box 2 from darkest to lightest. Many people have the rows of colors radiate from a circle in the middle. My kids always call it "The Sun." It does resemble the sun or other star.

You can do all kinds of extensions with these materials. Maria wrote about he children using the original color tablets, which were actually spools of silk. You had to hold the ends of them so delicately, as fingers could leave a smudge on the silk and distort the color. Children delicately carried them around the environment, comparing them to everything they could find. I haven't yet seen my children do that, but carrying wooden versions don't feel quite as special.

When I was in training, my Montessori best friend made an original project in which children had to mix paint colors to try to match the color tablets in a grading sequence. I have added to that idea by creating cards that show a certain number of dots in a given color in each rectangle. They measure the drops and then mix the colors to see what they get. 

Does this impact kids for life? Well, I was the kid who always had to have the 64 box of crayons. As a teacher, I get annoyed with the 8-packs of colored pencils, markers, and crayons. I end up spending my own money on packages with more colors. I feel like you can be more creative, as well as more accurately represent the world around you with more color choices. I also aced the color chart exercise in my beginning oil painting class from a decade ago. The purpose was to create a chart of grades of all colors, to use as reference when painting. I whipped mine out in less than two sessions, when most people were taking several weeks to complete theirs. I feel like I can observe minute color changes everywhere around me, and find more complementary color combinations. My artistic eye was more finely tuned by using these materials. At least, that's my opinion. :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Binomial Cube

My favorite materials in the Montessori sensorial area are the algebraic cubes. Because this is a post for B, I guess I need to focus on the Binomial Cube.

Forgive me. I forgot to take pictures of my planned posts before spring break. I can't get a picture until we return next week, and can't seem to find one quickly in my collection. So, I am going to refer you to links with pictures that will pop open in other tabs, to help explain a few things.

The equation for the Binomial Cube is (a+b) cubed. (I again apologize, because I don't know how to make the little 3 for the cubed sign.) Montessori for Everyone has some cards that can be used with elementary students who are learning the equation. They also explain how the colors correspond to the equation. See the picture here.

At my age level, though, we do not expect the children to memorize these equations, nor even know what they are. The cubes are a concrete representation of the algebraic equation. Children learn how to put the cubes back together like a puzzle, using the colors, sizes, and shapes of the various blocks. By doing so, they are mapping out later algebraic studies in their brains. When they have done it enough times, they should be able to put it together even when wearing a blindfold. I like to impress the kids by putting together the trinomial cube with a blindfold, to inspire them to try to do the same.

Take a look at kids doing the cubes in this post by Montessori MOMents. 

Does this really work? I tell parents time and time again that I truly believe that my experiences with the Montessori materials helped to shape my love for and ability to do advanced math in high school and beyond. I was able to better visualize the equations, and firmly believe it is due to having used these materials as a child. Others back me up on this.

Visit a Montessori classroom some time and see if you can put these together, yourself. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

#AtoZChallenge The Alphabet

For this year's challenge, my goal is to focus more on the activities, lessons, and materials in the Montessori classroom. What better way to kick off an alphabetical challenge than to talk about the alphabet?

Every year, when new parents come to visit the classroom, they boast about their child's ability to recite the ABCs, especially through song. Okay, that is a start for later learning, but it doesn't mean that the child is a genius who knows all of her letters and sounds. It only means that the ability to memorize and recite is present. She can't necessarily connect those sounds and names to actual letters, yet. Sorry to be blunt, but it's true.

They always want to know what to do at home, to help their child continue to learn the ABCs. It is always so hard to convince them that they need to first focus on the letter SOUNDS and not the names. That is when I show them how we use the sandpaper letters. I give examples about how letter names are more confusing and mess up the intial sounds learning process. For example, the name of the letter C always makes kids say /s/. W always makes them say /d/. Y always makes them say /w/. English is already confusing enough, as it is!

I also then explain the process of how the sandpaper letters lead to sound sorting activities, and then putting together the moveable alphabet to spell words. I adore the moveable alphabet for this reason. It's like all of those spelling games that we like as adults. Take a bunch of scrambled letters and put them together to make words. Scrabble, anyone? Only you have a much more defined path to take with your words. You can have fun taking away one letter and adding a new one to create new words. And how wonderful is it for the environment, to not be writing out sounds on endless worksheets?

I have noticed more of a demand to teach children the letter names, in addition to the phonetic sounds. I was taught to wait to do that until after the child has mastered all of the sounds. Some are doing it simultaneously, especially as more and more children are coming to school knowing their letter names.

So tell me a few things. How do you explain the alphabet to your parents? Do you use a moveable alphabet in one box or that huge one that takes up two boxes? Do you teach the names as well as the sounds? What are your favorite alphabet activities?