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Calming environment

Classroom Content Montessori Extras Parenting Teaching

5 Ways the Montessori environment may be ideal for children on the Autism Spectrum

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission if you click on the links and purchase products.  Please see the disclosure policy for more information.

 

Could a Montessori environment be a good fit for a child on the autism spectrum?

 

The Montessori Method and environment is very unique.  The philosophy is based on individual learning, child led instruction and the development of the child.  The environment is carefully and thoughtfully set up & maintained based on the needs of the children, their various developmental levels and is inviting to the children.  The Montessori environment is aesthetically appealing to the eye, is strategically designed and provides a sense of calm and order.  For children who are on the autism spectrum, the Montessori environment has characteristics that may be ideal for their success and overall learning.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The following information is for informational purposes only.  The following information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of seeking the advice of a trained and qualified healthcare or medical professional.

 

As stated by Dr. Lori Ernsperger, an autism specialist with over twenty years of experience; “the best way to make sure your students learn well is to ensure that the physical layout of your classroom is maximized and workstations are clearly delineated.”  Following what Dr. Ernsperger has presented, a Montessori environment fits the description on what she has determined is an ideal environment for children on the autism spectrum.  A Montessori environment is very distinct and individualized.  The materials are mostly made of natural wood, and along with neutral colors are meant to soothe the senses, attract the children to the materials, and not distract from their learning. Environments that contain bold, bright colors can often be overstimulating to the children and the adults in the room.   Montessori classrooms are open, light & airy; and are peaceful and uncluttered.

 

All learning environments can be an integral part of a child’s learning.  An enriching, inviting and  stimulating environment can provide an increased chance of children being successful in their learning.  Not only will they learn more, they will enjoy it and be more willing to learn!  If an environment is boring, drab, dark and not visually appealing, it could be harder for the children to want ti engage and learn; AND make it hard for the teacher to find ways to motivate themselves to teach.  I must say, personally, if my classroom was drab and boring, it would be a STRUGGLE for me to want to teach.  I prefer an environment that is fun and lively, but not overstimulating and distracting.

 

5 ways a Montessori environment may be a good fit for a child on the autism spectrum

 

 

These tips on selecting an appropriate environment for a child on the autism spectrum are recommended by a autism specialist.  Please note that each child is different, and not every Montessori environment is the right fit for each child.  There are many things to consider when choosing a learning environment for your child.

 

  • Pay special attention to the physical  design and layout of the classroom

Always consider the flow of the classroom.  Think about how children and adults are able to manuever and move throughout the classroom; making sure to keep it as easy as possible.  Provide areas that are intended for smaller and larger group activities, and arrange the furniture and shelving to assist in that.  Montessori environments are well known for their design and layout characteristics; since they allow for children to roam freely through the classroom during the work period.

 

  • Be mindful of sensory stimulation

It is probably best to try to avoid overly stimulating the senses.  As stated before, overstimulating can be a distraction and disrupt concentration.  Consider things like lighting, windows, floor & window coverings and ceilings.  Equipping the classroom with carpet or investing in large area rugs to reduce the noise level, have dimmer settings on lights and use window coverings that allow natural light in; but not too much.  That is one of the things that makes a Montessori environment different; we try not to overstimulate the children with bold, bright colors on the walls, shelves and materials.

 

  • Try to eliminate or reduce clutter as much as possible

Excess or unused furniture, classroom teaching aids and even teacher collectibles can be a distraction.  Try to keep the classroom free of unused or rarely used items so that the children will not be distracted by them.  If possible, store these items away and bring them out as necessary or when needed.  If you walk into any Montessori classroom, you will notice how organized and orderly the materials and shelves are.

 

  • Use visual aids to define spaces and increase independence

Using visual aids throughout the classroom can help children in a variety of ways.  It helps them to understand the flow of the day, anticipate what activity comes next and can keep the day running smoothly.  Using visual aids on shelving can remind children how and where to put their work away.  It increases their independence and boosts their confidence as well.  Montessori classrooms use subtle visual aids as well to help children learn how to put their work away and where the group area is as well.

 

  • Have an area of the classroom where children can calm down and regroup

Preparing a calm down area for children to use if needed is important part of the environment.  Make sure the area is free of distractions and can be used for as long as the child needs.  This calm down area should never be used as a form of punishment, but an area for a child to relax, calm down and refocus.  In a Montessori classroom, this area is referred to as a Peace Area or Corner.  Sometimes it has a table, small floor pillows or a chair placed in an area of the classroom that is not near the hustle and bustle of the classroom.  It has items that are good for reducing stress and provide calming effects.  These are special items that are specific to the peace area, and are not found in other areas of the classroom.

 

 

As you can see, there are many benefits and positives when considering if a child on the autism spectrum will thrive in a Montessori classroom environment.  The Montessori environment provides many of the characteristics of an ideal learning environment that are recommended by professionals.  With Montessori being an individualized, child-led learning philosophy, the non-traditional, open flow of the classroom may be worth looking in to for your child.

 

Looking for more resources or information for children on the autism spectrum? Check out these books!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that this information is helpful and insightful to parents and teaching professionals!

 

Anitra

Classroom Content Montessori Extras Parenting

4 Ways to Get Your Child to Focus and Concentrate

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see disclosure policy for more information.

 

Let’s face it. In the age where children and even adults are commonly diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at am alarming rate, there must be something that can help to get people to focus and concentrate in school and at work.  There are many perscription medications that claim to help with focus and concentration, but at what risk to your overall health and well being?  Luckily, there are other ways to get similiar results that are failry cheap, easy and fun; all at the same time!

 

 

Getting focused and staying focused is not always an easy task for children and adults alike.  Some days it may easier than others to get focused and concentrate on the tasks of the day.  It does in no way mean that there is something wrong; most times it is just that other outside influences may be distracting and not allowing us to focus and concentrate as well as we need to.

 

Sometimes your child may just need to do a few simple tasks BEFORE they begin their day, or they may need to take a break during working so that they can regain focus and concentration.  These 5 activities that are listed in below can easily be done in a classroom or home school setting.  Many of these activities can also be done by adults, as every once in awhile we also need to refocus to complete our daily tasks as well.  The activities are children and adult friendly!

 

4 Ways to Get Your Child to Focus and Concentrate

 

1. YOGA

Yoga is a very beneficial and successful way to get a child focused and even increase concentration.  I use Yoga poses in my classroom very often; at least two times per week.  We do a few select poses before we begin our two hour Montessori work time, and I have seen great results from using Yoga.  If you would like to know more about how I incorporate Yoga in my classroom, click here.  There are many options for using Yoga in the classroom. Books, pose cards, music recordings, etc.

SUGGESTIONS:

Learn With Yoga ABC Cards for Kids, Set of 52

 

Yoga for Kids Music & Sound Recordings Fitness

 

 

2. PRACTICE AND ENGAGE IN MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness is a practice of noticing what is happening in the present moment.  Mindfulness makes you aware of your surroundings and can help in calming anxious or frustrated feelings, as well as help with focus and concentration.  It can be a way of recognizing your feelings and dealing with them in appropriate ways.  I was lucky to find a great resource for mindfulness, and have begun to slowly introduce the practices into my classroom.  They children have received it well, so I’m excited to add more mindfulness activities to my classroom routine.  To learn more about mindfulness and the Mindful Schools movement, please go to their website Mindful Schools for more information.

Example of a lesson from Mindful Schools:

SUGGESTIONS:

Sitting Still Like a Frog, Mindfulness Exercises for Kids(and their parents)

 

Mindful Movements, Ten Exercises for Well-Being Book with CD

 

 

3. PRACTICE BRAIN GYM EXERCISES

I first learned about Brain Gym exercises about five years ago.  I was working at a Montessori school and for one of our Teacher Training days, we had a Brain Gym workshop.  A Brain Gym professional consultant taught us some exercises to get the children to get their brains moving & awake and ready for the day ahead.  We learned twenty six movements and how to apply them along with proper techniques.  For more information about the techniques, process, and strategies go to the Brain Gym website.

SUGGESTIONS:

I have used a few of the Brain Gym products in my classroom in the past and had great results.  The official website from the creators of Brain Gym; Paul and Gail Dennison, have a great assortment of activities, books, and music to fit your needs.  My favorites are the Wooden Lazy 8 Track and The Brain Gym Activity Cards

I also use a similiar product to the Brain Gym activity cards.  They are by Primary Class, and can be found here.  I pick two or three cards to do with my class each morning or before lunch.  They really enjoy these cards by Primary Class.

 

 

 

4. PRACTICE AND ENGAGE IN MEDITATION

I have just begun to research and find out the benefits of meditation.  It can reduce stress and fosters clear thinking.  It involves clearing the mind and peacefully coming into a deep rest where you are basically not doing or thinking of anything.  It is like a sleep for your brain, in that it is at peace.  Meditation can be done with or without music, just as long as you clear your brain.  This one may be a little difficult to incorporate for the younger children in my class, since they are so very young.  I have yet to find a good method of introducing meditaiton to my classroom, but my suggestion below is a start.

SUGGESTIONS:

Peaceful Piggy Meditation

 

 

All of the activities and information listed above should be done with caution.  Please follow any instructions or follow any listed guidelines for any of the products.  I have first hand knowledge of how these activities have worked in my classroom of prescool aged children, and the results are very beneficial.  There are many benefits to incorporating these activities, and if you have a child that needs assistance in getting focused and needing to concentrate, it is definitely worth giving these ideas a try!

 

So…

 

Namaste!

 

Be Mindful!

 

Relax your brain!

 

Wake your brain up!

 

Enjoy!

 

Anitra

 

 

 

Classroom Content Montessori Extras Parenting

6 tips on finding a Montessori preschool for your child

By Anitra

 

Are you interested in finding a quality Montessori preschool for your child?  There are many things to consider when searching for a Montessori school for your child.  It is not an easy feat to entrust your child and their safety & well being to others.  It is important for you as a parent to feel comfortable, confident, and trust in the place where you will leave your child.  It is also equally important for your child to feel safe, be happy, and feel welcomed to a place where they will spend a good amount of their time.

 

 

With that being said, please know that not all preschools, schools or child care centers are created equal.  Things to consider are school philosophy, program type, extracurricular activities offered, location and price.  There are also other things to look into as well; considering each Montessori school is privately owned and operated.  The Montessori name, method, philosophy, teachings and materials are not trademarked.  Each Montessori school owner has the right to interpret the Montessori method and philosophy as they see fit.  Which means that two Montessori schools right down the street from one another can have many similarities, and just as many differences.  For more information on what makes Montessori unique, please check out my post What’s so special about Montessori…? EVERYTHING!.  If you would like more information in the work and materials in a Montessori classroom, please check out my post What is all the hype about? A detailed look inside a traditional Montessori classroom.

 

When you are ready to begin looking at schools to choose, first start with an internet search of local Montessori schools in your area.  Narrow it down to no more than 5 schools.  Look through their websites, check out any online reviews they may have, and call the school for additional information on their enrollment process.  Once these things are complete, you are ready to incorporate the tips below in selecting a school for your child.  I have included a free checklist at the bottom of the post as well!

 

These 6 tips will help you select the right Montessori school for your child

 

Tip #1

Visit and tour the school(s) you are interested in

It is important for you to go to the school and tour the facility.  During the tour, the school administrators should walk you around the entire school and the playground as well.  Take special note of the cleanliness of the school overall and the condition of the playground & equipment.  The school should look appealing to the eye, and the playground should have safe, child appropriate equipment & toys.  If anything catches your attention or stands out, be sure to ask the administrator about it.

 

 

 

Tip #2

Ask about the schools philosophy

Of course the main philosophy of the school will be the Montessori method.  But each school has a separate school philosophy on how they view early childhood education.  It is important to ask about how they deal with behavior problems, if they are religiously based, and most importantly, their take on how children learn and develop.  See if they follow authentic Montessori practices such as the 3 year age span, allowing children to be independent, and providing a child based environment.  Make sure that their school views are similar to your own personal views on what you expect for your child.

 

 

 

Tip #3

Ask to observe a classroom in action

While on the tour of the schools, most administrators will show you a classroom in action.  Seeing a classroom in full swing will give you a small idea of how the children move throughout the environment, if they seem comfortable in the classroom, and how the teacher(s) interact with the children.  Look for any clues of children being excluded,take notice of the teacher’s tone of voice, and watch to see how they children interact with each other.  In a true Montessori classroom, the children move about freely & confidently and seem engaged in their work with a buzz of conversation happening around them.  The teacher(s) are engaging and interacting with the children in a positive, respectful manner.

 

 

 

Tip #4

Ask administration about teacher turnover rates

In the child care industry, Teacher turnover rate can be common and can be higher than in other professions.  This occurs for a number of reasons, but when a school can retain their teachers for more than two years, that is a positive sign.  If teachers stay for extended time at a particular school, it may be due to the school being supportive of their staff and their needs.  When schools value their teachers, and the teachers feel needed & important, they tend to stay at a school for a longer period of time.  Ask the school administrator how long their teachers have been at the school.

Tip #5

Ask neighbors, friends and co-workers about the school

The best way to get an accurate review or opinion on a school you’re interested in is to ask around.  Ask your neighbors where they send their children, ask friends and co-workers if they have had any positive or negative experiences with a school you may want to tour.  Let’s face it; if you’re interested in trying a new restaurant, you reach out to others to get their opinions about the restaurant.  So why not do the same for a school you may be interested in sending your child too?  You can never be too safe when it comes to your child.

 

Tip #6

Check to make sure the school is licensed with the state

Every child care center, preschool, or day care center providing care to children in a business capacity should be licensed in some form or another by the state they are conducting business in.  Here in California, EVERY child care center, preschool, day care center or home day care MUST be licensed by the state in order to operate.  Each child care facility goes through a rigorous checklist of standards BEFORE they are licensed.  They are also subject to frequent inspections from the state at any time.  California has an online database of all licensed care providers that are licensed in the state.  By simply going to the state website, you can enter in the name of the child care facility you are interested in, and get detailed information about that facility.  Such things as licensing date, licensee name, any violation of state standards they have received, and the amount of children they are allowed to have at the facility.  This information is public knowledge, and available at all times.

 

 

Following these tips can definitely help in finding the right Montessori school for you and your child!  I always say that I don’t just have the child in my classroom, but the entire family as well.  It is important for you as a parent to be able to interact, communicate, and mesh well with the school and the teacher.  You must feel welcomed and part of the overall school community in order for you and your child to have a great experience!

 

 

Interested in getting the FREE checklist for Selecting a Montessori Preschool for Your Child?

It’s yours, just click below for your FREE download!

 

Montessori Extras Parenting

New You for the New Year-12 months to an even better you

By Anitra

It’s that time of year again when its time to say goodbye to another year.  You reflect on the past year and ask yourself if you’ve accomplished all that you set out to accomplish at the beginning of 2017.  I know that for me, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to, but I did accomplish some amazing things this past year.  At the end of every year, people set unrealistic goals and make unreasonable resolutions for themselves; (trust me, I am guilty of this as well).

 

Here are a few of the most common New Year’s resolutions are:

1. Exercise more

2. Lose weight

3. Eat more healthy

4. Stop smoking

5. Drink less alcohol

6. Save money

7. Get organized

 

These resolutions always sound good, and you start out strong on accomplishing them.  But as the year progresses, they get harder and harder to keep up with.  Want to know why?  These are unreasonable and unrealistic goals.  I’ve learned over the years after failing at accomplishing my resolutions, that the common resolutions are so overwhelming to do all at once.  I chose to do a few at a time, and I had better results.  Maybe try a few of these each year, but trying to do them all at once makes it almost impossible to complete.

 

With that being said,  I think that it’s time to make some goals and resolutions that are actually reasonable and realistic, and you will definitely be able to accomplish!  By the end of 2018, you’ll have hopefully developed a few new habits that are a part of your daily life and that you can carry and build upon going in to 2019!

 

Monthly ideas to have your best year yet

 

January-Get more sleep:

Getting enough sleep is good for your heart, mind, and overall wellness.

 

February-Practice mindfulness:

Mindfulness is a way to be aware of thoughts & feelings.  It helps to reduce stress and strengthens mental health.

 

March-Take up an anti-stress activity:

Yoga, meditation, coloring books & gardening are inexpensive ways to reduce your stress levels.  Less stress leads to a better you!

 

April-Value experiences over things:

Plan a weekend getaway, plan a family night once a week, take a spur of the moment drive…These experiences are so much more valuable than buying things.  Create memories.  Experiences last longer than items.

 

May-Learn a new skill:

Learning a new skill will get you out of your comfort zone.  Dance class, a cooking class, a new language, sewing & ceramics are just a few suggestions.  You may end up finding something that you never knew you were good at!

 

June-Start a journal:

Write down your goals, your dreams, or your thoughts in a journal.  Writing can release stress and can be therapeutic.  Try writing in your journal at least once a week.

 

July-Unplug and unwind:

Put away technology for at least an hour and devote that time to yourself and/or your loved ones.  Talk about your day, play a game, or spend quality time together doing something you all enjoy.

 

August-Get outside & enjoy nature:

Go on a walk, a bike ride, go to the park, or go camping.  Getting outside is a good way to reduce stress and take a step back.  Nature has so much to offer, take advantage of it!

 

September-Complete a 30 Day Challenge:

Participate in a 30 Day Challenge of your choice.  Challenges related to fitness, health, money-saving, organization, fashion & gratitude are all popular challenges.  There are so many other activity challenges you can do; just do an online search for a topic you are interested in.

 

October-Read a book:

Take time to start reading a book.  Reading is a relaxing activity.  Find a book on the bestseller list, or ask a friend for a recommendation.

 

November-Practice generosity:

Volunteer your time at a charity or organization for a cause that interest you.  Volunteering and giving back to others leaves a positive impact on you as well.

 

December-Start one thing you’ve been putting off:

Whether it’s a small task that you’ve been putting off forever, or something big that you’ve been wanting to start; just get started on it!  Break it up into smaller chunks, and work on it throughout the month.

 

 

Many of these monthly activities can be shared with others in your family.  Besides, it is much easier to accomplish your goals when you have someone to encourage you!  I don’t know about you, but accomplishing my goals is SO much easier when I have the encouragement and support of my family or friends.  Without their support, I wouldn’t achieve half of what I’d like to.

 

So grab your better half, your kids, and your friends and start knocking out those goals!  You’re on your way to a better you; make 2018 your best year yet!

Remember…the best way to succeed at resolutions is to create new habits that are easily attainable and realistic!

 

Anitra

 

Classroom Content Montessori Extras

What is all the hype about? A detailed look inside a traditional Montessori classroom

By Anitra

You’ve probably heard about all the hype and craze surrounding Montessori and Montessori schools. Anything and everything from the teaching method,the classroom environment, child led activities, and Montessori materials.  But what does all that mean?  The Montessori method is a very unique, very distinct, very individualized learning environment with a proven way of teaching young children.

 

The materials, along with the carefully prepared environment, is what makes Montessori, Montessori.  There are various areas and activities of a traditional Montessori classroom.  This is what sets a Montessori primary (preschool) classroom apart from other preschool classrooms. Many people have heard of Montessori, but haven’t had the opportunity to actually see inside or visit a classroom.  Please be aware that there are many different Montessori run schools, each individually owned and operated; so unfortunately not every Montessori school classroom will be set up or run exactly the same.  With that being said; I try to keep a traditional Montessori classroom.

 

Curious to learn and find out more…?   The pictures are from my actual classroom that I currently teach in.  The shelves are child sized, with age appropriate, enticing materials.  The common item you will notice in most Montessori classrooms and materials is wood.  The use of natural wood for the shelves and materials, along with neutral wall colors, is meant to soothe the senses and and the attract the children to the beauty of the room.  Montessori classrooms differ from other preschool classrooms in that they are calming, peaceful, and uncluttered.

 

 

LANGUAGE AREA

 

“Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization.” -Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 98

The Language Area is composed of phonetic sound recognition, three letter phonetic word building, four letter and more phonetic word building, and blends & phonograms.  The three letter words make up the Pink Level, the four letters and more make up the Blue Level, the phonemes and hard & soft letters make up the Green Level.

 

The Pink Level also covers word families, picture to

word matching, and easy phonetic sentences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Level also covers beginning & ending

consonant blends, and complex phonetic words

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Level also covers silent “e”, double vowel consonants, phonemes, and hard & soft letters

 

I also have opposites, parts of speech, sentence building & writing, and even antonyms & synonyms.

 

 

MATH AREA

 

“The results we obtain with our little ones contrast oddly with the fact that mathematics is so often held to be a scourge rather than a pleasure in school programmes.”-Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 170

The Math Area is composed of number recognition up to ten, mastering the teens & tens, and working on numbers up to one hundred.  This area also covers simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and even division.  More complex works include place value, the clock, and fractions.

 

Number recognition from one to twenty, with various materials & activities to master these skills

 

Simple addition, the tens work, & the hundred board all round out the Math Area

 

 

Telling Time, Place Value & Fractions are the

more advanced Math activities

 

 

 

SENSORIAL AREA

 

“And if we look at the sensorial apparatus which is able to evoke such deep concentration…helps also to the development of the mathematical mind.”-Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 170

The Sensorial Area is composed of activities that engage the senses of the children.  There are activities for smell, taste, and hearing; and various materials that promote sight and touch.

 

Sensorial materials to manipulate sizes, color,

touch and hearing

 

Complex materials that introduce geometric shapes, as well as tasting & smelling materials

 

 

 

CULTURAL/GEOGRAPHY AREA

 

“…the child’s mind can acquire culture at a much earlier age than generally supposed, taking in knowledge is by certain kinds of activity which involve movement.”-Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, pg. 157

The Cultural and Geography Areas is the area of a Montessori classroom that frequently changes.  It is an area where new activities can be added on a weekly or monthly basis.  These areas are composed of science, botany (plants), zoology (animals), geography, and art.  This is by far one of the busiest areas of a Montessori classroom.

 

 

Study of continents, seasons land, air & water                                  Botany, zoology, & insect puzzles and magnets

 

 

Geography Maps

 

 

PRACTICAL LIFE AREA

 

“Activities here build on the child’s natural interest and help him develop good work habits, concentration, eye-hand coordination, a lengthened attention span and control of his body.”-Maria Montessori The Sense of Childhood, pg. 1

The Practical Life Area is another area of a Montessori classroom that changes frequently.  The Practical Life Area has many components to it that make it the most important area of a Montessori classroom.  Since children learn basic working, concentration, and eye-hand coordination skills, it is the prerequisite to all of the other areas in a Montessori classroom.  Activities could include spooning, using a ladle, pouring, scooping, and cutting.  This is by far the busiest area of a Montessori classroom.

 

Other activities include food preparation work,

and using tongs & tweezers

There are also washing activities, bubble making,

table setting, and water activities

 

 

 

All of the areas in a Montessori classroom contribute to the development of the whole child.  As stated before, not every Montessori classroom will be furnished and set-up exactly the same.  In quality, true to Montessori schools and classrooms, you will see similar setups and materials.  One of my favorite areas is the Practical Life Area, I like to come up with fun water work activities, food preparation works, and washing activities.  I like to add variety, and add activities that promote the individual needs of the children currently in my classroom.

 

 

 

Now can you see what all the hype is about?!  Trust me, the pictures just give you a small glimpse of what a Montessori environment looks like.  Can you imagine how wonderful it is to see the children actively working in a Montessori classroom…it’s PRICELESS!!

 

Anitra

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