Action Research in Your Classroom

research chartThe recent bloom of published research from Montessori environments has been inspiring. Following the groundbreaking work of Angeline Lillard, we have the launch of the Journal of Montessori Research. On top of this, there are a growing number of graduate students undertaking Montessori-related research projects for their theses and dissertations. This is all most excellent news for the Montessori movement!

If you’d like to take a peek at what is already out there, go to scholar.google.org and search for Montessori. If you exclude patents and citations, you’ll get over 150,000 results! If you further refine your search to just what’s published in the past 4 years, you’ll still get nearly 17,000 results! Get a nice cup of tea and browse through the titles you see to get a sense of what is happening. Click through and read some abstracts. Then, start to think about what you might study in your own environment.

Here are the big picture steps involved in conducting your own action research:

  1. Identify your focus/interest
  2. “Muck about” to see what’s already known
  3. Define your research question
  4. Get Approval/Support
  5. Design your study/data collection/assessment tools
  6. Conduct the study/collect data
  7. Organize your results
  8. Analyze your findings
  9. Adjust and start again or share/repeat

Read on for details!

January 13, 2020 by Julia Volkman

Books we love

My dear friend Susan Banon* went through great pains to put together a list of books that she could recommend for families (in English and French). She collaborated with me and other Anglophones/Francophones and together we all came up with the results listed below. Of course, there are so many more books that we could recommend; it would be impossible to give you a finite list. Instead, we just wanted to wet your whistle and get you started.

Read on for the full list!

January 06, 2020 by Julia Volkman

Guiding Wild Preschoolers

Preschooler dissatisfactionSometimes the children in our classrooms seem about as far away from our vision of the Montessori “normalized” child as they can get! Don’t worry. The potential to concentrate and manifest peace is actually there within every child (and adult). Here are a few quick points to help you remain calm and be helpful if you find yourself with a room full of firecrackers.

Key points to remember

First, in the preschool years executive functions (like inhibitory control, or inhibiting unskillful actions) are just developing. Children don’t arrive at school with their self-regulation all in place. A large part of our work in the preschool years is to help children develop the capacity to regulate their own behavior. We do this by teaching them how to follow a logical sequence, respond to natural consequences (e.g., spilling water and cleaning it up), be kind with others, etc. So, if you are seeing lots of challenging behavior, it could just be normal development. They may need more time immersed in an environment of Freedom with Limits and opportunities to concentrate.

November 08, 2019 by Julia Volkman

Handwriting in the Montessori Early Childhood Classroom

In Dr. Montessori’s writings, she speaks of an “explosion” into writing. The children spontaneously discovered that they knew how to write and started writing every word, everywhere. But, she insists that she never taught them how to write, she just prepared them to write, indirectly.

But in many Montessori classrooms, you'll find all kinds of handwriting worksheets and programs that have nothing to do with Dr. Montessori's successful indirect plan. Let me give you a brief overview of this indirect preparation and also a specific description of how we introduce the recording process. May it encourage you to clear off the clutter on your shelves and return to the basics of what Dr. Montessori gave us.

PS: Thank you to Jenay Boggs for the lovely chalkboard photos!

June 10, 2019 by Julia Volkman

Black Outline Masters

People are asking all the time to get copies of the black & white outline masters for our "Parts of" cards. But, the problem is you won't find them in our products anymore. Why not?
March 27, 2019 by Julia Volkman

Tips for the Start of School

The start of school is upon us. We’re either already with our class full of glorious little souls or we’re just about to meet them. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind during these critical first few weeks of school.

First, if the children haven’t started yet, do your best to get every child in for a visit before the first day (see our Preschool Orientation blog post for details). If you can’t get them in, give their families a call to touch base and introduce yourself.

August 07, 2018 by Julia Volkman

A Guide to Normalization


We all want our children to normalize and blossom and yet many of us run into similar stumbling blocks. We know that before the children will thrive in our prepared environment, they have to feel safe, welcome, and socially connected to us. So, we begin by forming a friendly relationship with each child. But, once we have established this, there are several common areas that often give us trouble:
  • The Physical Environment
  • The Daily Routine
  • The Procedure for Giving Lessons
  • Our Precision in Giving Lessons
  • The Sequence of Lessons (with an emphasis on Preliminary Exercises & Grace and Courtesy)

The Physical Environment

The children's need for order dramatically affects their behavior. So, get down on your hands and knees and take a crawl around your classroom. As you do, ask yourself these questions:

October 10, 2017 by Julia Volkman

Intervening with Tough Behavior

I have been amazed again and again at how effective these gentle, indirect approaches can be for the young child. We don't even admit that anything untoward happened in the moment. We just redirect the attention and move on. Then, later (see below), we come back and teach the preferred behaviors that may have prevented the conflict. By so doing, we avoid the common trap of making some children "bad" kids. If we call out their name or emphasize the problem, we draw the attention of the entire room to the negative event. But if we discretely redirect the attention, we do not inadvertently contribute to a culture of negativity in the room. 

When you must address the conflict head-on, do so directly and briefly—no lectures, no big conversations or explanations. Speak directly to the issue just as Mr. Brown said in the video. You might say, “No, we do not hit each other at school.” It’s important to add this last prepositional phrase because it may be the case that the children witness people being hit regularly in other environments. We don’t want to create further confusion if the child is seeing different behaviors in different settings. Remember that children will naturally adapt to the behaviors they see around them…the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, they see their ‘people’ as normal no matter if they act like Barak Obama, Queen Elizabeth, or a bully.

 

March 08, 2017 by Julia Volkman

Which font: Print, Italic, or Cursive?

When we begin our own primary (ages 3 to 6+) classrooms, we need to make a decision about our sandpaper letters and movable alphabet--which font do we choose? But, many of us inherit a classroom and must use the font we have. Or, we must follow the culture of our school so there is consistency from room to room. In any event, this is a topic Montessori guides consider deeply.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any specific, convincing studies that directly answer the question of which font is preferred. This is why Maitri Learning offers our movable alphabets in all three of the fonts commonly used for the sandpaper letters.

The question of font, however, has been indirectly answered.

January 02, 2017 by Julia Volkman

Fade and Observe

“Old Montessorians never die, they just fade and observe.”

- Author unknown

Hand washingI was observing in a primary classroom the other day when I saw an utterly enthralled 4-year-old boy doing the hand washing work. His hands were in the beautiful blue and white basin and he was smiling as he turned the water over and under each hand.

Soon he let out a sigh which apparently meant he was ready for the next step. He lifted his hands out of the basin, dried them on the towel, grasped the sides of the basin, and went to empty it. But into what? The perfectly coordinated pail was sitting ready for him on the shelf beneath the basin but it went completely unnoticed. Instead, the boy put the basin back on the table and placed the matching blue and white pitcher on the ground in front of the table. He then proceeded to meticulously pour the basin water into the wide-mouth of the pitcher! No easy task, let me assure you, yet very little water was spilled.

September 21, 2016 by Julia Volkman