Displaying Definition Card Sets

So you have all of these beautiful card materials but how the heck do you organize them on your shelves? This is the question Laura at Montessori of North Ranch (CA) asked me earlier today. And here is my response...there's not just one way but I'll describe an approach that I like. 

When you think about displaying the definition cards, think about the activities children will do with them and keep in mind the principle of rotating materials. For example, before the children work with the definitions in parts, they need to be comfortable with the definitions as a whole. This means they need to understand that each definition describes one of the pictures in the 3-part cards...and that means they have to first know the vocabulary from the 3-part cards and, of course, you'd like to have read the book with them so they are familiar with the definitions themselves. Do you see how connected the pieces are?

Because these materials are so inter-dependent, you really want to have all of these materials gathered together and available for use both individually (e.g., when you're working only with the 3-part cards) and collectively (e.g., when you're using the definition cards, 3-part cards, and book). This is why I like to have a single basket or tray (with a small wooden stand or boxes to hold things upright) that includes everything you need (see the photos for details):

  • the 3-part cards (in a pouch or contained in a box/basket)
  • the corresponding book
  • a single-pocket pouch for the definition control cards
  • a pouch for the term and definition cards
  • a pouch for the term cards, first-half definition cards, and second-half definition cards. 
 Pouch for control card
Pouch for term and definition cards (you can use a one-pocket pouch for this but if you have a two-pocket pouch, that would be lovely)
Pouch for term and both half-definition cards (you can use a one-pocket pouch or a three-pocket pouch, as you prefer)

When you give a presentation on anything on the tray, you would take the entire tray to your work area but only use the relevant part. That way you wouldn't leave an incomplete activity on the shelf. So, a child might bring the entire tray to her work area but might only use the book, only use the 3-part cards, or use both of those plus the definition cards.

Don't worry that the 3-part cards won't be available if someone is using the definition cards. This is just another example of the benefits of having limited materials in the classroom. It provides opportunities for the children to practice patience, learn how to choose the material they want first thing (when it's available), and/or negotiate with other children. Scarcity is good.

With this organizational principle in mind, you can then set up a similar tray for two or three other topics. For example, you might have one for "Parts of" the Tree, one for "Parts of" the Butterfly, and one for "Parts of" the Turtle. Then, every week or so, you swap out one topic. One week you might remove the tree materials and put in the "Parts of" the Leaf materials. The next week you might swap out the buttefly for the "Parts of" the Snail. Get it? So you only have three baskets for these card sets and the baskets never change but the contents of those baskets are always fresh and new. This helps keep your classroom alive with new interest without overwhelming the shelves.

The only exception to this you may want to make is for the Land & Water 1 and Leaf Shapes materials. Because those are directly linked with the land and water forms and the botany cabinet, you may want them to be permanently available on the shelves.

So this is just one way you might set things up. Do you have a different approach that works well? Write a comment below and email us a photo so we can all benefit from your experience!

July 13, 2015 by Julia Volkman
Older Post / Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.