The Great Kindness Challenge

The Great Kindness Challenge is dedicated to creating and experiencing a culture of kindness on campuses nationwide. All FMS students received a Great Kindness Challenge checklist with 50 kind deeds suggested. Nearly two million students in 3,639 schools across the country participated in the challenge; each one bringing the power and focus of doing kind acts to their schools.

FMS participated in “The Great Kindness Challenge,” a week long event sponsored by Kids for Peace and by Dignity Health. Kids for Peace was started by two women, Danielle Gram and Jill McManigal, in 2006. Much of their philosophy mirrors the Montessori vision of cultivating peace mindfully and developing interpersonal tools for conflict resolution. FMS was delighted to participate in this worthy event creating intentional acts of kindness on our campus.

Love Lights

L1080638Many of you have seen your child come home with a little, yellow felt circle pinned to their shirts, representing their “love lights.” This is actually the fourth, inner circle representing the spirit of a person. As we have progressed through our peace lessons this year we have expanded our awareness of the four aspects of a person; body, mind, emotions and spirit. The largest circle represents body, followed by mind, then emotions and in the center is the yellow, spirit circle.

L1080620As an extension of learning about the body, Ms. Melissa spent time recently talking about the spinal cord and its very important function of connecting commands sent to the mind, and executing the command through the body. She played the game of “Simon Says” with the children and they got to experience the sensation of really listening to the instructions, or not, and feeling the disconnect when they realized they had moved with out the “Simon Says” directive.L1080601

We explored the five senses this week and the children were quickly able to isolate which of their five senses they had used to match color tablets, identify sounds with their eyes closed, smell the difference between an orange and a piece of chocolate, and watch Ms. Melissa grade (put in order) the wooden cylinders with her eyes closed using only her sense of touch to guide her.IMG_0104

These lessons help the children identify aspects of themselves that they have in common with each other and it gives them labels that help them communicate more clearly with each other.
Sometimes, when a child is having a hard time emotionally, it simply is a matter of helping them identify their emotions, such as “were you mad about that?” You can see the tension drain from them as they know that they have been heard and they are more willing to soften their stance and work through the disagreement.

P1040117Every peace lesson is closed with “Making Silence”, a centering exercise that is as simple as it is profound. We encourage you to ask your child about it and if you want, let them lead you through it. Here are the words:

I cross my legs,
I place my hands on my knees,
I make my back very straight,
I tell my body to be still,
I tell my mouth to be quiet,
I take a deep breath,
I close my eyes,
I make silence and feel my love

Sensorial – Part 4

Today we continue our exploration of the Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom, specifically discussing the following materials – the color blocks, the ten geometric three-dimensional shapes, touch boards, and the sound cylinders . Sensorial is an area of the Primary classroom that is uniquely “Montessori.” Many of the jobs hearken directly back to Dr. Montessori when she set up her original classroom for the benefit of the young, unattended children in the housing projects of Rome in the early 1900’s.

IMG_0098There are three color boxes. The first has the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow). The second has 12 different colors. The third box has nine colors, but in different grades from light to dark.



Ten Geometric three-dimensional shapes made from wood and usually painted blue. The shapes are:

  • Sphere

  • Cone

  • Ovoid

  • Ellipsoid

  • Triangle-based pyramid

  • Square-based pyramid

  • Cube

  • Cylinder

  • Rectangular prism

  • Triangular prism

Touch boards groom the student’s sense of touch and enhances their ability to distinguish between the smooth and rough.


Sound cylinders are sensitizing the child to the gradations of sound from soft to loud and at the same time, teaching the child how to match the sounds from the red box with the exact same sound in the blue box.IMG_0094

Once the basic sensorial lessons are mastered, numerous extensions can be practiced with each of the materials.  Often sensorial materials will engage the interest of the child for long periods of time because the materials are concrete and the “control of error” is so immediate.  There are also many math and language applications using the sensorial materials, such as labeling the materials, or taking a moment to count the quantity of materials used in a particular job.  Sensorial is part of the classroom that uses all five senses and draws directly from the wisdom of Dr. Montessori in a concrete, useful and vivid way.

Montessori material descriptions taken from Wikipedia “Montessori Sensorial Materials”

Sensorial – Part 3

Today we continue our exploration of the Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom, specifically discussing the following materials – the binomial, trinomial cubes, and the constructive triangles . Sensorial is an area of the Primary classroom that is uniquely “Montessori.” Many of the jobs hearken directly back to Dr. Montessori when she set up her original classroom for the benefit of the young, unattended children in the housing projects of Rome in the early 1900’s.

IMG_0110The binomial  and trinomial cubes are more advanced works that not only teach specific pattern matching prisms together, there is an underlying algebraic equation that can be explored Lower Elementary classes.

IMG_0116The constructive triangles are put together to form various shapes. Shapes made with the triangles include the parallelogram, hexagon, rhombus, and trapezoid.

Join us on Wednesday as wrap up our series on Sensorial. 

Sensorial – Part 2

Today we continue our exploration of the Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom, specifically discussing the following materials – the red rods, cylinder blocks, and the knobless cylinders . Sensorial is an area of the Primary classroom that is uniquely “Montessori.” Many of the jobs hearken directly back to Dr. Montessori when she set up her original classroom for the benefit of the young, unattended children in the housing projects of Rome in the early 1900’s.

Picture 3Another set of ten pieces is the red rods.  “The red rods are rods of equal diameter, varying only in length. The smallest is 10 cm long and the largest is one meter long. Each rod is 1 square inch thick. By holding the ends of the rods with two hands, the material is designed to give the child a sense of short and long.”

Here is an example of more advance extensions of using the brown stairs, the red rods and the knobless cylinders:IMG_0017

IMG_0104“The cylinder blocks are ten wooden cylinders of various dimensions that can be removed from a fitted container block using a knobbed handle. To remove the cylinders, the child is taught to use the same three-finger grip used to hold pencils.  Several activities can be done with the cylinder blocks. The main activity involves removing the cylinders from the block and finding the right hole to replace the cylinder in. Small, tall and short, thick and thin, are the concepts being conveyed to the children as they handle the cylinder blocks.”

Also called the knobless cylinders, the colored cylinders are exactly the same dimensions as the cylinder blocks mentioned above.Picture 2

There are 4 boxes of cylinders:

  • Yellow cylinders that vary in height and width. The shortest cylinder is the thinnest and the tallest cylinder is the thickest.

  • Red cylinders that are the same height, but vary in width.

  • Blue cylinders that have the same width, but vary in height.

  • Green cylinders that vary in height and width. The shortest cylinder is the thickest and the tallest cylinder is the thinnest.

The child can do a variety of exercises with these materials, including matching them with the cylinder bloc


ks, stacking them on top of each other to form a tower, and arranging them in size or different patterns.


Here, the knobless cylinders are used with the cylinders from the cylinder block.IMG_0105

Below, a student has combined the knobless cylinders and the pink tower, ordering the materials in sequence from the biggest to the smallest. IMG_0057

Join us on Monday as we continue to study Sensorial.

Practical Life – Part 2

Today we continue our series exploring the Practical Life area of the Montessori classroom, focusing in this post on the ways in which Practical Life skills benefit other curriculum areas. 

Many of the exercises in the Practical Life area are preparation exercises of Sensorial works. The exercises help to fine tune the development of the child’s senses. Many uses of the five senses occur in the Practical Life area: sound, sight, and touch are used in equipment-bases activities, such as bean scooping; smelling and tasting are involved in the preparation of food.

Practical Life not only develops the child’s senses and teaches real life skills, but sets the basic foundation for other areas to come. For example, understanding size, weight, and equal distribution are skills which are vital when the child is introduced to the Math area of the classroom.

Perhaps the most significant is the development of the pincer grip, which allows the child to correctly grip a pencil and begin working in the Language area.

Sensorial – Part 1

Sensorial is an area of the Primary classroom that is uniquely “Montessori.” Many of the jobs hearken directly back to Dr. Montessori when she set up her original classroom for the benefit of the young, unattended children in the housing projects of Rome in the early 1900’s.  Dr. Montessori could see the advantage of having children develop and refine their five senses.  She also understood that if a child was presented with materials where they could check their work themselves, and know visually that the job was done correctly or incorrectly due to the precise way the materials were used, then their level of independence and self-confidence would increase.  Dr. Montessori referred to this concept as the “control of error’’ and it has great significance throughout the classroom, and especially in the sensorial area.

IMG_0084As the child begins to explore the sensorial works, one of the first jobs introduced is called the pink tower. “The pink tower has ten pinkcubes of different sizes, from 1 centimeter up to 10 cm in increments of 1 cm. The work is designed to provide the child with a concept of small and big.” The child starts with the largest cube and puts the second-largest cube on top of it. This continues until all ten cubes are stacked on top of each other. The control of error is visual. The child sees the cubes are in the wrong order and the tower becomes unstable if a larger cube is placed on top of a smaller cube.

IMG_0085Many of the sensorial materials are made with 10 components so that the students get used to counting 1-10 quite naturally.


For instance, the brown stairs is made up of 10 sets of wooden prisms and introduces the concept of thin to thick. “Each stair is 20 cm in length and varies in thickness from 1 to 10 cm. When put together from thickest to thinnest, they make an even staircase.”  After the initial pink tower and brown stair lessons are mastered, both materials can be used together forming interesting combinations.


Join us next week as we continue looking at the Sensorial part of a Montessori classroom. 

Parent Education: Practical Life – Part 1

Today we are looking back at a series that we posted back in the summer, Practical Life. 

In a Montessori classroom, the Practical Life area is one of the first areas that a child explores. This section of the classroom provides the child with real-life materials that help to develop coordination, concentration, independence, and order.

Through the exercises of Practical Life, the child learns the skills that enable him to become an independent being. From birth, the child is striving for independence and concerned adults, parents, and teachers should help him on his path by showing him the skills he needs to achieve this end. Having been shown a skill, the child then needs freedom to practice and perfect.

In a Montessori classroom, preschool children learn basic motor skills in the Practical Life areas by teaching themselves and learning from other children rather than by specific adult instruction. As the child becomes absorbed in an interesting activity, he develops concentration. If the activity is appropriate and meets a need, it will be interesting for the child. The longer the child is absorbed by an activity the  better for the development of concentration.

Through activity, the child learns to control his movements. The idea that the path to intellectual development occurs through the hands is a major theme in the Montessori Method. The exercises of Practical Life provide opportunities for the development of both gross motor and fine motor movements. In addition, the child learns to keep the environment in a clean and ordered way, putting everything away in its right place. He is taught to approach each new task in an ordered way, to carry it out carefully, to complete the activity, and finally, how to clean up and put the materials away. Engaging in this complete process encourages logical thinking.

Another great post on Practical Life can be found here as well.

Feeding Your Preschooler: What’s a Normal Daily Menu?

“My child isn’t eating,” is a common statement from parents of three-year-olds. At the end of a school day, parents are often surprised that the lunch they so lovingly prepared is barely touched. When teachers are asked, they often say they encouraged the child to eat but the chip simply was not hungry. So, what’s a parent to do?

One thing to consider is the amount of water the child has consumed during the day. Water is readily available in the classroom and on the playground. Children are encouraged especially on hot days to drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration. This high water consumption keeps them hydrated but also decreases their appetite.

Another factor in food intake can be distraction. During the third year of life, preschoolers are very active and mobile. Often at lunchtime, they are socializing with their friends, looking around the room – seemingly focusing on everything except eating.

Their appetite also begins to fluctuate greatly. Sometimes they get stuck on one food. These “only eating chicken nuggets” moments usually don’t last long if you don’t accommodate them. We recommend that you continue to serve a wide variety of nutritious foods.

A healthy child is most important. Speak with your child’s teacher about what foods are successful with other children. Many children like items that are easy to manage: finger foods, enriched drinks, and yogurts, for example. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habits, please contact your pediatrician.

Super Kids Nutrition, a nutrition education and healthy eating website for parents and kids, offers this Sample Daily Menu for the average Three-Year-Old child. This menu provides a good understanding of basic needs – often smaller in size than parents expect, though rich in nutrients – within the framework of your particular family’s preferences and appetites.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for, and hopefully that includes some extra down time at home. Here are some great Thanksgiving craft ideas from Living Montessori Now to do with your children over the holiday.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by family, friends, and plenty of love.