Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Elementary Work Plan: Another Sample

DISCLAIMER/BACKGROUND - See these links for more information on what work plans and work journals are intended for. If your current plan isn't meeting the mark, time to change it up. Work plans aid a child in going deep, not moving into checklist mentality.
Montessori Nuggets tagged "work plan"
Montessori Nuggets tagged "work journal"

Due to the ever-present interest in work-plans, I thought I'd share yet another idea for the lowest elementary children, and perhaps some of the kindergarteners out there.

This is a sample of something I did with tutoring children through the summer-time. I set this sample up for you as if I were to do it for LegoBoy today, with his list of subjects.

Daily stuff is straight-forward - must be done each day. Move the paper-clip for that item over to the right-side when it's done.

School stuff - this is where we keep the Montessori principles! And there is a LOT of flexibility. While some of that stuff, I would like to be everyday, realistically it won't happen, and I like to keep the daily must-dos really short, sweet and simple.

So if there is an actual presentation or assignment, those are noted on another page - perhaps one for the whole week like a weekly plan, but it has less on it than a full weekly work-plan. It might have for math "1 new presentation this week", "review small bead frame", "work with 2 operations in fractions" - otherwise the child chooses for himself what to do.

The point is, once a subject is done by the child, for as long as he wants to work on it, and whatever your agreed upon work is (some assigned, some free-chosen; or all free-chosen), the clip is moved to the right-side.

At the end of one day, NOT all the clips are moved. The goal for this day is to have each line on the right-side filled with a clip, so that a minimum variety was worked on each day (for some of my students, this was 3, for some it was 6).

The daily clips are moved back to the left side. The school clips are left alone, unless there is a specific assignment yet for the child (a new presentation or a required work OR the child knows there is something more to do). Try to limit this as much as possible, because....

...the goal is to then hit the OTHER subjects the next day. And clear out that whole left-side. For some children, the goal was a 3-day rotation, especially because some things DID need to be moved back over because they needed daily practice for a short time (not long enough to justify going under the daily list), thus leaving less time for the varying subjects.

So this plan is good for situations that require all subjects be worked on over a 2 or 3 day period - whether due to the local educational requirements or the needs of the child (retention of the learning, especially with particular special needs).

The work-journal system that fits best with this work-plan is one where the child can take a photo of their work, or otherwise have something to show of their work --- OR can be used without a work-journal for the youngest children just getting started, as they are already "marking" their progress with the paper-clips; and the adult can note their work at the end of the day in a conversation. "I saw you worked with the bead squares for math - tell me about that work." etc.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Decimal Fraction Board - when to start

Here's a question I am asked a LOT - whether this particular material or others. And most particularly those material that in reality bridge lower and upper elementary, making that "break" between the two ages within some albums cumbersome at best.

(this particular material has been asked about 5 times in the last month alone, hence I pick on this one ;) )

First "years" - definition: my numbering of "years" assumes the child will have the opportunity for a full 6 years' worth of elementary Montessori. If this is not going to be the case, then it can very roughly be considered as equivalent grade levels - in the US, a 6 year old is 1st grade; 7 year old is 2nd grade; etc. as of the beginning of the year.

When should a child start the Decimal Fraction Board?
It's really whenever the child is ready and depends on how strong was their primary and earliest lower elementary experiences. My albums have them noted as beginning between years 2 and 3 - so definitely starting in lower elementary. Year 2 if they have a very solid foundation or catch on quick; and year 3 to begin if if they needed a lot of remedial work or have teachers using albums that don't have the same foundation OR just plain don't have interest in fractions enough to get them there until year 3.
Anecdote: my son was voracious about fractions and I thought he would get to this work early - NOT SO. He took a seriously long break from all things fractions, but applied what he knew to real life, and only recently (year 3!) has come back around to fractions-study in general - and now he is starting this decimal fractions work. He had a bit of an intro to it because of a strong interest in money in years 1 and 2, but this material just wasn't cutting it for him. I backed off and now he's going at it full-force. 

With the extensions, it definitely lasts a year or a year and a half, so for most children would start in lower elementary and finish up in upper elementary (some children won't need it in upper elementary if they started in year 2 and "get it").

This is one of those works that shows how difficult it can be to delineate between lower and upper elementary ;)

Here is what my album page has for pre-requisites (the most important thing than actual age) -


  • concept of parts of numbers (fraction work); 
  • knowledge of multiplication facts (esp. multiplying by ten – large bead frame, bank game); 
  • familiarity with decimal system categories (golden bead, wooden hierarchical); 
  • hierarchically colored beads/pegs (stamp game, pegboard, decimal system number cards, multiplication checkerboard, racks and tubes, etc. - enough of this work that the colors are intuitive to them now)

Shortly after working on this material, a few months, a year, maybe even days if you have a child for whom this material truly connects, you'll move the child on, at the right time, to the decimal fraction checkerboard:

By the time, they have the decimal fraction board, they have typically had the regular multplication checkerboard, and it is now just a matter of merging a few concepts. Wait until the child has each of the concepts down pat - or if there is a struggle, the particular type of struggle would be addressed with a synthesis - and go for it. The introductory lesson itself (just laying out the individual square of felt) will be enough to tell you if the child is ready or not. 

Thus the Decimal Fraction Checkerboard is potentially a lower elementary work as well - indeed, upper elementary prefer to use fewer beads, so introduce this work as early as is appropriate for the child in question. 

Above all else - have FUN with it!