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Themed Work in the Montessori Classroom

I had wanted to share a post here showing the work we had on our shelves for St. Patrick’s Day, but never got around to it, and I sort of missed the boat on getting a Spring Practical Life and Art post up as I had planned, though I’m going to put the pictures in the end of this post anyway, in case it helps you get in the mood.

At the same time, I wanted to touch on this whole idea of themed work in the Montessori classroom. I have heard and read mixed opinions on the practice of putting themed work out for various holidays. The arguments against that I have heard say that children don’t need cute themes, that they’re inspired to work regardless, and that work should be simple and uncluttered. I agree with all three of these statements, but I still love to change the work on our classroom shelves to reflect current holidays and seasons. I don’t go too crazy, because beauty and simplicity are what make a work appealing without distracting from the direct aim, but I do make a number of small changes with each seasonal change, and for many holidays in between. Here’s why:

Simple changes in a work create a point of interest that may call to the child who has forgotten about a work, but had not yet mastered it.

Making an old work new again helps build confidence, and encourages creativity. Some children in Montessori classrooms will so internalize the “right” way to work with certain materials, and the idea that they shouldn’t do work without having first had a lesson, that they never dig deep and explore extensions and variations on their own. When a work is changed to match the seasonal theme, it looks new, but the skills practiced are the same. This means children who have already had a lesson can dive into “new” work without waiting for a presentation, and the confidence and enthusiasm this creates can carry over to other work in the classroom, too.

Changing things inside [the classroom] helps bring children’s attention to the changes happening outside, rooting them in seasonal rhythms. Not all of us live in areas where there are four seasons, each standing in stark contrast to one another. Holidays and observances are an important part of every culture, and they help build the concepts of time and of history. We had our first real snow during the first week of Spring this year, but the colorful work inside reminds us that Spring is indeed upon us, and that warmer is on its way.

Common themes can unite math, language, art, practical life, and culture, in a way that makes the connections between them more natural.

I thoroughly enjoy spending a few extra hours in the classroom around seasonal changes. As an added bonus, it keeps me thinking about the materials we have available, and watching closely to see what’s working and what isn’t. Below, you can see some examples of small changes I made to welcome spring.

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The pitchers in our simple pouring were replaced with these yellow cups that resemble pots for planting. The green of the mung beans inside is perfect for Spring as well. Cups and tray from Peggy’s on Guam ;)

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A touch of bright blue adds a new point of interest to this pouring exercise, and pulls the spring colors on this shelf together. Pitcher and tray from Montessori Services, and glasses from a local store.

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Changing out the objects in this transfer work to add some spring colors has inspired many children to practice spooning again. Tray and bowls from Montessori Services, spoon from World Market.

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Bright beads add a pop of Spring color to our transfer with tongs. Dishes and tongs from Montessori Services. Beads from JoAnn.

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Hiding Easter eggs inside some of the containers in our opening and closing work added a new point of interest. Opening and Closing activity from Montessori Services. Egg ornaments from JoAnn.

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Threading large beads has been mastered by all of the children in our classroom, so I took the opportunity to replace them with these medium beads that fit perfectly with the spring colors seen elsewhere. Basket was a gift, and beads are from JoAnn.

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A more challenging version with smaller beads.

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The green play dough we had for St. Patrick’s Day was replaced with a pale purple to welcome Spring, as well as some themed cookie cutters.

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A Spring themed cutting activity. This printable is from Montessori Print Shop. Black lines separate images of Spring. The children cut on the lines to separate the images, and envelopes are available on the art shelf for those who would like to keep them.

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Our stamping activity is looking a little messy today, but I replaced the shamrock and leprechaun we had for St. Patrick’s Day with a flower and a butterfly as we welcome Spring.


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5 thoughts on “Themed Work in the Montessori Classroom

    1. melissa Post author

      Aw, thanks, Jessica! I would love a tour of your playroom one day (virtual or in person, actually) – I’m sure I’d be inspired, too.

      Reply
  1. Janine

    I need to snag some of these ideas. Sebastian is OBSESSED with water pouring and likes to create his own, um, impromptu pouring activities. Lately I’ve been setting him up with cups and other containers to practice with in the bathtub. (He was so excited last week when I handed him my tea pot for a bath time tea party!)

    I love that these activities can all be done, for the most part, with items we already have on hand. (In fact, I think I’m going to dig out the tongs from Sebastian’s play food basket and set up an activity for tomorrow!)

    *PINNING*

    Reply
  2. Sylvia

    I think subtle changes like you’ve made here can definitely spark a renewed interest in an old activity. I’ve noticed that working with my own kids!

    Reply
  3. Rach

    I love your ideas, thanks for sharing them, I know that took a lot of time. You have given me a clearer understanding of why one would have themed activities too and how positive they are for t.he kids.

    Reply

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