Part 1 of this two-part blog series, I emphasized the importance of preparing and introducing “entry items” in the Montessori classroom to make the first day of the school year an enjoyable and successful day for my new and returning Montessori students.
Entry items are manipulatives (non-Montessori) that are already familiar to most preschoolers, such as puzzles, blocks, elastic band board etc. and I do like to keep them as natural looking as possible. Entry items don't require a specific presentation, aside from the basics of how to carry the activity to a table or mat and tidy it up upon completion. Even thought they aren't traditional Montessori materials, they should still be displayed in a Montessori manner - each item should be placed in a basket or on a tray and placed neatly on the “open” shelves.
On the first day of school, I take the children on a tour of our Montessori classroom and show the students which shelves are “open” and which shelves are “closed”. I have the children stay at circle but look with their eyes as I move throughout the room and stop in each subject area. For the first few weeks, I put a little sign on the closed shelves to serve as a visual reminder and I always make a point of showing each child what the closed sign looks like and explaining the purpose that it serves.
How to Incorporate Montessori Entry Items in Your New Montessori ClassroomOnce I return to circle time, I provide a group lesson on how to work with the items on the open shelves so that each child learns the proper routine right from the start. I show them how we remove the activities one at a time and take them to a table or mat and then once we are finished, we return the activity to the same spot and either tuck in our chair or roll up our floor mat. By ensuring the materials are familiar, it allows the teachers to focus on reinforcing the important rules throughout the day, such as tucking in chairs, walking around the mats, replacing the tray in the same spot etc, instead of having to present to each child how to use the materials.
The children love the idea of having “open” and “closed” shelves and take it very seriously. They understand that they will one day be able to work with the items on the closed shelves, but that they need to wait for a lesson. Most of the time the children are very careful about remembering to work from the open shelves and it helps build the excitement and anticipation to receive a lesson with the other materials. To ensure the children have plenty of work to keep them interested for the first few weeks, I make sure there is a shelf of entry items in each of the curriculum areas of the classroom and I have included a few examples below.
Math: number puzzles, number peg boards, counting train puzzle, number foam board with pegs
Language Arts: lower case letter puzzles, letter magnetic board, chalkboard and chalk
Sensorial: Elastic band geo boards, wooden shape puzzles, shape sorter box, geometric shape sorter
Practical Life: Lock box, lacing activity, bead stringing (making a necklace), linking chain, sorting activities
Art: tray of paper, 2 playdough trays, basket of stencils, container of pencil crayons, 3 trays with paper and crayons
Culture: feltboard with planets, basket with animal figurines for matching
Other manipulatives: wooden farm, large Lego (Duplo), mosaic blocks, wedgits, variety of wooden puzzles