This week the boys started to learn about the oceans of the world. It was also the week that Kal-El has begun placing written labels on his maps. He wanted to start work on labeling his map of Australia, however it occurred to me that his work wouldn't match the control map because we hadn't done the oceans. The first thing I did was get to work making labels one night. I made handwritten labels on white cardstock and laminated them for longevity. As I was making the labels I realized that I had to make multiple labels for some of the continents and all of the oceans because of the way a flat maps of the Earth are in hemispheres. I thought that this was a confusing way to learn about the oceans of the world. "There are five (or four) oceans on the Earth. Here are ten labels." Hmmm. I decided it would be easier to teach them about the oceans on the globe rather than on a flat map. I've never seen anyone else do it this way on another blog, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about how we did this.
We got out the globe and talked about the "one world ocean." Feeling a little hippy dippy I gagged a little when I said it. However, I wanted to be clear about the fact that the ocean were technically all connected and that they weren't going to find discreet bodies of water. Then, we play-acted a little skit in which the boys asked "Where are you?" and I said "I'm in the ocean! Point to me on the globe!" They pointed to a spot in the water on the globe and I said, "No, not over there." They picked a different spot and I said again "No, not over there." After a few tries I asked, "Would it be easier to find me if I told you which part of the ocean I was in?" "Yes!" they cried. (Can you tell I've been reading about Montessori grammar exercises a lot lately? Noun game anyone?) Then, I explained that the different large parts of the ocean have been given names so that it is easier to describe where something is and easier to describe the ocean as it is in different locations. I decided to go with the "five oceans" terminology since it seems to be the nomenclature that is taking hold.
The boys understand the difference between north and south, so it was easiest to start with the Southern Ocean. They understand the difference between Arctic and Antarctic so it was natural to jump from there to the Arctic Ocean. They know where "India" is so we found the Indian Ocean next. This left us with only two oceans that were completely new concepts, the Atlantic and Pacific. It was a lot easier to show them where these oceans fall on the globe than it would have been on the map.
I added these little envelopes (in a napkin holder of course) to our geography shelves this week. They each have a picture label on the front so that the boys know which map they belong to.
Inside are all of the laminated labels for the maps. Because we were starting on the globe, I clipped the duplicate labels that we only needed for the flat maps together for now so that the boys aren't confused by the extra labels when they do this independently.
Also on the shelf is a little glass bowl with a plastic lid containing poster putty. I showed the boys how to make a ball out of a small piece of poster putty and use it to stick a label to the globe.
I also had to demonstrate how to remove the labels, return the putty to the bowl, and return the labels to the envelope. If you want to avoid letting the Montessori materials become simply didactic materials that you as the "teacher" uses once or twice to "demonstrate something" it is important set up the works so that they can be done independently. You want this to be something that you, the "guide," "show the child how to use" and that they then can take off the shelf at will to explore and teach themselves.
I certainly will have to give this presentation again some time in the future when Me Too is reading and ready to label maps himself. I always let him tag along for our culture presentations. It is easier to keep them together in the culture albums even though the work they eventually do is at different levels. It is amazing what he picks up, but I would definitely say that Me Too's experience with the primary culture albums has been more "exposure" than "mastery." To keep him involved, we let him form the little balls of poster putty and let him stick at least half of the labels on. He knew where to put the continents labels if Kal-El told him what the label said. I predict (knowing him well) that Me Too will attempt this work in upcoming days, but will simply ask for help reading the labels as he goes.
The Ultimate Montessori Search Box
The Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration