Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Impressionistic Charts: Storage

The various sets of impressionistic charts are iconic Montessori elementary materials.  You started to see some of them in use during the first Great Lesson.  The charts are best if they are somewhat large, usually about 12x18 or so...but not too large.  In a homeschool you are not showing these charts to a whole classroom at once.  The larger they are the more unwieldy to use and more difficult to store they become.

I made my own charts for fractions (I photographed them and will post them soon!) and am working on my own geometry charts.  I chose to buy the botany charts and the two sets of geography charts.  Now that we have all of these resources, two questions remained: "where do we put these?" and "how do we protect these?"

I ordered what are called "large impressionistic charts" from Alison's.  They are available laminated or unlaminated.  However, they charge $50 per set for lamination.  I didn't want to pay $150 in lamination costs.  I did still think the charts themselves were reasonable because I have seen one of the sets available as a digital download for almost the same price.  It was attractive to be able to buy them already printed on high-quality paper of this size.  The charts are NOT as large as the Alison's site claims (16 x20).  The geography charts are 12 x 16 and the botany charts 13x17.

I knew I wanted some kind of portfolio to store this in.  I was really happy when I happened across the Profolio collection by Itoya.  They have photo-album-style and binder-style portfolios in lots of different sizes.  The 14 x 17 size album style portfolio was perfect.

The very week I discovered them, our local craft store put them on sale for 50% off.  This meant that I was able to protect and store about 125 14x17 charts in inexpensive portfolios rather than pay Alison's $150 to laminate their charts plus probably another $100 to laminate my own and still have to come up with storage.

I don't know if this will be their permanent home, but for now they fit nicely on top of the bookcases.

The spines are equipped with a sleeve that can house a label that wraps around to both the front and back of the album.  I whipped up some labels that provided a word for the spine and pictures along the front and back.

This method of storage seems to be plenty accessible and tempting.  Kal-El pulled down the first Geography portfolio, unprompted, and really enjoyed kicking back on the couch where he used them as intended...to jog his memory and make him think about and talk about the stories he listened to when he saw the charts the first time.

The next burning questions is, "Do I LIKE the ETC press charts?"  I don't particularly like them.  I'm hoping they grow on me.  I feel that the Albanesi impressionistic charts are much easier for a child Kal-El's age to understand.

When I look at the Albanesi charts myself  I instantly understand them.  When I look at the ETC press charts I find myself thinking "what is this supposed to be?" an awful lot.

Examples of Albanesi geography charts.

Unfortunately the Albanesi charts range from $230 to $280 PER SET.  Ouch.  Montessori guides make their own charts like these during training.  You can see from the level of detail and artistry why I, even as a competent artist, was interested in purchasing these instead of making so many of them.

I own two sets of albums that assume that you are using the Albanesi-style charts.  The ETC charts correspond but not directly.  For example, right away I had to make my own layers of the Earth chart to match my presentation because the ETC chart was not only harder to view, but included more layers than the presentation did.  You can buy the ETC charts with or without a set of materials that provides the explanations and experiments.  My albums already have those, so I bought only the chart.  However, they sure would be helpful!

I found this YouTube video that is a slideshow of all of the ETC botany charts that I purchased:

I think I like the botany charts well enough.  It's the geography charts that have me confounded.  There are, in particular, some pictures of infants left in usual places (a meadow?  a mountaintop?) that refer to radiation dispersing heat that I have NO idea how to explain.

There is extra room in the portfolios.  Hopefully I won't have to make as many of my own charts as I think.  When I do, I can nestle it in to the portfolio side by side with the purchased chart.  I did so with my layers of the Earth chart and Kal-El really enjoyed looking at them both.

Montessori Monday


  1. I really dont have any of these charts for money resons and because I cant seem to find any good pictures to make my own! I love that you stored them in the porfolios! That is perfect! I think I will have to do something like that here! I totally understand what you mean about ETC. I just bought their timeline of humans and it is good, but not as good as the one you have. There are very few pictures of what the humans may have been doing and lot of the skull transfomations. Bunny really thought it was kinda gross! :) It seems to me that ETC is better targeting the 9-12 age group then the younger 6 and ups! However, their price point is perfect! Oh well! I will just have to get some good books to supplement! I really cant wait to see how you made your fraction charts. My albums only give a three sentence blip that really doesnt give me a good idea what they should look like! I am off to research this now! :) Thanks so much for sharing! As always you are inspirational (even if it makes more work for me! ) ;) Happy Schooling!

  2. It looks like Eye Candy to me!! Would love to see all of those photos. Thank you for sharing.

  3. What are your thoughts on the Impressionistic Charts for geography and botany from Montessori for Everyone?

  4. Cristina,

    I believe they are being used over at the blog "We Don't Need No Education" http://godwhohasnohands.blogspot.com/

    and they seem happy with them. They look similar to me to the ETC charts rather than similar to the Albanesi charts.

    The reason I didn't get them is because I thought they were too expensive for a digital file. It was nine dollars MORE expensive to buy one of the Geography sets from Montessori for Everyone than it was to buy the same ETC set from Alison's. I figured that I was certain to go through my ink cartridges printing each set. It costs $50 for a set of ink cartridges. Then, they would only be on 8.5x11 printer paper. I thought it was better to buy the large prints already printed on glossy 70 lb paper for the lesser amount of money.

    I do see that the Montessori for Everyone charts come with the descriptions/explanations which would be helpful if you are using charts different from those used in your albums. I spent some time on it last night and I'm starting to better see the relationship between my charts and my album's charts. So, my albums are going to work just fine with my charts. I still think that the Albanesi charts do a better job of illustrating things such as wind patterns, etc.,

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  6. The very large charts in an elementary classroom are stored in a large "box" with wheels underneath. It has wooden dividers (just large boards) with "tab shapes" at the top to identify the subject area. Then they are organized by number between those boards.

    I have the very large charts, because of my training; but if I were to start all over with nothing, I would definitely go with about half the classroom size for homeschool purposes.

    I like the portfolio idea for storage; my only thought would be on wanting to take out 2 or more at a time to display side by side - so being sure the boys could take them out and put them back properly. Also, some of the charts will be work charts (climates, work charts and time zones come to mind) so those will definitely come in and out. But then - in a homeschool they are used less often (fewer children), so it's probably not an issue :)

    Lots to play with here :)

  7. I love the work you've done with your Montessori charts and portfolios! I pinned this post to my Montessori Elementary Activities and Ideas Board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/montessori-elementary-activities-and-ideas/

  8. I just posted in a couple of places a link back to this post of yours with some ideas for storage; as well as posting on Montessori Trails another couple of ideas.

    But it just occurred to me - we have the very portfolios you are using ;) They are storing my son's larger artwork. He's not been making very large items of late, so I'd forgotten about them until he pulled them out to look at his past work. I LOVE these sizes and wherever I got them, they are quite affordable (I think I ordered them from Dick Blick or someplace similar ??? It was years ago though).


  9. Hi, Lori from Montessori for Everyone here! Just wanted to comment on our 9-12 charts. Besides the charts themselves, our 9-12 set includes detailed explanations for each chart plus experiment cards for many of the charts. That's an additional 38 pages of material in addition to the charts.

    Also, we researched the charts with the help of a high school science teacher and in doing so, corrected many of the scientific errors that remain on the ETC charts. ETC offers some sample pages of their charts at their site, and at least one of the explanations in their sample was copied word for word from Wikipedia. So, we felt that our price reflected the greater amount of material and the higher quality of pictures and research in our charts. Hope that helps!