charting, counting, categorizing

“Reciting one, two, three, four, five, and so on, is fun for a child, but it is not really learning math.

Math starts with the excitement of moving and touching real objects, gathering them into groups, counting each one, one at a time. It is exciting to discover that these words stand for quantities of like objects – buttons, peas, spoons, family members, stars in the sky – and later to realize that these concepts are used and understood all over the world.”

– Susan Mayclin Stephenson. The Joyful Child. Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

and so we count, we sort, we categorize and we even graph and chart our results. the simplest of which is to do so naturally, daily and have it naturally build month after month. that’s right, you guessed it, we do so with the weather! in our morning meetings we have a lovely large bank of windows where the weather is easily observed and beautifully reported. ‘numeracy‘ is an important concept: sorting, categorizing, counting, patterns … it’s truly a vital piece of our cognitive development.

calendar - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

we use the pocket calendar chart from Lakeshore Learning and I cut 3×3″ squares out of sentence strips to fit each pocket. clip-art was my source for the weather pictures and after some cutting and pasting and writing a set of weather was created to be used with each day of the month. this process is also easy enough that if we need additional weather options — like our six day stretch of a heatwave {like no other!}, it is exceptionally easy to add these options.

calendar 2 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-combut the piece that grows and grows all month long is the chart we create every month. cutting 2×2″ squares out of construction paper {which, when we’re done, gets recycled in the collage bin in the art studio!} are added to simple column footers. every day we add one more block. every day we write a number on this addition and compare, contrast, hypothesize and observe the pattern that’s emerging in front of us.

we also use language with all ages to talk about what we see and to ask questions such as: “which weather type has more?” “which has less?” “how many can we count to in the ‘hot’ category?” and so on. during the month we make projections — “which weather type do you ‘project’ to have the most? the least?” and so on. the possibilities to weave into the natural language of the day is entirely endless.

calendar 3 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com:: today, in your adventures with your child, how can you weave in counting, patterns or categorizing? when you take a nature walk, how many trees can you count? acorns? steps from one space to the next? what about in the kitchen … this space seems to so beautifully and effortlessly lend itself to numeracy (and literacy!) in any age child. 


make a craft: {the good food restaurant}

restaurant - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-coma restaurant is born! 

five star it may not be, nor is jamie oliver stopping by anytime soon {we think!} for the dishes we’re preparing, but it’s a space created wholly by observing and interacting in the natural play this space affords us. dramatic play kitchen areas so naturally lend themselves to this type of cooperative and interactive play that creating some simple props to assist in this play {as well as augmenting with some purchased “real” props}, our restaurant was created … and is in non-stop use!

so, how did we go about this?

here’s the general steps:

:: I spent a couple of days intently observing and listening to the conversations happening in this area — who was doing what, how were they doing it, what questions and conversations were happening. I interjected some terms here and there {“do you have a daily special?“, “can I take this order to-go?“, etc} to add another dimension to the play, but this was my time to just observe and understand.

:: our first order of business? a restaurant name! the conversation was guided by “what do you serve?” and so, {the good food restaurant} was born. and, who doesn’t want to eat “good food”, right?!

:: a menu was next on the list! the guiding question was “what do you serve?” elicited many responses but the consensus came back, time and again, to items enjoyed but also ones they felt were decadent (I adored the addition of cake and lemonade!).  as we talked about the food, we talked price: “what do you think someone would pay for this?” and numbers were kept easy and often the children would compare prices as we wrote all of this out (I took the role of transcriber as the discussions happened naturally, cooperatively and collaboratively).

good food restaurant menu - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com:: next, I took a laptop to the children and we chose the menu format and each clip-art. each menu is printed on an inkjet printer on card stock and I printed double sided  for ease
(do you need the template? send an email and let me know! contact form at the bottom of this post)

restaurant 3 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

:: from there, our menu on the wall evolved — as well as a pocket to place the menu’s in. the menu contents was printed, cut and placed on a 12×18″ piece of construction paper, the pocket is a piece of cardstock folded into a pocket and attached to the construction paper with clear packing tape.

at our local office supply store, “guest check” pads were purchased for a small nominal amount. we re-purposed some smaller-sized clipboards to hold the pads, found a cup to put pencils in and even a stray calculator to aid in adding up the bill. a small hook was added to the play kitchen to hang the clipboard and aprons were sourced from other areas in the school and clearly have become the ‘uniform’ of choice when playing the role of waiter/waitress.

restaurant 2 - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

each prop and item has created a space guided completely by the children’s imagination. the play is so intentional, so meaningful and incredibly cooperative and collaborative. it is a joy to see the play evolve, the conversations and questions, the smiles and the heaps of laughter that seem to easily erupt in this space.

:: where will your play take you today? can observing and allowing your presence to be a bystander, and a recorder, allow the creation of a new space?

interested in having the menu template sent your way? be in touch below:

make a craft: flower word families

flower word families - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com. . . . . . . . . .

our writing corner is a popular space at our school. it is designed specifically for one person and is a language rich space to do some journaling, explore words and language, or simply take out a white-board and create what you need to.

recently we’ve been adding words and “word families” to the repertoire of sight and spoken words, specifically for our older children to incorporate into their journaling, but for everyone to experience. we find ourselves singing many “rhyming words” with claps, stomps and often much laughter. we find the rhythm of rhyming in our stories and poetry read during our days together, in our songs and chants during many chances to sing and dance.

Reading Rockets (a program of WETA) has a wonderful article on Phonelogical Awareness as well as the importance of the pre-reading skill of Rhyming Games. So why go through all this chanting and rhyming and general silliness over words like rat, hat, cat, mat, {and} pat? Well … it’s so vital and so important! Reading Rockets nicely states: “Developing a child’s phonological awareness is an important part of developing a reader. Young children’s ability to identify rhyme units is an important component of phonological awareness. Research shows that students benefit from direct instruction on rhyme recognition paired with fun activities that target this skill.”

and, so, we chant and march, we rhyme and clap … and we sing often very off-key (and enjoy each moment!) …
and we make flower word families together! 

:: make a craft: flower word families

:: brown paper bags
:: paper in varying colors (I used card stock and vellum because I had it on hand)
:: wooden popsicle sticks (I used ones 6 3/4 x 1/16″ found at a craft store)
:: scissors
:: markers
:: glue

how to: 
:: I used a 3 1/2″ punch-cutter for the flower center (it’s quicker than I can cut on my own) and free-hand cut the petals
:: I asked the children to help the assemby of the flowers — using tape to adhere the petals onto the flower, using markers to color the popsicle stick stems while I quickly cut flower-pot shapes out of a grocery store bag
:: once the flowers were assembled, I marked each with “_____ xx” for our word family “base” (in our case, we used “__ed” “__ap” “__op” “__ug”) and then asked the children to listen to the sound of the “base” and then asked if we could start rhyming (and entered each word spoken on the petals)

:: what language rich activity can you do today? have you marched and rhymed today? (try it … it’s such fun!) 

it’s christmas in july!

barefoot books - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

whenever a box or bag arrives at our doorstep (or when we’re lucky enough to head to their Concord, MA studio), the Barefoot Books logo brings such excitement in our school and with our children (and adults!). the stories draw you in and expand your imagination, the illustrations are engaging and capture the minds of young and old alike. and if you’re lucky enough to have your story read on an accompanying cd … watch out! I can’t tell you how often I’ve gleefully sat and listened alongside the children to the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story, expertly narrated by Richard Hope. and when he gets to the spot where the giant flies off the beanstalk with a giant “boooiiiinnngggg!” I join the children in fits of laughter every single time!

‘our school at home’ proudly partners with Barefoot Books and uses many of these award-winning and inspiring books in our themed curriculum.

barefoot giant turnip - ourschoolathomeblog-wordpress-com

like “the gigantic turnip” – we’ve been reading it again and again during our theme of “things that grow“. the story is wonderful, cumulative, rich … and hysterical! how these characters all work together to get this gigantic turnip out of the ground is both wonderfully collaborative and downright funny (look at the cow helping out … he’s the first of many animals that will hop on board to join in the fun!)

want to learn more about Barefoot Books or ‘our school at home’? are you local in the greater-Boston area? we’re having an wonderful “Christmas in July” gathering this Sunday, July 21st in the afternoon where you can shop for books, tour the school and see what we’re all about.

interested? send us an email at and we’ll share more — hope to see  you there! 

felt boards and storytelling

it just feels so right to have a space dedicated to a felt board for both using as discovery … but also with storytelling and the telling of a story. this week the felt board came to find a home in our discovery room and has been well received both in its newness but also in its possibilities. it is in those possibilities that we’re relishing and immersing ourselves in over here – the planning, the exploring, the evolution of our stories though this felt board.

. . . . . . . . . .
if you could tell a story, what would you tell? how would your story evolve?
. . . . . . . . . .

childhood101 has a nice read on the importance of felt boards in their ‘literacy spot’ weekly feature. this blog feature showcases the ‘importance of young children learning playfully as each week I share one idea for playing around with literacy’. go, take a peek at {{ }}