Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Celebrate Without Guilt!

Maryann “Mar.” Harman, MA Education
Founder Music with Mar., Inc.

I have always been a proponent of multiculturalism.  It is one of the things about the US that I hold so dear - the mixture (and welcoming) of all kinds of people.  Ever since I was a little girl growing up in Newark, NJ, I was fascinated by the homes of my friends who came from different countries.  It was so interesting to hear their names, listen to their languages and share their food.  I embraced all their traditions and enjoyed sometimes being invited to share in them.  It was reciprocal.  My friends enjoyed learning the US traditions as their families became citizens.
In recent years, the holidays that I grew up with and hold so dear have been questioned and sometimes even eliminated from schools.  This is wrong.  Although we should never cram our religious beliefs onto anyone else, we should still be allowed to celebrate ours - and openly - WITHOUT GUILT.  It is possible to respect and acknowledge other holidays and still celebrate ours.  If we respect others' rights to celebrate, then in turn, others should be happy to have us do the same.

During this season, I always try to assess a person before saying "Merry Christmas".  Many times, if I am not sure, I say "Merry Christmas - or whatever is it you celebrate!"  It has become a season, a season that everyone celebrates whether just for the traditions (lighting a tree, giving money to a Santa to help others or singing traditional songs) or for the religious aspect.  Everyone takes from it the part they feel attached to.  I even recorded a song – “Everybody Loves Christmas Time”.   Just recently, a woman from another culture said to me, “Don’t be silly.  We all enjoy taking part in the season.”

How sad that we aren't supposed to say "Santa Claus" or "Christmas" in school.  When a child comes into class and asks, "Who is that man outside in the red suit ringing a bell?”, is the response "I'm not allowed to tell you."?  Shouldn't we be teaching children about everyone and ask "What do you celebrate in your home?"  Instead of a useful teaching tool, we are eliminating anything that may insult someone.  By doing this, we are insulting all of those who have been freely celebrating their traditions for years.   I
nstead of educating our children, we remove the things we believe may be offensive and miss a great opportunity to teach valuable lessons. 

At one school in which I taught, the holidays lined up one year, being all near the end of Nov into Dec.  At morning assembly, each morning we had a different group of children come up and tell about their holiday without getting religious.  Indian children spoke of Diwali.  Muslims about Ramadan and Eid.  Jewish children talked about Hanukah and then some of the parents cooked latkes in the classrooms.  Last, we spoke about Christmas.  A mom from Egypt kissed me in the hallway and said "Thank you.  No teacher has ever acknowledged our Muslim holidays before."  As a music teacher, to me, it was the natural thing to do.  The children absolutely loved sharing their traditions and the other children found it very interesting.  That is what education is – expanding minds.  (A side note: Ramadan is not always the same time every year.  It is based on the Muslim year.  It is the same with Hanukah.)  Diwali is usually in October or November. 

A good resource for learning about different holidays is "Celebrations Around the World" by Carole S. Angell. 

Remember to share your traditions and celebrate them proudly.  You can do that and respect other's traditions as well.  

Next month's blog will be all about "The Reindeer Dance" and an updated version of the "Twelve Days of Christmas".  Be sure to check November 25!

Maryann "Mar." Harman
For daily brain facts on the importance of music, please like and share :

Sunday, October 23, 2016

DIY Feel Box

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

I like easy ideas...and ideas that are little cost. That's why I love this feel box.

You need an oatmeal box and a large NEW men's athletic sock. Slide the sock over the oatmeal box = and the feel box is ready.

Oatmeal Feel Box (Brick by Brick)

Put in anything that you want kids to feel--small toys, nature items, magnet shapes, anything.

Kids reach in through the sock and feel the items. They can easily pull them out.

Oatmeal Feel Box (Brick by Brick)

This is a great activity for all ages of kids. I've used it with one-year-old toddlers and kindergartners. With younger kids, I just put in 1 or 2 items. With kindergartners, put in several items and lay similar items beside the box. 

Oatmeal Feel Box (Brick by Brick)

They can feel one of the items they can see and then find items that feel the same inside the box. 

Oatmeal Feel Box (Brick by Brick)

Another advantage - no cheating! Kids cannot see inside the box, even when they reach inside it.

Oatmeal Feel Box (Brick by Brick)

I like this activity. The box is recycled and the sock can be purchased at the dollar store. The items that go in the box are things you already have. Easy. Little cost. 

And fun!  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pumpkins, Wind and More October Music!

Where is Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup today?  I’m in Los Gatos, CA at the annual Children’s Music Network Conference – singing and dancing with people who make music with and for children! 
         Yes, I’m in my “Happy Place!” 

PLUS for the past two months every spare minute has been devoted to making a new recording! “WELCOME!” will be released in early December!  Look at the “Macaroni Soup Singers” for this year – they were adorable plus plus!

What does that mean for this month’s blog?  Well – I’m asking you to take a look back at some October offerings from the past 5 years that I’ve been contributing here on PreK and K Sharing!

OCTOBER 2015– “Pumpkins!”  

OCTOBER 2012 -  “Making BOO Fun!”  sorry - this one seems to have disappeared!  Talk about "BOO!"

…and one of my most-read blogs: “Creating an Obstacle Course”  Make a slightly spooky, wonderfully fun course of challenges that children will enjoy over and over!

Now – back to my own singing and dancing!  For more information about The Children’s Music Network you can email me or go to   It’s a fantastic organization for teachers, musicians, librarians, parents – heck, anyone who makes music with kids of all ages!
Yours for a Fall Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Language Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Dinosaurs are such a fun, high-interest topic that I just had to take a break from all the holiday activities to focus on dinosaurs. I'm sharing ideas for free dinosaur printables and Montessori-inspired dinosaur language activities. 

I've had posts here before with other dinosaur activities. But these are new, different, and focusing on hands-on dinosaur language activities. My post at Living Montessori Now has a long list of free dinosaur printables

You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Letter D Object Basket and Writing Tray

Letter D Object Basket and Sand Tray Free Printables: Dinosaur Letters for Letter D Object Basket and Writing Tray (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For the letter d basket, I used a basket with small objects beginning with the /d/ sound. I like introducing the cursive letter along with the manuscript one, so I included the cursive d card. I used a variety of objects starting with /d/. You could just say the phonetic sound as you or your child removes an item from the basket: for example, "/d/ dog, /d/ doll..." Some of the objects are ones I had at home (such as Safari Ltd. TOOB objects and a miniature wooden doll I had), although many are from Montessori Services (they have individual phonetic objects or a whole set available). 

For the letter d sand tray, I used the wooden tray from the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes. You can use whatever tray or container work best for you, though. For the sand, I sterilized sand from outdoors by baking it for 30 minutes at 200F. You can also buy sand on Amazon

Dinosaur Letter Tile Cards (Beginning Sounds) 

Dinosaur Letter Tile Tray 

Free Printable: Dinosaur Letter Tile Cards (Beginning Sounds) by Karen Cox from PreKinders at TeachersPayTeachers. There are 3 levels to this printable, so it's very versatile. I'm showing the middle version with the missing initial sound.  
Free Printable: Montessori Movable Alphabet (1 Inch Letter Tiles). You could purchase letter tiles if you prefer rather than printing them out. For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray and small Bambu condiment cup to hold the letters.
   Dinosaur Letter Tile Cards Layout  

For our floor work, we always use a Montessori Services hemmed work rug.

Dinosaur Syllables 

Dinosaur Syllables Tray  

Free Printable: Dinos TOOB Key by Safari Ltd., hosted at Living Montessori Now. I just printed it out and cut it apart, using the 8 dinosaurs that were in both the Dinos TOOB and dinosaur syllable cards.  

Free Printable: Dinosaur Syllables from Dinosaur Unit Language Printable Pack 1 by Renae at Every Star Is Different 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, Safari Ltd. Dinos TOOB (the ones that matched the printable cards), Montessori Services basket to hold the dinosaurs, dinosaur syllable cards, Bambu large condiment cup, small Bambu condiment cup, and miniature clothespins. You could use glass gems like Renae did at Every Star Is Different. I just used the miniature clothespins because my almost-3-year-old granddaughter has been especially excited about them lately.

You could place a small control dot on the back of the card where the clothespin should go for a control of error (instant self-check).

Dinosaur Syllables

Dinosaur Sight Words (Puzzle Words) with Clothespin Letters

Dinosaur Sight Word (Puzzle Word) Tray  

Free Printable: Sight Word Dinosaurs from Classy Kinders by Jamie Aguilar at Teachers Pay Teachers 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray containing a Montessori Services basket with clothespins with the letters for the puzzle words written on them with a permanent marker.   
     Dinosaur Sight Words (Puzzle Words) with Letter Clothespins  

When I first teach puzzle words, such as "the," I say something like: "/t/, /h/, and /ĕ/ together say the word 'the.'  You can't sound out 'the.' You just have to remember it." 

Dinosaur CVC Word Families 

Dinosaur CVC Word Family Tray  

Free Printable: Dinosaur CVC Word Mats from Royal Baloo 

This activity was super simple to prepare. It just used a small Montessori Services basket and Multicraft tray to hold everything.

Dinosaur CVC at Word Family Layout

There are a number of word families in the printable pack. I would generally put out one word family (such as the "at" family), letting the child make and read each of the words before putting out another word family. 

Dinosaur Bones Punctuation Game 

Dinosaur Bones Punctuation Game Free Printable: Dinosaur Bones Punctuation Game from 123 Homeschool 4 Me 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray and small Bambu condiment cup to hold the markers (for up to 4 players). 

think this would make a nice cooperative game if everyone took turns moving the same piece. Of course, it works well as a traditional game, too. This is a fun way to reinforce punctuation skills. 

More Free Dinosaur Printables 

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free dinosaur printables from around the blogosphere: Free Dinosaur Printables and Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Language Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables

More Dinosaur Posts and Resources: 

Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur UnitMontessori-Inspired Dinosaur Fun with Printables, Water Beads, and Glass GemsMontessori-Inspired Dinosaur Activities Using Dinosaur ReplicasMake Fossils from Montessori at Home!Free Dinosaur Printables and Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Math ActivitiesLiterature-Based Dinosaur Activities for PreschoolersDinosaur Ice Melt Science Experiment for Toddlers and PreschoolersDinosaur Unit Study Pinterest Board

Helpful Post with Animal Classification 

Montessori Animal Classification

Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!
I hope you found some ideas for your classroom or home. :) Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 41 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Living Montessori Now Button

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Art of Synergy - how to create a sense of community

Modeling how to create community for our next generation

Our greatest global resource

Hi, it's Enrique from the Global Learning Foundation and the Sam the Ant team.  It's always exciting to share an idea and some strategies with you every month.  There are so many great ideas on this collaborative blog.  A simple one that I loved was Scott from Brick by Brick with his blog this past September titled Drawing on Mirrors.  I love how fundamental this particular strategy is because it allows the teacher/guide to create all sorts of learning opportunities.  It's open ended and that leads to questions, which can lead to inspiration, which leads to striving...

which leads to synergy!

What is synergy?

What does synergy look like?

Learning Guide and Learners co-discovering with young learners
being treated like co-creators, co-researchers and co-scientists.

John Coltrane and Miles Davis creating musical synergy in 1958

Synergy can be achieved in any moment and once
achieved it can be built upon, studied, practiced and elevated.

Synergy is not just any one moment, but a set of ongoing
moments which can culminate in the creation of something
physical, as is the case with this garden.

Synergy can built within families and friends.  The creation
of synergy in community is of critical importance to our
planet. This set of family and friends are in the UK.

The building of synergy can include modeling of ideas and it is important to also include opportunities for the learner to express their own desires and perspectives, as can be seen with the different levels of complexity of drawings, some by the adult, some by the young learner and some by both!

Synergy is like collaboration, but much more alive, open ended and has more energy associated with it because it involves multiple individuals or organizations not just working together, but openly exploring together.  For synergy to take place, it takes individuals and/or organizations which are truly open to creating ideas, which otherwise, would not have been possible.

Synergy can impact the effectiveness and productivity in any setting, and the setting itself can impact how comfortable we are to synergize, including the following.  We can take the time to set up any environment that fosters synergy and the settings which follow are excellent examples.

Early Childhood Classrooms

An early childhood classroom that uses both Reggio and Montessori inspired materials as provocations for the young learners who call this one of their homes.
You can learn more about the above classroom here.


Fuji Kindergarten                                                                       (Yes, the top of this school is the roof, and yes, children are able to explore, run and interact with their surroundings)

The above kindergarten is a very effective example of a physical structure which not only invites synergy, but also ignites it! When first meeting Takaharu and Yui, the husband-and-wife team who created Fuji Kindergarten, you are immediately drawn to their playful spirit. “Our architecture is about family — everything we learn, everything we do about architecture starts with our family,” says Takaharu. The Tezukas have two young children. The architects’ motto is: “If you don’t know happiness, how can you provide it to others?” Located in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, the 750-student, three-year preschool built in 2007 is a one-story structure in the shape of a donut. The entire school feels like a playground, from the open-air central courtyard to the building’s wide circular roof. Even the interior classroom areas follow an open-school plan where partitions separate sections and all furniture is moveable. Takaharu says the goal is for “these children to be stronger and more flexible.” The idea of non-linear structures is not new, yet not used as often as they should be used.  There are plenty of linear moments in our lives as human beings.  Non-linear visual stimuli and experiences ignite a different part of our brain. The part which is connected to creativity and innovation.

K - 12 Classrooms

A Waldorf school in Seattle.  This is a physical example of synergy!

Una de las clases de la escuela infantil waldorf de Belloterra, Spain.  A classroom from an early childhood classroom in Belloterra, Spain.

For more information on this classroom, click here.

It took children’s book illustrator Maira Kalman an entire year to track down the flea-market treasures that she transformed into the alphabet at the John Randolph School, P.S. 47 in the Bronx. The stimulating space is divided into colorful reading, research, and study areas with floor graphics, mobile shelving, and easily positioned tables and chairs, including Pierre Paulin’s “Orange Slice” chair, peeking out in the background. Photo ©Peter Mauss/Esto.  

Artist rendering of open kitchen and co-located teaching kitchen for upper and
lower elementary schools, Dillwyn, Virginia

Click here for more information on this idea. 

Anne Frank Inspire Academy Middle School in San Antonio, Texas
A signature Wall composed of cross sections of local wood contains
a storage area with whiteboard doors for brainstorming sessions

Blended Rehab of a space! American International School of Utah is a great example of rehabilitated retail space. Early grades use a Montessori approach. Intermediate grades are student-centered similar to another school worth visiting — Acton Academy. The high school has big blended blocks that use a mixture of learning spaces that allow for student choice and encourage ownership. The music and drama program are exceptional (featured here).

Green School in Bali combines a rigorous K-12 core curriculum with hands-on experiential learning within a Green Studies curriculum and a Creative Arts curriculum.


Brussels, Belgium The International School of Brussels is an English-language international school that provides an international education to over 1500 students aged 2 ½ to 19 from 62 countries. The 40-acre secure campus lies in the Brussels commune of Watermael-Boitsfort.  As with the above examples, the physical structure is more open than most high schools, with more natural light and which impacts our minds in ways which can lead to more creative thought.  Creativity is the seeding ground for synergy.

Higher Education settings

Innovation is about to get easier, faster and more accessible at the University of Central Florida with the grand opening of four new labs known as Maker Spaces.  The above two images are examples of the creative use of space, color and light, which can all impact how quickly learners engage in synergistic activities.

Corporate settings

Google Office Spaces are designed for ignition of creativity. Synergy can become an expected part of daily activities!

BBC North Offices in England are designed with circular structures within a more traditional structure.  The color green has been shown by research as a color which invites 
both relaxation and creativity.

There are three areas, once experienced authentically over time, which lead to synergy. Inviting others to this process in an invitational way typically leads to a stronger sense of caring, community and increases the potential for synergy to arise.


  • What kinds of questions do you tend to ask others?
  • What kinds of questions do you tend to ask yourself?
  • When someone asks you a questions, do you sometimes respond with a question that leads to even more conversation and thought?

As adults, we tend to ask questions for which we are hoping to hear a certain answer. This limits the response and when working with young children, we want to expand the possible responses. We all want our children to feel free and strong enough to answer authentically... and explore just as freely!


When we think of inspiration, we sometimes think of what inspires us. Other times we think about what inspires others. I'd like you to think about:

  • What inspires others to be inspired?
  • What inspires others to inspire others?

When we take the time to observe how children interact with other children, adults and even animals, we will see some wonderful examples of this. We'll also see attempts that are unsuccessful, yet in the attempt there is the "learning how to inspire and be inspired" which can most certainly take place, depending on how we, as the adult guide, position their attempt.


Paralympic Games in London

When many think of striving, we think of working hard and certainly work ethic is a key variable. I'd like you to ask yourself the following questions related to your work with children and your own circle of friends and colleagues:

  • When you feel happy, what is it that prompts that feeling of happiness?
  • When you achieve a goal, what is it that prompts that feeling of achievement?
  • When you feel negative in some way, what is it that prompts that feeling?
  • When you miss a goal, do you always feel a sense of disappointment?  Why or why not?
  • What percentage of people in your life actively support your projects and your general approach to life?

From my own experience and the many years of experience in synergizing with children and colleagues, the Art of Striving is all about finding what feeds our energy tank.  When we connect to the things and people that give back positive energy, it creates a win-win scenario. This typically feels like I am going with the current of a river.... I feel like I'm going downstream, with the flow, living in the moment.... and THAT.... feels absolutely liberating. I encourage you to take some time to think about that and talk about this with your friends and colleagues.

And now a gift for all of you that will help you and your children explore The Art of the Question, The Art of Inspiration and The Art of Synergy all in the form of a children's book...for free!  Click on FREE Sam the Ant ebook and enjoy this story which embodies everything in this blog.

An example from a page of Sam the Ant - The Flood (Book 1)

Producer, Kaleidoscope, 

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