Monday, May 3, 2010

Montessori Mondays: Fish Mini-Unit

Last week, just after we got back from our road trip to western PA to visit Nana and Papa, I remembered that we had signed up for a homeschooling field trip to the Cape Cod Canal Herring Run Ladder. So, I thought, “Ooo, I should focus our Jammies School fun this week on fish!”

However, with Nina recovering from a bad belly bug, Luke a bit off and seeming to be fighting a bug himself and me intermittently suffering from prenatal back aches, ligament pain and muscle pains, plus some unexplained neck and headaches, I figured I had better keep things easy and mostly at-home. I wanted to give each of us both time and opportunity to heal before our field trip. And, of course, I wanted to avoid infecting others with whatever lovely bugs were hopping about our family.

So, I decided to use only things we had on hand for our Mini Unit on Fish, combined with easily printable activities from online, plus whatever I could find during a quick library stop after tutoring the other night. And, when I say “quick”, I mean it! With just minutes to closing, I dashed to the non-fiction section of the children’s room to grab a few books and then asked the librarian to do a quick computer search for me as the patron computers were already shut down. With the key words “toddler, fiction, fish”, we got a brief list and pulled a few fiction books off the shelves, which I didn’t even time to preview before the library closed.

Armed with this handful of library quick picks, print outs from a brief Internet search and a dose of creativity, our impromptu Fish Mini-Unit began. And, what a hit it is turning out to be! With Montessori style works, Language Arts, Mathematics, Art and lots of other “subject” work and fun – mostly inspired by the library quick picks – plus a "perfect day" field trip last Friday, the kids have been having a great time and have asked to keep studying fish over the course of the next few weeks. (So, bring on the ideas if you have them. Leave a comment with links, suggestions, etc. We’d love them!)

And, with sharing in mind, here are some of the more Montessori-inspired things we have done so far. (Now, mind you, I readily admit I have yet to rededicate Montessori shelves in our household and have not been maintaining basic standards of Montessori, such as trays and rugs for work and clutter-free spaces, as you will note in our photos. Please do not let this put you off. I am doing what I can with what time I have and, at this point, that means just the “works” whenever and wherever we can manage them...)

Fish Parts Puzzle and Fishing Puzzle

The kids enjoyed putting their Montessori fish puzzle together both in its tray and on the floor (but Mommy neglected to take any picutres). Sometimes, as they did, we named the parts of the fish. They also enjoyed some eye-had coordination with a Melissa and Doug Magnet Fish Game.

Draw, Write, Now

Although not an official Montessori material or activity, I find the Draw Write Now series of drawing and writing books very Montessori-friendly. Plus, Luke loves them! So, we used Book 6 to work on pre-writing skills, attention to detail, etc. by sketching the fish and sea creatures within it, adding our own details and coloring our pictures. (Note: In the picture of Luke's drawing, he is adding details to an outline he asked me to draw.  He is quite the artist, but not that talented yet! Not that Mommy is, either...)  Plus -- bonus -- we learned a little bit about the creatures we drew through the brief copywork explanations that accompany the drawing instructions for each picture within the book.

Sea Life Matching
We used prior-purchase Target Dollar Spot sea life picture cards for a variety of matching, sorting and other Montessori-inspired activities. What fun!

After reading Trudy Harris’ Pattern Fish, we made our own patterns (and, sometimes, as pictured, no apttern at all - just fun with painting), using Do-a-Dot paint markers (a recent favorite of the kids and Mommy – easy to use, bright colors and less mess than regular paints!). We did this on Fish Number Puzzles printed from Childcare Land.

And, after hanging them to dry, on another day, “laminated” them with contact paper and used playdough to make bubbles on them, counting to match bubbles with numerals and working towards a goal of number recognition. (Yes, I know the playdough color is an odd one for bubbles. The kids mixed lots of our homemde playdough together while I was “laminating”, so we went with what we had!)

And, since Pattern Fish ends with a shark, we also enjoyed tying in a “Five Little Fish” rhyme/song we found on Childcare Land. I printed out the pattern, “laminated” it with contact paper and taped magnets to the back for cookie sheet and magnetic door fun. Luke decided he didn’t want the shark to eat the fish, so he changed the tune, with my help to:

"Five little sharks, swimming in the sea.

Teasing Daddy shark,

“You can't catch me. Oh no. You can’t catch me.”

Along came Daddy shark,

as quiet as can be,

and tickled the (color) shark, swimming in the sea!”

Gotta love when my boy – usually oddly attracted to anything remotely violent and gorey– shows compassion and peaceful tendencies. We must be doing something right...

We also simply had fun noting all the patterns in the book – from the obvious ones written about in the text, to the extra ones in the illustrations and frames on each page. Truly, what a delightful discovery Pattern Fish has been! With its cartoonish pictures, I am not sure it would have passed my usual library book preview scrutiny, but – oh boy! – has it proved to have its own merit. The kids have enjoyed finding all the patterns on each page and love the illustrations – bright, simple, but with just enough detail for appeal and learning to boot. Plus, with the “twist” at the book’s end, where a shark turns up, the kids have liked tying the text into a little dinosaur-inspired obsession of Luke’s: predators and prey. And, I appreciated the tickler to start introducing “theory” behind patterns to the kids, using the AB, AAB, ABB and ABC notations on the final two pages of the book. (Luke has been sitting with the book at times int he past couple days saying the pattern names as he points to all the examples of them throughout the book; Nina likes “reading” the patterns to her dollies. I simply Love it all!)

Now, too much typing and not enough fun, fishy work and other life and learning activities being prepared for or attended to, so I will close here. Stay tuned in the coming weeks, as I hope to add more about our Fish Mini-Unit, sharing our ideas in case others need inspiration for toddler/pre-k fish theme studies – great for spring fish spawning season, summer ocean tie-ins, Creation day studies or just an observed interest in sea creatures. One on our list to do:

Missing Fish Parts Cards: We have printed out LauraLee's greatW hat's Missing Fish Part cards from Montessori Materials,  which I will “laminate” with contact paper. Since my children are pre-readers, the control labels on the back of the cards will be of little use to them (but will be included so we can revisit these cards in years to come). So, we will use the cards for an oral visual discrimination one instead, where the children will try to note what is missing in each picture, pointing missing parts out to me, and also as a pre-writing activity, where the kids will either circle areas of missing parts (encouraging counter-clockwise circles, so vital to writing letters) or draw the missing parts in.

We’d love to hear your ideas for fish and other toddler-pre-k learning fun, Montessori-inspired and otherwise!. So, please leave a comment. And, if you wish to be enjoy what some other folks are doing Montessori-wise, check out the links at One Hook Wonder.


The Sunshine Crew said...

I enjoyed your post about your mini-fish unit.
We did some work on animals at Presque Isle / Northwestern PA, including fish, back when we went to visit Erie PA in October...we did some work on fish, but the next time we go back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives, we will have to do some more of the neat work you did!
Aren't those missing part parts cards nice?
We used those, too.
glad to see you mention Draw, Write Now...I have seen those and agree with you that although they are not a Montessori material, they seem like they would work well with a Montessori inspired home. Which boos do you have? I am thinking of buying some of the books.
Lovely blog, by the way...Hope that you will pop by mine:)

Deb Chitwood said...

What a fun unit study, Martianne! And I love your adaptation of "Five Little Fish"! I featured your photo and post in my Shark Unit Study at


Related Posts with Thumbnails