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Sunday, April 14, 2013

We've Moved!

It's been five years since my last blog post!  I'm sure it must be very annoying for you if you've signed up for blog posts by email but have never received anything from me.  I'm so sorry!

I'm stopping by for a quick note today to let you know that I've moved.  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori.  I have a regular posting schedule so I'm hoping I won't disappoint this time around! 

I also have a special thank you gift for new blog subscribers over at Trillium Montessori: a Ladybug themed classroom calendar printable!  Just pop your email into the subscribe form in the sidebar and follow the instructions to download it.  I regularly post free Montessori materials I have made for my class as well as photos of different works we put out on the shelves.

I'd love to see you over there!  Thanks for sticking with me!

 PS  You can also find me over on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Update 4/15/13

WE'VE MOVED!  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My mission here at The Prepared Environment is to make the lives of teachers easier.

In my ten years of teaching I have always looked for ways to streamline and simplify all the things on my to-do and to-get lists. The one behind-the-scenes list I don't take a short cut on is the to-thank list.
Being Grateful
This very special list is where I write down reminders to myself of the different ways people help me in the classroom. Parents take time out to do a presentation for our students, they send gifts for the class, other teachers take the time to help me when I'm in a crunch, my administrators drop in to offer encouragement and support. The more I get in the habit of writing things like this down, the more I notice them. By the end of the year I have a stack of pages filled with the names of people who have contributed to my work and made my life easier and happier.

Why Is This So Important?

Moments of Darkness
The simple act of recognizing when help and love have been offered and given can make all the difference in your day. In those moments when you feel particularly alone in your classrooms, when little Johnny is stretching that last thread of patience holding you together, when those needy parents are driving you up the wall, when you've spent yet another evening at school away from your family... that is when you turn to your list and remember that you are, in fact, not in this alone.

Bring on the LightA habit of gratitude will not only carry you through the dark times, but will ultimately bring more light into your life. All the spiritual traditions in the world talk about the value of gratitude and now science is beginning to corroborate what ancient wisdom has always known.

Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, conducted a study examining the effects of gratitude entitled the Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving.
"The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another."
You can read more about this work at WebMD and the ACF News Source

My list is entitled simply "Thank You Notes". You can be a bit more creative and call it Love Letters, Gratitude Journal, These People Rock, or even Bessie- whatever floats your boat. Regardless of what you call it, this is one thing I highly recommend you do regularly- as regularly as you do your record keeping. You can download a free copy of my form as a pdf file. It is also available as a fully customizable Word document on the Get Organized CD or Download. Or, of course, you can design your own.

Icing on the Cake
If you use your list to actually send a thank you note to the people who have helped, you will find yourself awash in even more gratitude. Genuine thank you notes are a fantastic way to build rapport and community with your colleagues and the parents in your classroom. It feels good to know that you have helped someone and that your efforts have been noticed and appreciated. So, notice that effort in the people around you and let them know!

Feel gratitude, and express it.

Thank you for reading!

Update 4/15/13

WE'VE MOVED!  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori

Welcome New Subscribers!

Thank you for joining The Prepared Environment blog mailing list!

It was a pleasure meeting so many of you at the AMS conference in DC last week. I hope you have been enjoying your CDs and are finding the forms helpful. Stay in touch and let me know how I can improve things for the future.

You can find previous articles at

Come on over to read and leave comments!


Update 4/15/13

WE'VE MOVED!  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Montessori Curriculum Planning and Record Keeping

Update 4/15/13

WE'VE MOVED!  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is one of those areas that I've been toying with and tweaking since day one. I don't believe there is one perfect way to do record keeping. It all depends on the personality and processing style of the teacher. Unfortunately it sometimes seems that my own personality and processing style changes from year to year! Having said that however, I do think there are some basics that can help us in our endeavor.

The very first step in setting up your record-keeping system is to figure out your purpose. Why will you be keeping records? Who are they for? What information do you want to record? What will you use that information for? Are there legal requirements? There will be a range of answers to these questions. Some schools require certain information be passed on to parents every year. Other teachers simply need a way to keep track of their students' progress so they can keep them on track and motivated.

The second step is to recognize that you will need to do it regularly. This may seem too fundamental to mention here, but sometimes we forget the power of routines and habits. Habits help us get through tasks that seem like drudgery in other circumstances; they bypass the inertia of having to start something new, and they eliminate the need to wait for inspiration. I don't know about you, but I know very few people who are inspired to do record keeping every day!

The third item to keep in mind is efficiency. If your system is too cumbersome and time consuming, it is less likely that you will do it regularly. My favorite efficiency tactic is to do as much prep work as I can over the summer so that I only have to do maintenance tasks during the year.

The fourth step is to figure out your processing style and create a system that works with it rather than against it. Some people need to record a lot of information, and some people need very little to trigger a memory. Some, like me, prefer to set up things in advance whereas others need to leave a lot more room for inspiration during the year or else they start losing interest in their work.

Here is the schedule that I use for my curriculum planning and record keeping:

Annually (Over the summer)
  • Create an overview of the year
    • Plan cultural/thematic units
    • Plan general rotation of materials
    • Schedule days and times for rotation of materials
    • Gather materials for upcoming year’s units:
    • Review materials in stock and ensure they are in satisfactory condition
    • Order necessary materials
  • Make shopping lists for perishables and add to calendar for your shopping days.

Monthly (1 hour)
  • Create general curriculum goals for each age level (Form: Monthly Goals by Level)
  • Review upcoming month’s unit and prepare materials

Weekly (45 minutes for planning and recording; 1 hour for rotating)
  • Create or review weekly group plan- including songs, movement games, cultural activities etc. (Form: Weekly Group Plan)
  • Plan presentations for individual students for upcoming week (Form: Weekly Individualized Plan) Transfer record of lessons given to each child’s individual record (Binder: Student Records)
  • Rotate materials according to schedule

Daily (throughout the day)
  • Write down anecdotal observations of each child throughout the day (Form: Daily Observation Form)
  • Check off presentations given on the Weekly Individualized Plan as you give those lessons. Write down any additional unplanned lessons that were presented.
The forms I use to keep track of all of this are now a part of the Get Organized CD. They will be available in the download version in the next few weeks.

I would love to hear what systems have worked well for other teachers out there!

Update 4/15/13

WE'VE MOVED!  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why a Blog?

There are so many roles and tasks we have to juggle every day as teachers... when what we really want to do is get on with the business of working with kids!

I recently began formally putting together a number of systems I have developed over the years to help me streamline all those classroom administrative tasks. You can see some of my favorites at my store. I am hoping to use this blog to hash out the details of the rest of my ideas and make them "look pretty" so that others can use them too.

I would also love to get feedback from other Montessori teachers about things that have worked for them and things that they're having trouble managing and would like help with.

About Me
I am a trained AMS Early Childhood Montessori teacher. I have been teaching at the primary level for ten years. This year I am working full-time as the primary level coordinator at our school... hence the focused interest in creating a prepared environment for teachers! (More on that in a future post). I also have a Bachelor's degree in Neurobiology and Behavior and a Master's degree in Education.

I have had the privilege of working with Jon Wolff a few times when he has consulted for schools around the country. Come and check us out at the Learning for Life table at the AMS Conference in Washington DC March 6-9!

Update 4/15/13

WE'VE MOVED!  I now blog over at Trillium Montessori