The beginning of the year in any class is all about establishing the community building, teamwork, and routines. Below are the top 5 activities we focus on in the first week in our elementary classroom. It's has nothing to do with the Montessori materials, it's all about getting elementary children to work together collaboratively.
1- Class Meetings
We no longer call it circle time in elementary :) It is now called class meeting to share and discuss our ideas.
Working on self-reflection is an important skill, so we introduce our four main buckets (Appreciation, worries & concerns, suggestions, and questions). Children are encouraged to reflect on anything that stuck with them, write them on a paper slip and put them in the bucket. They have the choice to write their names or keep as anonymous.
We sit every morning to reflect and read what we have in the buckets. Yesterday one of the kids wrote in the worries and concerns bucket " I am worried and concerned about a bad dream I had last night!"
Sometimes it's all about little things that can affect the kids and we need to be aware of those little things as they matter.
2- Giving constructive feedback
Another skill we focus on in elementary from the beginning of the year is giving constructive feedback to one another. We follow the What Went Well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI) strategy.
First I draw the outline of anything. It could be an outline of a person, car, house,...etc.
Then, I ask them what they think about my drawing. Most of the times, they don't like it!
So instead of saying "It looks soo funny!" we teach them how to give a constructive feedback. For instance, " I like how straight the house outline is, it would even be better if you add a door and color it." Then, I invite more kids to give me constructive feedback to help me make my house even more beautiful.
At the end, we have beautiful houses after they all take a turn to give each other feedback about their own drawings. Throughout the year, the elementary students give each other peer feedback.
3- Introducing the rights and responsibilities
In a Montessori class, they are not called class rules, we call them "Rights and Responsibilities"
We brainstorm and agree in our initial class meeting on them. Usually all the ideas they come up with can be summed up in one golden rule
"Respect the living and non-living things"
4-The water bucket challenge
In order to develop self-control, I challenge the kids to hold a bucket full of water and walk on a curvy, zig zag line without spilling any water on the floor.
5-Grace and courtesy (Kindness)
In the 3-6 class, they have already learnt many of the basic grace and courtesy lessons.
So in the elementary classroom we use the "Free Kindness Bundle" from Liz "The Happy Teacher". It has a variety of differentiated activities that would be perfect for the different age groups in your lower elementary classroom. Activities include real-life scenarios for the kids to discuss and give examples of how they can show kindness in various situations. They discover how kindness makes others feel. In this FREE resource, you will also find writing prompts, anchor chart ideas, and read-aloud book suggestions to promote kindness all year long. Kindness and collaboration are important topics in elementary, becasue the children at this age are in the sensitive period of social relationships and how they can fit in a group.