Tag Archive | Sensorial

Music Study: What Instrument Do You Hear?

My kids are obsessed with Paul Dukas’ piece The Scorcerer’s Apprentice.  You know, that Mickey Mouse cartoon in Fantasia where the brooms end up flooding the room?  You didn’t know it was by a guy named Paul Dukas?  Never heard of him even?  Me neither.  Until my kids got obsessed.

It started a year and a half ago when we were visiting my brother in Texas.  During our drive from his house in Austin to another brother’s house in the Dallas area, Drama Queen got to ride with her cousin.  And apparently one thing her cousin likes to listen to in the car is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  She immediately started talking about it, singing it, and, of course, acting it out.  It had captured her so much, I decided to introduce her to the Fantasia version.  Of course, that just made her (and Mr. BANG) even more enthralled.

We watched the video a lot, and acted it out even more.  Finally I bought something I had had on my wish list for quite awhile:  Maestro Classic’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  This particular CD is awesome because in addition to having two beautiful recordings of the piece, with and without narration, it includes the history of the tale, a version performed by a drum and bugle corps, the conductor explaining themes in the piece, and some other features.  I can tell you, we have listened to this CD a LOT!  I think all three of us have every bit of it memorized.  (I later learned it was that same CD which she had been listening to on the road trip with my brother and nephew.)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

So, one day I had an idea.  I set them up with our musical instrument cards and Bingo chips in front of a You Tube video I found of an orchestra performance of the piece.  For each instrument they saw, they got to put a Bingo chip on the corresponding instrument card.  They absolutely LOVED this!  They were so eager to place their Bingo chips, frequently calling out the instrument’s name while doing so.

IMG_2440              IMG_2443

After playing that video a couple times, I switched to Fantasia’s cartoon version.  This time, as they heard an instrument, they placed a chip on the corresponding card.  This, of course, was more difficult for them, but they absolutely loved it, and recognized a surprising number of instruments.

IMG_2464                 IMG_2447

We have only done this activity with this one piece so far, but it could easily be done with any number of pieces.  In fact, we have just started a study on Beethoven (I cannot tell you how excited Drama Queen is about this!!), so I imagine we’ll be doing the same activity with his 9th Symphony or another piece very soon!


Product Review: Geometric Cabinet from Alison’s Montessori

Last Wednesday, I was SOOO excited to win a Geometric Cabinet from Alison’s Montessori and Living Montessori Now.  Just TWO days later, on Friday afternoon, I found this on my front porch:

Talk about a speedy delivery!  If their shipping is always that fast, they are THE place to order Montessori materials you need the next week!

I was pretty much giddy when I opened the box and got to start playing with my absolutely gorgeous new cabinet.  It truly is lovely, as Maria thought materials for children should be.

To give a fair review, though, I do want to share some concerns I had about it as I began to look at it more closely.

*The top of it sags in the middle.  It’s practically unnoticeable unless you’re purposefully noting the fine details, so it’s not that big of a deal.  The only real problem from it is that not every drawer can fit in that space.  I tried to move some drawers around, and realized that other drawers won’t fit there.  Strange, but not a huge deal.

*One of the drawers is not a perfect rectangle, so the frames do not actually fit.  One corner is just a little shy of a 90 degree angle, so the frame in that corner has to overlap with the frame beneath it a little.  That’s annoying to me, but again, not a huge deal.

*The oval has a point at the top.  Have you ever seen an oval with a point?  What is that??  (For comparison, I’ve included the typical oval form that is used in Montessori materials.  This is an oval metal inset, which is supposed to be the same size and shape as the oval in the geometry cabinet.)


*There was one four-sided figure in the triangle drawer.  I don’t understand why a four-sided figure was placed in a drawer that is specifically for three-sided figures.  I took it out and replaced it with a triangle I found elsewhere.

*There was a rectilinear figure in the curvilinear drawer.  Again, why?  And again, I took it out.

*I ended up with two rectilinear figures and one triangle that aren’t part of the material in my manual.  I’m simply storing those in my teacher’s cabinet.

*The drawers were in a different order than what I had learned in my training.  That may be one of those things that’s taught differently depending on what type of training you received.  It was easy to just switch around the drawers (which is how I found out the top one had to stay at the top;  I just switched the contents for that one).

I must admit that I was disappointed over some of those things, but as I stated, most of it was easily corrected.  I’m still stuck with that pointed oval, which is so strange.

Despite those flaws, though, I still absolutely love my new cabinet and am still completely thrilled that I own it.  Drama Queen got to start working with it on Monday, and was so excited!  I had previously given her all the introductory lessons with my homemade Geometric Cabinet, so for this lesson, I was at the point of showing her how to work with a whole drawer.  I think she ended up working with each of the drawers that day – she just kept going back to it!


These are each of the six drawers of the Geometric Cabinet:

Drawer 1: 6 circles, varying in diameter from 10 cm to 5 cm

Drawer 2:  6 rectangles, varying in size from 10×10 cm to 10×5 cm

Drawer 3:  6 different types of triangles (isosceles obtuse, isosceles right, scalene obtuse, isosceles acute, scalene right, equilateral)

Drawer 4:  6 different regular polygons (pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon,  decagon)

Drawer 5:  4 curvilinear figures (quatrefoil, curvilinear triangle, oval, ellipse)

Drawer 6:  4 rectilinear figures (isosceles trapezoid, rhombus, right trapezoid, parallelogram)

I WON!!!!!!

There has recently been an an amazing contest on Living Montessori Now to win one of three absolutely beautiful materials from Alison’s Montessori:

Land and Water Form Cabinet

Premium Leaf Cabinet

Geometric Cabinet

I have been working a step at a time to make my own Geometric Cabinet.  The way I’ve been making them has been working well, but the space issue has been a problem.  And I wasn’t really looking forward to Drawer 4, which would include making regular polygons from a pentagon (5 equal sides) to a decagon (10 equal sides).

I also did a DIY version of the Land and Water Forms – forming them in the backyard using sand and water.  Again, that has worked well, but it would be nice to have them available year round, and on a regular basis for the children to repeat the work whenever they desired.

The Botany Cabinet (called Leaf Cabinet in this case) is one I had decided to skip with my children, but would love to do it if I was given the cabinet.

So I worked persistently in trying to win one of these!  This was one of those contests where you could earn extra entries by tweeting (I started a Twitter account just for this purpose), voting for Living Montessori Now on Picket Fence, naming an Alison’s product you would like, etc.  I daily took advantage of as many of those options as I could.  I felt kind of silly doing it EVERY day.  I mean, I NEVER win these things, so I should be doing more productive things!

But I won!!!  The first thing I saw when I pulled up e-mail this morning was a CONGRATULATIONS e-mail from Deb Chitwood, the face behind Living Montessori Now.  I will soon be the proud owner of that gorgeous Geometric Cabinet!!!  WOO-HOOO!!!!!!!!!  🙂

I’ll post pics of Drama Queen working with it after it arrives!  I told her about it over breakfast this morning, and she’s almost as excited as me!

I’m rather giddy this morning.  Can you tell?  😉

DIY Montessori: Geometric Cabinet

The Geometric Cabinet is a Sensorial material used with a long series of lessons that last throughout most of the Primary years (ages 3-6) in a Montessori classroom.  The cabinet contains 6 drawers, each containing 4-6 cut-out wooden shapes with knobs on top.  (I’ve posted photos of each drawer in a later post.)

  • Drawer 1:  6 circles, varying in diameter from 10 cm to 5 cm
  • Drawer 2:  6 rectangles, varying in size from 10×10 cm to 10×5 cm
  • Drawer 3:  6 different types of triangles
  • Drawer 4:  6 different regular polygons (pentagon to decagon)
  • Drawer 5:  4 curvilinear figures (oval, ellipse, curvilinear, triangle, quatrefoil)
  • Drawer 6:  4 rectilinear figures (rhombus, parallelogram, right trapezoid, and isosceles trapezoid)

The series of lessons starts with getting familiar with the 2D shapes by tracing them and finding the matching frame, then learning the names of the shapes, then matching the shapes with cards placed at a distance – first with a filled-in version of the shapes, then a thick outline, and finally a thin outline.

The purpose of the work is to develop visual and muscular discrimination of two-dimensional shapes, as well as visual training and preparation for learning geometrical figures.  Indirectly, the tracing of the figures also prepares the child’s hand for writing.

Unfortunately, the Geometry Cabinet is also on the extreme side of expensive:  $506.10 from Nienhuis, $118.95 from the much more reasonably priced Montessori Outlet.  Yes, you get a beautiful cabinet that all six trays fit in for that price, and over three years it may be worth it to spend $120.  But whether it’s worth the price or not doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t fit in my budget.  So…homemade it is.

I did buy the demonstration tray, so I now use that as the one tray for all the drawers.  The drawers themselves are just where the figures and frames are kept when not in use.  I’m actually way behind on this series of lessons, because for a long time I thought I was just going to skip it based on the cost.  Therefore, I don’t have everything made and set out at this point, but I do have my plan.

With a regular Geometric Cabinet, children choose which tray they want to work with, slide it out of the cabinet, and take it to their rug to work.  My system is that the empty tray will sit on top of the shelf, with the drawers nearby.  Drama Queen or Mr. BANG will choose which drawer s/he wants to work with, open that drawer, and simply fit those pieces onto the tray.

To actually make the figures, I use foam sheets.  Many of the shapes are the same ones (and same size) as the metal insets (which I purchased), so those were easy to simply trace and cut out.  For the others, I just do the best I can.

The “official” colors of the Geometric Cabinet are yellow and blue, but I just go with what colors of foam I have enough of!  For drawers 5 and 6 (the first drawers you introduce), I made white frames and blue figures.  That used up all my white, though, so I’ll likely be using different colors for other drawers.  That’s not perfect, because some of the lessons involve using multiple drawers at once, and having different colors would take a lot of the challenge out of that.  So I guess I’ll either buy more foam or just allow the different colors.  (Pardon me as I refine my plan as I type!)

I bought some wooden “doll heads” at a craft store, which work well for the knobs on top of the figures.

As for the cards, I purchased the ones for the introductory tray when I bought the tray.  I plan to purchase the others from Montessori Print Shop for a mere $3.79.  If you haven’t discovered MPS yet, go take a few minutes and browse around there – it’s amazing!  They have TONS of fabulous materials that you simply print at home! (I print on cardstock, then laminate them.)  It’s definitely one of my favorite Montessori websites.

What about you?  Have you made a DIY Geometric Cabinet a different way?  I would love to see it – especially if you have a better idea for the cabinet itself.  Hmmm…as I’m typing this, I’m thinking a puzzle shelf might make a good shelf…  Has anyone tried that?