Seemi from Trillium Montessori has a webinar on changing work in the Montessori classroom that is currently free and available for a limited time. You can check it out here. Before I settle in to watch, I wanted to reflect on my previous experiences with this.
At my first school, where I did my internship, I remember them changing out the practical life work every one to two weeks. Everything was color-coordinated. We usually traded with the other early childhood classroom so that we were only starting from scratch half the time. My favorite was always the time around the big rivalry football game between Michigan and Ohio State. In my room, we were all Michigan fans, so our activities were blue and yellow. They were all Ohio State fans in the other room, so they did it all in red.
Science and cultural studies followed a similar pattern. I forget the frequency with which they changed, but we would always trade.
At my next school, we had significantly fewer materials. I spent a fortune printing and creating supplemental materials across the curriculum. I changed work when I felt I had enough to at least start that particular unit.
Then I got to my last school. My first year, I worked as an assistant for a teacher who was extremely rigid. She followed a certain color for each month, based on the continent of study. Everything had to relate to that color and monthly plan, which had to start on the first day of the month and end on the last day of the month. Changing activities mid-month was almost unheard of.
The next year, I blissfully took over the classroom next door for a teacher who had retired. I finally developed my own system.
I did try to loosely follow holidays as inspiration for practical life. I had a checklist of sorts for topics to cover annually in science and culture. And then what I did was follow the children. If they were still really into frogs after six weeks, I would let them keep exploring, though I would start to slowly introduce something else as well. If they still wanted hearts in April, so be it. Conversely, if they had zero interest in a topic or activity, I would look for a new way to set it up or a new topic. The classroom was theirs, so I took my cues from them.
I also tried to incorporate units of study into other areas of the classroom. I know not everyone agrees with the practice, but I would include thematic counting or alphabet/sounds activities, especially if it meant that a child would finally be inspired to learn that skill.
I always loved looking for new activities to create to supplement my materials.
How about you? What do you do with materials in your classroom?