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Picture description with Montessori grammar symbols: one activity, multiple options 🤩

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I've spent some time this year teaching in grades 1-3, working with my school's youngest students. We did a lot of work using Montessori grammar symbols, which they knew from their Polish lessons, but had no idea they could use with the English language as well. We've done a lot of picture description with the 'there is/are' structure using some of my old materials and some new ones made especially for them. As the kids were approaching adding more information to the pictures they were describing, my time with them was over. The next thing we would have done was adding the verb to the mixture. When I say "adding the verb", I mean extending the sentence from "There's a girl next to the tree" to "There's a girl sittING next to the tree".


I started working on a material, but seeing as I was no longer working with the younger students, I had no motivation to finish it and I moved on to other projects. The material, though, was too good of an idea (excuse the lack of modesty on my part 😜) to leave it. So I come to you today with a new (finally finished) product, to help you and your students practise picture description.


The activity follows the Montessori didactic materials rules which I wrote about in this post. I am especially chuffed with the progression aspect of this activity, because it has nine ... yes, you read that right ... nine! variations. One student can work with this material multiple times as it's getting more and more difficult. You can also start at different levels with different students adjusting the activity to their skills.


LEVEL 1a:

I know which words to use (frames)

I know in what order to use the words (symbols)

I know which picture they go with (frames)

In level 1, all the word cards which form a sentence have a frame of the same colour. There are 6 sentences in a set, so there are 6 different colours. The same colour of the frame is around the pictures. Each word card has a Montessori symbol on it, so students know which order to put the words in. That is, of course, if you provide the pattern for them using the grammar symbols. If you provide the order the activity is the simplest - everything is provided for the student and they practise the right order of the words in a sentence by matching the word cards to the symbols.


The order of the activity would be: take the picture and word cards with the same colour and arrange the sentence.


LEVEL 1b:

I know which words to use (frames)

I know in what order to use the words (symbols)

I know which picture they go with (frames)

In level 1b, you use the same materials as in level 1, but you do not provide the correct order of the symbols. The progression here is that now the student, after seeing the correct order for a couple of times, is able to arrange the symbols on the word cards from their memory.


The order of the activity would be: take the picture and word cards with the same colour and arrange the sentence.


LEVEL 1c:

I know which words to use (frames)

I know which picture they go with (frames)

I don't know the right order (no symbols)

In level 1c, we change the word cards to one with frames but without symbols. Now, the student needs to recognise the words and remember what part of speech they are, or what symbol would represent them.


The order of the activity would be: take the picture and word cards with the same colour and arrange the sentence.


LEVEL 2a:

I know which words to use (frames)

I know in what order to use the words (symbols)

I don't know which picture they go with (black frame for all the pictures)

In level 2a, the task changes slightly. Now, the student knows which words to use to create a sentence, they know which order they should go in, but they don't know which picture they describe.


The order of the activity would be: take the word cards and arrange all the sentences, then match them to the right picture to each sentence.


LEVEL 2b:

I know which words to use (frames)

I don't know in what order to use the words (no symbols)

I don't know which picture they go with (black frame for all the pictures)

In level 2b, the difficulty rises again. This time round, the only information available to the student is which words will make a sentence. They need to work out the order and then match each sentence with a picture.


The order of the activity would be: take the word cards and arrange all the sentences, then match them to the right picture to each sentence.


LEVEL 3a:

I don't know which words to use (no frames)

I know what the words mean (translation on the back of the card)

I know in what order to use the words (symbols)

I don't know which picture they go with (black frame for all the pictures)

In level 3a, we swap the word cards with frames to ones without frames. From now on, the student will have to find the right words to describe each picture. Once they find the words they need for a picture, in level 3a they know in what order to put them in because the cards have symbols on them. There's also a translation on the back of each of the word cards (except for the determiner cards), so the student can check what the word means to decide which picture to use it with.


The order of the activity would be: take a picture and identify what's in it, find the correct word cards and arrange them to form a sentence.


LEVEL 3b:

I don't know which words to use (no frames)

I may not know what the words mean (no translation on the back of the card)

I know in what order to use the words (symbols)

I don't know which picture they go with (black frame for all the pictures)

In level 3b, we swap the word cards with frames to ones without frames. From now on, the student will have to find the right words to describe each picture. Once they find the words they need for a picture, in level 3a they know in what order to put them in because the cards have symbols on them. The translation, however, is gone, so if the student doesn't know the meaning of a word they need to use the dictionary or ask someone for help.


The order of the activity would be: take a picture and identify what's in it, find the correct word cards and arrange them to form a sentence.


LEVEL 3c:

I don't know which words to use (no frames)

I know what the words mean (translation on the back of the card)

I don't know in what order to use the words (no symbols)

I don't know which picture they go with (black frame for all the pictures)

In level 3c, the student is presented with six pictures and a variety of word cards with no frames and no symbols, but with translation on the back. The task is to find the words which will form a sentence that correctly describes each picture, and arrange the words in the right order.


The order of the activity would be: take a picture and identify what's in it, find the correct word cards and arrange them to form a sentence.


LEVEL 3d:

I don't know which words to use (no frames)

I may not know what the words mean (no translation on the back of the card)

I don't know in what order to use the words (no symbols)

I don't know which picture they go with (black frame for all the pictures)

Level 3d is the most difficult one. Here, the student is presented with six pictures and a variety of word cards with no translation, no frames, and no symbols. The task is to find the words which will form a sentence that correctly describes each picture, and arrange the words in the right order.


The order of the activity would be: take a picture and identify what's in it, find the correct word cards and arrange them to form a sentence.


 

So, as you can see, you can work with this material in a variety of ways. Let's move on to the error control. First of all, you have a choice when it comes to word cards: you can print them with the Polish translation on the back, or without for the majority of levels. If you decide to provide the translation on the cards, this in itself creates a sort of error control system. It would not work with levels 3b and 3d, because there you cannot have the translation on the back of the card.


The actual error control comes with pictures. On the back of each of the illustrations is the correct sentence to describe it. Here, you also have two options: you may choose to have the sentence without the Polish translation or with the Polish translation.


The option of no translation into Polish (my students' L1) makes this material suitable for students from any country 😊 You may decide to add your student' L1 translation by writing it on the cards before laminating.


 

When describing Level 1a I mentioned the option of providing the pattern that the Montessori symbols should be arranged in. For most pictures, the patter is as follows:

There are a few sentences in sets 1 and 2, now many, which follow a slightly simpler pattern with no preposition:

You may choose to take them out of the set and use separately or provide the children with two options of the pattern. You may use wooden grammar symbols (I recommend that option), printed symbols (you'll find them easily online), or pattern strips which are provided in my material.


It took some research for me to decide which grammar symbol to use for 'there' in these sentences. I finally decided on the pronoun symbol following this internet tip:

The construct comes from the French term "il y a", literally translated as "that there has" but thought of by native French speakers as identical to "there is" (except conjugated using "avoir" instead of "etre"). As this shows, "there" basically replaces "il y" ("that there") from the French and so takes the place of the pronoun.
 

If you're a proud owner of a PENpal, you may use the material in additional ways. One idea is to simply record the sentences on the stickers and put them on the pictures so that the children can hear and repeat the pronunciation. You may choose to put the stickers at the back or at the front. Another idea, is to create a listening matching activity in which you record the sentences on separate cards and have the children listen to the sentence and find the matching picture.


 

Once your students are familiar with how to make such lovely (quite advanced for a young learner) sentences, they can move on to describing pictures in all the books you have in your classroom or at home. Later, they can go outside and describe everything that's happening around them!

 

Each of the three sets available in the shop at this point is composed of 6 absolutely stunning pictures to be described. You may choose to buy one set for 12zł, or a bundle of three sets for 30zł. The second option saves you 6zł, which means you get 3 out of 18 pictures for free.



If you'd like to receive set 1 completely free, do the following things:


1) Leave a comment under this post

2) Write a testimonial on the Montenglish "Contact" page

3) Follow Montenglish on Instagram

4) Share this Instagram post to your stories and tag three teacher or homeschooler friends (and me as well so that I see it 😅)


Once you've done ALL of the above, I'll send set 1 directly to your email address 😊 You've got time till the end of February 2023.




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