Salamander Room Blog

March 3, 2020: Last week, I spent one lovely and sunny afternoon leading the extended day children out on the trails on our campus! The weather was beautiful and we were able to listen to and watch the creek running under the bridges on the trail. The children walked hand in hand with partners as we explored all of the many things on our walk. We even ran into Cathy! She was taking a mid-day walk on the trails as well. 🙂

When we returned to the classroom, I read them the book The Bear that Heard Crying, and we tidied and restocked the classroom shelves for our work on Monday. We had a fun and sun-filled afternoon! 


January 16, 2020: We had our first Open House of the year this week. It is always a fun experience for me to observe the children come in after school with their parents and show them the classroom. They are so proud of their room, their lessons, and their independence. 

During this Open House, both children decided to show their parents the Tasting work. This is a Sensorial material that the children use with small bottles, droppers, cups, spoons, and cloth napkins. The child uses the dropper to place some salty water onto their spoon and taste it. They then take a sip of clean water, rinse their spoon in another cup of water, dry it off with the cloth napkin, and then sample the next tastes (bitter, sour, and sweet). Not only is this work quite involved with the setup and execution, it takes a lot of bravery to taste the clear liquids and not know what taste it is going to be! The parents of these children were so brave, and we all chuckled when they tasted the bitter and sour…and made faces to match! 🙂 

The Open House is a wonderful opportunity for you to see your child in their element. I hope that you take advantage of this opportunity! 


November 1, 2019: Part of what I love so much about my work is being able to watch the children grow over the course of their time in the Salamander Room. Sometimes this growth is fast, and other times, it takes weeks – months – even years, for children to prefect different work or actions. Right now, I am witness to the growth of the children as they use their coat bags and hang their coats. Some younger children have the process perfected, and can do every aspect on their own. Some children need help. The older children love to help the younger children, and do so in a kind and gentle manner. This is the wondrousness of the mixed age classroom. I am so lucky to observe the older children help with love, as well as watch some younger children practice and gain skills needed for their work. These children work so hard and are so brave to be so independent!


October 17, 2019: With Halloween coming up, there is much excitement in the air. In order to help channel this energy, Liz and I have put out different kinds of work on the shelf. We have Autumn Basket arranging in order for the children to decorate the classroom, pumpkin scrubbing, halloween fabric available for button sewing work, cards showing How a Pumpkin Grows, and everyone’s favorite…Mr. Bones! I have a plastic skeleton hanging on the wall and we have a daily lesson on the names of the different bones in our bodies.

I am also sharing many different songs and poetry with the children. We are currently working on learning a song about halloween and pumpkins! Here are the lyrics to the Jack O’Lantern song that I am sure you are hearing from your children at home:

Jack O’Lantern, Jack O’Lantern you are such a funny sight, as you sit in the window staring out at the night. You were once a tiny pumpkin growing on a sturdy vine, now you are a Jack O’Lantern let your candlelight shine.


October 1, 2019: Happy Autumn! Here in the Salamander Room, we have finally welcomed all of our new friends! Now, our work is to practice all of the Grace and Courtesy lessons needed for us to have a happy and successful time together. The children are practicing How to Close the Door Quietly, How to Observe Work, How to Ask for Help, How to Say Excuse me, How to Walk through the Classroom, How to Push in a Chair…and many many more lessons. The children love to join small groups so that I can show them these lessons and each take a turn to practice the lesson. These Grace and Courtesy lessons help the children acclimate to the classroom environment as well as work together to form social relations fostering mutual respect.


September 13, 2019: Spoken Language is very important in the primary classroom. It is one of the ways that we encourage and introduce new vocabulary to the children. We are constantly having conversations, reading books, singing songs, reciting poetry, and playing word games. Here is a poem that we have been learning this month.

September by: John Updike

The breezes taste of apple peel. The air is full of smells to feel- Ripe fruit, old footballs, burning brush, new books, erasers, chalk, and such. The bee, his hive, well-honeyed hum, and Mother cuts chrysanthemums. Like plates washed clean with suds, the days are polished with a morning haze.



May 15, 2019:

The children have been learning new poems and I wanted to share one with you that we have been enjoying. Most of the extended day children can recite this poem by memory. It is such a delight to hear them recite it with such excitement and enthusiasm!

Animal Crackers

by: Christopher Morley


Animal crackers, and cocoa to drink,

That is the finest of suppers, I think;

When I’m grown up, and can have what I please

I think I shall always insist upon these.


What do YOU choose when you’re offered a treat?

When mother says, “What would you like best to eat?”

Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?

It’s cocoa and animals that I love the most!


May 1, 2019: Levi and I have a half hour drive to school every morning. We listen to audiobooks, tell stories, listen to music, and listen to podcasts. A few months ago, we found a podcast that we really love, and I think would be good for the older children in the classroom. It is called Tumble. It is a science podcast that covers many different topics, including a lot about the Solar System (one of the most popular subjects in the classroom right now). I like this particular podcast because the segments are short, only about 15 minutes long, and they discuss issues in ways that are interesting and easy for children to understand. I hope that you enjoy this podcast too!


April 18, 2019: This time is year is always busy. The oldest children are full of energy and are eager to move on to elementary. The youngest children are fully present and are repeating work and interested in new lessons. The weather is getting (a little bit!) nicer, so the children are working more and more outside. They are gardening, washing windows, scrubbing the bricks, filling the bird feeders, and painting at the easel.

I enjoy this time of year because I get to meet with all of you. Parent/Teacher Conferences are such a wonderful opportunity for you to get some information as to what your children are working on in the classroom. They don’t often volunteer a lot of information when you ask “So…what did you do at school today?” You are usually left in the dark! You have to give up control and follow this blind faith that I am giving lessons and taking care of your children. I do not take this job lightly. For many children, going to MSB everyday is the first experience they have had away from you. They are so brave to get out the car, walk to the stairs, walk down the stairs, and enter the classroom. Their independence is astounding.

Thank you all for entrusting me with your children. I enjoy this work and it is my pleasure to help guide the children throughout their three (sometimes four) years in the Salamander Room. I have enjoyed meeting with some of you on the first Parent/Teacher Conference day and look forward to meeting with the rest of you this Friday.


March 19, 2019: The children in the Salamander Room have been practicing a new song over the last few weeks. Singing songs and reciting poetry is something that we do multiple times a day. I usually offer songs and poems that have to do with the season or time of year. Right now, as the weather is warming up and spring is upon us, I have taught the children a song about spring. It is a song that I sing, and the children repeat, verse by verse.

Robin in a pine tree,

sings a merry tune.

Crocus on a hillside,

tulips coming soon.

Robin sings of sunshine,

winter time has passed.

Time to build a nest,

spring is here at last!


February 21, 2019: Spring is in the air! Hopefully.

The extended day children spent the sunny afternoon this week working out in the garden. We first took “inventory” of what needed to be done in our extension. We walked around and looked at the flowerbeds, while I made a list of jobs to do. After we made the list, the children told me what job they wanted and they got ready to work! They put on aprons and gardening gloves. I handed out buckets, scissors, kneepads, and got a large yard debris tub. The children dead headed plants, pulled weeds, cut back dead limbs, swept the bricks, and moved rocks. After all of our work, we found one of Alan’s large wheelbarrows and loaded it up with all of our debris. Our garden is now cleaned up and ready for the warmer weather, so that we can start some spring seed planting!


January 30, 2019: The Salamander Room children have been working on remembering the names of all of the Geometric Solids! Last week the children learned the names of the cube, sphere, and cylinder. We played group games together, which was very fun! I gathered the children around a rug, and placed the blue Geometric Solid cube on the rug. We talked about the cube and learned the name. Then, I invited some children to walk around the classroom and find cubes in the environment. We then organized the cubes in different order, such as thickness and size. We played this game with the sphere and the cylinder. 

These group games with the Sensorial Materials serve many purposes. They help encourage group and collaborative work. The children have to wait their turn to look for an item, as well as ask a friend for help if they cannot find an item. They also encourage children to search the environment for objects of which they are learning…in this case, solids. They also allow the children to practice using their working memory…they have to remember what it is they are looking for, while walking around the classroom, sometimes becoming distracted by the sounds and activity going on around them. 

Thankfully, there are many more solids for the children to learn, and many more objects in the classroom for the children to discover! We will continue these group games through the next couple of weeks in order to finish learning the rest of the vocabulary of the Geometric Solids.


January, 22, 2019: Happy New Year! We’ve started a new year and some new friends have joined the Salamander classroom! There are three new children that have joined our class. We are playing games together and singing songs that help us practice each other’s names so that we can all get to know each other well. I have put out some transition exercises in order for our new friends to have some familiar work to do when I am busy giving lessons to the other children. We have opening and closing containers, bead stringing, lacing cards, spooning grains, pouring grains, and a small hammering work available throughout the morning work time.  

Our outdoor garden is also open for the children, and they have been enjoying it…no matter the weather! The children are filling the birdfeeders, playing in the sandbox, and using the clamps and screwdrivers. The older children love helping the younger children get ready for their work outside by helping them with their coats, hats, and gloves. This work of the older child aids in the growth of their self-esteem and confidence. It gives them a feeling of responsibility, as well as practices empathy towards the younger child. The mixed age classroom is a wonderful place for children, and we see this in our work everyday. 


December 17, 2018: As the winter holiday approaches, the children in the Salamander Room are full of energy and excitement. Thankfully, we have many pieces of work in the classroom to help meet their need of celebration and to channel their energies. Holiday fabric and buttons are put out for button sewing and embroidery. Trees, candy canes, and stars are put out for shape cutting. I have a few winter themed books in the book corner for the children to look at and read. I also put out paper chain making. The children can cut strips of paper and glue them in a chain to decorate the classroom. We sing holiday songs… Jingle Bells is on repeat right now!… and dance to the Nutcracker music on the line. I also set out Winter Basket making. The children fill small baskets with winter themed fabric, pinecones, small ornaments, bells, and wooden candy canes. They place the baskets on bright red doilies on the tables in the classroom for decoration. I also switch out the Enrichment of Vocabulary cards to winter themed cards such as Types of Winter Clothing and Winter Activities. 

The extended day children will work on some special projects this week during the afternoon. They will complete their special holiday gift for their families, as well as sponge paint the wrapping paper that they will use. We will also spend an afternoon making popcorn and cranberry chains to hang on the trees outside so that the birds have food to eat while we are gone on vacation. 

This time of year is so special to children, and although we don’t celebrate Christmas in the classroom with parties and treats, I happily give them activities so that they can experience the holidays in the classroom with their friends. 


November 30, 2018: The children in the Salamander Room are busy, busy, busy! The younger children are helping prepare food for snack by slicing bananas and carrots. There is artwork happening as well! So many colorful colored pencil drawings, crayon drawings, color collage, and clay masterpieces. The older children enjoy helping the younger children open their coat bags and hang their coats. They are experts at tidying the shelves in the classroom and preparing the kitchen for lunchtime. We are spending our time in extended day learning phonograms and brainstorming lists of words to match. There is phonetic reading practice, and math work happening. This is the time of year when everyone settles into his or her space in the classroom. There is a hum of focus in the air. This is the time when I take a few minutes during the day to sit in the observer chair and watch the children work. I get ideas of what lessons they need, what work they need a new presentation on, what they are interested in doing, and what Grace and Courtesy lessons may need presenting. It is so important for me to take time to watch the classroom and the children working, so that I can continue to help guide them through the year. 


November 15, 2018: 

“Autumn leaves are falling, falling, falling.

Hear the hoot owl calling, calling, calling.

Days of in between,

See the changing scene,

Autumn time is all around.”

The children in the Salamander Room are taking full advantage of the fallen leaves! At any time during the day, I see groups of children in the backyard sweeping and collecting the fallen leaves. One day, I decided to interrupt their yard work for a language lesson. I bundled myself up, took out a work rug, and invited all of the gardeners to the lesson. We looked at cards with different leaf shapes on them, and learned the names. I then sent the children out into the garden to search for the different leaf shapes. They were able to fill up the rug with all different shapes of leaves! It was a fun opportunity for me to be able to match their interest with new language.


October 30, 2018: The children in the Salamander Room have been exploring the Enrichment of Vocabulary cards this month. These are classified sets of cards with pictures and labels to match. The sets that are currently on the shelves are “Halloween”, “Vegetables”, and “Forest Animals”. The Enrichment of Vocabulary work in the classroom has many purposes. One is to invite children to explore pictures and vocabulary that they might not have known. I switch out sets of vocabulary cards monthly, and have recently also put out cards to show “How a Pumpkin Grows”.

The youngest children in the classroom use these cards on a rug to look at the pictures and learn their names. The oldest children in the classroom use these cards to read the labels and match them to the pictures. Some children have also started to make booklets of the cards. They have been practicing writing the words in cursive, drawing a picture to match, and then cutting covers and stapling their booklets together. This booklet making has been an explosion of work in the extended day!


October 10, 2018: Happy Autumn Salamander Room Families! This sunny and crisp weather is giving the children in the Salamander Room so many opportunities for outside work! There are bird feeders to fill, bricks to sweep, egg shells to grind for compost and weeds to pull. Many of our new friends are spending their time playing in the sandbox, using a screwdriver, painting at our outside easel, and watering the plants. So much good and focused work!

At this time of year, many of our lessons inside are focused on the Grace and Courtesy of the classroom environment. These lessons are especially important at the beginning of the year when welcoming new friends to the classroom environment. They help the children to know the appropriate response to a particular situation. You may hear some of the phrases we use here, at home. We have been practicing “What to do when you want to give someone a hug”, “What to say when you need to pass by someone and they are in your way”, and “What to do when you need help”. These Grace and Courtesy lessons help the children acclimate to the classroom environment as well as work together to form social relations fostering mutual respect. 


Nora Mix

Greetings! I am Nora Mix and I am the Primary Guide in the Salamander Room. I began working at MSB in 2001, after graduating from the University of Portland with a B.A. in Education. After working as an assistant at MSB for four years, I took the AMI Training at Montessori Northwest and then began teaching in the Salamander Room in 2006. Upon completion of my training from Montessori Northwest, I also received my M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland.   I have two young children. Levi is in the Lower Elementary here at MSB, and Gianna, who is two and a half years old. My husband, Dan, also works here at MSB in facilities. When I have spare time, I enjoy riding my bike and baking. I always enjoy trying out new recipes!


Liz Riemer

Hi, I’m Liz! I’m originally from Minneapolis, MN, and I still migrate back there every summer to spend time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with my family. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration in Wisconsin, and my favorite class was life drawing. During college, I spent a lot of time studying abroad, primarily in Belgium and Italy. I speak Flemish, and am entranced by the Italian language. After coming out to Portland to complete my Montessori Primary training and corresponding Masters of Education, I stayed for the majestic natural surroundings.

In the last 6 years I’ve gotten to work at several Montessori schools in the Portland area, and I love the excellent staff, grounds, and program at MSB. I feel at home here.

In my free time I love to explore nature and camp, take photos of my surroundings, and create art from them, usually using chalk pastels, charcoal, or watercolor.