Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Quarter in Alpha Children's House

We've been so busy with many presentations and helping the children to become adjusted to their new environment that there hasn't been much time to take pictures. We apologize if you don't see your child here. Especially, we apologize to the Beta room parents, since there are no photos of that room. Miss Jan and Miss Cindy plan to take photos soon. But I thought that I would like to get started with blogging for this school year, even if there are only a few photos, so that you can get a glimpse into what goes on inside the classrooms.

These girls are doing a "work" known as "Bottles and Tops." It consists of a collection of interesting little bottles shaped like animals. The children remove all the tops, mix them up, match the tops to the bottles, and put them back on; a very simple idea but a source of fascination to our youngest students. The activity develops small muscle coordination and strength of the hand, develops the sense of order, and provides an opportunity to do a complete cycle of work (choosing, setting up, completing, and restoring the materials).

This boy has made a creative design with the cubes of the famous Montessori "Pink Tower". Once a child can make the basic design, which in this case is a tower, he is invited to create a new design. We tell him that "a design is something that has order, in this case, ordered from the smallest to the largest. But the order can be arranged in many ways. Can you think of a new way to arrange these cubes?"...."Yes!"

The girl in front is in her second year in the Children's House. She learned to write numbers last year and is now making a "Number Roll". On long sheets of grid paper, she writes each number in order, beginning with "1". One of our returning students has already reached 300!

The girl next to her is drawing creatively on blank paper, which is always available for student's use. Some children draw everyday as part of their daily routine.

This child is working with the "Geometry Cabinet", a series of drawers containing shapes arranged by category. This one is the rectangle drawer. He is matching the various rectangles to a series of cards with the same shape either filled in, or outlined with a thin line or a thick line. This work develops visual perception of size and shape, develops the sense of order, and prepares the mind for further work in geometry. The child is also introduced to the names of the various geometric shapes.

This 5 year old, second year student is working with the "Movable Alphabet". He has pictures of objects that are spelled phonetically, and is finding the letters that represent the various sounds heard in each word. This exercise is a pre-cursor to writing on paper and helps the child focus on the sounds he hears in words without having to commit to writing them on paper, a more difficult task.

We conclude with the ever-popular "Yarn Bookmark". It is the first real sewing project. Once a child can complete a lacing card, he is ready for the bookmark. It reinforces order and refinement of control in the small muscles of the hand.

We want to clarify that not every child in the room is ready for every work in the room. The ages of the children span a 3 year cycle. Every child is at a unique place in his or her development and each child is able to work at his or her own pace in the Montessori room.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer Odds 'n' Ends

Hello to all our Hand in Hand Friends,
I'm just up-dating my blog a bit and have added some new elements that you might be interested in. There are some links to try on the left side of the page.
  • My favorite is the Moveable Alphabet. This is from a Montessori teacher in Boston who has tons of great arts and crafts ideas that you could try at home.
  • My daughter's blog, The Full Cup, is also full of things to do with children.
  • Sew Liberated is also by a Montessori teacher. She has a photo tour of her new baby's room, Montessori-style. Scroll down the post titled, "Finnian's Montessori Room".
Printing the Photos on this Blog
If you want to print any of the photos found on this blog, just right click or, for Macs, press control and click, and you will get a pop-up menu that allows you to choose to copy the photo. I then paste it into Word or my photo application for later printing.

One last tidbit for summer rainy day fun. You probably already know how to make play dough, but just in case you need it, here is our very favorite play dough recipe.

Home Made Play Dough

Basic ingredients
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (for improved elasticity)

food coloring (liquid, powder, or unflavored drink mix)
scented oils (I used beet juice to give a great pink color and anise flavoring for scent.)

Mix all ingredients except scented oils in a heavy pot. Heat and stir until the dough starts to come away from the side of the pot. Turn dough out onto a flat surface and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, knead until smooth. Store in airtight container. It keeps a long time.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Look at Language

One of the big areas in the Montessori Children's House curriculum is Language. By this we mean the whole realm of learning to express oneself and communicate with others, both orally and in the written form. When I came down to selecting the photos for this topic, I realized that absolutely everything in our room is related in some way to this all-important area of human development. Every parent is concerned that their children learn how to read and write. The Montessori program does that very well, and in such a natural, individualized way that the child barely knows he or she is working on it.

If you want to order any of the photos as prints, just go to the following link and click on "order prints" to get started.

(OOPS! I don't know how to make this link. Check back later while I will try to figure it out.)

Language development begins with simply having a conversation at the snack table or showing a teacher your work. The quiet environment encouraged in the Children's House allows for more meaningful conversations.
Look, I did it!
Here, two younger students are observing an older child read words and match them to the corresponding objects. Observation is one of the best ways of learning, and is lent the dignity of being called, "Observation Work".This child is doing "Vocabulary Cards". The cards show pictures of things in everyday life. The child learns the words for them and then can tell a story using the cards.
Naming the animals of Asia.

Here, students retell for themselves, the stories of the Good Shepherd and Creation.
Listening to a book on CD.
Grading colors by shade and using language to describe them.

Finding objects in the room that match specific colors.
Matching fabrics by textures and grading then from smoothest to roughest.

Development of the Hand Muscles in Preparation for Writing
Many activities serve as indirect prepartion for writing by developing in the muscles of the hand the strength and coordination needed for writing. Here, bead stringing serves this purpose.
Carefully balancing the Brown Stair prisms to make a design.
Sewing is excellent for the development of the fine muscles, also for left to right orientation and sequencing.

Even cleaning the easle is taught in a series of ordered steps from left to right. This serves as preparation for reading and writing.
Cutting bread. Yikes! You give children knifes and needles? Yes, we do, along with instructions for their proper use.

Polishing and cutting, and pouring.

Use of markers and pencils with stencils provide more direct preparation for writing.

Sandpaper letters and numbers provide direct practice with letter and number formation. First, we write in the sand (easy to erase).

Then, we write on a chalk board (also easy to erase, but uses a tool-chalk).

After chalk comes paper and pencil.
This child is tracing names of class members.

We have booklet to practice writing letters....
and numbers.

At the same time, the child is working on associating the written letter symbol with its sound. Once about half the letter sounds are mastered, there is a series of lessons leading to reading. (Important: it is the SOUND of the letter, not the NAME, that is emphasized.)
Here, the sandpaper letters are matched to corresponding objects that start with that sound.
Then the Sandpaper Letters are matched to the corresponding letters from
the Movable Alphabet.
Then the child can start sounding out words and "writing" them with the Movable Alphabet. At this point, finding the sounds that make up a word, encoding, usually comes before reading, or decoding.
The Movable Alphabet makes it possible to "write" words before one has the fine muscle coordination to write them with pencil and paper. Often the child, after doing this exercise, will choose to record the words on paper by copying them from their mat.
First time actually reading: This child is reading words and matching them to the corresponding objects. Then he writes each word on its own little ticket and puts them together to make a "book".
This student is working on recognizing "Puzzle Words", common words that do not follow the phonetic rules.
After lots more practice with reading phonetically spelled words, that is words that look the same way they sound, the child goes on to study some of the phonograms in the English language. Phonograms are letter combinations that make a new sound.
This student is writing words with the phonogram "kn".

Actually every area of the Montessori classroom contributes in some way to Language development. Let's look at just few more.
The Hundred Board, officially in the Math area, contributes to the skills of scanning and ordering, which are neccesary for reading.
An advanced Hundred Board work involving skip counting, helps with the skills of left to right orientation and scanning across a line.
The Thousand Chain works on the same skills in a popular variation.

Making a map of the continents helps with shape recognition and fine muscle develpoment.
Making constructions with the Brown Stair and Pink Tower helps develop the reading skill of noticing patterns and order.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hmong Good Shepherd

Here is a photo of the first Hmong Good Shepherd, (as far as we know), and the booklet,
which is printed in both English and Hmong. The first Hmong Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium that we know of has opened this past fall, here in St Paul, Minnesota at Holy Apostles Episcopal Church. They have children in all 3 levels, who are all basically working with the material in Level I this year, with some supplementation with upper level materials.

We, in Bao's formation course, were all struck with the dramatic significance of the Hmong Good Shepherd when we saw him. Bao, Lee, and many others are currently working on educating the parents in her community and making materials fast and furiously. God bless you at Holy Apostles.