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CLASSROOM NEWS APRIL 2017

Toddler News with Mary Ann, Cynthia, Rebecca, Carla and Brianna

In March we had a new friend, Amber, join our Toddler community. We want to welcome our new classmate and her family.

Last month the children enjoyed celebrating Dr Seuss’ birthday by making “Cat in the Hat” hats and reading several of his other stories. Many of his other books were available in our reading corner throughout the month. For St Patrick’s Day the children painted a beautiful shamrock for our dining area and made Irish soda bread. The children were able to sample the bread for snack and bring some home. Toward the end of the month we introduced the season of spring but with so much snow it was a difficult concept to understand. Wearing snow pants and boots didn’t help either! During story time we read stories about the Earth’s transition from winter to spring. This month we will continue to talk about the seasonal changes. Hopefully Mother Nature will help us out a bit.

The children enjoy our Monday Spanish group with Paula. They particularly like singing “Old Mc Donald “in Spanish.

This month everything will be spring.

Please continue to bring snow pants and boots; the play yard can be wet and muddy for the first weeks of April. 

 

 

Spanish with Paula, FEBRERO Y MARZO

In the months of febrero y marzo, we were completing our practice of emotions and feelings, studying our vocab for parts of the body, and venturing on to clothes vocabulary.  We are able to complete units of study more quickly at this time of year. The children know the routines of Spanish class and are more able to follow directions (at last!!).

 

TODDLERS—I am very much enjoying time in the Toddler classroom.  I enjoy our time singing and moving as we sit together in a circle.  Some of the children are starting to repeat the Spanish words and phrases that we have been singing since the beginning of the school year! They seem to be comfortable with hearing and responding to Spanish!

 

CHILDREN’S HOUSES—We reviewed colors with a button snowman activity.  The children chose different colored scarves and hats to put on the snowmen. For Valentine’s Day we reviewed parts of the face (ojos, nariz, boca, orejas) by creating a heart dog.  Some of the children preferred a heart bunny; but, who’s keeping track??  The children enjoyed creating a person from miscellaneous junk from my house!  Each person showed the imagination of the group as they chose everything from blocks to toy ladders for different parts of the body.  We sorted clothes and learned a bit about how to fold them for the introduction to clothes vocabulary.  On to a fun “racing” game with my gingerbread “cookies” to see who could get dressed the fastest—the winter cookie or the summer cookie!  Finally we practiced food vocabulary (mostly fruits).  Two types of food were placed in a bag.  Using only their sense of touch, the children had to select the food which I named.  No peeking!!  Be on the lookout for those Spanish practice papers.  I usually send one home each Monday/Wednesday!

 

KINDERGARTEN—We began febrero with our reading of the Spanish/English story ‘The Mitten” or “El Miton”.  The children enjoyed putting their animals into their paper mitten (so nicely decorated) as the story was being read.  Hearing a story read in both languages is a fun experience.  As one guest reader, I asked Arielle (a fifth year student) to read en ingles.  Margaret also read in English to the other group of students.  Next we practiced face vocabulary.  The children used magnetic features to create some hilarious faces.  We played the face matching game and began our parts of the body project with a paper plate face.  On to the rest of the body!  We wrote vocabulary pages for the face and parts of the body for our Spanish notebooks.  We used different sizes and shapes of paper to create a body for our face plate. We labeled the body with Spanish words.  At the end of marzo, we began clothes vocabulary.  We created a vocab sheet for our notebooks.  We played clothes bingo and clothes lotto.  We “dressed” some animal pictures (heads) with some paper clothes.  Their notebooks are getting mighty full of work. The children are already looking forward to bringing them home for the summer!

 

LOWER ELEMENTARY—We are continuing to memorize and read both poetry and short stories en espanol. The First Year students are so excited to be able to recite poems in Spanish!  WE have worked on two poems—Osito and Pin Pon.  Projects for each, to enhance the reciting experience!  Second Year students are enjoying the reciting of poetry as well.  They learned a poem about the vowel sounds in Spanish “AEIOU, Arbolito de Peru”.  This is the first exposure to reading in Spanish and being able to sound out words.  We are currently learning a rather long poem about the clock, “El Reloj.”  The children use their arms and hands to show each hour of the poem—major twister action!!!  Third Year students  have completed a story about the snow “Jugando en la Nieve”  We also worked on a birthday story, “Cumpleanos Feliz;” and a story for practicing clothes vocabulary, “Que Me Pongo.”  Busy, busy!  I have tried to work in reading days each month so that the children can practice reading and translating or just plain having fun reciting poems!  We studied two major vocabulary units these two months—parts of the body and clothes.  As usual, the children enjoyed learning through art projects.  They provide a good way to practice vocab, read, and write the target words for each unit.  Their Spanish notebooks are filling up fast.  They are used to using them as a resource for their written work, as well as in class for oral language. 

UPPER ELEMENTARY—Reading, translating, oral language, and writing continue to occupy our classes in Upper El.  The Fourth Year students have been working on two stories, “Cinco Munecos de NIeve” which practices (among other things) the punctuation associated with written dialogues and “Mi Amigo” which explores verb usage.  The Fifth Years worked hard on “El Caballito de Mar” a story about the seahorse.  This is science-based and was a challenge in Spanish.  The children did well and were able to read, translate, and answer questions (both written and oral) about the story.  We are currently working on a story about whales, “Las Ballenas”.  Now that they “got their feet wet” with the seahorse story, the whale story is a snap!!  The Sixth Year students are hard at work with their tale of Mexican travels—“Un Viaje a Mexico.”

Vocabulary-wise, the Fourth Years have practiced emotions with the verb “estar”.  They created some emotional snowmen and a sentence game to practice.  Their first quiz was a success!  Parts of the body came next.  They made some very creative faces using pictures from magazines.  They attached those faces to a funky cup body.  Everything was labeled en espanol.  On to clothing vocabulary.  The students picked a location and “dressed” some boys and girls in clothes appropriate for the venue.  Practice with verbs and the position of color words in a Spanish sentence were key in this study.  Fifth Years studied emotions and feelings with the verbs “estar” and “tener.”  They are very successful with their conjugations of even irregular verbs!  In conjuction with the body vocabulary, they practiced the verb “dolorse”.  This verb is used to tell when something hurts!  Two quizzes under their belts and going strong!  Sixth Years are working very hard on the reading, translating, and written work associated with our chapter book, “Un Viaje a Mexico.”  We are learning how to outline in Spanish and have outlined each chapter together as we complete it.  Oral reading is coming along.  Grammar contained in each chapter is practiced and reviewed.  I am emphasizing the conjugation of verbs and being able to recognize their different forms as we read.  It can be slow going!  The children, however, are sticking with it and the class goes by quickly each day!  For all levels, their notebooks continue to play a big role in each class as well as for the written work outside of class!  We are continually fine tuning the notebooks so that they will be a resource for the students!  Have you ever seen their cubbies??  Sometimes this task can be daunting!

 

JUNIOR GREAT BOOKS WITH PAULA

Second Years have had their first reading (instead of just listening) experience with “The Happy Lion.”  They all seemed to enjoy reading out loud.  We explored vocabulary from the story.  We compared how the townspeople behaved in and outside of the zoo.  We illustrated and wrote about an adventure that we would like to take, like the adventure the lion took when he left the zoo!   On to “The Blue Moose.”  We practiced more vocabulary by shading the words with blue crayon in honor of the blue moose!  We will continue to explore some of the themes, such as the idea of tame versus wild, the importance of friendship and just enjoying a rather silly story!

 

Third Years have been reading the French tale, “The Red Balloon.”  We discussed imaginary friends and why we might like to have a friend like the balloon.  We analyzed pages 16 and 17 of the story to find out why the balloon was not afraid of the principal.  We illustrated and wrote about the trip which the main character, Pascal, took at the end of the story.  We wrote about our own “magic” friends and what they could do with us.  On to “Anansi’s Fishing Expedition.”  This African tale is pretty amusing!  Anansi wants to outsmart his friends—but does he??

 

Art with Christie Hester-Moore

Upper and Lower Elementary

     Ahh… Springtime! Although it’s not quite feeling like spring as I write this newsletter I remind myself that upon careful observation signs and progress can be seen all around me. There’s the lengthening of the days as the snow melts on my lawn and I can see the faintest hint of green beginning to show itself here and there. In Art class we are certainly seeing progress as well. In what seems like a few short months it is so amazing to see everyone so well adjusted to the flow of Art class especially in my Lower Elementary classes. It’s such a big adjustment for the first year students, getting use to their new routines, going to Special classes, and not quite sure what to expect. Now each class comes in excited and ready to work and full of the confidence that comes with knowing what’s expected of them and the lay of the land, so to speak.

       We are continuing our year long lesson on the Elements of Art and have just completed an assignment on Form. If you’ll recall from my last newsletter we were building three-dimensional sculptures using wood, wire, nylon, glue and acrylic paints to illustrate form. Form as defined as an Art Element is a three-dimensional shape expressing length, width, and depth. For example balls, cylinders, boxes and pyramids are form. So far, out of the Seven Elements of Art, we have covered line, texture, color and form. This leaves value, space and shape as the final three Elements of Art that we will be exploring. We are also in the process of working on our spring auction items. This year we are playing with the idea of graffiti as an art form.  The Upper and Lower Elementary students are working collaboratively to create hand designed cloth using paints and markers. This fabric will then be turned into unique items that will be auctioned off at the spring performance.

     I want to once again explain to parents that the reason your student has yet to bring home any of their Art class work this year (with the exception of seasonal projects)is that the work that they are doing is designed to be an Art portfolio. At the end of the school year I plan to have students set up their work for self evaluation and an overall review of each of the Art Elements that we learning about in depth this school year. As long as space permits, this is my plan for student art work for the school year. As always students have been reminded to dress for mess on Mondays.

All the best,

ChristieJ

 

 

 

Upper Elementary with Nicole and Terri

 

Montessori education is a holistic approach to learning. Indeed this is true in how the curriculum is presented to the child, and the fact that time is given towards mental, social, emotional and physical growth and development. Children learn about themselves, what motivates them, what inspires them, what bores them and what they are capable of. Every day our classroom witnesses a new accomplishment, an “aha” moment, a quiet celebration of conquering some fear, taking some risk, trying—even though it’s hard. Learning isn’t easy. Some knowledge comes with greater ease than others, and for each of us what brings hardship is something different. But if we dare not take risk, if we fear the fall and stay where we are safe, our learning slows. Each day, the children become more empowered so that they might step out and take a risk. So they might fail, surrounded by a supporting community, learn from that failure and improve. Maria Montessori believed that we are the stewards of the Earth. That we, as human beings, have been given the god-like power to be able to change and shape the world. Here in this microcosm of our school, the children begin to see how their actions impact the world around them. They bring food to a soup kitchen and they nourish the body and spirit of others they had never met. They say something without thinking and they are faced with a hurt friend. They are magic makers; they are limitless in their talents and abilities; they are benevolent; they are friends.

 

March is the beginning of the deepest work and awareness of the children in the elementary classroom.  During the next few months all of the great effort that has been put into learning how they each work best is put into good practice and they begin to apply gathered knowledge about the classroom, themselves and the world around them, and gain a close comfort and understanding of the ideas that lie before them.  It is such a spectacular process to see each child begin to unfurl blade by blade into the fully grown fern that has been nurtured through the long fall and winter.

Recently the children were asked to evaluate how they felt that they were doing in all areas of the classroom, including social interactions, organization, and the various aspects of the curriculum.  It is always a wonderful opportunity for conversation to be able to examine each child’s perception of how they are doing, and compare it to my perception of how they are doing.  Most of us were in alignment.  But there are always some who think they are doing terribly, but they are demonstrating growing skills every day, and those kids who think they are masterful at everything, but have not always demonstrated effort or timeliness.  The conversations that go with these evaluations are about sharing, trying to understand how to set goals that are attainable, but also demonstrate excellence, and finding ways to make sure that learning is interesting, and worth the investment of effort. When we are able to recognize our own work as being effortful, and engaging, or not, we can begin to then have conversations also about the moving parts that are responsible for creating high quality work, motivation, and challenge.

Our study of poetry continues to deepen.  After the challenges of learning about syllabification, and scansion, we have begun to look into the different formats that are used in poetry and some of the literary devices that make poetry so special and interesting to read.  We have looked at a few poems by Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas and looked for the deeper meaning that is revealed when we treat the words and phrases as symbols.  Many of the children have proved themselves adept at reading into poems given the right questions.

The older children are becoming more adept at creating small research projects through looking into the different systems of the human body.  Most recently we have begun working with the circulatory system and the children have made models of the various types of blood vessels, researched topics from hypertension to pacemakers, and looked into the different parts of blood that are responsible for blood clots, immune system support, and carrying oxygen. Our floors are now permanently encased in glitter, as this seems to be a favorite medium for embellishing the posters that the kids have worked so hard to create.  This work has encouraged the children to be aware of their time management, how they divide work in groups, and the benefits and drawbacks of working alone vs. in a group. We are now on our way through the respiratory system, and will soon be looking into the brain and nervous system, the endocrine system, and finally the reproductive system.

Please remember to send in payment for our upcoming trip to Old Sturbridge Village.  We will be heading out on Thursday, April 13th.

 As the snow melts, and the field becomes a mud-luscious mess, please encourage your child to bring in a change of pants and socks so they can be dry after a wet and muddy recess.

 

Important Dates:

April 6th - Grandparents’ Day

April 13th - Trip to Old Sturbridge Village

April 13th - Science Night

April 14th - School Closed

April 17 - 21 April Vacation

April 26 - Earth Day Celebrated

 

Children’s House East with Tara and Sara

Winter went out with a bang this year!  The foot of a snow that fell less than a week before the first day of spring transformed the playground.  Being the first group outside meant that we were greeted by a crisp, white sheet of snow.  After the briefest of pauses, the children fanned out, as if they were the first to explore uncharted frozen tundra.  And while the snow was so deep that they almost couldn’t walk, they sported very wide grins!

Speaking of simple pleasures of childhood, we baked oatmeal raisin cookies!  We did this for the school’s annual Loaves and Fishes outreach.  It was difficult for the children to understand that we were baking cookies for other people and continued to inquire all morning as to when we would be eating them.  As luck would have it, there was enough batter for us all to have one sample.  The next day, they asked for more! 

Most of our mornings together end with the reading of a picture book.  Lately, Pete the Cat has been a favorite character.  So far we have read, Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus, Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes and last but not least, Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcake.  While each book has its special message, for instance, don’t worry about losing a button, the last one is the best one to date.  The message is that when someone makes a mistake, give them a second chance.  Make sure to ask your child which animal in the story took the cupcakes!  (Hint: ribbit, ribbit)

Making mistakes is a part of life.  For young children, who are just beginning to learn about themselves and others, normalizing making mistakes is a big, beautiful lesson.  One thing that recent brain research has revealed is that we learn more from our mistakes than our success.  Interesting, huh?

Mr. Fish Lips, a fish puppet with unusually large pink lips, has recently visited our classroom.  He came in order to talk about making mistakes.  He teaches that we all make mistakes.  Some of them are big and some are small.  A small mistake might be grabbing something out of someone’s hands instead of asking for it.  He continues to explain that when we make a mistake we can say, “I am sorry; I made a mistake”.  The puppet is definitely an attention grabber and an inviting way to model important life skills such as apologizing and normalizing making mistakes.  

In addition to snow, another highlight of winter was Valentines’ Day.  The children were very diligent about distributing their cards, making sure to deliver each and every one of them.  Also, just in time for Valentines’ Day, we welcomed another three-year-old student: her name is Grace.  Her mother is a Montessori teacher and so it’s no wonder that she took to the classroom like a fish to water! 

Happy Spring!

 

Lower Elementary with Sherrell and Kim

 

Someone told me yesterday that, whenever we have a mild(er) winter, March is especially fierce in order to remind us that it’s not over yet. Now that the light stays longer each evening and the plants and animals start poking their heads out again, we are in a time of transition in the classroom as well.

 

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say,

'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'” Maria Montessori

 

At this point of the year, when the end of the year is much closer than the beginning, the Lower Elementary class hits a stride that is impressive to witness. Students are making good use of the independence and planning skills we’ve been building and choosing work from different areas based on their own needs and tendencies.  Students are asking for presentations, finding research topics and beginning research, and setting lofty goals for themselves for the day, week, or even for the rest of the year.  While Kim and I continue to offer different levels of support based on student needs, most students are at a point where they’ve internalized much of what we’ve been working to establish and can work quite well for a sustained period of time without needing teacher intervention or support. 

 

Seasonal Clothing Reminder

 

Thank you for making sure your students were prepared for outdoor play all winter long. As March ends, it’s probably safe to pack up the snow pants, but we’ll need boots for quite a while longer to get through the mud. It would be a good idea for students to have extra pants and socks as well.

 

Mathematics and Geometry Notes

 

The math puzzlers are a new addition to the classroom’s problem solving resources for students of all ages. These math puzzles use shapes to practice algebra concepts and reinforce basic facts. Rather than solving for x or y, they are solving for r and o.

 

As children solve the different sets of problems, they become increasingly complex. Students are required to be flexible in their mathematical thinking as they solve for unknowns on the “wrong” side of the equal sign. We help students ask questions like, “What times two equals 10?” “What can I take five from to get seven?” and “What do I get if I add five and seven?” 

 

We are building so many skills with each problem-solving task. 

 

Skills to Practice at Home

 

Identifying and counting money

Telling time on analog clocks 

 

Language Notes

 

At the beginning of the year, I presented a lesson about choosing the right book by comparing it to choosing shoes. Do you need fancy shoes? Soccer shoes? Beach shoes? Are they too big? Too little? Just right? Do you like them? Do they feel right? Throughout the year we revisit the concept of Just-Right Books, and this is one of those times.  

 

It is completely normal for children to want to read what their friends are reading, but it isn’t always the best choice for that child’s interests. I love Harry Potter, but most LE kids are not yet able to read and understand the text independently. As we check in with students about their reading, we use the 5-Finger Rule to determine if the book is an appropriate level.

 

Skills to Practice at Home

Choosing just-right books

Summarizing the events or information in a text

Asking questions with “Why?” or “What if…”

 

Cultural Studies

I love being able to introduce scientific and cultural topics with stories. Every story may not be as big as the Creation of the Universe story we do in September, but it is still an effective way to connect different areas of learning. We recently read The Simple Story of the 3 Pigs and the Scientific Wolf by Mary Fetzner, and, in discussion around the story, we’ve learned about the six simple machines that humans use to make work easier: lever, pulley, wheel and axle, wedge, inclined plane and screw. Now that we know what they are and what purpose each one serves, we can now choose to use one or more during our construction work in STEAM challenges. 

 

Our third graders are excited to begin work with the Pin Maps this month, studying each continent’s countries, major cities, flags and waterways. This work helps students organize and classify our world and inspire further investigation into people and places.

 

Wish List

Please help us keep everyone healthy by sending in a donation of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes (Lysol/Clorox). 

For more ways to support our classroom with donations of all kinds and sizes, please check out the school’s donation page at http://pvms.org/gifting/

 

Children’s House North with Susan, Debbi and Lisa

Greetings!  I am happy to be back in the classroom at PVMS, enjoying meeting new children and reacquainting with students and families I have worked with before.  It has been a time of transition for all of us, but things seem to be settling down.  I am looking forward to a busy, happy and peaceful time the next few months.

            The topic of birds has always been one of my favorite things to share with my classes, and so we have begun the study of these marvelous creatures.  We have started by listening to the songs of familiar birds that are around now or will be returning to our area soon. The children have already been telling me of the different birds they hear as they leave for school in the morning. Other areas that we’ll explore include characteristics of birds, life cycle, how beaks are adapted to the kinds of food they eat and recognizing kinds of birds by sight, as well as sound.

            With spring weather approaching, we will be turning our attention to all the wonderful things that happen during this season.  A special focus will be the world of plants.  It is a vibrant and exciting time of year, and I look forward to all the interesting activities associated with it.

 It is my wish to be as available as possible to all of you.  If you want to meet with me or have a phone conversation, leave a message at the school office or email me (I will be glad to give my e-mail address on an individual basis), and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Debbi and I are committed to providing your children with a positive Montessori experience.

Children’s House South with Angelika, Alicia, Gerri and Rosemary * (see note below about Rosemary)

The days are getting longer and spring’s warm air is teasing us from time to time.  Hopefully we will be able to dispense with snow pants and boots and our playground will be dry enough so the children can run and play outside daily!

We would like to welcome our new student, Ashleigh, and her family.

We are starting our bird unit this week and when you are outside with your child, listen with him or her to the chorus of bird songs all around us.  Chances are, your child may be able to recognize a few familiar sounds.  We have new activities in our classroom. We will be making special bird booklets and are learning the names and colors of the feathery friends that live in our neighborhoods and wooded surroundings.  Our class has a very special book that shows the children many colorful birds form the different continents of the world. The book also has recorded birdcalls and we can listen to the many different bird songs. The children love this activity!  Our classrooms bird nests are examined with magnifying glasses and we are learning about the different adaptations of birds to their specific environments, such as their particular feet, beaks and diets.

During the next several weeks we will be doing an activity called “Special Friend for the Day”.  I will be sending home a form for you to fill out together with your child.  After you return the form, each day a different child will be chosen to be the “Special Friend” and the other children will be asked to find out who the special friend is. This is a very exciting and meaningful way to celebrate each child’s uniqueness.

We have also read a beautiful book about a young boy, Ahn, who struggles with anger. The story gave us a great start to talk about what happens to us when we get angry and what we can do to learn to deal with it.  The children were fascinated and eagerly participated in the story.  Often children struggle with negative feelings but they do not know what to do when it happens to them. It is up to us adults to help them manage and acquire skills to overcome negative emotions such as anger.

Grandparents Day is coming up next week.  The children are looking forward to showing what they are learning and how they spend their time at school.

As always let me know if you have questions or concerns.

Happy Spring!  

Extended Day with Angelika, Alicia and Gerri

Your children have been working very hard in the afternoons.  It is such a pleasure to see how independent they have become and the focus and effort they put into all their work.  The children really enjoy reading our many books and with each week they have become stronger readers.  Often our afternoon begins with group reading where we all sit in a circle and read aloud simultaneously, each at their own level.  On Monday Ms. Susan joins us for Readers workshop where she introduces the students to new books and activities that encourage oral expression and writing responses. She alternates the weeks with listening and thinking games. 

Our read aloud book is “Mr. Popper’s Penguin” a funny story about a house painter and his family who end up with a penguin living in their house. 

We are continuing author’s chair and as you may guess our dictated stories now are becoming longer, contain more detail, and are getting more interesting.

Ms. Alicia, our Montessori teacher in training, and Ms Gerri are working with me in the afternoon and they often can be found reading individually with students or giving lessons. 

You may have noticed that children do not bring home worksheets on a daily basis. Often their work in the classroom does not include a written product as we put greater emphasis on the process of your child’s work.  Please feel free to touch base with me if you have questions about your child’s progress and experience at school.

Your children give me great pleasure. Thank you for entrusting them to me.

Angelika

 

About Rosemary…

Rosemary has been the assistant teacher in Children’s House South for a long time, and we are missing her.  Her husband, Ray, was in a serious accident last month, and Rosemary has been with him as he recovers.   We are happy to hear that he is progressing well; he was able to return home this past weekend.  We know she is where she needs to be right now, will return to PVMS if and when she can, and we wish them both well.

 

 


Pioneer Valley Montessori School, 1524 Parker Street, Springfield, MA 01129 • 413-782-3108

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