December/January 2017 CLASSROOM NEWS

TODDLERS with Mary Ann and Cynthia, Carla, Brianna and Rebecca

We would like to welcome our new classmate James to the toddler community.

Last month we concluded the topic of Fall. The children painted a turkey for the wall in our eating area in honor of Thanksgiving. I’m sure everyone went home with at least one turkey picture. We looked at leaves from the trees in our play area under magnification and noted that all the gingko tree leaves fell off all at once. The children enjoyed the many stories about animals hibernating and how people prepare for the coming of winter. We read the funny and beautiful story called “The Hat” by Jan Brett. Before we left for the Thanksgiving holiday, the children shared pie on Pie Day. It appeared that many of them were not familiar with pie. Some of the children wouldn’t try it at all but some ate the apples or the crust.

This month we only have a few short weeks. During this time we will talk about the traditions of different cultures. The December break is a long time in the life of a toddler and some may have a difficult time when they return. It usually takes only a few days to get back into the routine. Sometimes it is helpful to talk about school and their classmates so they understand they will be returning.

We wish everyone a joyful and peaceful holiday season. 


CHILDREN’S HOUSE EAST with Tara and Sara

As we prepare to bid farewell to the calendar year, we’re also preparing to say goodbye to Nico and his family who are moving to California.  Our plan is to send him off with a loaf of our bread and a card signed by all of us.  Good luck with the move, Nico.  We will miss you!

We have a new tool in our classroom called the Wish Well Board.  It is a large, round, metal tray with a giant red heart in the center.  Around its perimeter are small picture cards, one for each child.  When the children arrive in the classroom, they remove their picture card and place it in a glass jar.  The remaining picture cards are placed in the center of the red heart and then we wish them well from our hearts to theirs.  This process is particularly helpful as the children try to understand an absent friend.  Nico’s card will remain in the center of the heart and we will wish him well every day!

Saying goodbye is a skill that we practice each day.  At the end of the morning, we gather together in the middle of the classroom.  Most days we sing songs and read a picture book.  The last song is always the Goodbye Song:

Well, it’s time to say goodbye to my friends, (repeat)                                                                 Well, it’s time to say goodbye so smile and wink an eye.                                                             It’s time to say goodbye to my friends.

Then we put on our outdoor clothing…

We have a song that helps us to order our application of outerwear.  The final line is “…last come the mittens, last come the mittens…”  It is our special request that your child has mittens or be almost proficient in putting on gloves.  Also, please send in a pair of indoor shoes, like slippers, so that your child can change out of their wet boots and into something dry and cozy.  Thanks in advance for your attention to these details.

As mentioned in our previous newsletter, we have been studying solids, liquids and gases.  You may recall last month that we watched a liquid change to a solid as we made butter.  Weather permitting, we will watch snow change from a solid to a liquid. 

There are two independent activities that support this study.  One is a sorting activity and the other is called Sink or Float.  In this activity, the child places small items, one at a time, in a container of water in order to see if they sink or float. 

Looking ahead, we will soon be cutting snowflakes out of tracing paper.  Since snowflakes are six-sided, we will take the opportunity to learn about hexagons as well as other geometric shapes that emerge as we fold the paper for this art activity.   Some of the children will immediately notice that these shapes appear in other activities in the classroom.  These connections make learning effortless and fun.

Warm wishes to you and your family this holiday season!


CHILDREN’S HOUSE NORTH with Sheryl and Deb

Happy Winter!
Thank you for sending boots, hats, mittens and snow pants in for your children LABELED!!
In the classroom, we have been busy learning about differences (not just regarding holidays): celebrating the difference in people -families and children around the world.  What we learn is that love, smiles, pets, homes, foods, etc. may not look the same as ours but they mean the same no matter where you are in the world.
Classroom materials are off the shelf and the children have such a nice work flow.  When it is time to clean up I hear that "sigh" and it is music to my ears.  This means they love what they're doing and want more time.
At recess we have been going on nature walks and we get to see the red-tailed hawks quite often. Did you know they have eight times our vision abilities and can see in color?  They left the school after the tornado and eventually came back. The children delight in the experience and there are always many teachable moments on these nature walks.

Thank you to all the families who provide us with nutritious snack.
Thank you for the HUGS donations.

We wish you a happy holiday season!
In Peace,
Sheryl and Debbie

CHILDREN’S HOUSE SOUTH with Angelika, Rosemary and Alicia (our intern)

The month of November just flew by. 

Thank you to everyone who attended their child’s conference.  I am aware of how busy all your lives are, and how it can be difficult to schedule time off of both school and work. It was a pleasure being with all the returning and new families to discuss the most important part of your lives- your children!

We have been working hard and the children have settled in wonderfully. The classroom is peaceful and everyone is engaged. Much learning is taking place. 

By this time of year the children are familiar with many materials and they begin to branch out more within the curriculum areas. Also, many are now able to focus for longer periods of time and they begin to challenge themselves by exploring further.

It is great to observe the changes in the children’s social development as well. As the comfort level rises within the classroom, friendships begin to deepen and new relationships emerge.

We have been lucky enough to be able to enjoy outdoor playtime and many children have been having fun playing soccer together. The younger children love collecting the many acorns into wheelbarrows and push them around the playground.

What fun they have!

This month is a great time to remember the less fortunate. We have been collecting non-perishable food items as well as HUGS items (Hats, Underwear, Gloves, Socks).  Your children are so very proud when they remember to bring an item to donate.

I would like to take a moment to express a sincere thank you to my assistants Rosemary and Gerri, for all the hard work they put into the classroom. Without their efforts it would be impossible for me to perform my work.  I appreciate all the little and big things they do throughout the environment. Their quiet presence is reassuring to both the children and myself. Thanks Rosemary and Gerri!

This is a busy time of year please be safe.  We wish you and your families a joyful and peaceful holiday season.


CHILDREN’S HOUSE EXTENDED DAY with Miss Sheryl and Miss Angelika

The afternoons have been incredibly busy and productive. Your children are progressing in all areas and are really moving through the many activities in the curriculum.

Many students are becoming quite comfortable and confident in their own writing. They particularly enjoy drawing pictures and writing their personal responses to stories we read together.  We see wonderful progress in their listening skills, comprehension and their ability to draw conclusions. The younger students draw pictures and dictate their responses all while practicing oral language and expression in preparation of their own writing.

We have been enjoying author’s chair. The children love this activity and we cannot wait for everyone to have a turn.

The math curriculum is in full swing as well.  The children are working daily on the Bank Game, using the squaring chains or practicing the multiplication tables with the red Pythagoras board. Some of our younger students love the clock materials or pull out the large puzzle maps.

We all enjoy our afternoon time with each other very much, and often before we know it is time to put our work away.



YOGA (Elementary grades) with Lisa

Our Vision Boards in yoga class are almost complete and will be sent home before the holiday break.  The boards help the children to reflect on what brings joy and peace into their lives, as well as their goals for future endeavors.

In one of our classes this past month I introduced Yoga Nidra, or yoga sleep, which is a guided relaxation technique to help the body and mind relax on a deeper level.  Of course, lots of fun poses, deep breathing, and short meditations were also included.


LOWER ELEMENTARY with Sherrell and Kim

Dear Families,

 We are busy and it is good.  Students have pretty much settled into our classroom’s rhythm and we are doing a lot of very good work.

 Student independence is of enormous importance, so Kim and I work hard to strike a balance with our guidance and direction.  At times, it can be hard to let students stumble in their work, but making mistakes is critical if they are to learn to recover from them. When a student asks for help, many times that request is answered with a question, “What have you tried?” or “What do you think you should do?”  The goal is to get students to persevere and to develop their resilience. So often, students say, “I don’t get it,” and we press on to discover that they haven’t applied any strategies before their appeal. It can feel uncomfortable to watch students flounder so sometimes we, as well-meaning grownups, rush in to rescue a child where no rescue was really warranted. Instead, a guide question or gentle reminder would get the child over the hump and into success and independence.

Mathematics Notes

Lower Elementary students are doing amazing math work right now.  At any given point during work cycle, children are working on different kinds and levels of math work, with and without material support (ask about how we use the red and white counters). Most have readily undertaken the challenge to practice different kinds of math each day, and are actively talking about doing computation, fluency, and problem solving-practice. Students are also aware of the level of challenge they are choosing – not too easy and not too hard.

 These are things we are discussing and revisiting on a regular basis as some students struggle to make appropriate work choices. It is very tempting to avoid challenging work and only choose work that “comes easy” to you, so we talk about choosing those in between other, more challenging, choices.

 Language Notes

 We have been learning the logistical expectations of reading groups – how to be prepared, how to participate, how to complete assignments on time. The different groups are scheduled to meet between 2 and 4 times each week.

 In addition, we are working on our summarizing skills.  There is a difference between a summary and a retelling and many students are working on this distinction. Some students are using SWBST to guide their summarizing.


Somebody is the main character or characters,

Wanted describes their goal,

But reminds us of the conflict or problem

So leads us to the actions taken to solve the problem, and

Then cues us to the final resolution or solution of the story.

 Cultural Studies

 Cosmic Education and Cultural interdependency lend themselves to learning about how people, near and far, are similar even if they may not seem so at first glance. The Fundamental Human Needs are shared by all peoples, even if the ways we meet those needs differ. To that end, I welcome The Holiday Season enthusiastically and use it to broaden students’ sense of connection to others. 

 For the past several years, I have enjoyed sharing Horrible Harry and the Holidaze with my students. It is a great fact and fiction combination and integration of Social Studies and Literacy. We are learning about FIVE different winter holidays and creating a display for each one: Three Kings’ Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Korean New Year. Students are welcome to share their own holiday traditions with the class, but students are not obligated to do so. We will also discuss other holidays and different ways of celebrating familiar holidays; for example the different ways people celebrate Christmas and the associated symbols such as the poinsettia, wreath, candle, Yule log and gingerbread.


-       Check your child’s folder daily as there may be notes or forms that need your attention.

-       Send in outdoor gear labeled with your child’s name.  We go outside up to twice a day, even when it’s cold. It is also really helpful if the children have spare clothes, especially socks as they often get wet on snowy days.

-       Please have the children here close to 8:15 so they can participate in our morning recess and morning meeting. Participating in these activities greatly impact your student’s day. Students are tardy after 8:35, and may miss specials if they arrive too late. 

-       Label lunches that contain nut products so we can keep the children with allergies as safe as possible. Read the labels for snack ingredients as well.

-       If your child has a change in plans – before or after school, pickup, absence, please send a note or call the office. We cannot take the children’s word for it.


In this season of celebrations of light, we celebrate the light of realization and pride that comes when a child figures “it” out on their own and the light of perseverance and determination from not giving up.


Thank you!

Sherrell and Kim


UPPER ELEMENTARY with Nicole and Terri


With January comes the opportunity to look at things anew.  It is a time that many of us choose to examine the past year and evaluate what went well, and what might need some attention to improve.  Self-reflection is a very important part of being a Montessori guide, and student.  Looking at our successes, mistakes and failures so that we might learn how to improve our practice, move closer to a goal, and grow as human beings is a big part of what makes the Montessori philosophy so special.  Giving the answer to a friend, doing something for another, or taking care of their work can feel more helpful, or easier than giving guidance, asking questions or allowing someone to fail.  But we learn through experience, and if someone else is clearing the way, doing it for us, or cleaning up our mess all we learn is that we don’t have to try, someone else will do it for us, or worse yet, that we are not capable of doing it alone. Maria Montessori tells us, “We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.”  

Every few weeks the children sit down to a conference with me.  We examine the work that they have done since the last time we met, and discuss the ease of the work, whether it is liked or not, if the child understands, how they feel about the work, what went well, and what went not so well, was it completed in a timely manner. I might ask more poignant questions about something that I noticed was particularly difficult for a child. “What did you learn about this work?” “Did you allot enough time to complete it to your satisfaction?” “What would you do differently if you had to do it again?”  I also ask if there is anything with which the child might want further support.  More often than not, the answer is “Nope.”

Weekly Reflections is another way that the children are asked to examine the way that they do things.  Sometimes it might be to recall how they spend a holiday, sometimes it is about moral dilemmas, sometimes it is about how they believe they contribute to having a peaceful classroom, or what they could do in the future to ensure that our classroom stays peaceful and productive.  This small piece of weekly homework is posted in Classroom, and many of the children enjoy thinking about and responding to these questions.  There is no judgment.  There is no wrong answer. It is an opportunity to reflect, and write.  Maybe this will influence the choices they make in the future, maybe it is just homework for them.  They each will take what they want from it.

Recently the children completed their first long-term research project about a famous explorer or an implement that was crucial in the overseas exploration that occurred during the Renaissance. They were able to choose their subject of research, and were given guidelines and expectations for the completed report.  An undertaking of this nature requires an immense amount of organization, time management, writing skill and reading comprehension to complete successfully.  They were not simply given the project and told off you go.  We discussed timing together, and created due dates for research and rough drafts to help pace the project and give short term goals.  They were told to submit a rough draft in which they believed that they had completed the project but for a few small tweaks.  I went over this work, and noted areas that needed attention, asking the children to please check in with me about any comments that they wanted to discuss.  They then returned to this work to make the necessary additions, or re-organize the information that they had collected.  The first time that we embark upon something new there is always a lot to learn.  Examining the rough draft and asking questions is another form of reflection.  The children begin to see the importance of self-editing and revision, that reading and re-reading our work is essential in order to ensure that it is free from error, that changes we have made fit into what we had written before and that there is flow to what we have written.  Expository writing of this nature is an essential skill that is used throughout one’s academic career, and there is always more to learn.  Once all of the conventions are understood, we work on creating an interesting voice.  How do we show the story with our words, instead of simply telling it?  How do we engage our reader while maintaining the voice of an expository report? What makes a good introductory paragraph?  How do we close our report?  Expository writing is complex, and many mistakes are usually made before we truly excel at this craft.

So, while the children are always given the opportunity to reflect, and rethink, they continue to work on the rest of the academics in the classroom.  Some are finding their way through trinomial squaring, soon to be looking into square rooting, others are gaining a deeper understanding of the decimal system and place value, some are finding their way through factors and multiples.  The older children are figuring out the Pythagorean theory, the younger ones looking at dividing triangles into fractions, and the beginnings of perimeter.  

Our second novel study was even more successful than the first.  More of the children giving complete answers, with proof and explanations.  Catherine Called Birdy, The Cricket in Times Square and Julie of the Wolves were all stories of self-discovery; deciding “where do I belong?” This upcoming month we will be looking at more novels with similar themes, of “Where did I come from?” “Who decides who I become?” The House of the Scorpion, Maniac Magee and Fever 1793 are all set in very different time periods, but each book takes a look into self-identity.

Constructing the self is no small work, and it is what takes place for these children every day in their classroom.

"The child strives to assimilate his environment and from such efforts springs the deep-seated unity of his personality. This prolonged and gradual labour is a continual process through which the spirit enters into possession of its instrument. It must continually maintain its sovereignty by its own strength, lest movement give place to inertia or become uniform and mechanical. It must continually command, so that movement, removed henceforth from the guidance of a fixed instinct, shall not lose itself in chaos. Hence a creation that is always in process of realization, an energy always freshly constructive, the unceasing labour of spiritual incarnation. Thus the human personality forms itself by itself, like the embryo, and the child becomes the creator of the man, the father of the man." ~Maria Montessori



Spanish with Paula


By November, the children are settling into the Spanish classes quite well.  A routine has been established for each class.  Most are setting time aside in the classroom to practice written Spanish work.  November and December are also short months, filled with the excitement of the holidays! We have been busy and excited with our Spanish work as well.


TODDLER—I continue to enjoy spending time with my youngest amigos in the Toddler classroom.  We sing songs mostly in English with a few choice Spanish words thrown in.  The children are used to me speaking another language; but, have not yet begun to repeat any Spanish words.  Time will tell!  Peace and joy for the holidays!


CHILDREN’S HOUSES—The preschoolers have been practicing school vocabulary in November.  We located some of the vocab in the classrooms.  We played the matching game with the target vocabulary. We created a classroom practicing the words as well.  Prepositions (on/encima and under/debajo) were our next topic!  The children enjoyed practicing these with bugs, bunnies and puff balls.  I have collected some tiny tables and chairs over the years.  They come in handy for preposition work as well.  Near the Thanksgiving break, we reviewed our colors with a turkey project.  At the end of the month, it was on to family vocabulary (nino/nina).  We continued with the family in early December with madre and padre.  The children enjoyed throwing a small paper plate up in the air and predicting whether the madre or padre would land face-up!  We created munecos de nieve (snowmen) for our winter projects.  As was written on the bottom of the snowmen creation, “Felices Fiestas” or Happy Holidays!

KINDERGARTEN—We practiced some “face” vocabulary using a pumpkin and some plastic features.  The children enjoyed making funny faces while practicing the words.  I enjoyed switching the pumpkin features and having the children tell what was “funny” about the pumpkin.  They created their own pumpkins using scrap paper.  The children got some practice with beginning sounds for our school vocabulary.  They were able to locate and circle school words using the initial sound.  Next they matched pictures to the school words. The children enjoyed making a paper backpack with their school words as well.   Their Spanish notebooks are filling up with vocabulary!  We reviewed colors with a turkey project, as in the Children’s House classes.  They used initial sounds to begin to “read” the colors en espanol!  For the December holidays, we talked about amigos. The children created a winter scene and “decorated” gingerbread boy and girl friends for the picture.  Although the making of snowflakes was a challenge, they were all able to create two beautiful ones!  The look of wonder on their faces was priceless!!   Happy Holidays!  Felices Fiestas!


LOWER ELEMENTARY—The children continue to memorize short poetry in Levels One and Two.  Level One worked on “Pito, Pito, Colorito” the bunny who goes off to school.  Level Two worked on a short poem about falling leaves, “Las Hojas”.   Level Three has graduated to a short story using colors and the school vocabulary, “Un Arco Iris de Colores.”  At the beginning of November, the children studied the Latin American holiday, “Dia de Los Muertos.”  We heard stories about the special three day event and created some fun art work in honor of the holiday. Level One decorated colorful skulls.  Level Two decorated a skull mask.  Level Three created a mobile.  Next it was on to school vocabulary.  We practiced these words with the definite articles as well as colors.  Prepositions were introduced and practiced with the vocabulary as well.  We took a break from “school” just before Thanksgiving with stories and some turkey art projects.  We created art for the poetry that we had been learning as well.  At the beginning of December, we began our family vocabulary which will continue when we return from winter break in January.  We kept busy with holiday projects! Level One heard a Mexican folktale and created a poinsettia project.  Level Two heard the lullaby, “Nana, Nanita” and created a colorful bird.  Level Three celebrated “The festival of light” by reading a story about “:Las Posadas” and creating a paper lantern.   Wishing all of our families peace and contentment for the holidays!


Upper Elementary—We continue to read just about every class!  Level Four is working on “Grande y Mas Grande” a story about comparisons.  Level Five has continued to work on questions about the Halloween story “Jorgito” and has begun a science story, “El Caballito de Mar.”  Level Six has begun the traditional Level Six story “Un Viaje a Mexico.”  All levels studied “El Dia de Los Muertos” at the beginning of November with stories and art projects.  Level Four symbolized some information about the holiday and created a colorful skeleton.  Level Five read in both English and Spanish and created a ghost pencil.  Level Six read about the holidays as well and created a skeleton using Q-tip cotton swabs.  Fun for all!! Level Fours have studied school vocabulary with the definite article and color agreement.  Prepositions have been introduced and practiced with the verb “estar” and the school vocab.  Family vocabulary was next.  More study of definite articles, colors, and prepositions!   As the December holidays neared, the children symbolized a story about poinsettias and created a poinsettia pinwheel. Level Five students also studied school vocabulary with definite articles, colors, and prepositions.  They added school subjects, verbs and telling time, also.  In December, the students translated a poem about the custom “La Rama.”  They created a “rama” using colorful paper flowers and glitter.  Level Six has been hard at work reviewing vocabulary and learning new grammar for the chapter book reading! We have been doing a lot of verb work and they are getting comfortable with a conjugation chart!  We have begun to read “Un Viaje a Mexico”. The children locate vocabulary, discuss grammar for each chapter, read in Spanish, translate into English and answer questions about the story en espanol as well!  Impressive!  We took a break from all of that hard works by studying about the tradition of “aguinaldos”. The students symbolized information about the tradition and created a “Aguinaldo” for each of their classmates!  Happy Holidays!!




Level Two students worked on the Haitian folktale, “Bouki Cuts Wood.” We heard the story twice—once while working with vocabulary and once answering questions about the story as I read.  The children enjoyed acting out the part of the story when Bouki is “dead.”  They had to wake me up using just words! The class worked on a poem “When I am Still.”  Our work was assembled into a folder to take home.  We began “Frog Went A-Travelin’”.  We also studied vocabulary for this story.  The children created a picture of the frog “traveling” by duck.”  We heard the story again and discussed what the frog wanted.  Just before winter break we created a reindeer using paper and clothespins for the classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  We talked about how our words can be used to help or hurt people; to include or exclude people.  We all agreed that being different is an interesting and good thing! 


Level Three students heard and read the Swedish tale, “Nail Soup.”  We talked about how the main character Carl treated the old woman.  Was he treating her fairly or unfairly?  We worked on essays about a special person in our lives.  As the children answered questions, they were able to write a paragraph about a special person.  They also created their own recipes for “Nail Soup” –just not with a nail!!  Just before break, the children heard the famous Christmas poem, “The Night Before Christmas.”  We discussed the strange nature of rhyming words in the English language!  At this writing, I am hoping to begin the Indian folktale, “The Jackal and the Partridge” before we break for the holidays!


Peace to all of you!  Enjoy your families!


AFTERSCHOOL with Debbi and Rebecca

As the seasons change, in afterschool we’ve been enjoying going outside to collect acorns and finding the biggest leaves we can.  We also watch the wildlife, such as the geese and the hawks, out on the field.  When we are inside, we are usually found doing all sorts of crafts.  Bracelets are a popular year-round activity and we are currently making crafts for the winter season.


Upper and Lower Elementary Art with Christie Hester-Moore


     Season greetings everyone. In Art we are continuing our study of the “Seven Elements of Art” which are line, color, space, value, shape, form and texture. We have just completed the lesson on color. This lesson had three different components; a work book assignment, color wheel design and water color paintings. We started this lesson by discussing color and introducing color vocabulary (hue, tint, color and value). Using our Element of Art work books students were introduced to the different types of colors: primary (red, blue, and yellow-the only colors that cannot be made by mixing other colors), secondary (orange, purple and green-these colors are made by mixing two primary colors together) and tertiary colors (a tertiary color is made by mixing a primary and a secondary color together for example yellow-orange).

     For the second part of this lesson the children color mixed using watercolors in order to create secondary and tertiary color wheels. The final assignment of the color lesson was that each student had to paint a picture (their choice of subject matter) in water color.  They only had the primary colors of red, yellow and blue, and needed to mix every color that was needed for their paintings. As part of the requirements of this assignment they had to use at least two primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.  Great time and care was taken with this lesson by the Elementary students and they were often fascinated by the results that were achieved not only within their own work but also by the results of their fellow classmates.

     We are currently working on seasonal projects that celebrate family and if completed in time the students will be taking them home for the winter break.


All the best,



PHYSICAL EDUCATION  (Elementary Classes) with Mike Desroches

We have been working on many different skills, from ball handling and foot skills, to the importance of working with a team.  The students are learning about having individual skills, but also using those skills in a group.




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