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CLASSROOM NEWS FEBRUARY 2017

We have jumbled up the order of the classes, hoping that perhaps you will find something interesting during your search for what applies directly to you!  There are many interesting things going on here!

MUSIC with Hywel

 Toddlers - We have been continuing to work on action songs, singing along and following instructions.  Old Macdonald, The Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Crawdad Song have been some of the favorites.

 Children's Houses - We have started some work on Solfege.  This is the beginning of learning how to sing specific pitches and eventually, singing in harmony.  It involves singing a scale of 7 notes using Do Re Me Fa So La Ti and then back to Do.  We also use hand signs to help us visualize the notes being sung.  We have done some work on singing in rounds using Row, Row, Row Your Boat which is tricky, but the children are doing a great job of grasping the concept of singing a different part than someone else, but at the same time!  We have also started to narrow down the songs that we will be singing in the Spring Performance but will continue to introduce new songs over the coming weeks.

 

Lower Elementary - Recorder work has been slow but steady.  We are currently working on Ode To Joy and hopefully will have it ready in two part harmony for the Spring Performance.  Practicing at home will help immensely!!!  We have also been doing work on Solfege to prepare for singing notes on the correct pitch and eventually singing two part harmonies.

 

Upper Elementary - Recorder work has been good.  We have learned the first part to Ode To Joy and will be starting some new pieces in the coming weeks.  We will be playing at least one if not two of the pieces for the spring performance.  We have also started work on Solfege and singing in harmony.  Singing in harmony is difficult but the children have done a good job listening to themselves and each other.  We have managed to sing a few 3 part chords but will be working on some songs that involve only two parts over the next few weeks.

 

 

YOGA (Elementary level) with Lisa

 

We have been having fun exploring some partner poses recently.  The children learn coordination, balance, and working as a team. 

We continue to practice mindfulness through breathing awareness, meditation and deep relaxation. 

 

PHYSICAL EDUCATION (Elementary level) with Mike

 

The children are learning different games that require physical and mental focus.  They are playing different kinds of tag, learning soccer ball skills and footwork.  They have been playing Ultimate Frisbee and Frisbee Golf.  In all of these endeavors, they are learning many different skills, to play as a team and an individual, to think about their role and to learn new physical skills.  

 

CHILDREN’S HOUSE SOUTH- Angelika, Rosemary, Alicia and Gerri

January came and went. We have been very lucky with the temperatures so far and hope to continue to enjoy outdoor recess. When our playground is too muddy we are very fortunate to be able to go for walks in the park behind school.  The children love visiting the pond (of course from a safe distance) and look for wildlife or admire the frozen water. Please remember to send your child to school with a hat, mittens, and if there is snow, snow pants and boots daily!

Winter seems to be a great time of year to remind parents of the importance of spending reading time together. Reading to your children is a nurturing activity that brings you closer together. It increases your child’s vocabulary but also, according to the latest research, develops your child’s ability to process information. Books have the power to benefit preschoolers in a myriad of ways. As a parent, reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to prepare him or her with a foundation for academic excellence. We all know how much preschoolers love picture books but we often underestimate their ability to listen to early chapter books. So, please grab your favorite blanket, cuddle up and read some great stories together.

We continue to encourage grace and courtesy throughout our day. It is beautiful to see when children work together in peace, help and treat one another with respect. We have placed our Acts of Kindness box into our room. The children are asked to observe and notice when a friend does something kind to another child. It might be: giving a compliment, helping to pick up a work, sharing a snack, assisting another child that needs a hand…. the child that observed it then may take a small slip of paper and write down (with adult help) what and whom he observed, then places the paper into the box. At the end of the day we read all the notes. The children enjoy this activity very much and it truly encourages them to do good things.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Many of you are beginning to look ahead to next year, and I would like to help in any way I can.

CHILDREN’S HOUSE - EXTENDED DAY

Our 5 and 6 year olds have been making strides in all areas.  We continue to focus particularly on reading and writing as well as math work. 

During January group time, we read The Hundred Dresses.  The book is a story about a girl named Wanda Petronski and her family who are “different”.  The school children play mean games with Wanda and tease her and her brother about their name. As a result, the family feels unwelcome and moves away.  The story highlights how we are all different and how in the end everyone is hurt when we don’t treat others with respect and kindness.  The story was a great entry for us to talk about compassion and the qualities of being a friend. 

We have also enjoyed reading about a boy Willie Bentley who studied and took pictures of snowflakes and later even published a book about his discoveries.  Then the children wrote great sentences about the story and drew wonderful snowflakes!

 

CHILDREN’S HOUSE EAST – Tara and Sara

As the new year began, so too, did a new student.  His name is Saim and he is three years old.  Returning students were both interested and perplexed by the arrival of a new student at the same time that they said goodbye to another one.  After only a few short weeks, however, it’s like he’s been with us all along!   

Also new to our classroom is an activity called Apple Slicing.  After slicing half of an apple with an apple slicer/corer, the child can sprinkle cinnamon on top.  Some of them are very heavy handed with the sprinkling which results in a very spicy apple!  Since there is no harm in over-sprinkling, the child is allowed the freedom to sprinkle a little or a lot.  This simple act of freedom within the structure of the activity gives the child a sense of control, or agency, over their actions.  Agency is a hallmark of our methodology because the child is at the center of their own process of learning.

Our science study of the states of matter is giving way to our study of energy, specifically magnetism.  At this age and stage, learning is hands-on and interactive.  Accordingly, the foundational activity is called Magnetic and Non-magnetic.  On a tray are a magnet and a basket full of items such as a paper clip, cork, penny, etc.  The child uses the magnet to test and therefore sort which items stick and which ones do not.  It’s one way in which the young child begins to become curious about and interested in the world in which we live.

Understanding our world shows up in many different curriculum areas in the classroom.  In the geography area, the child can explore different types of land forms such as lake/island, peninsula/gulf and isthmus/strait.  One way that this happens is with the Land Forms material which introduces the relationships between water and land.  For instance, an island is land surrounded on all sides by water and, conversely, a lake is water surrounded on all sides by land.   

Although the first lesson involves a specifically designed material, one way to extend this exploration is with the addition of art materials.  On a small white card, the child uses a brown crayon to illustrate one of the land forms, for instance, an island.  Then they use blue paint to represent the water around the island. 

Whether it is paint, Montessori materials, or soapy water for scrubbing a table, all of the materials in our carefully prepared classroom are designed to attract the interest of the children.  Their interest then drives their learning.  In the end, it’s about stirring this innate desire which in turn promotes a life-long interest in learning. 

 

CHILDREN’S HOUSE NORTH – Sheryl,  Debbi and Lisa

 

In Children's House North we have been talking about hibernation and migration.  What different species are busy doing. When the snow came it helped because our weather hadn't been feeling like winter!
The children are busy practicing lessons learned, learning new lessons and there is lots of reading going on!  The older/returning children are busy moving through the curriculum.  They are wonderful leaders for all of the other children in the class. Our newest members have a confident smile and walk in and get right to work.
They have built a community!  They look out for each other and delight in each other's successes.
To sit as a Montessori teacher and observe this in the classroom is a moment of both pride and joy.  Both Deb and I feel proud to watch them do the work themselves and delight to see the pride they have in the process.

Thank you all for your delicious healthy snacks.
For sending in winter gear.
For believing in your children and in our community.

In Peace,
Sheryl and Debbie

 

 

SPANISH with Paula

Prospero Ano Nuevo!  Happy New Year!   January, with it’s uninterrupted class time, is the perfect “back to studies month” after the winter break!  We have been practicing family, emotions, and a little bit of parts of the body vocabulary this month. 

 

TODDLER—My time with the toddlers continues to be filled with joy and peace! A perfect way to start the busy week!  We have been singing in Spanish and in English –Head, Shoulders, Knees  and Toes, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, The Train Song, and Asi, Asi.  A part of each of these songs is in Spanish.  The children are just beginning to repeat a few words here and there!  I continue to spend snack time with them, chatting away en espanol about food and drink. 

 

CHILDREN’S HOUSES—Upon returning from the winter vacation, we reviewed family vocabulary with a matching game and some rather unusual families.  The children enjoyed peeking under the different colored houses (color review!) to see which family lived there!  We got to practice the word “familia” as well!  We made a “triste” (sad) and “contento” (happy) plate for practice at home.  We also played a matching game to practice these two words.  We added the element of color as well as emotion to make the match.  The children enjoyed “feeding” the dog with dog treats.  Each had a toy dog.  Under each dog was a number from one to ten.  The children had to count in Spanish and feed the dog his bones!   We even had a few cats and fish in the mix!

 

KINDERGARTEN—We celebrated “El Dia de Los Tres Reyes” or Three Kings Day for the first Kindergarten Spanish class of 2017.  The children enjoyed learning about this custom.  We decorated paper crowns in honor of the three wise men from the Epiphany story.  We decorated a paper bag and filled it with “straw” (for the camels, of course!) shredded paper. As the children pretended to sleep, Los Tres Reyes came with small gifts for each child.   We wrote a list of family words for our Spanish folders and labeled pictures with our Spanish words “madre, padre, nino, nina, and bebe”.  We began our winter reading project, “The Mitten” or “El Miton”.  The children laced a large mitten with white yarn and decorated it all in white.  On to animals in febrero!

 

LOWER ELEMENTARY—We had started the family vocabulary before vacation and needed to review once we returned in January!  All levels worked on various family trees to practice our vocabulary.  We also continued with our poetry and reading:  Level One: Osito, Osito (Poem), Level Two:  AEIOU, Arbolito de Peru (poem), Level Three:  Mi Familia, a short story.  All levels created a family tree and presented the tree to the Spanish class.  Levels One and Two created a tree based on their own families.  Level Three chose a planet and created little aliens with Spanish names to inhabit their planet.  They created a last name using the color of the planet and the name of the planet.  Emotion vocabulary was practiced next.  Each level worked on a sentence game using the verb “estar” and the emotion vocabulary.  We did an emotion snowman project to practice as well.

UPPER ELEMENTARY—Each level of Upper Elementary seems to be at a different place this month; so, I’ll report level by level! 

Level Four—We finished up our school vocabulary and went on to practice family vocabulary.  We created a family tree of a fictional family.  Each member of the family had a first and middle Spanish name and a last name of the student’s choosing.  Their trees had pictures to go along with the names.  We continued to work on our story “Grande Y Mas Grande” which provided opportunities for oral reading, translating and writing.   We reviewed all vocabulary before beginning emotions vocabulary.  We used the verb “estar” with a full conjugation.  We practiced agreement between subject, verb and emotion.  They created a sentence game to practice verb, subject and emotion.  On to an emotions snowman project en febrero!

Level Five—Our study of family vocabulary was practiced with the verbs “ser” “estar” and “ir”.  We practiced the vocabulary with a map of a small town which each child created.  They named all of the streets, placed buildings in the town and proceeded to place the family in different locations.  Good practice for the prepositions as well.  For the emotions, these students had two verbs:  estar and tener.  Their sentence game was a bit more complicated!!!  We have begun to get very comfortable with the reading and translating of our seahorse story, “El Caballito del Mar.”

 

Level Six—We have begun our reading of the chapter book “Un Viaje a Mexico.”  We are proceeding slowly, usually with several lessons on vocabulary and grammar before we actually read and translate.  There is also a big emphasis on learning to use their Spanish notebooks!  Being organized is so important!  The students have begun to organize their notebooks so that they can find what they need to read, write, and translate!  We are off to a good start!

 

JUNIOR GREAT BOOKS WITH PAULA

 

Both levels began stories which were interrupted by the winter vacation!  We ended up re-reading the stories as a review and going on to complete them by the end of the month.  We continue to work on time management—completing work both in the Lower El classroom and in Junior Great Books!

Level Two—The children took turns reading our story “The Frog Went A-Traveling” if they wanted a chance to read.  I am happy to report that all of the children read at least one paragraph!  We discussed whether we did or did not feel sorry for the frog by the end of the story.  We created a picture showing our opinion.  We discussed a place which we would like to visit.  We wrote about it and we drew a picture of it.  We discussed the story, created a cover for all of our work, and put the work together for home!  Our next story, “The Happy Lion”, will begin stories which the children will be responsible for reading instead of hearing the stories read to them.  Exciting!

 

Level Three—The children read “The Jackal and the Partridge” again to get re- acquainted with the story. We discussed the word “cunning” as it referred to the partridge in the story.  We found places in the story in which the partridge was good at making plans and the places in which she used a sneaky trick to get what she was after.  An important theme of the story was “Friendship”. The students wrote a letter to the Jackal informing him what he needs to do to have a good experience with friendship!  We garnered all of our work after discussing the story and off it went to home!  We are ready to start a new collection of stories in February!

 

 

TODDLER  ROOM - Mary Ann, Cynthia, Carla, Brianna and Rebecca

When we came back from the holiday break we welcomed our newest student Alexandra. Her big brother is a Toddler class alumnus and is now in the Children’s House.

The return to school went smoothly after being away for two weeks. Some children came back a few inches taller and increased language skills.

During January we talked about the season of winter. With the lack of snow and many mild days we relied on stories, songs and art to illustrate the typical signs of winter. On the days it was too cold to go outside we brought some snow indoors. The children were delighted to play with snow without snow pants and boots. We did wear mittens. They used shovels to fill bowls and made mini snowmen. It was a good opportunity to talk about the concept of melting and freezing.

Food preparation was added to the practical life area. The children have been cutting cucumbers, peppers and grinding grain. In our sensorial area we introduced the concepts of rough and smooth and added some additional shapes to work with. Due to the popularity of puzzles we rotated the selection frequently. 

Thanks to all for bringing your child’s snow gear to school; it has made going outside easier. Our upper elementary students have been helping us get the toddlers dressed to go outside. They are a big help and the toddlers enjoy being with them. When possible please have your child assist you in getting their outerwear on.  Let’s hope we don’t have to wear them for too long.

 

UPPER ELEMENTARY – Nicole and Terri

The end of January sees the Upper Elementary beginning the big, deep works of the year. We have most recently begun our work in American history with discussions around the beginnings of the European discoveries of North America. The children were horrified to learn about the many nations of Europe that took advantage of a variety of indigenous people, both in Africa and in North America in order to build up the colonies. We spoke in depth about the triangular trade that was developed between the colonies, Africa and Europe, and how much of the West Indies and Southern colonies were transformed by plantation farming of crops that originated in Asia.  We exchanged thoughts and feelings about the slavery trade that was run by the Portuguese out of West Africa, and how these people were used and treated even worse than animals from the way they were transported to North America to the tireless hours they were expected to work in the South with little food, and crowded housing.  Going through history in this way is intended to help the children gain a better grasp on the passage of time as well.  Each of the children is in a small group that will be studying a particular time in U.S. History between the American Revolution to World War One.  After completing extensive research, to really understand the people and issues of their particular time, the class as a whole will create a timeline of the United States to see exactly how it all comes together. The Upper Elementary Curriculum is filled with a variety of Timelines intended to both inspire and inform children’s research into a variety of cultural and scientific studies. These colorful and thoughtful reference materials will serve also as a guide for the children when they make their own timeline.

The fifth and sixth graders are beginning their foray into the world of the human body.  Every few weeks we will look at a different system of the human animal examining the cells, tissues, organs and the system as a whole.  Currently, the children are deep into the study of the skeletal system, learning about the nomenclature, the makeup, and the diseases of bones. Next we will begin with the muscular system, and we will dissect a chicken wing to see how muscles, ligaments and tendons work together to move a joint.

The fourth years have begun on their journey through understanding the Linnaean system of classification for living things.  We have discussed the various Kingdoms, and the children have done some research on a living thing of their choosing.  They have put together a beautiful tree of life, that demonstrates the connection of Kingdom to Phylum to Class with some examples of various Genus and species in each grouping. It also projects how living organisms became more complex as they evolved. Soon the children will begin looking at the various systems of different animals and comparing them.

Through these studies in science and history, the children continue to practice their skills of researching and expository writing.  With each project they complete, their skills grow, as they learn how to better edit, and revise so that their work is clearly communicated in writing; so that it is well-organized, and interesting for their reader.  It is an opportunity for them to apply some of what they have learned in our Writer’s Workshop, and the Language card studies that are an ongoing part of the work in the classroom.

We continue our journey in math learning about the decimal system, square rooting and fractions.  Some of the eldest in the class are learning how to find the square root of a number through the use of the peg board.  Practice allows them to visualize the problem, and the method is very similar to the racks and tubes division, resulting in a feeling of familiarity to many students. This work helps the children to further organize and manipulate numbers so that they gain a deeper understanding of algebraic thinking. The youngest are practicing their application of lowest common multiple to find and create equivalent fractions.  This is a lead up to being able to add fractions with unlike denominators.  Scaffolding skills in this way allows the children to focus on each step separately, and allows for greater success in the final application.  The rest of the children are working on addition of decimals along with practicing mean, median and mode. After extensive examination of place value, to really grasp the concept of decimals and their relationship to fractions, the students are moving swiftly through the operations working with this part of our number system. The hands-on approach has been really beneficial to many of the children to understand these concepts.  

Overall, we are finding our flow in the classroom.  That place of balance wherein the work is of the right challenge and interest so as to be deserving of effort.  It is in this place that children can do their best work in a Montessori environment, as Maria Montessori has said, “Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.” So, the child learns by observing what others do.  By experiencing the emotions, the tenacity, the thoughtfulness that is a part of each of us that is a part of his or her life. By touching, and practicing with materials, by performing experiments, by actively searching for information, not simply passively listening.  But, if we can tell a story to inspire their imagination, the child can also learn from this by exploring in his mind the world that is painted, the moments that are created. I have seen the excitement incited by stories in our classroom over the last month or so, and just as all those a-ha moments of learning, it is indeed magical.

 

ART with Christie

Upper and Lower Elementary  

      Greetings everyone, it’s hard to believe that we’re already at the start of February. In class we continue making our way through the Seven Elements of Art (line, color, texture, space, value, form, and shape). We have just completed our lesson on texture.  Texture is the surface quality that can be seen and felt. In this lesson each student compiled samples of materials that had a range of different textures like sand paper, plastic, cardboard, and velvet. These samples were then attached to one of the texture pages of our workbooks. The children then chose words to describe what each of these samples felt like (fluffy, smooth, rough, etc).  On the opposite page, we made sample drawings of different types of textures and labeled them as well. We discussed the importance of texture and how it can add interest, dimension, and realism to our art work. It was also noted that textures do not always feel the way they look; for example, a drawing of tree bark may look rough, but if you touch the drawing, the paper is still smooth. The next element that we will be working on is form.

That’s all until next time.

ChristieJ

LOWER ELEMENTARY with Sherrell and Kim

Dear Families,

Observation is central to a well-functioning, effective Montessori classroom.  In order to individualize each child’s educational program, I need good information on each child. Kim and I have been observing even more than usual in recent weeks.  We are looking to find strengths and struggles with different skills and abilities, patterns of behavior, and to identify student tendencies and preferences with regard to their work choices and readiness. This helps us to anticipate what a child might need in terms of support, guidance or instruction and to plan for it accordingly. Sometimes, once that support, guidance or instruction has been given, we then wait to see if it will have the desired impact, a different impact or no impact at all.  We again “wait while observing,” and we make note of what we might need to adjust going forward.

 Waiting can be hard – especially for adults with children.  Waiting while my son puts on his coat or potty trains can be frustrating for me. I want to rush in, I want to help him, I want to make it easier and faster. Most days, I have the self-control to stop, wait and observe, but some days I don’t.  I find the same test of my ability to trust the process in the classroom at times, so this month’s quote addresses that very real struggle. In the classroom, we wait for students to learn to make appropriate work choices. We wait for children to memorize addition facts or understand that ten units are worth the same as one ten. We wait for her to master her impulse to shout out or for him to remember to use kind language with his classmates. We wait.  It is so much easier said than done!

 Mathematics and Geometry Notes

 There is no secret that I find Montessori math to be an absolutely amazing curriculum.  The careful plan of introducing and reintroducing materials and concepts creates a beautifully effective spiral. Our multi-age grouping and ability to follow the child’s individual needs and interests mean that we have first, second and third –year students all working on the same concepts and even the same materials, but with differing levels of understanding and of abstraction.

 Your child may be multiplying and dividing 4 or even 6-digit numbers in class, but unable to multiply 4 × 6. This is normal for a Montessori classroom. Because of the concrete nature of the didactic materials, students are able to solve problems that they may not be able to solve abstractly. And, because of the work they do with those 4 and 6-digit problems, they will practice and eventually memorize their math facts and internalize the “borrowing” and “carrying” and “bringing down” we adults tend to use.

 Language Notes

 Students are full of things to write about, but can have trouble deciding what to write about in school.  For the most part, students do their best writing when they write the things they know best. 

 We have been encouraging students to write what they know and to take that writing through the writing process to publication and adding it to the classroom library.

In recent weeks, we’ve been focusing on prewriting, which is getting our ideas ready, and on revising, when we add, remove, move around or switch words in order to improve our draft.

Currently, students edit their own work with very little assistance from teachers. This means that through revising and editing, they’ve done their very best work, even if it is not completely error-free.

Cultural Studies

Science is a very broad and very deep area of study. We tend to split it into different concentrations such as Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Physics and Ecology to make it easier to study and Montessori embraces each of these concentrations throughout the elementary program. This month, we have been studying the Earth, pulling elements of Astronomy, Geology and Geography as they relate to our home planet. Ask your child about the layers of the earth or the long black line.

Because we want to share the breadth of the science curriculum with you, we will have Science Night in April.  This will be a chance for students to share some of the experiments and demonstrations they’ve conducted over the course of the year. Elementary students will not be responsible for an individual science project.  An invitation to this event will be sent out as it gets closer.

Valentine’s Day

Students are welcome to bring Valentines for each of their classmates on Tuesday, February 14. Snacks to share are welcome (if free of nuts/tree nuts).

As always, if you have concerns, kudos, or questions, please reach out. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you!

Sherrell and Kim

 

 

 


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

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