October 2009

Our school year is well underway now, with children and staff settled into their routines. Even the toddlers have learned the basic ground rules of the Montessori classroom: choosing work and putting it away when done and treating other people with respect. Simple but very powerful guidelines for a classroom community.

We have had an unexpected change in music teachers. Kirsten found that she was unable to work with our children this year. Fortunately, though the enthusiastic recommendation of the staff at Amherst Montessori School, we have been able to hire Leticia Davies to work with PVMS also. The children will know her as "Miss Leticia" (pronounced La tish ah). I'm grateful that we have hardly MISSED A BEAT with music classes! I'm sorry that Kirsten's piano students will have to make a change, though we are fortunate to have an excellent replacement there also (see below).

I spend time in each of the classrooms and am getting to know the new children, watching them become comfortable in the classroom setting and making new friends. I also enjoy seeing how the returning children have matured and gained confidence in their role as "older students".

So - we are off and running in our school year! I look forward to all of our upcoming school events.
Wednesday, October 7 PICTURE DAY
Monday October 12 NO SCHOOL Columbus Day
Wednesday October 14 PTSO MTG 5:30
Thursday October 15 DAD'S NIGHT 6 - 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday October 21st Pell Farm FIELD TRIP CH
Wednesday November 4 MOM'S NIGHT 6-7:30
Wednesday November 11 NO SCHOOL Veteran's Day
Friday November 20 PARENT CONFERENCES no classes
Tuesday November 24 SHARING DAY
Wed-Fri November 25-27 NO SCHOOLThanksgiving Break
PICTURE DAY Wednesday October 7
On Wednesday, October 7, Duval Photography Studios will be at PVMS to take class and individual photos.

All children are invited to come in by 8:30 that morning so that they can be included in the class photo. Individual photos of Tues/Thurs children will be taken immediately after the class photos for the convenience of these families, followed by all other students You may also call Duval and schedule another time to go to their studios for individual photos. Individual photos will be taken even if you don't want to purchase them. We create a yearbook at the end of the school year and want to be able to include each child.

You should have received the Sally Foster catalog with the giftwrap and other gift items for sale. The giftwrap is of a high quality, with interesting designs and made of sturdy paper. This is the PTSO's fall fundraiser, which raises the money for several family events throughout the year. Please see if there are items which you can use. Please share the catalog with friends, family and co-workers. The school receives 50% of the price of the items. If we sell at least $2000 of products as a school, we get free shipping.

If each family sold 10 items from the catalog, this fundraiser would be a great success. Thanks for your efforts!

Thanks to Leah Dow, mother of Sophia, in Andrea's room, for volunteering to help out with this fundraiser.

Mayor Sarno and PVMS representatives
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On Tuesday, Molly Reynolds, Head of PVMS, and Luke Pelletier, Board of Trustees President, met with Springfield's Mayor Sarno. Molly and Luke talked with the Mayor about the history of PVMS and some of our challenges. The Mayor expressed interest in PVMS and a willingness to help the school in whatever ways he can.

Some of our PVMS children wrote letters to Mayor Sarno telling him about themselves and asking questions about his job as Mayor. These letters were put into a notebook and presented to the Mayor at the meeting on Tuesday.

We have invited Mayor Sarno to come visit PVMS someday soon.
Information about your child's physical and immunizations report
The state of Massachusetts sends PVMS a report each September to complete with the status of the immunizations of the children at this school. We are also required to monitor the dates of the physical reports for each child according to a schedule they have outlined.

Important: When we notify you that we need a new physical report, please note the date of the old report. If your child has not had a physical since that date, you must schedule a new physical and have the new report written at that time. Parents often go to the trouble of obtaining an additional copy of the old report, which will not meet the requirement of a new physical the date must be within one year.

18 months - kindergarten: Physical reports must be on file for each child, current within one year. When your child has their annual physical (this is usually around the time of their birthday, but not always), ask for the report, and the updated immunization record. All children must have had a lead test.

Elementary: A physical report is needed for second, fourth and sixth grades

You may consider keeping a copy for yourself for your reference, in case it is needed for some other program, such as gymnastics or camp. It will save lots of time for you and for the Doctor's office. However, don't hesitate to ask me for a copy of the one we have on file if you need it.
GUITAR LESSONS with John Matukaitis
John Matukaitis, of Palmer, MA, will offer guitar lessons at PVMS on FRIDAYS if there is enough interest. John taught at Falcetti Music for 4 years after being a student there for 12 years. He is currently a UMass student in Business.

John generally teaches guitar to children 7 years of age and older, although occasionally exceptions can be made. He teaches both acoustic and electric guitar, although he recommends that children start on electric guitar because it is easier for them to manage the strings.

Lessons are $20 per half hour lesson.

If interested, please call John at 413-455-7933.
PIANO LESSONS with Hywel Brown
I want to remind you that we have a new piano teacher, whose name is Hywel Brown (pronounced Howell). Hywell graduated from Indiana University and then had a year of Piano Performance at Boston University. He was previously Music Instructor at Bermuda School of Music, and has had a private practice teaching music students in Bermuda and now at his home in Wilbraham. Hywel also teachers violin, clarinet, recorder and music theory.

If you would like to set up lessons for your child, please contact Hywel at 413-279-1218 or at:

Hywel will be giving lessons on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, beginning at 2:30.

Hywel will accept students who are at least age 4 (or age 3, with a parent present). The cost is $20 per half hour lesson.

Spinet piano for sale. Lovely tune. Perfect for beginning piano students. $350.00 or best offer. You pick up. Call Carol if interested at 885-1208.

Toddler Class with Mary Ann Ross and Janice Merrill
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It has only been a few weeks since the start of the school year and already the children have developed confidence in this new setting, and learned new skills. Most of the toddlers have accomplished pouring their own drinks, drinking from a cup, serving themselves snack and cleaning up after eating.

During the school year our focus will be on the development of independence, vocabulary, social skills, and fine and gross motor skills. Each child will acquire these skills according to their own needs and interests, with the assistance of activities that foster their development.

Dr. Montessori advised teachers to watch the child to discover what he/she is ready to learn. The teachers are carefully observing the toddlers (as is possible!), in order to present activities that encourage the development of the skills in which the child is currently interested. When a child is interested in a particular activity, subject or skill, he/she can learn quickly and joyously.

Our group time will include peer awareness activities, food tasting, singing, instrument playing and movement. Right now we are singing songs that many of the children seem to be familiar with, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", as well as learning a new song called "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". The words to the song are below. The music teacher, Miss Leticia, will visit weekly to sing and introduce music concepts. The Spanish teacher, Paula, will have two brief visits weekly so that she can introduce words to all of the children.

We hope to encourage some future chefs through cooking and food preparation. If you have any foods that your child likes to make please let us know so we can give it a try at school. Of course, the children will not be using anything that is hot or sharp.

This year will be a time of enormous growth and development for your child and you will see changes weekly, if not daily. The toddler age can be a challenging time for parents, as you are trying to foster independence while keeping up with a busy schedule.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Knees and toes
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Knees and toes

Children's House South with Nicole Langone, Rosemary Gossman and Gerri Haynes
The month of September seemed to fly by. I would like to thank Trish Dean and Korri Piper for taking on the task of the classroom's weekly handwriting with the students. Handwriting takes place on Wednesday of each week. Also, I would like to thank Shannon Whalen and Liza Cable for helping Rosemary and Gerri during lunchtime. The extra help allows for a smooth and successful lunch in the classroom.

Over this past month, all the students and teachers are learning each others personalities and schedules. We have been working a lot on classroom rules and "Lessons in Grace and Courtesy" to make our environment a peaceful place where we can learn and grow.

Some of the work that we have been covering at our daily groups have been: the names of the continents, pumpkin scrubbing, song to help learn each others' names, walking around a rug, how to carry scissors in the classroom, and hand washing. These lessons are re-taught at the beginning of each year for reinforcement of what is expected of the children in their classroom environment. Each day we have some time for a group story followed by any questions and/ or comments pertaining to the book of the day. I make sure to introduce each story by reading the title on the cover of the book and the author and illustrator(s). I make sure that the students are hearing this vocabulary so that they are able to recognize some of the key parts of a book.

I would like to take this time to explain the communication logs that have been placed in each child's PVMS tote bag. These marble notebooks are for teacher and parent use only and I would be appreciative if the pages were not torn out for other uses. I would like to be able to write a brief note on the student's day, work, and/or well-being - so please return it to your child's bag. If you need to communicate something to me, please put the following information: the date and your concern or comment. Please print in blue or black pen. Then place a note on the external side of the PVMS tote bag stating "please see Notebook" with the current date also. I would like this notebook to be our vehicle of communication on a frequent basis. If you have any questions regarding them please feel free to ask me. You can also reach me at school on my lunch time from 11:45-12:30.

I have a wonderful time teaching your children, and have so many great ideas for this year.

CHILDREN'S HOUSE NORTH with Andrea Thibert, Sara Liptak & Maxine Cohen
It's hard to believe another school year is off and rolling. The classroom is a great mix of both new and returning children, individually experiencing these first few weeks of school together. Routines, transitions, and classroom ground rules are the beginning of each child's journey to independent learning. Once a child has adjusted to school, she/he may then explore the classroom with comfort and respect.

Our annual Parent Orientation Night was very well attended by many of our classroom families. Thank you all for coming out. I briefly shared information on Maria Montessori that the Kindergarten children learned in class and reviewed the areas of the classroom, schedules, and routines. We also discussed curriculum and academic assessment of children and shared questions.

I feel it is important for families to be informed and aware of the structure and philosophy of the Montessori Method in order for the children to be successful. The Montessori materials and activities foster concentration, organization, fine motor development, and independence and are vital tools for the children's developing minds. Maria Montessori observed that 3-6 year old children were able to learn many things more quickly and easily than older children - that they had "sensitive periods" for various types of learning, such as language. During these periods of sensitivity, a prepared classroom of thoughtfully balanced materials, activities, and teachers allow the children to develop as they are ready. Dr. Montessori described the child's mind as an "absorbent mind". She spent a great deal of time observing many children using the materials she was developing. She refined the materials until she was satisfied that they were helping children to achieve the desired goals. If children had exposure to appropriately displayed, stimulating materials this would allow individual creativity and spontaneous learning, as well as the development and mastery of their physical, mental, social, emotional, and cognitive abilities.

Our group time is currently focused on Lessons of Grace and Courtesy and elementary movements. We are also discussing respect, both for one another and our environment. The highlights of our elementary movements the children are practicing: the rug unrolling/rolling/walking around, tray holding/carrying, chair pulling out/tucking in, using classroom voices/outdoor voices, how to appropriately get an adult/peer's attention, and how to ask or join another at work. We are also brainstorming on how to feel peaceful when we are not and are in the process of creating a "peace space" within the classroom.

Throughout the work cycle period, children are able to work within all the areas of the classroom. Practical Life, Geography, Art, Sensorial, Math, and Language are all in full speed. This is just the beginning of the classroom experience and I look forward to observing, preparing, and presenting to each child!

Afternoon Kindergarten with Andrea and Sara
I will be sending home a revised version of the afternoon schedule. It's packed full of learning and fun.

During the first few weeks of school, much has already been discovered. We read a short biography on the life of Maria Montessori. That was quite an eye opener. The children were amazed that Dr. Montessori was the first woman doctor in Italy and that she struggled to stay teaching in times when her ideas were discouraged. Most interesting to the class was that she designed the materials we use in the classroom. We wrapped up our ideas onto individual story/picture papers that the children put into their journals.

Please visit the hallway located outside our classroom. The children enjoyed creating their body tracings and writing down what makes them special. We will be working on more ways to express how we are all special.

We already finished reading "The Cricket in Times Square" and are currently reading "Ramona the Pest". These books allow for age-appropriate question and answer, prediction, and easy discussion in a group.

Lastly, we enjoyed our first classes of Kindergarten Yoga and Spanish. The children really enjoy these these special classes.

Our afternoons are off to a busy, yet peaceful start.

With Peace
LOWER ELEMENTARY EAST with Susan Hershey and Donna Wegge
The new school year has gotten off to a great start, with everyone eager to get right to the work of learning. We miss our friend, LeighAnne, but we welcome Mrs. Donna Wegge and are happy to have her in our class some mornings and some afternoons. Another change for us is eating lunch in the Upper Elementary class. All the students are taking the change in stride, and they are starting to make new friends.

Our beginning history lessons center around the concepts of past-present-future. As part of this, the students created personal histories, including pictures of them throughout their lives, as well as a written "autobiography." We also have been discussing the terminology of AD/CE (the Common Era) and BC/BCE (before the Common Era). One day, we represented the year 2009 with the Montessori thousand chains.

In geography, we have reviewed the continents and oceans, as well as the equator and poles. We also learned a little about latitude and longitude lines for helping us locate different places in the world. Soon we will be using some of this knowledge to begin our year-long study of the continent of Australia.

The scientific method has been the focus of our science work. We have been learning the steps involved: question, hypothesis, experiment, observation, and conclusion, and have started putting this information to use in a series of sink and float experiments. For the first few experiments, we will write up the experiment as a class, and finally, the students will be expected to each do their own write-up. I hope to see the children begin to use this method to explore areas of their own interest.

Besides these topics from our cultural curriculum, all the students have been busy with their work in math: operations, fractions, geometry, memorizing math facts, as well as in language arts: paragraph-writing, grammar, parts of speech, punctuation, spelling. Yoga has become a regular class on Wednesdays, and art, music, and Spanish continue as before.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call me or make an appointment to come in and talk. I am available most afternoons after 2:40.
LOWER EL WEST with Sue Foerster and Lucy Maleshefski
Another Year! Welcome to all new and returning students and their families.

This year, we have a class of seventeen children. These are four third year, 7 second and 6 first year students. Our pets include: Ollie, (our bearded dragon), Luna,(our Degu), Stormy, (our Guinea Pig), and lastly Christy, (the frog). Lucy and I are joined by the following enrichment teachers: Paula (Spanish), Laura (yoga), Miss Leticia (music), and Christie (art).

Thanks to the parents who came to orientation. It was a nice mixture of new parents, returning parents, Paula, and Christie. All of your feedback was appreciated and informative.

The past few weeks have been a time for learning classroom rules and expectations as well as a time for the children to get acquainted.

Routines of the classroom need to become familiar and provide the structure needed to enable the class to become "normalized". This normalization process takes time and hopefully will become apparent as time passes. The children will become more independent learners and responsible for themselves.

We have spent time getting to know the children as people, as well as students. In this way, they will be working on their own appropriate, individual work.

As a school, we have begun our study of Australia. Some are working on maps, research of animals and animal stories.

Please remember that this newsletter is only one way in which to impart information to you. We welcome notes, calls or conferences.

It's important for us to establish good communication in order to best meet your child's needs. Social needs as well as academic needs have to be met in order to ensure your child becoming a complete happy individual.
Enjoy the weather!
Upper El Newsletter with Pamela Kinn and Donna Wegge
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Elias doing squaring work

When you visit the Upper Elementary room this year, it seems as though school must have begun many months ago, not just on September first. The children are already settled into comfortable routines. Many people passing through comment how busy, yet focused, the students are. This is a wonderful thing to see. Watching them gives me important information on how they learn, what they have mastered, and what they might learn next. It also gives me great pleasure. They love to learn. Working to master a tough new skill brings a sense of well-being that must be earned actively.

As always, the first few weeks of school are spent on assessment. The children choose work that is easy, hard, and just right. I ask questions, watch them, and offer suggestions for new work. Soon we all have an idea of what each child is ready to learn. It always amazes me that in those early weeks, when I would offer comfortable review work that they will remember easily, they often add something new that is challenging and requires much effort. That is one of the blessings of a Montessori classroom. If you are interested and want to learn something, you can work up to it. It might take several lessons to master each step, but you can progress at your pace.

In math we have tried adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and some fraction work. Some needed practice on skills that have faded a bit over the summer. Others quickly moved into new work. A few of the students have begun working on negative numbers, and the order of operations. These are very difficult concepts, but they are determined to master them. Others have revisited fractions. It is all coming together for them. We did LCM (lowest common multiple), and GCF (greatest common factor) because we need to use equivalent fractions in operations! It makes sense now. Meanwhile younger students have moved from making and reading numbers into the quadrillions, to multiplying large numbers. Math is alive and well in Upper El.

In language arts we began by reading myths. Then we did some response work that helped us with comprehension. From there we moved into writing paragraphs that told how two different versions of the same myth were alike and different. In Upper El, the writing process includes: choosing an idea, taking some notes, making and outline, writing a rough draft, revising, editing, and making a final copy. This work can continue over several weeks for a long story. We can already see a difference in writing. They are learning the process, and it shows in their work.

Our grammar studies have been somewhat directed by their writing work. We have begun working on the advanced parts of speech. We have looked at common nouns, proper nouns, collective nouns, abstract nouns, and plurals of nouns. Meanwhile others have been working on verb tenses. They quickly moved from the simple tenses to the perfect, progressive, and perfect progressive tenses. Gerunds also made an appearance in the room when several students kept using them in their writing!

We have been studying the Work of Water and doing follow-up work with Australia as the focus. We have had some fun with geography and map studies. We played some fun games using longitude and latitude to find places on a map. The Work of Water lessons also provide science in the classroom as we study how water shapes the earth. It makes sense that social studies (culture and societies) are interwoven with earth science. People live where they can survive, and they use local resources. These are not separate subjects in the real world, so we study them together.

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Max doing division with the checkerboard
Pioneer Valley Montessori School, 1524 Parker Street, Springfield, MA 01129 • 413-782-3108

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