Friday, April 20, 2007

Montessori Classroom Schedule...From "The Montessori Method" Publication

This is a long quote from Maria Montessori herself in her 1912 publication, The Montessori Method. You will see our notes after certain particularly poignant sections. We wanted to post this to give everyone a bit of the flavor of Maria Montessori's thought on the subject of sitting down and "working" versus social interaction and physical play.

"Opening at Nine O'clock–Closing at Four O'clock

9-10. Entrance. Greeting. (...)Exercises of practical life; helping one another to take off and put on the aprons. Going over the room to see that everything is dusted and in order. Language: Conversation period: Children give an account of the events of the day before. Religious exercises.

10-11. Intellectual exercises. Objective lessons interrupted by short rest periods. Nomenclature, Sense exercises.

11-11:30. Simple gymnastics: Ordinary movements done gracefully, normal position of the body, walking, marching in line, salutations, movements for attention, placing of objects gracefully.

11:30-12. Luncheon: Short prayer (blogging note -- remember prayer was part of life in Montessori's time).

12-1. Free games.

1-2. Directed games, if possible, in the open air. During this period the older children in turn go through with the exercises of practical life, cleaning the room, dusting, putting the material in order. General inspection for cleanliness: Conversation. [Page 120]

2-3. Manual work. Clay modelling, design, etc.

3-4. Collective gymnastics and songs, if possible in the open air. Exercises to develop forethought: Visiting, and caring for, the plants and animals.

(blogging note: from 11am to 4pm, the children have been engaged in non-classroom exercises! notice the attention open air, plants, and animals in an interactive setting with other children).

As soon as a school is established, the question of schedule arises. This must be considered from two points of view; the length of the school-day and the distribution of study and of the activities of life."

Toddlers: Out of the stroller!

Spending an hour with Mom or Dad toddling along a garden path or even a sidewalk is far better than being bundled into the car to dash off to an expensive Mommy & Me class.

Take the time to let your toddler crawl, creep, walk and explore his or her way around the environment. Name items you encounter together. "A small leaf." "Two brown ants." "A pebble." Everything is a learning experience and nothing in this time is wasted. There is no need to hurry or accomplish any particular goal. Just let your child take the lead in exploring the area and follow along!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Montessori Math: Red Rods

Red Rods are part of the Sensorial section of the classroom, but they are one of the pieces of math equipment that your child will use.

Parents notice that the Red Rods are large, red, and contain no numbers. So, how does this help with math?

An important building block of math is hierarchy. Your child learns to put the rods in order using his or her sense of touch and sight.

It is important to use real rods that your child can hold and handle.

The next exercise uses Red and Blue Rods. More later!

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Montessori Math Spindles: Counting & Quantity

Math spindles let your child learn about quantities, so all the spindles are identical and each box is labeled.

These Math Spindles should come in two separate boxes -- 0 to 4 and 5 to 9.

Count out and place the appropriate number of spindles in the boxes from 0 to 4. Now let your child try.

Repeat for the boxes from 5 to 9 .

The number 10 is introduced with the Golden Beads, which teach concepts of the decimal system.

Montessori Introduction to Math: Sandpaper Numerals

Sandpaper Numerals should be your child's first introduction to written numbers.

Using your pointer and index finger, trace the number in the direction in which it is written.

Say the name of the number as you trace it. Now let your child trace and say each number.

For teaching quantities, see the Math Spindles.

How Not to Teach

This is a delightfully wry quote from Maria Montessori herself in her book The Montessori Method.

"Let us suppose, for example, that the teacher wishes to teach to a child the two colours, red and blue. She desires to attract the attention of the child to the object. She says, therefore, "Look at this." Then, in order to teach the colours, she says, showing him the red, "This is red," raising her voice a little and pronouncing the word "red" slowly and clearly; then showing him the other colour, "This is blue." In order to make sure that the child has understood, she says to him, "Give me the red,"–"Give me the blue." Let us suppose that the child in following this last direction makes a mistake. The teacher does not repeat and does not insist; she smiles, gives the child a friendly caress and takes away the colours.”

“... the truth is that not everyone knows how to do this simple thing (to give a lesson with such simplicity). To measure one's own activity, to make it conform to these standards of clearness, brevity and truth, is practically a very difficult matter. Especially is this true of teachers prepared by the old-time methods, who have learned to labour to deluge the child with useless, and often, false words. For example, a teacher who had taught in the public schools often reverted to collectivity. Now in giving a collective lesson much importance is necessarily given to the simple thing which is to be taught, and it is necessary to oblige all the children to follow the teacher's explanation, when perhaps not all of them are disposed to give their attention to the particular lesson in hand. The teacher has perhaps commenced her lesson in this way: "Children, see if you can guess what I have in my hand!" She knows that the children cannot guess, and she therefore attracts their attention by means of a falsehood. Then she probably says, "Children, look out at the sky. Have you ever looked at it before? Have you never noticed it at night when it is all shining with stars? No! Look at my apron. Do you know what colour it is? Doesn't it seem to you the same colour as the sky? Very well then, look at this colour I have in my hand. It is the same colour as the sky and my apron. It is blue. Now look around you a little and see if you can find some thing in the room which is blue. And do you know what colour cherries are, and the colour of the burning coals in the fireplace, etc., etc."

Now in the mind of the child after he has made the useless effort of trying to guess there revolves a confused mass of ideas,–the sky, the apron, the cherries, etc. It will be difficult for him to extract from all this confusion the [Page 111] idea which it was the scope of the lesson to make clear to him; namely, the recognition of the two colours, blue and red. Such a work of selection is almost impossible for the mind of a child who is not yet able to follow a long discourse."

Your Child's First Reading ABCs!

Parents write us asking about phonics (sounding the word out) versus whole word instruction (memorization of whole words, not sounding them out) and how these methods of reading instruction mesh with the Montessori Method.

In the Montessori Method, the Sandpaper Letters are the first step in teaching a child to read. Children are not taught the ABCs until a bit later to avoid confusion.

Sandpaper Letters are made from very fine-grained sandpaper, which allows children to engage their sense of touch, sight, and sound when they learn the letter sounds. Vowels are mounted on pink or red cards, consonants on pale blue or medium blue cards.

Introduce your child to one letter at a time. For the first lesson, start with the letter m. Use your pointer and index fingers together to trace the letter as it is written. Say the sound of the letter when you trace it. Let your child trace the letter and say the sound. Young children love doing this! You will be amazed at how much time they spend tracing the letters and how much they enjoy learning these sounds.

If your child is ready to learn more, introduce the letters o and p. Let your child trace and practice the sounds until he or she knows the sounds well. Your next step will be to show your child how to create words with the sounds. Save this lesson for when your child knows eight or nine sounds.

Do not use the Sandpaper Letters to show your child how to blend the letters to form words. If he or she prompts you or jumps to the word mop, affirm your child's observation enthusiastically, and then move to the Movable Alphabet Letters.

Tips for Evaluating Montessori (and other) Schools

Here are some tips to guide you through the school selection process. As harsh as it sounds, kindergartens are big business in many areas, so you cannot rely on the Montessori or other label to help you navigate the process.

  1. Spend a day in the classroom with the teacher and teaching assistants.
  2. The school should be welcoming and invite your questions and observations. If there is a headmaster or principle, that person should also be knowledgeable about Montessori and explain things clearly.
  3. If the school cannot explain Montessori to you, they either cannot communicate well or they do not know what they’re talking about. Don’t fall for any hand-waving excuses about intricate methodology. You do not have to have any sort of training or educational background for a good explanation to make sense to you.
  4. The teaching staff is the most important element in the classroom, so don’t let yourself be wooed by expensively-decorated classrooms and beautiful new Montessori materials. Well-worn material may come with the most experienced and dedicated staff.
  5. Keep an eye out for schools that use Montessori equipment as toys and market themselves as Montessori schools.
  6. Talk to parents in the school to get feedback on the staff and school.
  7. Remember that everyone in the school will have an effect on your child’s learning environment.
  8. Is the headmaster a pompous arrogant non-educator hired for his or her fundraising prowess? This person's daily nteractions with the teaching staff may make their lives unbearable and that will effect their classroom demeanor.
  9. Will your child be sent to the headmaster’s office for behavior problems? Make sure your child will not be isolated with an adult, headmaster or not. In a typical classroom, children are given a time out in the corner of the classroom, if their behavior is out of control. Worse than that and the parent should get a call to pick up the child.
  10. Physical activities are important. Make sure children will be able to run and play outside.
  11. If you are overseas, check the staff carefully. Frequently, Montessori schools will charge high tuition and decorate impeccably, but save on staffing by bringing in cheap, inexperienced Caucasian teachers on the theory that parents will not be able to evaluate the teacher thoroughly (but be impressed because a Caucasian teacher looks as if he or she ought to speak good English).
  12. If you are not a native speaker of the language that the teacher uses for teaching, bring in a native-speaking friend to evaluate the teacher’s use of grammar, pronunciation, and quality of interaction with the children.
  13. The classroom should be clean, orderly, and bright with plants and fish or other animals.

We feel that it is better to put your child in public school with a wonderful teacher than to choose a mediocre teacher in a Montessori school. Remember, anyone can sign up for Montessori training, but no exit examinations for suitable personality types are given before certification!

Real Learning

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."

Quote by Richard Feynman
Nobel Prize Winning Physicist

Creating a Nurturing Environment for Infants & Toddlers

Here are some of our favorite quotes and ideas from Maria Montessori in her 1912 book, The Montessori Method:

"The little round stair is another game, in which a little wooden stairway, built on the plan of the spiral, is used. This little stair is enclosed on one side by a balustrade on which the children can rest their hands. The other side is open and circular. This serves to habituate the children to climbing and descending stairs without holding on to the balustrade, and teaches them to move up and down with movements that are poised and self-controlled. The steps must be very low and very shallow. Going up and down on this little stair, the very smallest children can learn movements which they cannot follow properly in climbing ordinary stairways in their homes, in which the proportions are arranged for adults."

Physical Environment, The Montessori Method, Ch. 9