“Instead of having me write messages for the Phonetic Object Box,” said Casa East Montessori guide Elizabeth, “she decided to write them herself using the moveable alphabet.”
Casa East assistant Stef stepped in this week to elaborate and get us all up to date on what’s been going on.
“We start with objects for their interest and then the Moveable Alphabet allows them to write a word even if they haven’t mastered being able to write using a pencil,” said Stef. “When you’re writing you are segmenting the word, so the girl above sees the mug and then she has to break it up into [the phonetic sounds] ‘m’ / ‘u’ / ‘g’ and remember each of the letter symbols. We start with short phonetic words because everything is scaffolded. Later, we can even give verbal commands for words like ‘melt’ that we can’t have a picture of.”
“This is minimizing difficulty,” explained Stef of the reading exercise taking place above. “Instead of having each word with three new sounds, for example, Elizabeth would keep two of the sounds the same so she only has to remember or figure out one new sound for each word; so, she might change ‘mat’ to ‘pat’. Children need that repetition.”
Sewing a button is a Montessori job that involves “a longer sequence to follow,” said Stef, “with me presenting first and her having to remember the sequence; the fine motor control, and learning the ‘in-and-out’ — she wanted to do the Needlepoint job, which is a lot of in-and-out as they go around the board, so sewing a button gives them that. She wanted to do something that she hadn’t had the previous presentation for, so this is allowing that to happen.”
“Everyone’s been loving the needlepoint,” said Stef. “It’s out all of the time. The one difficult movement they have to learn is holding on to the plastic frame with their left hand and then being able to put the needle through and switch their hand to the other side to pull the needle through and then to remember the direction — up and down, up and down. They love seeing the progress.”
The needlepoint job helps develop concentration said Stef, as well as giving the children opportunities to set goals for themselves.
“They know they want to do one more row, or, if they’re doing around the square, go one more time around.”
“I just showed him that the other day,” said Stef about the boy doing the job with a blindfold on. “He’s loving it! It’s a Stereognostic material to develop their tactile sense. He is sorting beads by their feel — their size and shape. We start with these larger beads and then the next ones are smaller. These beads feel very different whereas the others have slight differences.”
“The different triangles all form an equilateral triangle,” Stef explained about the Montessori Constructive Triangles material. “She asked, ‘Can you come do this with me?’ and I said ‘You just come get me if you need help.’ She said ‘OK’ and then she did it all herself. She’s seeing how shapes create other shapes when you put them together.”
The two Casa East children above are working on a project on Egypt.
“They read through the whole book with Elizabeth,” said Stef. “Now they’re working on having their own unique ideas about it and writing that out using the small Moveable Alphabet before writing them on paper.”
“It’s been a big thing, Egypt,” continued Stef, “other children have been doing it too. The boy above was inspired by seeing his friends work on it the previous day. We’ve got some Egyptian artwork up on the wall, and another child brought in her Chickadee magazine that was about Egypt. It also brings in history and time. We’ve got the calendar in more recently and are getting into the habit of having one of the children who is reading, or even if they’re doing just the first sound of the day of the week, they can figure it out and what’s the next day. We’re bringing in time, and history, and the past — today, yesterday, and tomorrow, which is always tough for the little ones.”
As for what else is going on in Casa East:
“We’ve been talking about the seasons a lot,” said Stef. “We got outside on one of the nice fall days and planted garlic and spoke about how it will grow a little bit in the fall and then we’ll have to wait all winter until it grows in the spring, and then we have to wait all the way until the end of next summer and we’ll pull it up and it will be a whole bulb. More thinking about time.”