You may remember the little girl above from an update in September where Elizabeth talked about how she wasn’t engaging with the Montessori materials yet, but was observing everything happening in the environment. As you can see, she is now thoroughly engaged with her own jobs.
“She still will come and spend some time beside me in the morning,” said Elizabeth, “but this exercise has appealed to her. It’s Pinning, and you can see that her fine motor control and concentration is so complete while she’s pinning out a shape; then she’ll glue that shape down onto another piece of paper and come over and we’ll give her the vocabulary of whatever the shape is. We try to put that into the environment: ‘Can you see a rectangle anywhere else in the room?’ and we’ll look at a table, look at the doorway, the windows. There’s a few things in her repertoire now, maybe half a dozen.”
Elizabeth also spoke this week about the influence Stef has had coming into the Casa East Montessori environment as a new Montessori guide.
“I’m enjoying it as an older guide,” said Elizabeth. “Stef is so happy to learn from some of the things I do and the way I do them and the reason why I do them that way, which maybe has evolved over time, but Stef has brought such a freshness to the environment, and to certain materials that I find, as an older guide, to say ‘I’ve done it this way for so long I’m just going to continue doing it like this.’ I look forward to when Stef comes in and says ‘I’m going to present these.’ For example, Sandpaper Letters can sometimes become a material that can become a little dry. Well, Stef has made little booklets for each of the children, their own personal booklets that have the alphabet and once they have memorized a letter it gets put into that little booklet and she draws a little picture — something that begins with that sound. So Sandpaper Letters have come to life. The children love to go and find their little booklet, and you see Stef presenting lessons. It’s been lovely.”
Stef was also responsible for bringing a new Montessori Ellipse to Casa East this week.
“The Ellipse is one of the practical life movement exercises and it really helps the child self-regulate in their own body movements,” Elizabeth explained, “learning to walk first of all just on the line, progressing to walking heel-to-toe on the line, and then perhaps progressing to carrying an object — maybe a flag, maybe a bean bag could be balanced on their head.
“We had spoken about needing to put an Ellipse in our environment,”said Elizabeth. “We had finally decided the place where it would be best located and this morning I walk in and there’s the Ellipse. She had made the Ellipse and every single child who walked in — there was not one who did not comment on it.
“I think that has a lot to say about the simplicity of Montessori,” Elizabeth continued. “Our rooms are not cluttered. The prepared environment, when something does change, the children notice it, whether it be a good change or a negative change. When something is broken and has to be taken from the shelf it’s ‘Why don’t we have that anymore?’ — ‘Well, because it wasn’t cared for.’ But also, the joy of changing a piece of artwork and how many children stop and appreciate it.”
“This was beautiful,” said Elizabeth of the little girl above who is “so capable; she’s working through the curriculum at her own pace, so steady. Another boy asked if he could present the square chains to her because that’s something that he is very good at doing himself. It was a beautiful presentation and since he showed her that work has come out almost every day.
“It’s an indirect preparation for multiplication,” Elizabeth explained of the material. “Every tenth bead [on the chain] she places a ticket, and at the end of the process we look back and we read the chain: 10, 20, 30, 40… For the 9-chain it would be 9, 18, 27… Indirectly, they are memorizing their multiplication tables.”
“The little girl is becoming a much stronger reader,” said Elizabeth, “and this is a material that was purchased for all three Casa environments this year as a result of seeing it in Lower Elementary. We do have our phongram combinations, so they’ll learn sounds like ‘th’ and ‘ph’ and ‘sh’, and the double sounds [notice the focus on ‘ow’ above], so we now have these little boxes that each contain six pictures and six words, and a sound is highlighted for each one. Even though they’re not self-correcting, because the sound is highlighted and they look at the picture they can figure out what the new sound is and see it. It helps with fluency in reading.
“The boy working side-by-side is working with a practical life material. We have a language material that requires the children to have their pincer grip developed enough to be able to squeeze a peg with a sound on it that matches to a picture, so this is actually a preliminary activity to that. If they can’t squeeze the pegs they can’t do the work. He loves this. I put out a piece of fabric and sets of coloured pegs. He likes to make something that ends up looking like a robot. It’s for the strengthening of his hand and fine motor and his pincer grip.”
“We’ve worked with the Teen Beads on a mat, and then the Boards on a mat, and then we put the two together,” explained Elizabeth of her work with the girl above. “Basically, what this material is doing is bridging the gap within the decimal system. Running parallel to this work is her work with the Golden Bead material — which is your units, tens, hundreds, and thousands — so it’s nice for her to understand that after 10, and before you hit 20, there’s those teen numbers that are so important.”
Elizabeth also noted that the Hanging Teen Beads material is new to her as well.
“I never had this activity in my own classroom,” (Elizabeth ran her own small Montessori school for many years). “It’s lovely. It’s an extension and prolongs their work with a material and gives them another opportunity to explore the teen numbers.”
“We’ve had some conversations in the last two weeks about how to show something to a younger student,” said Elizabeth. The girl above has “embraced that, and the little boy loves her — she’s easy to love and so easy to be with — so she is giving him a vocabulary lesson. This is with a set of tools, so she’s telling him ‘This is a hammer.’ ‘This is a screwdriver.’ Then they might play a little sound game where you have a screwdriver, a hemmer, and a chisel, and she will ask him ‘Which one begins with the sound ‘ch’? ‘Which one begins with the sound ‘s’? Not only is it giving him some vocabulary but also some work with language and learning sounds.”
Elizabeth noted that the girl above does not need to practice her number formations, but working with the sand tray is “a lovely, relaxing thing to do.”
“It’s really nice for children to not have something become permanent,” said Elizabeth of the use of sand trays in Montessori environments. “When something is put onto paper, for some children that permanence, if it’s incorrect, is a problem for them. We always begin with a sand tray or a chalk board so that once they’ve had their attempt it’s easily removed. For many children it gives them the encouragement to try again.”
There is a lot more going on on Casa East these days. Elizabeth also spoke about the work being done in with a phonetic card game developed by Casa South guide Pat.
“The children roll a dice and rather than a number there is a colour,” Elizabeth explained. “The colour represents a set of words, so red might represent 4-letter words, but they’re all phonetic, and the yellow might have five letters and blue six. We had two children who we had concerns about how they were approaching reading. Learning to read is such a unique process for every person — there’s a very individualized and personal way of how you come to be a reader — and yesterday, four children took that job out and one of the two came over and said, ‘Elizabeth, what does ‘compliment’ mean?’ I said, ‘Did you just read that word?’ He said ‘Yes, what does compliment mean?’ So I said, ‘I love your beautiful, curly hair. That’s a compliment.’
“A few minutes later, the other child came over and said, ‘Elizabeth, what does ‘splendid’ mean?’ I said, ‘Did you just read that word?’ She said, ‘Yes, splendid.’ So I said, ‘Wow, you’ve done such a splendid job of reading these words!’ It was just joyful. Lovely.”
“We now have our calendar going,” said Elizabeth about another development in Casa East recently. “Updating our calendar daily — we simply know that we’re coming to work and it’s Thursday today — for the children, that’s history. We look back at what day was yesterday, what day is today, and what will tomorrow be. We look at that cycle numbers and days and months. Somebody always comes in in the morning, sees the calendar down on a table, and asks, ‘Can I change the calendar today?’ It’s been over the last two or three weeks that that has come to life.”