“The kids love phonetic reading, and they love a challenge,” said Casa North guide Dylan about the two boys above. “We have them read a basket of phonetic words — they’re broken up into three-letter words, four-letter words, mixed baskets, puzzle words, a wide variety. What happens, invariably, is kids want to challenge themselves. They want to have a game, a race — lets see who can read the pile faster. Since we got this new coloured oil timer, they have such fun trying to read the basket before the last drop comes down.”
“Kids started it and it’s taken off like gangbusters,” Dylan continued. “There’s such elation. You can see them smiling and laughing. It’s not anxiety, it’s excitement about trying to finish before it’s done. It’s purposeful play. There’s a lot of materials they just love, but they don’t realize what’s actually happening, don’t realize that they’re learning so much while having so much fun. So many Montessori materials are games first, like the Noun Game [which involves trying to find something that does not have a name], Stamp Games, they are games, but there’s so much more.”
The challenges in Casa North result in some creative blending of Montessori materials.
“These boys want to be challenged,” said Dylan. “They crave a challenge. They had all these large number cards out on a mat and were taking turns quizzing each other on them. The map of Canada was beside them so I added the provinces to their game they had made. Now they had to read back the large number, then say the name of the province. They liked it so much they added some shapes from the Geometry Cabinet. They were slightly perturbed I made them take a short break to take this picture. They were in the flow.”
The Decanomial Square is a Montessori material that is challenging in and of itself.
“This is a very labour-intensive job,” explained Dylan. “The times he had been working on it before it had proved to have a few too many steps and be a bit too challenging for him, but now he is able to do it all by himself. I said, ‘Do you think you can do this?’ and he said ‘Nope!’ I said ‘I think you can’ and he was very pleased with himself, and rightly so. Such a great esteem builder. There’s a built-in control of error — if it doesn’t look like the row before, or if it’s not matching, they know they’ve done something wrong. It’s a preparation for geometry and it gives visual discrimination of size and shape. There are a lot of different presentations that go along with it.
“It represents the factors of the polynomial equation. Obviously. When you look at it it’s obvious that’s what it is, right?” Dylan concluded with a grin.
Many of you have probably been a little confused when your Montessori children have come home and told you they worked with the Metal Insect material. It is actually Metal Insets (no ‘c’). Dylan explained the material:
“Preparation for writing with Metal Insets. A lot of the Metal Inset shapes are the beginning of writing — the curve of ‘α’. A lot of the material that we use for writing and for numbers, it is very important that you have a good pincer grip and fine motor skills, which the Metal Insets eventually develop. The more you use them, and if you’re doing them more and more carefully, diligently, and gracefully, over time they become more and more beautiful. The Metal Insets the first years will bring home will be messy and scribble-y, but by the end of Casa they look like stained glass windows, just gorgeous.”
“He’s learning his subtraction tables,” said Dylan of the boy above. “Eventually he’ll go from the concrete to the abstract, but right now it’s concrete material work. Say the question is 17-6. You cover up the 18, put six down on the board and it shows you that there is 11 left.”
Montessori materials at the Casa level offer this kind of visual — concrete — demonstration of how mathematical concepts work and what they mean, so that when they begin to move to more abstract work at the Elementary levels their thinking has been scaffolded to make the development easier.
Finally, we have Casa East assistant Stef and Casa South assistant Serena observing in Casa North. Parent observations are coming up at the end of this month, but DVMS Casa staff took some time this week to observe in each other’s environments.
“Observation is one of the key tools for each guide to possess in a Montessori environment,”Dylan explained. “Each child is different; every child is an individual; so, we should always be observing first and involving yourself second. Especially the assistants. You’re not supposed to have too many adults in a Montessori environment because it’s the children’s prepared environment. We’re just the guides. We find it very helpful if we all observe in each other’s rooms, just to get someone else’e take. You get so close to your own room, so close to what you are doing, so it’s nice to have each other come in and say ‘Everything looks fine,’ or ‘I would do this with this child.’ There are so many extensions and materials that we are taught and have in the class — over 300 — that any observation in any other environment is totally worth it. You’re going to take something from every one. Observations are very important. We do them all the time.”