Thinking it’s been a while since the last Casa update? Remember, we are now distributing the update and “Events and Information” newsletters on a per week basis so that information from and about DVMS is easier to digest and keep track of. Casa updates are published on the first Friday of each month.
“These two boys are so focused on doing 10 Metal Insets,” explained Dylan about the concentrated work being done above. “Each is double-sided so there’s 20 different images, or collections of geometric shapes, that improve their handwriting — that’s one of the purposes of this material. They were so absorbed in it that they couldn’t look up. No matter what was going on around them they were so focused. Every now and then they would look over at each other’s, but they were always different. They had different shapes, they were sharing; it was just a really nice moment to see — they had a goal in sight and they were going to achieve it come hell or high water.”
Two other Casa North children also had their first introduction to the Montessori Square Chain materials recently.
“It’s nice when the boys and girls work together,” said Dylan, “not to say that it doesn’t happen daily, but a lot of the time they will gravitate towards each other or their good friends. I say ‘Everyone’s our friend’ in Casa North. They were very proud of themselves for their hard work. They have the square root of ten, six, and five. When you collapse the chains they become their squares. After they’re done counting [each bar] they have to find the corresponding arrow, and it’s multiplication — 6,12, 18,… — and I ask them to read back to me the numbers on the arrows, or the tickets as we call them. The next time I’ll try to get them to come over and tell me without looking.”
Dylan also explained that recently the phonogram work in Casa North has been “amped up.”
“There’s a picture card, usually 6 – 10 for each digraph — ie, ou, au — I think there are 35 of them in total and they love them. It also builds vocabulary because sometimes they don’t know what’s on the picture card. Here, Shalyn is the control of error. She pops by to make sure they’ve got things in the right order. The kids take it upon themselves to write them down, with the digraph inside the word. For example, if they did elephant, they would write “ele” in pencil, “ph” in red, and the rest in pencil.”
It’s not only the older Casa North children who are getting amped up about phonograms. Above, Shalyn is working with a first-year child using the Montessori Sandpaper Letters and some small objects, which help children start to associate letter-signs with sounds and words.
“We have Phonetic Object Boxes and you can talk about the first sound and the last sound with them,” Dylan explained. “If you look closely there’s an axe, an apple, and an astronaut, a starfish, a stingray, a spider, and a star, and an inuit and an igloo.”
Casa North has also seen some big work being done with the flags of the world lately.
“This boy started it,” said Dylan, “drawing the flags of the world, which is way beyond his scope but he did it anyways; he rose up for it. He traced all these flags, made all the rectangles, then drew them, then coloured them, and he’s writing the names. It took two days, not constant, but working on it, taking a break to work on something else, then getting back to it, which is why it’s great to have such a big room. Some Montessori classrooms are too small for this, but we can leave a job out on a mat or on a table and come back to it because our room is so big. That was a very challenging job for him, all under his own volition, then all of a sudden other kids wanted to do it too.”
The multi-age, peer-learning Serena talked about in this week’s Casa South update is also a big part of Casa North.
“We have a lot of kids that we call junior teachers,” said Dylan, “the third-years are Sandpaper Letters helpers. They know how to teach a 3-period lesson on 3 different sounds, so there’s lots of peer mentorship and help, and modeling; they don’t even realize they’re modeling when they’re, say, cutting on the line [see this week’s Casa East update for an example of cutting on the line] and the first year’s walk by, they don’t even realize they’re being watched but the first-years are seeing everything they’re doing.
“This is the dinosaur book,” Dylan explained about the two boys reading together above. “They’re very concerned with the ending of dinosaurs. There’s a picture of asteroids hitting the earth and volcanoes erupting and all the dinosaurs fleeing. That page was well-worn and well-discussed for weeks.”
As you all know from your children’s reports, and the Strata invoices, daily snack is also a big part of each Casa environment.
“It’s a moment for social interaction and kids bonding with each other, especially kids that don’t necessarily work with each other” explained Dylan of the benefits of the snack program beyond just filling hungry bellies. “A lot of times it’s pleasant conversation about what a favourite snack is. Today, one of the kids was talking about how their parents were police officers. Another child agreed and said ‘Actually, my parents are police officers too’ [they’re not]. So there’s also some very unique, if not far-fetched, conversations that occur.”
Snack also contributes to the diversity in the “flow of the day,” said Dylan. “You can’t constantly be doing academics. You have to have a break from what you are doing and take some time to re-group and break up the day. For some of the first-years, especially, it is a long day. How to cooperate as well. Sometimes they fight over who is sitting where. Grace and courtesy at the table. If you make a spill you can clean it up. Eating with your mouth closed. Lots of things.”
Finally, Dylan is taking some time above to function as a control of error for some of the older Casa North children.
“A lot of materials have built in control of error,” said Dylan, “but some need me to oversee or correct. This one, we were checking over some math. They had been doing some Stamp Game equations by themselves and they wanted me to see if the answers were right. Sometimes, with that assessment, I know to go back and work on it with them and steer them back on the right track until they master it.”
Dylan also wanted you all to know that Casa North is excited to put together this term’s set of Child’s Own Reports.
“We chat with the kids and have a little one-on-one interview on how their year is going and what interesting things are happening and what’s on their minds. You can be excited for that to come home in the last week.”