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.
This week we sat down with Casa South’s Serena to learn what’s been happening in Casa South lately; perhaps you got the chance to see some of the action during your parent observation.
Mixed-age peer learning continues to be a big part of Casa South.
“Here, the older girl is getting ready to give the younger girl a presentation with the Sandpaper Letters,” said Serena in explaining the scene above, “and the older boy is preparing to give it to the younger. The older children are third-years and, [as we explained in an earlier update], once they have done work in all four areas of the classroom they choose a first-year child to give a Sandpaper Letters presentation to. The first-years are getting so many Sandpaper Letters presentations that they’re really progressing learning they’re sounds now.”
Serena explained the mutual benefits of the peer teaching/learning approach:
“It takes a good 10 to 15 minutes if you do it properly,” said Serena. “We do it with objects and tracing, and we play little games switching the letters around. The kids like it and it really helps them learn their sounds, so we’re getting a lot more of those presentations in. The third-years are feeling this responsibility to pass on their knowledge, so it works both ways really well. There are also lessons in patience because there’s only one set of drawers so one child should be picking her or his objects at a time.”
The Montessori Dressing Frames are another of the most recognizable, familiar materials in a Montessori Casa environment. Many of your children learned to do up buttons or tie their shoes with the help of these materials.
“These of course help with independence — care of self and care of others. They do like to help each other. It’s so cute when you see a 3-year-old child helping another 3-year-old with a button or a zipper. There’s fine motor skills that are being worked on, and patience, again, because sometimes, once a child sees another child using a Button Frame, all of a sudden “I wanna do the Button Frame too!” Well, there’s only one Button Frame so when he’s finished, you can take it out.”
Polishing is another Montessori Casa activity you all hear about often. It’s a task performed by Casa children of all ages that has a number of developmental benefits, and that is one of a number of Montessori Casa jobs Serena explains this week that have increasing levels of difficulty.
“They get progressively more complex,” Serena explained. “The first one is Polishing Glass: the child applies the polish with a sponge and then rubs the polish in with a cloth. It has fewer steps, and with each polishing job they get progressively more complex. This is the second one, Polishing Wood [in the picture above], and there’s three cloths, so there’s a little bit more working memory involved and having to take care with pouring the polish into the dish — not pouring too much because they’re supposed to use all of the polish that they pour. The first cloth is for applying the polish to the wood. The second cloth is for spreading it around, getting it all over. The third cloth is for rubbing it in really well, working it into the wood.”
“The Silver Polishing [above, rear] involves making a cotton swab, and it’s quite tricky getting it to stay on the stick. It’s a natural consequence control. When the cotton swab falls off the stick you can’t get your polish onto the silver. There are more steps, and if the polish is not worked in really well it just stays white.
“You’re taking care of your own environment and you get this feeling of being proud that you’ve made it look nice,” said Serena about the overall purpose of the Practical Life jobs in a Montessori Casa environment. “They help with working memory, which helps us remember what task we are doing and what we’ve just done and what we need to do next.”
“We have three Progressive jobs that get increasingly more complex,” Serena told us about the work being done by the two girls above. “She is sorting beads by texture. She first does it with the blindfold off, then puts the blindfold on and has to sort the beads by how they feel. There are four different types of beads that look the same, the same colour, but they feel different; they have little ridges. She’s really developing her sense of touch. I like doing this job. It’s almost like a meditation because you really focus on just one sense. The blindfolded girl is giving the other a presentation here.”
Above, we have two boys and their Metal Insets.
“This is another job they can do in all three years that becomes progressively more complex,” said Serena. “They’ve got three shapes each. They start with one shape with the pink frame and the blue inset. When they are first starting out, the 3-year-olds will trace inside the frame and then around the blue inset. Then they need to fill it in. We ask them to fill the whole thing in so they’re holding the pencil for as long as possible, strengthening the muscles needed to hold the pencil properly.”
As the children get older and more proficient, Serena explained that they move on to using multiple shapes at once.
“They can get creative and make all kinds of interesting designs. Depending on which presentation it is, they might need to be just filling in one shape completely, from what you can see, and fill in part of a shape so it looks like it’s behind the shape that’s filled in completely, and so on.”
“This is the 5-cube chain,” said Serena about the material the two children above are working with. They had taken a small break to chat and laugh with the girl who appears back at her own work in the background. They readily returned back to what they were doing after fulfilling a social need [see this week’s Casa East update where Stef talks about the role of socialization in a Montessori environment]. “They need to count all the beads on the chain — it’s got five beads on each bar up to 125 — and at the end of each bar they put a ticket.”
The two children pictured above are both third-year Casa children who are new to DVMS this year.
“They’ve been great. They’ve integrated really well. You can see they get along with each other, but they also get along with the other kids really well,” said Serena. DVMS is open to children with Montessori experience at all levels, and this year we have welcomed children from other Montessori schools at each of our levels.
Casa South has also been working hard on their Holiday Concert songs lately.
“They’re getting excited. They’re doing really well. We have a song with sign language, so that’s been fun”