“We have a cursive Moveable Alphabet, and this is the print Moveable Alphabet,” said Dylan in explaining the Montessori materials being used by the two Casa girls above, who wasted no time getting back to learning this week after the holiday break. “This is a reading job,” Dylan continued, “figuring out phonograms, middle sounds, using vowels. They wanted to figure out rhyming words, which is another way to use this material.”
Dylan explained that the cursive Moveable Alphabet is used for learning to write while the print Moveable Alphabet in use above is to learn and practice reading, since most text on a page is print.
Shalyn and some first-year Montessori Casa boys were also right back at it this week, developing some early phoneme awareness.
“They’re in a sensitive period for small objects,” said Dylan, “so this is a great way for them to learn while they think that they are playing — just another trick up our sleeve. This is initial sounds and last sounds of words. This is the beginning and foundation for learning their sounds and that words have several sounds in them that make up the whole word.”
The children place the objects from their chosen basket on a mat and Shalyn asks them, for example, to find something that starts with the sound /e/. Once they find, say, the elephant, they put it back in the basket.
“This is actually quite advanced,” said Dylan, “because they have about 20 objects out, so they have to scan through a lot of them. They could find a number of animals that start with the same sound.”
Another first-year boy was busy working through the sequences of the Montessori Polishing Glass job.
“He was shown this in December,” said Dylan, and it was high on the list of jobs to do when he returned to school. “He’s working through a multi-step process and using polish, a cotton ball, a stick, and beautiful objects, there’s many enticements to this material. There are several purposes to the polishing jobs: concentration, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, using materials from left to right — everything is laid out from left to right, working in sequences, and care of the environment.”
Flags of the World work is still going strong in Casa North.
You may remember some Flags of the World work was all the rage in Casa North late last term. It is continuing into the winter term as they take their work to another level.
“Before, they had thirty-six flags of the world and they traced them, drew them, and wrote the names,” said Dylan. “Now, they’re making books. They can do hundreds of flags now. They’re really enjoying it. We always ramp it up to escalate the degree of difficulty. I said, ‘Before you staple your book, I want you take out a map and find the country that you just wrote about.’ To see their jaws drop was really great. They’ll ask, ‘Well, what continent is it on?’ and I’ll say ‘Well, you’re going to have to take the atlas out.’ We also have a control map that shows all of the names of the countries. They love that challenge.”
“We have several Dressing Frames for learning about taking care of the self,” said Dylan of the presentation he’s giving to the young girl above. Here she is working with the Montessori Bow Frame. “There’s a Zipper Frame, Buckle Frame, Button Frame. A challenging one for later is the Safety Pin Frame. They all talk about the most dangerous jobs in the environment and that’s in the top five.
“Bow Frame is an advanced Frame that a lot of kids shy away from. Some kids, they don’t like doing jobs they haven’t mastered. They’ll try it a few times and put it away and won’t want to do it for a while. This little girl brought it over and so her and I worked on it. Like everything in Montessori, we do a lot of repetition and we get better with practice.”
“The beginning of the Clay Sculpture job is for them to sensorially explore,” said Dylan. He explained how they tend to progress with this job.
“A lot of times they’ll just make a blob or a house or something very vague. As they get older, I want them to bring out still-life objects, for painting too, kids start by just scribbling and making a mess; they’re learning how to use the tools. By now [with an older child such as above], they’re refining their skills. She actually brought me over a robot that looks just like that picture on what I call our sculpture cards — simple things that kids won’t do themselves but, given a prompt, it gives them a purpose for it. All the materials have to have a purpose. It’s another material that builds hand strength, concentration, and artistic skills.”
“Many Montessori materials the children use have a built in control of error,” said Dylan. “The Roman Arch has a stabilizer that acts much like scaffolding, and when pulled out at the end of construction will show the child it is constructed properly, or it will collapse. By the look on our friends face, this attempt was a big success. She was very proud of this moment.”
While most of us were grumbling about the freezing cold weather this week, one Casa North boy was anxious to get outside and clear some snow.
“They still want to take care of the environment,” explained Dylan. “It was the end of the day and we were cleaning everything up. We had just got some new shovels — much excitement. We have an outside patio with two sides, with a garden in the middle; one side’s for quiet reading outside and the other is for doing yoga outside. Pretty utopian. There’s no reason they can’t do yoga in the winter, but we’ll wait until it’s a toasty -1 for that.”
All of the Casa staff would like to remind you to be sure to send weather-appropriate clothing to school with your children every day.
“Just a friendly reminder to please make sure your child comes to school every day with boots, snowpants, hat, mittens, scarf, neck warmer, whatever it is that they need,” said Casa East’s Elizabeth. “Even though some days you may think, at home, it’s too cold to go outside, it is a decision that is made at the school at recess time, based on the windchill at the school, so every day we need to be prepared, and know that the school will make the best decision for the children on any given day.”