We have begun archiving content from our guides’ Classroom Notes newsletters here on the school website. Please enjoy this contribution for January 2019.
Welcome back from Winter Break and into 2019! It has been wonderful to see the children settling back into the rhythm of the classroom and reconnecting with their classmates.
Practical Life Skills
We have a new work in our classroom—lemon juicing! This is a popular work with many steps, including straining out the pulp and seeds. We save the juice and use it for our metal polishing work. Children are learning the dynamics of juicing citrus, as well as the name of each part of a lemon. We have a set amount of lemons each day, and children are mindful to leave some for the next person that might want to do the work. It is wonderful to see Practical Life skills, language development and respectful classroom dynamics brought to life through just one work!
Spice grinding has also been added to the shelves, and the children LOVE this work. They are especially drawn to the tiny mortar and pestle used to grind the allspice berries. Children grind the berries to a fine powder, and we will save it to use for another project later in the year. We have been talking about where allspice berries are grown (the Caribbean and Central America), how they are harvested, and how they find their way to our grocery stores. We have been using our North America puzzle map for this lesson in geography, and have learned a new song that also comes from the Caribbean, “Mama Lend Me Ya Pigeon”.
Martin Luther King Jr Day
In January, the children learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and why the United States dedicates a holiday in his honor. We have been singing the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” to recognize and celebrate his work.
Songs and Poetry
We have been trying to keep the cold weather at bay by learning some new songs and poems—the songs “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”, “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” and the poem “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams. Hopefully they brighten your home as much as the classroom!
Thank you to the families that have donated spices, lemons, flowers, taken our laundry—the list goes on! We look forward to having parent observers starting again in February, and please join us for the Chili Cookoff this Saturday, February 9th! This is such a fun event for both children and adults, and a great way to continue building our school community!
Happy New Year
Happy New Year everyone! We begin a new year with warm thoughts of the many generous and loving contributions that are invested into our school each day, whether in a word, a gift or a smile. THANK YOU to all parents for making the FCMS staff feel so loved and special over the holiday!
For all of us a New Year has started; for the child everyday is a new beginning…a world to discover, explore and eventually to understand and master. The familiar classroom and routine offers them the security they need in order to venture into a new territory of learning, which is full of challenges, surprises and possibilities!
We have a new friend to welcome, Samuel Root has joined our community!! The children have been very excited to share work and help guide Sam in daily routines. We see the essence of Montessori with the older children giving lessons to the new children in the classroom.
In the area of mathematics, the children are learning the principles of math through bank role-playing. Different children assume different roles and the children are able to contextualize the decimal system, from units to thousands. This really creates a concrete understanding of numerical place value, and paves the way for advanced math operations. The children really enjoy playing these games!
Valentine’s Day Reminder
A kind reminder that we don’t celebrate this holiday by requiring children to bring valentines or treats for the class. If your child wants to make something at home for friends, we invite them to create ONE handmade Valentine to gift to the whole class. This is optional and should be a child-led project. We can spend some time on Valentine’s Day sharing these with the class and hanging them up for all to enjoy. This keeps it authentic and child-centered.
Thank you for helping us focus on kindness, love, and simplicity.
New Community Members
As you may have heard, we have two new living things in our classroom! This month, an ant farm and a betta fish have joined our community. We will observe and care for these animals as we go about our days in the classroom.
This month I have been particularly aware of the community and collaboration it takes to help a Montessori community run smoothly. During teacher training, our trainer used to mention the beautiful handmade materials, special trinkets, or custom furniture that were part of the model classroom. She would advise us: “Find a parent who can build that for you…” “Ask a group of parents get together and sew that for the classroom…” I think at the time I felt doubtful that I would ever have a parent community who felt so committed to a school.
I am now honored to work with parents who see our school as a community effort, as a village that we are building together in which everyone has a role.
We have tablecloths and napkins sewn by parents, assistant teachers, and grandparents. We have wooden benches and garden beds hand built by fathers. We have a wooden ant farm donated by a group of parents, and a betta fish picked out by a student. We have a beautiful wooden linen cabinet found by a mother who runs estate sales. We have wooden trays, woven baskets, and ceramic bowls gifted by families who no longer needed them.
As I look around the classroom this month, our physical environment is an embodiment of the collaboration it takes to build a strong community. I am grateful and humbled to be a part of this village, and so excited to see what we can do next. Thank you to everyone who makes it possible.
A few days ago I observed as a child cleaned up a Chair Scrubbing activity. Part of her cleanup process included rolling an underlay, the vinyl table mat used to protect the floor from water, and placing a napkin ring around it to put it away in the tray. The napkin ring keeps the mat rolled and acts as a “control of error” to show when the underlay needs to be rolled more tightly. She hadn’t rolled the underlay tightly enough, and the napkin ring wouldn’t fit over it.
Without looking up, she unrolled it and proceeded to roll it again. It still didn’t fit. She did it again. I continued to observe until she completed the process to her satisfaction. By the time she had placed the napkin ring over the underlay, 14 minutes had passed! She then carried the tray across the room and returned it to the shelf exactly where she had found it, humming the whole time. There were no gold stars, sticker charts, or adult opinions around this. Her first order of business was getting herself a drink of water.
The Primary environment allows the child the time and space to perfect her movements as she becomes herself. I feel so lucky to get to see this process happen.
Thank you all for another wonderful month!
It has been so lovely to see the children return from the winter break with such enthusiasm. They have jumped back into our classroom routines with grace and ease. At any given time, there are numerous things happening. Here is a variety of things I observed this morning:
- A child making tea for an observer
- Pin maps
- Story writing with the moveable alphabet
- Children working together to solve a conflict
- Rock identification
- Multi-digit multiplication
- Spelling practice
- The leaf as a food factory
- Sentence analysis
- Mathematical transformation of squares
- Multi-digit division
- Grammar boxes
- Children asking for support from other children
- Decimals divided by decimals
- Math fact memorization
- Fractions (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing)
When the children come in each day, they write the date, then make a list of the work that plan to work on. Then off they go!
A lot of children choose to work on the floor. This often looks like a maze of work spaces and bodies that can be challenging to maneuver through. The children are careful and conscientious as they move around the environment. They are paying attention to where their feet are, and being sure to keep other children’s work safe and intact.
It is an absolute pleasure to work with the children each day. I feel honored.
Throughout the month of January, I enjoyed all of the tasty treats, lovely smells, wonderful opportunities, great additions to my library, yummy coffees, and nights out on the town. Thank you for your loving thoughts and kind gestures.
During Our Work Cycles
We are writing short stories, editing our work, rewriting with corrections and paying close attention to syntax, grammar, punctuation, capitalization and handwriting.
Spelling Bees are fun and we work in groups with team captains and group names as follows:
- Spelling Owls
- Spelling Snakes
- Green Pigeons
- Valentine Butterflies
- Atomic Spellers
- Flying Squirrels
The Timeline of Life has initiated taxonomic classification. Taxonomy is the practice of identifying different organisms, classifying them into categories, and naming them. All organisms, both living and extinct, are classified into distinct groups with other similar organisms and given a scientific name. So…King Phillip Came Over For Great Spaghetti:
Math is a daily practice and includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, pre algebra, geometry, story problems and nomenclature for all operations.
Third year students and some second year students formed a math group and named it The Math Minute. They practice number lines, standard measurement conversions, clock work, sets, place value, fact families, money calculations, rounding and more. Of course, we keep track of the minute(s) it takes to reinforce skills. Students correct their own papers (going over each problem and discussing solutions) and afterward record their scores on a Minute Journal.
Let us leave the life free to develop within the limits of the good, and let us observe this inner life developing. This is the whole of our mission. ~ Maria Montessori
A goal of mine this semester is for every child in the upper elementary to be involved in a Going Out before the end of the school year. A Going Out is a field trip organized by the children that is connected with their work in the classroom. For instance, a child might be researching anatomy of the human body and choose to further their study by organizing an outing to the anatomy department at CSU. Another example could be a group of children sharing the poetry they’ve recited or created with the children at the primary campus or elder members of our wider community at a senior centre.
On these outings the children are accompanied by a staff member or a parent that has submitted the necessary paper work.
You can help with this goal by asking your child what work they are doing that could be further developed by going on a Going Out. After they have come up with some ideas, you could guide them in finding contact details of the locations they would like to visit, which they can then bring to school.