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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Children Who Have Difficulty Recalling (Remembering) Sandpaper Letters





My colleague Robin Miller (a Montessori Instructional Coach and AMI Primary Teacher) and I were discussing future blog posts for Montessori Deconstructed and we had a great conversation about children who do not recall or have difficulty recalling the sounds of the sandpaper letters during a lesson.

The Lesson

We know how powerful those sound lessons are with the sandpaper letters.  The sandpaper engages the tactile sense, then the visual sense is activated through seeing the letter symbol, watching the mouth make the sound and tracing the sounds. The auditory sense is stimulated through hearing the sound of the letter and listening to words that begin with the sound.  Then, we present in the three period lesson which has been proven to be so successful for acquiring new information.  There are so few lessons that engage the child is this way!

What to Do

So, when you observe a child isn’t recalling the sounds from his lessons after multiple presentations, what do you do?  I have a few ideas!  Before I go any further, remember, it is your responsibility to be documenting the progress of your students, especially when you have a child who may be facing a challenge. My suggestion is to document the date of each sound lesson and the sounds you presented. This will give you valuable data for yourself on the pace of this child’s learning as well as if you need to conference with parents about this.

1.  Frequency: A child who is having noticeable difficulty recalling sounds should be offered the lesson at high frequency.  I would suggest daily if you can and document each lesson.  This information will be very useful to you!

      2.  Sensorial Extensions:  Yes!  Look in your Sensorial album and find the Memory Games.  Distance Games and Group Games can help a child with this challenge of recall.  Dr. Montessori developed these games to strengthen the memory.  Think of the sound cylinders or color tablets where one set is on a table and the matching set is on another table across the room.  The child must carry the sound from the cylinder of the color from the tablet in their mind, across the room-navigating tables, rugs, and friends- to locate its match.  It is powerful!  These games can be done with many of the sensorial materials!

      3.  Fidelity: This means that you must be consistent with the intervention you start to see if it works.  Realistically four to six weeks is a reasonable amount of time to truly see if this type of intervention will be successful.  Again-your documentation will be your proof that you are trying something different to meet the needs of this learner.  

      I hope this suggestion helps any child you have in this situation.  The documentation is so important as well as sticking with the intervention.  The Memory Games are just plain fun and your class will love them if you aren’t already doing them!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ending the School Year

The end of school year is one of the best times to reflect on your classroom and your practice. Here are some of the questions that I ask myself: 

Did I meet the needs of my learners? I would hope the answer is a resounding “YES!” but often it is an “I did the best that could” which is Okay too! We typically have each child for three years, and it takes three years to really get to know them as learners and individuals. I find that there is at least one child that had difficulty connecting to the environment, materials, adults or other children. The end of the year is a great opportunity to reflect on this child. Did you take the time to really get to know him/her? Do you have a good understanding of his/her home dynamics? Did the child get enough and a good variety of lesson presentations? 

Did my class normalize? Our goal is to guide the child to normalization through concentrated purposeful work. BUT if your class was newly formed this year, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself to feel that this would happen by the end of the year. There are years that an established classroom does not fully normalize! The dynamics between a classroom full of multi-aged children is complex and varies day to day. So the question to ask would be what were the levels of engagement in the classroom? Low? Then normalization would be impossible. Were the children reconnected to meaningful work when they began to wander? Were the children interested in the materials they were presented? If not, why and what material extensions could you offer them that would be more enticing? 

Was I consistent? Were the routines and procedures of the classroom clear? Were you consistent in reinforcing them? Were Grace and Courtesy lessons offered daily and reinforced? If not, this is a great time consider intentionally drafting a plan for offering them. 

What are my goals for next year? New goals keep us fresh and learning! Do you want to reread your albums over the summer? Do you want to reread all of the math extensions? Perhaps check out a Montessori text from the library that you have been meaning to look at? Do you want to set a cleaning schedule so the classroom doesn’t feel dusty by the end of the month? Do you want to start a classroom blog or newsletter? Do you want to mark reminders on your calendar to keep you on track with lesson charting? Maybe create your classroom snack calendar for the whole school year so it’s ready to go? 

Once the children leave for summer and you have a day or two to yourself, ponder a few of these questions, set some meaningful goals, and spend your time away from the children recharging for the fall!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The "Roost"








Many teachers have the problem of feeling like they can’t take the time they need to offer quality presentations because other students keep interrupting the lesson.  I would like to introduce you to the idea of the “Roost” as our Arizona trainer calls it (I have also heard it called the Help Spot) which may help solve this problem!


The “Roost” is where the teacher sits when he/she is available to help a child with questions or anything else they might need specifically from the teacher that the assistant cannot help them with.  Think of this as a chair or a stool off to the side of the room (a perfect place to observe your kiddos while they are working and for taking anecdotal notes).  When the teacher is not at the designated Roosting spot, the child should wait there for the teacher.  This will keep your lessons protected!   

The catch is that you must be consistent about returning to that spot as soon as you are done with a child.  Otherwise, the children will figure you aren’t coming back and seek you out during your lesson.


Grace and Courtesy lessons about the new spot for the first week will get you going.  The help of your assistant will also reinforce the new routine.  I hope this idea will come in handy for your classroom!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Parent-Teacher Conferences




Parent-Teacher conferences are a time to celebrate the growth of a child with their parents.  It is the perfect opportunity to build trust and provide a little parent education.  I have some tips to maximize your conferences!

1.  Set your time and stick with it.  Let your families know that their conference will be 15 minutes, or whatever length you choose, and do your best to keep the conference to that length.  This way you won’t get behind if you schedule them back-to-back. 

2.  Sit next to the parents.  Rather than sitting with a table between you and the parents, sit on the same side as the table as them.  This is more open and friendly.
 
3.  Be prepared!  If your school wants you to provide a progress report, a written narrative, or student work, have that ready to go.

4. Think about walking the parents around the areas of the classroom to give them a visual overview of what the child is working on, briefly explaining the purpose of a few of the materials.

5.  Always share the child’s celebrations first!  If you are having an issue with a child, a conference should never be the first time a parent hears about it.  (Open communication throughout the start of the school year and when an issue arise is when to begin those discussions)  By starting with the child’s strengths, you are setting a positive tone for the meeting.  Address the child’s challenges at the end.

6.  If you are helping a child through some struggles/challenges, please offer the parents some suggestions on how they can support the child in the home.  Emphasize the parent-teacher team!

These steps will have you off to a great conference start!  




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Noisy Classroom?


There are definitely times during the year (or week!) that a classroom can get noisy.  My classroom was always louder in the spring when my third year children were starting to transition into the second plane of development.  They became little social magnets!  Always stuck to one another in a chatty clump!



I have some fast fixes for a noisy class!
Engagement:  Children are quieter when they are concentrating and engaged.  As the teacher, you are the link to the environment.  Try taking a looking a look into your albums for some fresh extensions that you haven’t tried in a while.  This will give the child an exciting new perspective on a material they may have lost interest in.  This goes two-fold to also deepen their understanding of the concept the material is offering.


Grace and Courtesy:  Are the children disturbing one another?  Is the concentration of a working child protected?  I would try direct modeling during circle time so everyone can see and practice how to observe.


Shouting:  Many homes are filled with noise from telephones, video games, and television.  Many children are simply used to a louder environment and have compensated by speaking louder.  Some have distracted parents and find that they need to shout to get the adults attention.  In this case I would practice “inside and outside voices” with the child.  Take the child outside to practice the “outside” or louder voice, then back inside to practice the quieter voice.  Also, try teaching that the best way to get attention is to silently touch the teacher’s shoulder.


You:  Yes you!  Are you calling children from across the room?  Are you using an “inside voice”?  I was terribly guilty of this in the classroom.  It was something I checked myself on for years.  The teacher is the ultimate model.  If you aren’t using an appropriate volume of voice, why should the children?


I hope a few of these tips will have you on your way to a more peaceful classroom!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Observation by the Child


Observation is one of the cornerstones of Montessori.  The teacher is trained to objectively observe each and every child, without passing judgment.  These observations lead us to seeing learning patterns or sensitivities in the child which help us to direct the child to the materials that will best satisfy their natural development.  Taking the time regularly to simply sit and observe is so very important to meeting the needs of each of the children in our care!

Observation by the Child

Not only is it important for the adult to observe children but equally so for the child!  BUT observing is a skill that we should directly teach the child.  All children love to watch each other, but observation is different in the grace and courtesy we use.  When young children “watch” they are rarely quiet and most insist on joining-in with what they are seeing.  To observe is to watch, but silently, so as not to disturb the other child.  To observe is to also watch without touching a working child’s table or work.
 

What would that look like?  A child should be invited for a lesson on observing.  They should be shown by your modeling how to stand by the table of the working child with their hands at their sides or behind them.  Then you explain in a whisper, “We are going to observe this work.  We are not going to talk or touch because that might disturb her work.  Let’s try.  Show me how we can observe.”

Also, the children need to know what to do if another disturbs their work.  This is a great group-time lesson! “Children what would you do if you are busy and another child touches your work?  Or talks to you and disturbs your work?”  See what the children say and then add, “You can very nicely say “Please walk away, you are disturbing my work.”

Reinforcing the procedure for the children to observe and how a child can direct another away will help a great deal in creating peace in your classroom!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Misuse of Materials


This is a biggie for me!  My Montessori trainer was who many would consider  “old school”.  Any and all misuse of material was to be stopped immediately with, “Dear, you may not play with the materials.  I will put them away for you.”

So what is misuse versus exploration? 

That may be up to interpretation, BUT a rule of thumb could be: if the way the child is using the material no longer satisfies the aims for that material, you must stop it.

Some choice examples I have personally encountered are hammering on the musical bells with the narrowest prism from the broad stairs, making the farm animals ride the roof of the barn, scribbling instead of carefully drawing the metal insets, using a red rod as a pretend rifle (that one almost sent me through the roof!), turning the binomial cube box into a pretend garage.

Misuse of materials can also correlate to the handling and physical use, if the child is being rough or destructive, it is best to redirect them in a way that better suits their energy or interest level and put the work away yourself.  So if a child is banging the cubes of the pink tower together, he may be showing you he needs some large motor activity like digging outside.  Focus the energy and use those muscles!

I'm using this picture because it is hilarious!  This young friend happens to my daughter three years ago.  She has hogged three rugs and hunkered down in her work avoidance claiming to be "tired" (she's not, her teacher swears!)  Could it be a misuse of the rugs...I'll let you decide! :)
 
But is it misuse??? 

Could the child have been shown the material by another child and is mimicking the lesson you may not have known happened?  Or if the child got the lesson from the teacher, was he truly ready to receive it?  Check your album!  All lessons have an age range for presentation.  Just because a child may have a fleeting interest in a work on the shelf, doesn’t mean he is ready for it.  Follow your album!

Back to school means making those expectations for material use and misuse very clear!  If you do, your classroom life will be so much easier!