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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!