Our theme this month has been The Changing Seasons, through which we also address the Play-Dress-Up-and-Get-Candy holiday that the children are so excited about. We have been baking and cleaning for our class party and the children have done seasonally themed collage and coloring activities to supplement what’s always available in the classroom. We even switched to orange colored water in some of our fine-motor pouring exercises. Though, what you’ve probably heard most about at home are the Halloween songs the children are singing with Amy like “10 Little Monsters” and “What do Witches Eat?” We’ve been practicing them a lot in the classroom, since we’re getting ready for the Halloween Party. But we’re also doing less spooky Autumn themed spoken language activities like the song “Autumn Leaves are Falling Down” and the poem “The Fall of the Year.”
The purpose-oriented cleaning and cooking in preparation for the party provides children with all the same benefits of concentration and sequenced activity that all Practical Life games do. However, particularly among older children, there is a larger exercise in what Montessorians refer to as “social cohesion” in these goal-directed activities of life. Social cohesion is a desired outcome of the slow ramp up in a Montessori environment. We spend the first weeks of school focusing on physical activities and defining the culture of our classroom, not just to form a like-minded community, which is an important outcome of this period of the year. But when the children are oriented and invested in their environment they take on ownership and stewardship not just for the physical space but for one another. When a three year old chooses “Washing a Mat” most often, she doesn’t care whether or not the mat is dirty. She is drawn to the opportunity to hone her gross motor skills and encouraged by the outcome of combining soap, water, and friction to make bubbles on the rippled surface of her mat.
When a four or five year old complains there are no clean mats for a game they’d like to play and takes off grinning when I suggest they can do something about it—that’s bigger than motor control and feedback. That’s ownership, agency, and confidence based on ability. It’s the basis for the self-assuredness we’ll rely on when tackling challenging math and language games and the self-regulation to explore the classroom freely and powerfully. And that’s why we’re here, folks!
Our class halloween party is this Friday. Aside from dressing your child in costume and sending them to school with a change of clothes, it will be a pretty normal day. After they re-arrange the classroom, sing and recite their songs and poems, and enjoy their baking the children will change into their normal clothes and we will (attempt) a routine Friday. Parents are not required to attend but are welcome, especially as we anticipate being able to put extra hands to use when changing out of costumes.
Splitting our class into two groups for lunch and outside time has proven itself to be surprisingly effective not just in terms of safety but also because with two smaller groups the children do more of the preparation for lunch themselves. It’s been incredible to see the way a few of them have really bloomed through this regular, purposeful routine.
Passports have been a slower transition. We’re still conducting grace and courtesy lessons on name recognition and while the children are all very pleased to have their very own stick of wood, we haven’t yet introduced the second layer of complexity so right now all we do with them is practice finding their name. In the interim, we have been reenforcing the habit of informing a teacher before going to the bathroom and generally watchful of who is where.
Picture Day Recap
I feel really lucky to have been in the photo room with Leo (a many moons ago Wedgwood Montessori father) and the children. They were so polite, so curious, and so cute. A number of them crowded around Leo’s camera bags between groups for detailed question and answer segments about his equipment. It was a wonderful reminder to me that every new experience is a developmental opportunity. Leo, fabulous Montessori parent that he is, gave detailed, concise and totally developmentally appropriate and stimulating answers.
It was particularly rewarding to see a child who had been anxious about picture day claim a place in the center of all the action. He walked younger children back to the classroom, modeled the picture taking process for each group, and was generally the Official Picture Day Helper.
Photos can be ordered at Leo’s site, if you follow this direct link there’s no need to enter a password:http://www.lvsantiagophotography.com/wedgwood_montessori_2011.