April’s theme will be plants! Though, I honestly can’t believe it’s April already. Between our unit on animals, preparing for our Class Play, and our everyday exploration of the environment I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that March has flown by, but it has! It’s been incredible to watch the children soak up everything that’s been going on.
I don’t know if it’s some sort of instinctive connection to life, but boy do children love animals! It was an especially joyful time in the classroom because of all the animal songs we sang, both the “special” songs that I brought in for this month as well as some class favorites that took on new roles.
My most cherished memory from last month is a game we made out of a silly song that I’ve enjoyed all year called “Waltzing with Bears.” It’s a great gathering game, where the leader takes turns pointing at children who then bear crawls ( a straight-legged quadrupedal motion and another old game of ours that took on new life with this month’s theme) around the circle and back to their original place. It’s a favorite of mine because all of the children love to bear crawl and so everyone from the new threes to myself and Justin (who does mean crawl!) looks forward to their turn.
However, the real treat of last month was an academic explosion among our older students. Metti diagnosed “workbook fever” among our four and five year olds and given that last week ended with a student completing 40 pages in two days—I’d call that an accurate diagnosis!
But what I find interesting isn’t that we have children who can do pages and pages out of their workbooks. What I find intriguing (and hope you do to too!) is that we have children who race to do pages and pages in their workbooks. That’s what’s sold me on these workbooks and the way Metti has integrated them into our curriculum. I thought I would talk about the indirect preparations for the kind of collaborative, competitive, and really joyful work we’ve seen in the last few weeks.
I’ve talked endlessly about the importance of concentration, executive functions, and concrete activity where one sees the correlation between effort and result so I won’t go into detail but just refer you back to September, October and November’s blogs. And add that what work in Practical Life does is show the children that the classroom is place for the boundless energy of this phase in their life to be channeled into satisfying, enjoyable, and meaningful activity.
While we love exploring the monthly themes with the children and hope to sow the seeds of future exploration, the real aim is to flood their world with language. Big words, small words, but mostly lots and lots of sounds. In November I discussed the most important language game we play–the sound game, where children practice isolating single phonemes.
This is followed by multi-sensory encounters with each of the letters that represent the sounds, where they get to hear the sound, look at and trace a sandpaper letter, all after naming words that correspond to the sound. We also use a letter step board, which is a self-correcting material that presents the children first with an opportunity to practice shape recognition of letters but eventually the chance to build short words in response to a picture.
All of this ensures that when a child starts on Workbook 1 we following Montessori’s best piece of advice “we never give a child the opportunity to fail before he has the tools necessary to succeed.”
I’ve left out the most important factor that I’ve diagnosed as at the root of our recent Workbook Fever Epidemic and that is a meaningful social context for their work.
And that real, multi-age community has been growing in spurts all year long. In fact, of all the things that make me smile throughout the day, I am most pleased when I see how willing our students are to give and receive lessons from one another. For the older children this reinforces the materials, sure, but more than that it instills a sense of pride, self-efficacy, and real responsibility for their classroom community. And for the younger or the newer child, it is a moment of real connection with someone who speaks their language and remembers what it’s like to be new or young.
And when that someone stands in front of the whole class, beaming, holding up their completed workbook, the younger child who received a lesson from the momentary class celebrity feels connected to that success. We open these “emergency meetings” with the question “why are we having a gathering in the middle of the day?” and while everyone knows exactly why, I make a point of calling on the youngest children. Because just like I hear about graduates from our older children I know our three year olds will talk about them, “the big kids”, remember them, and remember their emergency meeting when the day comes to stand in front of everyone themselves and show everyone their favorite workbook page.
And, because there are many realms of achievement I did want to add that we make a point of celebrating completion, in a number of areas. Class art and crafting projects, small books the children make, large science tracing projects, and a number of other long-term engagement activities.
We just got our Hop-a-Thon packet in the mail! Every year Wedgwood Montessori raises funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association by hosting a class Hop-A-Thon. It’s a ton of fun for the children and is a great exercise in compassion. Last year we raised over $1,000 dollars to help children! It’s a pretty classic sponsorship-per-hop sort of arrangement and while most younger children don’t hop more than a 100 times and older children a few hundred– I thought I should warn you that last year one student hopped 1,500 times. So, factor that into sponsorship amounts!
You will find parent packets in your child’s drawer and the Hop-A-Thon itself will be Wednesday May 2nd. Like any other school-day event please feel free to bring your child for the duration of the event whether or not they regularly come to school. Aside for the 45 minutes or so of hopping, it will be a regular Wednesday.
Parent Teacher Conferences and Snow Day Make ups
Dates are listed below, Spring Break remains unchanged but Parent Teacher conferences will be a school day for W-F children who missed classes during the snow closures. Please remember to sign up for parent teacher conferences beside the sign in sheets and to take a pre-conference form from the small white table in the hallway.
On the Horizon
April 13 Spring Play and Party 6-8 pm (light dinner!)
April 16th-20th No School, Spring Break
April 27th Parent Teacher Conferences (Snow Day Make Up)
May 2nd Hop-A-Thon
May 11 Mother’s Day Tea Party (Sign up will be posted)
May 28th Memorial Day ( No school)
June 15 Father’s Day Picnic (Sign up will be posted)
June 21 Graduation & Multi-Cultural Potluck (6-8 pm)
June 22 Last Day of School
July 2nd Summer Session Begins
In March we really explored the different instruments and how they can represent animals or people in Peter & The Wolf. How is it that the flute really sounds like a bird? How can the bassoon sound like Grandfather?
In April we’re going to take that a step further and listen to some superhero music! With classical style music from Danny Elfman & John Williams we’ll try and figure out WHY Darth Vadar’s music sounds evil – how come it doesn’t sound evil when we hear Princess Leia’s music? Should be a lot of fun to explore the instruments & rhythm choices!!
We’ll also sing springtime (& rain) songs and play musical games. We’ll continue our instrument work by playing percussion instruments ourselves and singing along!