My mom says that circle is where we ignite the children’s imaginations, a chance to infuse their independent and small group work with shared imagery and directed purpose. So while our curricular focus is still on setting expectations and developing our classroom we’ve begun fingerplays, poems & songs around a central topic—leaves and the sights and sounds of Autumn.
As you know, we’ve been slowly working up to a full morning calendar. This week we began discussing differences in the weather and it seems that Mother Nature has been going out of her way to ensure that each of her faces can be represented in our morning conversations! Next week, the date and the countdown to every child’s favorite holiday: Halloween!
In the Classroom
I know the teacher’s home-school white board is an early childhood education staple meant to share the events of the day with parents but its one I’ve resisted for years because aside from circle there are few parts of the day that we share as a community.
I’ve always felt that there’s no way to succinctly share the goings on of a Montessori classroom because the real meat of our day is in 30 individual stories.
For instance, at today’s circle I reviewed the two Halloween cookie prep materials on the shelf and showed the children pumpkins we’d de-seed over the course of the day. In a traditional preschool de-seeding pumpkins might be an all-class activity with saran-wrapped tables and teacher-led post-activity hand washing. I could put ‘Prepping our Pumpkins’ up on my white board and no child would miss out on the goopy, gooey goodness of scratching a fork against the bowels of halved squash. This is not a bad world at all. But that’s not what today, or any day in our classroom looks like.
Here’s how it looked today: I invited three wanderers (wandering is a good way to get invited to an activity around here) to work with me on a long-table in the main classroom. As they scratched they drew a small crowd, more than a one of them screeched a bit at the slime of pumpkin guts, and as my initial helpers tired the observers took their places at the table. Meanwhile, other children worked on paper air planes, dayboards, work books, transfer games, measuring flour for our cookies and many more things I didn’t even see. Of course there were other teachers circulating to offer help and direction, but if the children don’t need it, we don’t offer it. In fact what we look for when we’re scanning the classroom isn’t so much what the children are working on but that they’re working purposefully and are meaningfully engaged in what they’re doing.
And those children who didn’t get to scrape pumpkins today? They may be one of my invited wanderers next week or they may be in the crowd that gathers to watch. Or they might be one of those too engrossed in cutting, adding, tracing, really just living, to notice. Traditional schooling equates fairness with sameness but a Montessori classroom strives to be an idealized and miniaturized real-world environment. And in real life, like in preschool, sometimes we skip the party because we have better things to do.
So, I’ll admit that I’d begun this piece intending to write about the steps we and the children go through in order to produce the dayboards–my compromise between Montessori idealism and understanding that it helps to have a hook with which to pull facts of the day out of children—but I think I like this better. So you’ll have to be satisfied with a few pictures I took of the process today and the knowledge that there will be more to follow next week!
Just for Grown Up
I have to say, I was super impressed with your pumpkin patch list on the facebook group. I even considered switching from Fairbanks Farm in Edmonds until I did a bit of google mapping and found just how far (and through what kind of traffic) some of you brilliantly dedicated Mamas and Papas are willing to drive for a romp through the country. You’re amazing.
But in the interest of making it back to school by 1:00pm, we’re going to stick with Fairbanks where we’ve enjoyed Pygmie Goats and giant pigs for years. Please consider chaperoning or carpooling. I’ll start a thread on the facebook group today and have a sign up in the hall on Monday.
If you’ve paid for a key card and still haven’t received one, please let me know.
Dates on the Horizon
October 25 Pumpkin Patch Field Trip (NS in AM)
October 31 Class Halloween Party (10-11:30am)
November 11 Veteran’s Day (NS)
November 15 Parent Teacher Conferences (NS)
November 19 Picture Day
November 21 Autumn Party (6-8 pm)
November 28-29 Thanksgiving Holiday (NS)