Wedgwood What’s Up: October 18th, 2013

In Circle
Halloween Count Down & Interest
As you know we’ve been building up to a full morning calendar by introducing the components one at a time. This week we used established calendar routines for days, weeks, months, and weather while introducing the date in the most interesting way I could come up with: we’ve begun a Halloween countdown. The children’s totally reasonable enthusiasm for a holiday based on dressing up and getting candy makes the idea of “date” more concrete because it’s tied to an event that has real meaning for them. We also tried to make the process of counting down concrete by using a manipulative (so far pom-poms and rubber bands have both been used) to break the countdown into two separate steps. After coaching the children towards telling me the date we began counting rubber bands from that number (i.e the 17th) until we reached 31 for Halloween then we count the rubber bands to arrive at our countdown number, in this case 14.

Counting down to Halloween is also a great way to motivate the children to choose activity. There is decorating, measuring, mashing, scraping seeds and lessons like ‘parts of a pumpkin’ that all seem that much more important in light of how soon we’ll be celebrating Halloween. An extra special holiday around here because it just so happens to be our friend Karina’s birthday!

If you’re interested in countdowns they’re easy to do and also a great way to prepare children for changes. A graduated Wedgwood Montessori mother told me about a wonderfully concrete countdown calendar used to celebrate special moments for ages 4-11 created by a local parent! If you’re interested the calendar is called So Many Days and this is their website http://somanydays.com/

In the Classroom
Dayboards and language in the Montessori Classroom

I wrote a bit last week about the communication and community aspects of the dayboard. While those features are awesome and I’m hearing from many of you that they’re helping you feel more connected to what’s going on in the classroom (yay!), I see that wonderful outcome as a secondary benefit. The reason I look forward to a full wall of Dayboards on Friday is the role they play in the children’s classroom culture. I’m going to touch on points of the Montessori Language curriculum that I’ve seen enhanced by this daily literacy activity. Which, no surprise here, is meaningful and thus motivating to the children because of the purpose it serves which is “to tell our parents what we did today.” See they love doing pretty much anything when they know they’re doing it for you.

One of our main goals is to create a language rich environment for the children. From their first year we’re preparing for literacy by ensuring they hear complex and interesting vocabulary throughout the day. We’re doing vocabulary work with puzzles, at circle, through songs and stories but we’re also aware of our modeling. One of my favorite ways to model using language with the children is writing notes. We’ll frequently write notes to parents and one another with the children as aides and messengers. The dayboard fits perfectly into that standing classroom culture. It’s our daily note to you.

What’s more, a dayboard is a daily note with multiple steps that happen to align almost perfectly with our wider language curriculum and the Montessori principle that inspires me most, which is sharing as much of possible of our real lives with children. Each dayboard requires that we:

  • Identify a meaningful component of the day
  • Choose words that references that meaningful component
  • Identify the sounds that make up the word
  • Match those sounds to letter shapes
  • Trace or draw letter shapes
  • Erase old boards

And the individualized nature of our program is such that we get to plug children in at different points in this process based on their level of ability and our goal for the day. I posted some pictures from a dayboard activity we did last Friday where Rowan, Evelyn & Harry chose the board’s topic in response to my question “what felt special to you about today? What should we tell our parents about?” If I was working with younger children I would have given them more guidance in choosing a topic or chosen it outright like this Monday’s “Letter of the Week” dayboard.

After helping us brainstorm the words Rowan went back to his workbook—the conversation drew him to our rug—and Evelyn and Harry used the Movable Alphabet to build the words and a combination of sandpaper letters and spare white boards to practice the letter shapes before putting their “final draft” on the dayboard.

While the interested older children were working on the dayboard a few younger children and some interested older children erased the week’s work from the remaining four boards. It might not seem like it but erasing laminated paper takes a greater degree of focus, intentionality, and physical effort than you might expect. It’s no whiteboard. And a nice bonus is that after a week of seeing these words and interacting with them there’s the delightful chance that the symbols will begin to speak to those children who are still learning letter-sound association. This is exactly what we see in the photo from last week where Daniel is pointing to the letter D on the dayboard he’s erasing to proclaim enthusiastically (which he did the entire week) “duh for Daniel!”

Letters v. Sounds

A quick final thought on letter of the week. It should actually be called “Sound of the Week,” in our classroom the focus is on letter sounds versus letter names as the sounds are most helpful in phonetic reading. So while next week is letter F, we discuss the sound “fff” as opposed to the letter.

Just for Grown Ups

Two November Date Changes

Our agreement with the UUC doesn’t allow us to firmly reserve dates in the upstairs social hall more than a few weeks in advance as they rent that space and it’s popular with choir and other church groups. So our options were to keep Thursday and move into smaller quarters or change the date. Those of you who remember gatherings downstairs can understand why I opted to change the date to Tuesday, November 19th, a change which shifts picture day up one day to Monday the 18th.

Picture Day: Monday, November 18th

I will have more information about ordering and photo times as we get a bit closer to the 18th and promise to give extra reminders about the date since we’ll be starting the week off with picture day but there won’t be any paperwork to remember for the 18th, we just ask that W-F families plan to drop by at some point mid-morning for the group photo and an individual shot.

Stone Soup Party: Tuesday, November 19th

This is one of the quarterly community parties that have been at the center of our curriculum since my mother hosted her first party in the late 90’s. You’ll hear a lot about why these parties are so critical to our method as we get closer to the date but I think one of the best parts for you as parents is that there’s nothing to bring! We’ll take care of plates, cups & napkins and the children will make you dinner! Though, if you’d like, you can always bring beverages. Historically we’ve had a child-friendly table with juice and water and kept any adult-only beverages on the counter behind the buffet line.

Key Cards
I think they’re all distributed but you’ve paid for a key card and still haven’t received one, please let me or Janet know and we’ll get you sorted out.

Pumpkin Patch Trip—No school between 9am-1pm

Chaperones & Fees for Pumpkin Patch Trip—Friday October 25th

Hopefully between the email, the posting & the notes home everyone is ready for Friday’s trip. I just wanted to share answers to a few questions that people have posed individually.

Chaperone Offers

I didn’t start that facebook thread—I’m sorry. But I have had non-facebook families approach me about being willing to drive so I’ve made a sign up sheet that I’ll post in the hallway so that we can all be on the same page.

Chaperone Agreements

If you are chaperoning and meeting us at the Pumpkin Patch, we recommend that you have a written agreement but you are not required to share your chaperone arrangements with us and a verbal agreement between parents is just fine. However, like always, we do need written notice (email or a note is fine) if your child will be at school from 7-9 and will be picked up from school by someone who isn’t on your regular pick-up list.

Thursday is the Last Day to Pay $5

We make one lump payment for entry that includes one pumpkin per child and to avoid what seems like inevitable day-of-confusion I am going to be a bit firmer than usual about requiring that everyone turn in their money ahead of time. When we get to the pumpkin patch I’ll turn in our admission and will be given one for each admission that is equivalent to a “pumpkin picking ticket” for each child, so it’s important that the number of children in our group match the bags I have.

Of course, we still want you to come if you don’t turn in your fees before Thursday but you’ll have to pay separately and Fairbanks charges $6/child at the door. If you do choose to pay at the door please wait until after we’ve paid as a group to go to the counter yourself and make sure they give you a bag for your child’s pumpkin.

Weather & Waiting

There is a small parking lot at Fairbanks Farm but you might need to park a bit down the street and walk so I’d recommend thinking about warm winter clothing like gloves and scarves for both you and any children with you. Additionally, there is no indoor area for us to wait so there’s another reason to wear layers and hope this mild weather holds.

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 18 Picture Day **New Date Monday, November 18th
November 19 Autumn Party (6-8 pm) **New Date Tuesday , November 19th
November 28-29 Thanksgiving Holiday (NS)

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