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Montessori in a Dene Kindergarten – Montessori in a Dene Grade One Classroom

Archive for February, 2009

Ready for Monday???

Posted by mrsmelva on 22/02/2009

I spent a lot of time at school this weekdend, but most of it was spent helping my grandaughter with her science fair project. We spent yesterday making a whale’s mouth with a styrofoam burger box, a wisk broom and a glue gun. The broom was for the baleen, she cut off the bristles and I glued them to the burger box. We have been having a lot of fun. I did get some prep work done too, but not a lot. Tomorrow I will be introducing the letter a with a directed drawing and activities I’ve developed from the Animated Literacy program that we use. These lessons follow a set format that I’ve developed. Friday’s went very well in the morning, but the afternoon was another story. I have opened two new works for tomorrow and re-opened one work that I had closed when the children were rough with the materials. I opened the unit blocks and the mega blocks, and repaired and reopened the birthday cakes. I will reopen the snack table too, we had closed it due to food being wasted, now that we have discussed that problem with the kids we will try again, and monitor it closely. (while the snack table was closed  for two days, the children were still able to eat their snacks at recess). I cut some of the sand paper letters so they are ready for use too, but they will be introduced very carefully, by the tutors and myself to a few students at a time. We still need to make a few more and get them all cut. I copied the rest of the alphabet songs on transparencies, can’t do too many at a time or they melt in the machine (not in your hand!). I feel ready in that I have all the supplies set up for the letter lesson, and ready in having a couple of new works open. I am hoping that by having some new work available, the children may find it easier to settle into working. I am trying to visualize them working well with both the new works and the old ones. I get very discouraged when they are rough and mishandle activities since I put a lot of thought,  time, energy and money into creating and setting up new work. I don’t think that I am unrealistic in my expectations since the morning class uses the materials in an appropriate way, and so have previous years’ classes. I have observed that if a child in the morning class breaks something, he/she will bring it to me right away; in the afternoon class one break seems to lead to further deliberate destruction. It certainly did with the magnets on the birthday cakes. One magnet came off a candle and I watched the child then try to take all the magnets off the candles and decorations, and the child working with the other cake tied one of the ribbons in knots. I have fixed the materials and will hope for the best tomorrow – perhaps the time without the work will also help them appreciate its return and reinforce the need to work carefully.

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Who Says Gym Teachers Can’t Read?!?

Posted by mrsmelva on 21/02/2009

Here’s a picture of our gym teacher reading with the kids during our valentine’s day five ring circus. We  had a late start that day due to a power outage, so instead of the kids going to the gym, the gym teacher came to the classroom to help out (and to enjoy the cookies and cake that parents sent in).reading with the gym teacherThe next picture is of the parent who brought the cake, we put her to work helping kids cut hearts for their valentine gifts for their parents. They had to make a lot of hearts to go around the edge of the plate, I planned this so that they would get a lot of practice with the technique. I teach them to fold the paper and snip three corners, based on the techniques in the books from http://www.tlclessons.com – I have used many of the activities from their books to teach listening and following directions, colour, shape and positional vocabulary, cutting, gluing and folding skills and to extend literature. sta50166_21If you look closely, you can see that one student has a few baggy pants instead of hearts, as he had trouble at first remembering which way to make his first cut after folding the paper. With practice, the kids do become expert heart cutters, but it does take practice, and patient demonstrations.

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Pictures of Some of Our Recent Work

Posted by mrsmelva on 14/02/2009

I will post a few pictures here that show some of the work we have been doing in the classroom. cleaning up the sequin spill

Here are the boys sweeping up the spilled sequins, except that they then spilled them off the dustpan and spent a very long time sweeping, spilling and repeating the process.

sta50144Our valentine bags, ready and waiting for the children to put in their valentines. We learned to fold paper and cut hearts to decorate the bags, and then applied that skill to making hearts for a gift for parents. Some children were absent and did not get a chance to decorate their bags before they got hung up. I tried to wait, but children were bringing valentines to school and were anxious to put them into the bags. In the picture below, a student is reading the names and putting her valentines into the bags. The bags from the morning class have been taken down and sent home.sta50172_2The next picture shows some of our homework. Most homework is either reading or simple printing practice worksheets (which many of the parents like best), but these snowmen were sent home with directions for parents to use their creativity and help their children decorate them with whatever they had at home. The mittens were to be coloured to match as a pair. The homework is displayed in the hallway with our school vision: Together we dream, believe, strive and succeed. sta50148The last picture for today shows the valentines we made for the parents. I painted the children’s hands with their choice of purple, red or pink sparkly paint and then the children pressed their handprints onto paper plates overlapping them so that they formed a heart shape. When those were dry the children folded and cut a bunch of hearts to glue around the edges of the plates. The next step was to glue a poem to a piece of construction paper and print their name with a marker. I stapled those to the plates and then the children put on valentine sequins for the final step. sta50171_2The poem that the children had glued to their papers was:

Here are my hands, and with them my heart, for I have loved you right from the start.

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Valentine’s Day Circus

Posted by mrsmelva on 13/02/2009

Well, yesterday was Valentine’s Day at school since we have no school today. That was coupled with a late start due to a planned power outage – what idiot would plan a power outage for 7-9 am on a school day, especially a school day leading into a special occasion and a long weekend? Not good planning. I went to school early, while the power was still off to clean up the mess I had left the night before, when I decided to go home at 10:30 p.m., after a full school day, report card interview, housing board meeting, Parents as Partners meeting and then getting my Valentine gifts ready for the children. We weren’t having a party per se, but in the morning and the afternoon some parents did bring in treats. We had a five ring circus going on with kids working on different phases of their valentines for their parents, reading books, finishing other works, and reading with the gym teacher (or trying to climb on the gym teacher)! I was also trying to do a report card interview with a parent (catch them when you can!) – then we put her to work helping kids cut hearts. The afternoon class that I was so frustrated with yesterday was somewhat better today. They were actually quite good for the first little while when not all of them had arrived and those who had were all busy. Then, as more arrived and we had more kids at different phases of work completion, they got pretty wild. This group is very needy with regard to teacher attention, and seem to be quite happy with any attention, even negative. I did have a small success, one girl came to tattle about another while I was dealing with assisting the special needs kids and with a spill of sequins combined with overenthusiastic clean up. I told her that she had to go back to the other girl and deal with it because I was just too busy to deal with their problems. I checked in a few minutes and they were both holding the rose and talking about the problem. My tutor and I put most of our energy into helping the kids with making their valentines and the kids who were putting valentines into bags, and tried to monitor the others as best we could given the situation. They were all very excited and energetic – they actually calmed down a little when we fed them the cake and cookies that had been brought in – so much for the “sugar makes them hyper” theory.  I am still trying to find the key to helping this group become normalized – I have noticed differences when certain students are not there; but I need to work with all of them as a group. I think that on Tuesday I will go back to the beginning of the year procedures teaching that we did for the bootroom porcedures. A lot of our issues and energy escalations seem to stem from the bootroom, at arrival, recess and at dismissal time. If we work at reinforcing the routines and procedures there, especially as they arrive, perhaps they will be a little more settled as they choose work. I hope so. I will have to put some of the small group work aside in order to develop the whole class to a point where they are normalized enough to work independently while we work with small groups. The morning group is so good at that, but they had the benefit of the full attention of two adults at the start of the year. Maybe I am expecting too much from this afternoon group, given the different start that they had. It is worth a try, since the small group work is not productive when it is constantly interrupted.

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Trying to turn off my brain!

Posted by mrsmelva on 11/02/2009

Sometimes I wish I could just turn off my brain and not think at all. I get ideas for new activities or changing activities at all hours of the day and night. This has gone on all my life, but a lot more since I started my action research project. I spend huge amounts of time thinking and rethinking about seemingly trivial matters such as how to serve butter and cheese whiz and crackers to my kindergarteners! You are probably thinking, this woman is truly cracked, worrying about such a little thing, but I have always found and am finding even more as I read more and more about Montessori education, that often it is these little things that can have a huge impact on the entire learning atmosphere and environment. I needed to consider food safety, ease of application, utensils for application, containers for each product, placement of the products, quantities available and whether or not to directly teach how to use the items or have the children experitment. My morning class is well normalized (Montessori term, describing appropriate social and learning behaviour based on courtesy and respect) and I decided to set the crackers on the snack serving table in a plastic container, and to place small containers of soft butter and of cheese whiz, with a spreader beside each on, on a plate on the eating table. Then I watched and listened. The regular snack foods and juice were also available. There was some discussion about the yucky crackers (whole wheat)! Eventually a student took a cracker and looked at the spreaders. I took two crackers, sat down and spread one with butter and one with cheese whiz. The student then tried the butter, and a few more joined in  I did need to adjust the placement of the plate on the table, at first I had it too close to the bowl of water that is there for table wiping and there was a risk of dripping water into the food and contaminating it. In the afternoon it was a complete disaster. The afternoon class is not normalized. First, two boys took all the crackers for themselves, except the ones that they dropped on the floor while trying to carry so many. Now, it is February, and the procedure of taking 1-3 items to start with has been in place and practiced since September, so this should not have been an issue. The next thing that happened was that we had overcrowding at the table. There is a procedure in place for that too. I have a card system for all centers in my classroom, where the children choose a card and place it in a pocket with their name on it before proceeding to the center. When all the cards for a given center are gone they are to choose something else. Instead of choosing something else, the children began to take cards from other children’s pockets. I corrected the issue once, and it happened again Then I became a very non-Montessori, bossy level B (for those familiar with Marvin Marshall’s Discipline Without Stress system) teacher. I shut down the snack table and then shut down all the centers. I then gave a heated lecture to the children and my tutor translated it into Dene with equal heat. We continued the day with very traditional, teacher directed, whole class lessons and survived the day, and a little learning happened, I think. Now I can’t turn my brain off, racking it to find ways to normalize this class. I have been very busy making new center materials, but I am reluctant to introduce them to this group. They have broken, lost or misused a substantial amount of center material since we returned from the Christmas break, and I am not sure what to do. I can resort to whole class lessons, but deep down I do not believe that is the best way to teach kids this age. I can strip the room to a very limited number of centers, but would have to do that every lunch hour – hmmmn, could be good for my weight problem. There are some normalized kids in the class who work well at centers and enjoy coming to me for guided reading lessons or working with the tutor on a variety of activities. In my Montessori readings, it is often suggested to go back to practical life activities, but those seem to be the ones they are most destructive with. I will ponder this issue for the next two school days, and the upcoming four day weekend, and hopefully I will come up with something that works. I know that part of the reason that this group is not normalized is that I didn’t have another adult with the group until mid November (there are 26 in the class) and I am not a fluent Dene speaker. I can whine about that all I want, but it won’t change it, what’s done is done, but I do need to find a solution to the issue, and hopefully give my poor brain a rest or a chance to create fun learning activities and to use the activities with both classes.

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