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

Archive for March, 2009

Getting Back to “Normal”

Posted by mrsmelva on 30/03/2009

Well, the individual assessments for report cards are basically done. Three students still need to be tested on both math skills and alphabet/phonemic awareness and one just on math. We finished up the rest today – yeehaw! It is hard on the kids having to work independently and quietly so that we can hear the kids’ responses. In the morning I had a chance to introduce the red and white beans to 7 kids. They will be open as job time works in a few days. The kids who tried them really liked the work and all but two caught on right away to what to do. Of the other two, one caught on after some help, the other didn’t yet. He really didn’t make the connection between the beans and the recording sheet. I am not sure if he didn’t understand the task or is just very used to doing his own thing. I will have to work with him on it tomorrow. The cutting job has been so popular that our collection of cut strips was overtaking the container so I showed the kids how to glue them to make chains, and they loved that work, repeating the four colour pattern that I started. I did that with a few kids at job time and then after recess when I was doing the red and white beans, the tutor did the chains with the other kids. Tomorrow we will need to join te individual chains while maintaining the pattern. Tomorrow afternoon I will introduce some new jobs and open some of the old ones. I will change the floor puzzles so that should pique the interest of some while being a job that they basically know how to do so I can help those who choose a new one.

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Another Good Afternoon

Posted by mrsmelva on 24/03/2009

Yesterday we had a very good afternoon. We continued with the colouring pages as they came in, and the tutor was able to pull some students for individual math assessments. I did homework folders, monitored the class and had a couple of kids finish some unfinished work that had been sitting for a while. From there I moved to totally teacher directed lessons, a song to review of letters and sounds, counting to 100 with the chart and a big book story, The Mitten by Jan Brett. That brought us to recess time and recess would be followed by a field trip to the northern store to see some furs, specifically badger and raccoon fur since the children thought the badger in the story was a raccoon.  During the reading I showed them the cover of The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and asked if it was a badger on the cover, they knew it was a raccoon. We went to see the furs and had a great time. We did have some rough behaviour while walking and in the bootroom so we discussed that when we returned to class and prepared a thank you letter for the store. Today we will draw and write about the experience and the furs that we saw. (The morning class had time to do that yesterday)

furs

furs

Here are the furs hanging on the wall of the store office. Next is the raccoon’s tail, then the faces of the raccoon and badger.

raccoon tail

raccoon tail

raccoon face

raccoon face

badger face

badger face

The children were very well behaved in the store. They enjoyed the chance to see the furs. We also got to see a silver fox and and arctic fox. They were able to touch the furs. We made the connection between trapping the furs and snaring rabbits.

writing about the experience

writing about the experience

Today we are going ice fishing after recess. After the last ice fishing trip I gave each child a small photo to take home. Yesterday when I told them we would be going fishing again they asked if they would get a picture – donations for ink anyone!?!

Boring bulletin board, NOT!

Boring bulletin board, NOT!

This very plain looking bulletin board is homework sent after our previous fishing trip. There were two boxes, one for the parent and one for the child to draw/write about ice fishing. The children very eagerly go to the bulletin board to share their work and others’. It may look plain, but it has a lot of meaning for the children and they are very proud of their parents’ work as well as their own.

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Rainbows and Shamrocks

Posted by mrsmelva on 21/03/2009

Here are pictures of the directed drawing rainbows and the tlclessons.com style shamrocks that we made earlier this week. The first day the children just drew the rainbows, step by step using Mr. Sketch brand markers in the 12 pack, which I love because they offer blue and indigo. The next day I demonstrated drawing the sun with a marker, colouring the sky with a crayon, adding raindrops with a special silver crayon and then cutting three hearts to make a shamrock. Following the demonstration of all the steps, the children had to complete the work independently. Here are the results:sta50154sta50155sta501562sta501571I was very pleased with the children’s work on this activity and they were very proud of their work. I do not consider this art, it is science in reinforcing the sequence of colours and how a rainbow is formed, and math in folding the paper in half, cutting the hearts and arranging them in the correct spatial orientation, and learning to focus on directions and remember them in order to complete a work. Although it was teacher directed there were some Montessori elements in the preparation of the environment and in the expectations for the children to work independently after the initial presentation and to clean up when they were done.

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A Good Afternoon!

Posted by mrsmelva on 21/03/2009

We had a very good afternoon yesterday. It was still very teacher directed, but overall it went quite well. We started with colouring sheets which we had also started with the day before. Now, I rarely use colouring sheets so the students found these to be a treat, and I needed something for everyone to do while the stragglers arrived and got their stuff put away. The part that they really liked yesterday was that I had set out their literacy center books and they had put their pages from Thursday in them the day before, including partially finished pictures. They were actually very excited to get the opportunity to finish the pictures and then to start a new one. I had a selection of pictures for them to choose from. Some chose to repeat the same picture, and some chose a different one. They were much more willing to stop colouring at clean up time when they realized that the pictures woul be in their books for another day. I did this activity with both classes, as I needed the morning class to be ready for the next directed lesson also. The next lesson was making a rainbow by cutting circles from squares in the correct colour sequence. I had cut all the squares, but rather than preparing the trays for the children, I set the squares out at the front of the room, in sequence for the children to place on their trays. I knew that it would take longer, but wanted to work on patience and waiting in line  without pushing. I was also working on paying attention to the directions the first time. I carefully demonstrated the procedure and then had the children start the work. I monitored the line carefully, with a few reminders about waiting patiently and they did it well. (we did have a slightly smaller class, as a few kids were away). We monitored closely while they worked but did not help. When kids asked what to do I reminded them that I had already shown them what to do and that they needed to think in their brain and figure it out. They either did that or checked with a friend. The only intervention we (myself and the tutor) made was to point out if they messed up the sequence, by asking them to check it and fix it, but we did not tell the children how to fix it, and a mini lesson given by the tutor to a special needs boy and a girl who arrived late, they needed a review of how to cut circles by snipping corners off the squares. Out of 42 children, there were only 4 out of sequence rainbows that needed fixing. Following rainbow making  the kids went out for recess and then went sliding for gym. They had a wonderful time sliding and came in bubbling over with descriptions of going over the high jump. In the morning they went back to jobs and I had time for a reading group. Snack was open and they consumed 3.5 litres of juice! In the afternoon there wasn’t enough time for this, and they have only been having group snack for awhile since we had “issues” at the snack table. I prepared snack while they were outside, but decided that I would have them walk in groups to pour their own juice at the snack table and walk back to the circle with their juice. I want to reinforce appropriate snack behaviour and procedures so that eventually we can have the snack table open again. We passed out napkins and snacks and only two kids started eating right away. We are working on the social skill of waiting until everyone is served before eating, and on waiting in general, since this group is even more egocentric than most 5/6 year olds. Then I called a group at a time to come pour their juice and return to the circle. They all did this successfully. We had one overpour spill at the table, but no other spills at all. Not bad for 3 litres of juice! They did well at lining up with their garbage and empty cups and coming to the kitchen to toss the trash and put the cups in the dishwasher. The only glitch was some running when they returned to the circle (the tutor had gone to take the special needs students to the van). It was 3:20 on a Friday, so I guess I can accept that, although I did give them a reminder that it wasn’t safe and they settled somewhat, so I returned to dishwasher supervision. I think with this group the mistake I made was giving them too much independence without enough reinforcement of procedures. They are less mature than the morning group, and less able to wait or work without adult attention, so I need to address those issues and move more slowly. The catch is that while they are less mature, they are bright kids and I need to couple their need for structure and direction with their need for intellectual challenge and with my need to work with small groups on reading and other skills. Once I get the testing for report cards done I will be introducing some more challenging works (slowly and methodically) and will try again to have them working while the tutor and I work with smaller groups. I am going to ask (wish me luck) if I can have an extra adult for a few afternoons while we re-establish those routines. That will only work somewhat, as it will be the student support worker, and she can be called away at any time, but even if she is available a bit it will help to have someone provide reminders of the routines and procedures while we are busy with small groups. I think that I may need to set up some sort of visual schedule for this class so that they know when their turn will be to be in a small group,  haven’t done this before and haven’t had a need to, but since this group seems to need a lot of attention from adults, perhaps knowing when they will have their turn will help them be more independent and respectful of others’ turns. We shall see.

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Don’t dump the teacher off the sled!

Posted by mrsmelva on 17/03/2009

Those were my words to the elder driving the ski doo as I stood on the back of a sled full of kids on our way out to the lake to go ice fishing. Our school is on the lake shore, but to get to the fishing spot we had to go over some steep and bumpy snow drifts and down the bank onto the ice. Last year was my first time riding on the back of the sled in this way and I was terrified. Today I was still a bit nervous, but not terrified. It was quite cold this morning when we went out, the windchill was -28 but the kids were warmly dressed. One boy caught a fish. In the afternoon it was warmer, with the wind blowing the lake snow up to meet the clouds, descirbed as “fuzzy” by one of my students. In the afternoon the tutor and two of the boys caught fish. We all had a wonderful time. first fish!Here is our proud morning fisherman!  And here is the fish, waiting to be cleaned and put in the freezer until the Easter feast.the fishThe next picture shows the elder cleaning the ice out of the hole. The holes freeze up very fast and the ice needs to be broken and scooped out regularly.cleaning the holesHere’s one sled full of kids in the afternoon, in the morning I didn’t get a picture of everyone in the sleds.off to the fishing holesAnd here’s the other sled of kids. I had to stand on the very back, hanging onto the black handle. another sled, more kidslooking toward homeThis is looking toward shore, at my house among others. I am so lucky to live on the lakeshore. We were quite a ways out so I used the zoom on the camera. The next picture shows the school, (the big green part is the gym), and the church.school & church from the lakeThe last fishing picture is of the other elder holding the fish that my grandson caught! Note the “high-tech” fishing rod in his other hand. (hockey stick handle).fishWe had a wonderful time out fishing. The children really enjoyed themselves and they learned about fishing. Some had prior experience fishing with their families, but some had not been ice fishing before. Before going ice fishing we had a good lesson. It was very teacher directed at the start, but then the children worked independently to finish their work. It involved managing a lot of materials: a picture from yesterday, a pack of markers, a pack of crayons, a silver crayon, scissors, glue and a tray with four pieces of construction paper on it. Yesterday we did a directed drawing of a rainbow with markers. Today I demonstrated drawing the sun, colouring the sky and drawing raindrops with the silver crayon. Then they watched me create a shamrock by folding and cutting three green squares into hearts, glue them to a yellow square,make a stem from the scraps, print my name and the word shamrock and clean everything up. I demonstrated everything before they started and then let them work. Overall, I was very pleased with the results both in terms of the products and their work habits. They worked steadily and there weren’t too many missed steps or directions. My plan was to mount the work in the hallway after school, but as I was taking the previous work down we had an air quality problem and I had to go home. I hope to get them up tomorrow and take a picture. The rainbows and the shamrock squares are the same size and I plan to hang them quilt style on the wall. While you wouldn’t see an entire class making the same project like that in a true M0ntessori program, the prepared environment (trays and other materials laid out and ready) and the presentation of the lesson followed by independent work and teacher observations are Montessori elements that I used. Both groups were very proud of their work. I expect that they will be even prouder when they see it hanging in the hallway. Some of the children who struggled with the directions asked for help, I gave as little direct help as possible, generally trying to refocus them and remind them of what they had seen when I did the presentation. Some were not paying attention during the presentation, and when they struggled to complete their work, they began to realize that they should have paid more attention. I did warn them at the start that I would only show them once what to do. I plan to do some more activities in this manner in the near future,  I think it will help to settle the kids as they begin to realize the importance of paying attention and the value of it when they produce good quality work.

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Too Cold to Fish!

Posted by mrsmelva on 11/03/2009

It has been very cold this week. Today it is -44, the lowest temperature that registers on my thermometer, yesterday nothing registered at all! There have been no buses, but I am still gettting half the class attending. I am using the opportunity to reinforce procedures and expectations with the afternoon group in a smaller group, it seems to be helping, I hope that it carries over when the whole class is attending. In the mornings I am able to do more reading and alphabet reinforcement. It was science fair yesterday. The kids were very proud to see their rabbit work displayed and they enjoyed seeing the other displays. When the afternoon kids arrived they asked right away, “where’s the box,” referring to the large box that had their rabbit writings displayed for the science fair. They were very proud of their work. Today I will return their work for them to put into their writing books and I will give them a few minutes to read their writings to themselves and each other. I have noticed that when I omit this step they try to do it anyway, they really like looking back at their previous work and re-reading it. I have given our photos to the Dene language teacher to use in her classes. I must remember to suggest to her and to admin. that she should have a camera and printer dedicated to her program. I just use my own, so that I can use it whenever I want to and always know where it is. I have a few pictures from the science fair, but they are still on the camera. No time for posting them this morning.

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Cold Day, Small Class, Good Afternoon

Posted by mrsmelva on 10/03/2009

We had another very cold day yesterday, -40 and no buses. The up side of that was having a much smaller (normal size in the good old days) class. In the morning I read with a lot of students before they went to gym and Dene class (ice fishing was postponed to next week due to the cold). In the afternoon we worked on our science fair writing and display. I observed the children closely while they did their number cube work in the afternoon. One little boy who really struggles with maintaining focus, started working quite well, building long stacks, then measuring them against the mat and subtracting cubes as needed. Then another boy came to sit beside him and chat to him, that destroyed his focus so I asked the other boy to move. The first boy then struggled but did not regain his focus, so I asked the tutor (her designated student was absent due to no bus) to sit behind him. As soon as she was sitting there, although she didn’t intervene in his work, he began to regain his focus and complete his work. I think today I will have her take him away from the group and do the work side by side with him, showing him how to build up the stacks. When the cubes were done we turned to our writing a bout rabbits for science fair. We had startd with drawings on Friday, but did not complete them. It was time to complete the drawings and add some writing. Most of the kids tried to make some words, a few wrote actual words, quite a few had random letters and a few had wiggly, almost cursive style lines. One didn’t write anything, kept saying that he couldn’t until another student pointed out the word he wanted on the science fair display, which he then copied, very neatly. Another seemed to have a similar block but asked, after seeing some of the other students’ work, “can we write any kind of words?” and then he put together a string of letters and was very proud of his work. Despite the behaviour issues and time constraints, I must do more writing with this group. One little girl drew a rabbit burrow and wrote, Here is my home, completely independently, I need to move her along from there, while also moving the letter stringers into phonetic spelling and the cursive line group into letters. rabbit writingHere are the kids writing away. Some have books open for reference, and they are using pencil crayons to add colour to their drawings, a new extension of writing for this group. It was a good afternoon.

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Some New Works

Posted by mrsmelva on 08/03/2009

Easter number quantity

This is a math work that I made using little egg baskets and Easter themed erasers. I wrote the numbers 1-10 on the small baskets, both inside and on the fronts. The children will place the correct number of erasers in each basket. The next work is nomenclature cards that I made for each letter of the alphabet. I have three pictures/words for each letter and they are in the basic three part style of Montessori nomnclature cards – control card with word and picture, word card and picture card. The container is wood, with an elastic and button closure – from Dollarama.nomenclature cardsThe children will do this work on a receiving blanket, since it is too big for our trays. I had signed out some works from the book room that were too big for the trays so I sent out a request for blankets and we now have quite a few for these larger jobs. Here is a close up of the container.card containerI also got some very cute magnetic bunnies and eggs to decorate.  I set them up on cookie sheets, a very easy work to prepare!magnetic bunnymagnetic egg decoratingI haven’t put these works out yet, we have been very busy with our trip to the bush to check rabbit snares and then eating rabbit soup. We are scheduled to go ice fishing on Tuesday, so I hope that the weather improves. I have also introduced a work to the whole class (I know that whole class activities are not part of a true Montessori classroom, but I have introduced this in this manner due to time constraints and also to help with some of the issues I have had in the afternoons.) The work is building stacks of cubes from 1-10, on a laminated paper mat. At first several children just fooled around with the cubes or talked with their neighbours, but eventually they realized that they needed to get to work. I did a review presentation building the stacks in complete silence very quickly and noticed a big improvement in the way the children did the work. In the afternoons it seems to help to calm the children when they all need to do the same thing to start the day and it is very structured and predictable. As they develop proficiency they are also developing a sense of accomplishment and this is carrying over at least a little into their other work. I have also noticed that if a certain child arrives early and starts to work before some of the others he and some of the others have a better day. I am still not pulling small groups myself in the afternoon, I have the tutor pulling some and am spending my time with the rest, circulating as they work. I do need to get back to pulling groups, but not until the others are more settled in their work. In the morning they work well independently, but in the afternoon they just aren’t ready for that. The morning group do have their moments too, and had gotten very loud while making tall towers with the mega blocks and tipping them on purpose with a lot of noise. Miss Jackie and I gave them a demonstration of how to work with the blocks and they settled down again.

Here is a picture of one of the rabbits that were caught. The children’s writing and drawings of rabbits really improved after the close up look at the real  rabbit.rabbitCheck out the rabbit’s teeth:rabbit teeth“Taking off his pants” – skinning the rabbit for soup!skinning rabbitAnd here’s the soup, ready to be eaten with fresh, hot bannock.sta50175A bit out of sequence, but here is a picture of one of the rabbit snares. Last year when I needed a picture of a snare for my visual metaphor for Stephen Kemp’s class, I had to get a picture from google, now I have my own. Maybe I should re-do my metaphor – beats cleaning my kitchen floor!rabbit snareThe kids were fascinated by the poop! Typical kids. They also liked seeing the rabit tracks:rabbit tracksTomorrow is another day – hopefully a good one. The kids will go to gym, but not to Dene class as the schedule has been altered for ice fishing. That will give us the opportunity to finish up our writing for our class science fair project about rabbits. The morning class (half hour longer than the afternoon) has had two opportunities to draw and write about rabbits and on Friday they categorized their work into the topics of homes, food, babies or enemies. The afternoon class hs only had one writing/drawing opportunity so they will finish theirs and categorize them tomorrow. We will also categorize the photos and glue them to the backdrop. We have concluded that we are enemies of the rabbits since we eat them.

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