Monday, January 13, 2014

Part 2, Week 1 January 6, 2014

I wrote most of this last week, and then the week got the better of me. So here I am posting last week this week.

It is the end of our first week back at "school." It was a soft start, and a not-so-soft-start. I felt a lot like I did in August actually. Totally unprepared and not entirely sure of where we are and where we are going. I was positive that everything was NOT ready yet, and that I still had so much to study and many materials left to make. But so it is. Life moves on and moments come and go. I am just trying to remember in those moments it is a good idea to sneak in a workout here and there.

So for the part two of our week we covered:
Standardized testing -- what?? Not very Montessorian I know, but necessary here in the state of Virginia. You can read about that here.
Math: addition strip board, subtraction egg hunting, multiplication bingo - modified, golden bead subtraction, skip counting
Practical Life: matching, table washing, paper cutting, clothes hanging
Botany: bulb planting
Other: I was able to shoot, thanks to my semi-cooperative model S, a couple of pictures for you that demonstrate correct and incorrect three-finger pincer grasp, tri-pod pencil grasp, and scissor cutting. Oh yes, you'll want to stick around for this, these are the things that usually never occur to the normal among us. (Or at least not to me in my 30+++ *ahem* years of writing and cutting, and I'd like to think of myself among those who are normal.)
So, let us begin with the three finger pincer grasp. There is a right way to use those three fingers and a wrong way to use those three fingers. Above you will see the RIGHT WAY. I call this the "CRAB CLAW." Think of those machines that have that claw, that reaches into a bin of ever-elusive stuffed animals, grabs that animal you've been longing for, and then lifts it away only to drop it 17 feet from the exit shoot. Yes, that is the "crab claw." You'll want the child to use his/her finger tips with rounded fingers and a rounded hand.
My children use THIS pincer grasp. Yes, they are using all of the correct fingers, but in an entirely wrong way. S and D have funny joints that are wiggly, wobbly and like to extend backward. They are "double-jointed" so to speak. So, they brace their fingers, lock-out their joints and *presto* you get this incorrect pincer grasp. We call this "duck beak." When the child locks out the thumb joint like this for stability, they loose the rounded fingers and the rounded hand. You need that rounded finger and hand posture to be able to hand-write efficiently.

Maybe more of you are way more knowledgeable about this than I was, but I thought, oh, three finger pincer grasp, it is just that, three fingers pinching. Well it isn't. Request your child round the fingers and the hand. Model this. Re-present this as many times as is necessary. When they use the correct grip, their hand muscles will become better developed, and their finger strength will improve, thus making pencil articulation easier and more efficient. When the child locks out their thumb to lift that knob and later hold that pencil tip he/she will have to use his/her hand, wrist and arm to move the pencil to draw a circle, square or line. That is tiring. That doesn't make the child WANT to write. And then you'll have a puddle of tantrum tears like I do, each time you mention handwriting. (Though I sure hope you will not end up with tears. There are many of us, big and small, out there who do not use a "correct" pincer grasp, nor do we hold a pencil in the correct manner and get along just fine in this world. It IS better to teach your child a love of learning than to come down on them for imperfections. But we are also Guides and it is our job and responsibility to help our children prepare for success. By helping them use a correct grip we are preparing them for handwriting success and joy.) 
This is a beautiful matching game by EeBoo Life I just got in the mail. D really loves matching so I've been trying to drum up some other activities that don't require me laminating something.

S has just about exhausted my subtraction golden bead lesson plan. We've done static equations, equations with zeros, borrowing in two place values, borrowing in all different place get the idea...and she just gathers it all in like it is just that simple. Oh, yeah, subtraction...I get that.

The back story on this...there is always a back story for ice cream. We choose a large number which represents our ice cream stash and build it with our golden beads and large number cards. Then we decide how much of that quantity of ice cream we are going to eat NOW and how much we are going to SAVE for later. I pick the number cards that correspond to the quantity that we eat now. This way I get her to exchange and deal with the zero place values. We separate the ice cream we eat, and then count the ice cream golden beads that are left and that represent the difference.

Humn. Division with golden beads next? I think it would be really cool to do Division with Bows soon too. Especially after having done Division with Ninjas not so far back.
D is doing a new puzzle. It is12 pieces again this time. Still construction vehicles and things that go. He is getting really proficient at the 12 piece. It could be time to move on to more pieces.
This is S doing the addition strip board with the right board this time. S is still working away at the addition booklet 1. (My printable version is here on my Primary Printables page.) She works VERY independently on this work.

I've instituted the Month of Know Your Math Facts. T has been pretty receptive to this. S, not so much. There has been a lot of scrunchy face on her part to these "extra games" I've put out on the shelves. (S has no problem delving into the addition strip game to start that memorization of addition facts. She just must be a Montessori purist.)

Anyway, I'd like to have a month to go at it, memorize it all, or as much as we can, and then pack it in and move on. I suspect the kids will get from it what they get from it. I am not striving for perfect times tables, but rather just a bit of focus on this area before we revisit it in the lessons to come.

So, that is a long intro to this game which is the Subtraction Sentence Math Chore game from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational. I downloaded her templates and printed them out on sticky paper (Avery 8465 8 1/2"x11" shipping labels) cut them out, stuck them on pill boxes, I got at the dollar store, and onto card stock to make the spinner wheel. I rigged up the spinner wheel with a piece of wire and a paper clip, and then stuck cheap plastic pony beads I'd gotten at a big-box store in the pill box compartments. I also printed out the sentence sheets and let the kids have at it.
You spin the spinner and see which chicken box to open first. Open the chicken's box and count how many eggs/beads she laid and note it all down on the collecting eggs sheet. Then spin the spinner again and open a second chicken box. Count how many eggs she laid and then follow the instructions on the sheet. Most of the time you need to find the differences between the quantities.

T liked this activity, S didn't so much.
We also played Crazy Daisy Multiplication, also from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational. (This blogger has some really great stuff. And her downloads are all free.) I downloaded her cards, and printed them out on the same sticky paper. (Avery 8465 8 1/2"x11" shipping labels.) I cut them out with a paper cutter and stuck them on 3x5 blank index cards which I then trimmed. I also printed out the crazy daisy pages of which there are four different versions. Then T and S went to work, using bead bars to assist them skip count, they used bingo daubers to mark each daisy petal product.

Again, T thought that this was very fun and multiplied his way through the entire deck of cards. S didn't think that this was fun at all and left half way through.
  S is just beginning the double letter sounds. I am trying to approach this in the least intimidating way possible. Any whiff of "difficult" sends this little S packing...or crying.

We were revisiting the picture cards I made for T way back when. (I seriously cannot find this post...)

UPDATE: In next week's post, there is an update about what we are doing with this reluctant reader.
So from pincer grasp to scissor cutting. S is a lefty. If you've been following for a bit, you've probably gathered that I suspect that D is too. Before three days ago, S used her right hand to cut with scissors. Everything I've read about encouraging a dominant hand has told me to let lefties cut with their left hand! Scissor cutting is one of the best ways to develop the hand strength needed to hand-write properly. If S is cutting with her right hand, this hand strength development in her pencil hand ain't gonna happen. 

So I logged onto Amazon and purchased four pairs of lefty scissors. I figured D could try them too and see which suits him better, and S could have a pair upstairs and a pair in the classroom. (And now I think we need to install a pair at her grandparent's house, and one in her Sunday School bag.)

The difference when S is cutting with her left hand, and not her right hand, is VISIBLE. S said that these lefty scissors felt "weird." But her stability, strength, dexterity, and coordination cutting are visibly improved when she uses her left hand to cut. She was so proud that she could cut on the line.
So a little bit more about cutting. Another tid-bit I am sure you more-smarter-than-I readers already know, but since I am excited that I found such information I am going to share it with you anyway. There is a correct way and an incorrect way to hold your scissors. The above picture is INCORRECT. The little pinky finger should not be left out. It should be included, and the index finger should be supporting the top of the scissors and should NOT be tucked in to the finger hole.
When you exclude that poor little pinky finger, you get this squishy hand thing going on. See how the thumb makes the hand clam-close in half? There is no nice round arch to the hand. (You need that nice round arch in the hand for better handwriting.) Also in this way, the child will open the scissors with the index finger and thumb. Try that yourself. Touch your index finger to your thumb and keep your other fingers out. See how much of your hand moves. Now touch your middle, ring and pinky to your thumb. See how much your hand moves now. You are using more hand muscles when you move more fingers and THIS will help the hand hold a pencil more efficiently.

THIS is the correct way to hold your scissors. This way, the child is developing the muscles in the hand well. Somehow I never knew this. No one ever told me. And although I was lucky enough to just cut naturally the right way, my husband does it the wrong way. Which may be why I can cut out three sheets of laminated grammar cards in the time it takes him to cut out one.
So, cutting, pinching, and writing is where we are. Hopefully, as this develops so will S's confidence and inspiration to try new things.

 Here is a more formal table washing lesson. I went through the process which you can find here...
I demonstrated on half of the table and let D do the other half. His "half" is a little different. 
 And he varied his sequence and technique a little bit too. Notice he is consistently working with his left hand.

 He was working with his left hand until he decided to just wash hands for a long while.

 He soaped and lathered, and rinsed, for about 20 minutes. 

 And then we cleaned up using similar steps in the video. Since there were quite a few items that were soaked from his "washing" he needed to hang them to dry. So I brought out this clothes rack for him and some clothes pins, though I now see that these are a little too small. He needs regular sized clothes pins. I purchased this clothes rack, (though, could have probably made one at home very much like this) from Montessori Services. 

 The clothes pins are from Casey's Wood, and the laundry basket is from Montessori Services. The washing basin, pitcher and plastic tub are from Montessori Services. The small scrub brush is from a local big box store, and the sponge is a regular one cut down to size. The soap my dad got from his hotel stays when he is away on business. The soap dish is from a local home goods chain store, and the enameled pail is from a church sale. The black "rug" under the table and his work space is from Staples, and it has a water-proof rubber bottom. It is typically usually as one of those transition rugs you'd have in high-traffic areas but these work really well for a water space in a fully carpeted room. (I have one in front of the sink area too.)

 S received an amaryllis bulb and pot this Christmas and here she is setting it up. She needed a lot of assistance this day, but we got it in the pot at the right height and now she is waiting for it to grow and bloom.

 Here D and T are working on skip counting and their multiplication facts with the multiplication magnets.


  1. Thank so much for taking the time to document all of the things you are learning. I am just starting Montessori and people like you are making my journey so much nicer. There are so many little things I would never think of (at least not until they became an issue). Anyway, Thanks again!

    1. Thanks so much for coming by and taking the time to comment. I means a lot to me to know what my words and our experiences can help someone else along on their Montessori Journey.

  2. Where did you get all your golden bead materials, especially the wooden thousand cubes and hundred squares? I am contemplating investing in some soon, but haven't decided where to go for them yet.

    1. I purchased our golden bead materials from Montessori Outlet. I can't remember exactly what the cost was, but it was less than Alisons'. And I got free shipping. And I was ordering a great number of materials for the classroom at the same time. Their price for all the golden bead materials, and this includes all the wooden hundred squares, and wooden thousand cubes, and large and small number cards in boxes is now $264. The company is located out west, so shipping to where I am on the east coast isn't always cheap.

      The quality is not bad. Of all the materials I received, none was damaged or defective. All didn't smell weird. There was only a small color variation in the ten bars. I got individual acrylic beads. For my children, they didn't notice this. I also got our decanomial beads and bead cabinet materials from them too. So most all the bead colors match. I never thought about making this since I needed to create a classroom for three children in 8 months and we had the budget since we weren't paying for two private school tuitions.

      I don't have a lot of experience with IFIT or Adena or other retailers for that matter. Alisons is pretty good quality, okay customer service, but their prices are higher than Montessori Outlet. So far MO has been okay for our family.

    2. Thanks! I am hoping to get some new materials soon (although I think I may be more excited than my children!)