Friday, January 17, 2014

Part 2 Wk 2, January 13, 2014

Not a lot seemed to take place this second half of the week. I am definitely struggling with the freedom of choice thing. This is because there doesn't seem to be much in the way of independence to take advantage of that freedom. There are days, no, multiple days, with no apparent interests, little focus, no enthusiasm, no self-direction, no motivation, and interest in only the primary materials.

I know the reason I am not seeing children doing work independently is because of me, the guide, and the fact I am not doing what I need to be doing as a guide. You can read that to mean I haven't figured out yet what to do as a guide to get them to work independently and responsibly.

So, I am going back to the books, albums, papers, blogs, message boards, and every other resource I can learn from out there...the Keys of the Universe Theory album already may have me going in the right direction. (I completely agree with this post at Montessori Nuggets...when I am wondering about what is going on in the classroom I go back to the theory books to get guidance about how to handle the challenging situation.)

UPDATE: Friday flowed much, much better. I implemented a couple of aids for T and S so they now have a stand alone visual of what they need to accomplish. I know from past experience this leads to a little bit of tunnel vision, where the children focus on those works ONLY and never dwell in what is interesting to them. I hope that with some practice at time-management that they will see that there is a chunk of left-over time at the end that they can use to re-visit or explore another subject or topic that is of pure interest. I do believe that a sense of accomplishment and an improved work ethic will help build their confidence in the classroom and lead to increased freedom of choice.

Here is a bit of what happened in our classroom the second half of the week:
Language: Spelling
Math: Money, Time, Subtraction, Skip Counting
Practical Life: Hand washing
Other: Handwriting, Work Plans, Work Journals
S, the girl who hates handwriting practice FINISHED her first handwriting book. It was a print-first-then-cursive scheme, but it was for lefties only and that made it special to her. (And it turned out to be the most appropriate book as well. I was in a teacher's store today and asked about handwriting books for lefties, and they said that they could order a book that was for both lefties and righties. Literally the top half of the page was how to write in cursive for righties, and the bottom half of the book was how to write in cursive for lefties. WHO is going to do that entire book?) 

I just put in an order with a company in the UK for book 2 and 3 in this Left-Hand Writing Skills series. 

Her confidence in this area has improved IMMENSELY, and confidence for S is key. If she has the confidence, even if it is a difficult task, she'll find a way and keep at it. If she has already fallen into the pit of "I-Can't" well then it is game-over.
I am realizing that there are a number of skills I THOUGHT the kids learned in their Primary classes last year but either didn't get to or now don't remember. Telling time is one of those subjects that has the kids looking at me like deer in headlights. (Sorry, I was raised in New England where we had to wear blaze orange for a couple months each autumn whenever we went outside.)

Anyway, over the long break, I made these clocks for the kids. I thought it would be a fun refresher, but it turns out that they need a full-on lesson on how to tell time. Anyone have an album page or two that gives a lesson on this?

I made several sets of clocks. The red ones are time stamps on the hour and the blue ones are time stamps on the half hour. I also made quarter hour increments in yellow, five minute increments in green, and random times in grey. I found this cool site,, that will let you customize your clock and print it out for free. The partitioned acrylic boxes are from Target's dollar section.

T was teaching S how to read the on-the-hour times. 
And the washing again! This time I did the handwashing lesson with little D. I think he is still a little young for these lessons. Not in terms of being able to do all the steps that lead from beginning to end, but the fact that the water is so enticing to him, and he LOVES the sensorial feel of the soap on his slippery hands. He can wash his hands for half an hour. But it gets messy because he likes to feel the water, rather than the focus on the task.
My smock-hating-boy will put on a smock for a washing exercise. The soap is a hotel soap my dad picked up on a business trip. (Thanks Dad.) The soap dish is just a little dish I had left over from my wedding. The nail brush is actually part of a Dollar Store pedicure kit. And the pump lotion bottle is from the Dollar Store as well and it came in a set of "overnight mini-toiletry containers." I was wondering about the viscosity of the lotion that would be right for a pump, so I chose to use a lotion that came from a pump container, rather than one that came from a squeeze bottle.
 Noona was taking a picture of his washing.

D likes to switch hands an awful lot so I've been encouraging him to use his left-hand more consistently. I figure if he is indeed right handed he'll feel that the left side isn't strong enough and he'll switch and use his right hand.

T was right handed from the very start. 2 years old--right handed. No question about that. But S chose her dominant hand much later, 3 1/2 - 4 yrs and I feel like were are playing "catch-up" all the time. Most Montessori trained children would have been writing by that age already. She is just starting to hand-write at a few weeks shy of 6 yrs! I'd like to encourage D to choose a hand a bit earlier than S, if he is willing.

This boy knew someone was taking a picture. 

As I was saying above, there are some topics I believe the children either don't remember from their Primary classes, or never did in their Primary classes. Monetary computation is one of those topics.

S looks like I am crazy when I mention coins and bills. She loves the super expensive Uggs her God-Mother bought for her but she doesn't see the need to manage the currency end of things. 

T and I were discussing how much it would cost our family to ride the Metro train into the city. He did his best coming up with this product: $4.50 * 5 = $20.250

I guess he was on the right track, but not really. I suggested golden beads and we got back on track. With each golden bead equaling one penny, and 100 pennies, or a single hundred square, equaling a dollar bill, we set to work making five groups of 450 cents. He said that each group would have four hundred squares, or four dollars, and five ten-bars, or 50 cents. Then we smooshed them all together (something the kids like to do with partial products) and we started counting the ten-bars. Two times he counted 10 ten-bars (or 10 groups of 10 pennies) and exchanged them for a hundred square (or one dollar bill.) Afterward, he was left with five ten-bars or 50 cents. He tallied all his hundred squares and found that he had 22 of them. Finally he wrote down: $4.50 * 5 = $22.50. And that is how he figured out how much it would cost for our family to ride the Metro train into the city to see the Washington Auto Show 2014.
D's new puzzles arrived in the mail AFTER "school." The 24 pieces proved much more challenging for him. It was a good switch at this time.

Oh, the spelling challenge. This week I didn't specify that T needed to choose DIFFERENT spelling activities each day to practice his spelling words. So he chose the same activity everyday and it happened to be the one that required a lot more thought about body movement than letters. So this is what we got at the end of the week, NO CLUE how each word is spelled.

T was very upset that he didn't get very many right. I explained that this was simply a check-in to see how we are doing. There is no number of words we NEED to get right, and this result just indicates to us that we need to practice a little bit more. He seemed semi-satisfied with that answer. I wrote more about our spelling activities here.
S chose to do the chicken egg subtraction game as one of her math facts exercises. (You can read more about this exercise here.)
Then EVERYONE got in on the hundred board skip counting. D was skip counting backward by random prime number intervals. (Just kidding.) With that left hand! I think his hand dominance is emerging.

Sometimes we still like to use two hands. Good thing for those under-lays! These daubers bleed through if you are 2 1/2 and press REALLY REALLY HARD.
This is S's amaryllis bulb! It is growing!! The picture above was taken 1/17/14.The picture below was taken 1/13/14.
These things grow FAST! S is so excited to see the small changes each day. I caught her "feeling" her plant at least five times today. Little girl fingers were all over that new shoot!
Our HAM. S is reading Dwyer sound folder phonogram words.
I want to show our new calendar situation. I pulled out our church calendar and stuck that on the wall in the mid-term. (I hope to find another regular calendar that doesn't have so much written in it. This one has all the Holy Days, Feast Days, Mass information, etc. and there is just A LOT of text. So that is why I want a "regular one" without all the clutter.) I hung this new calendar because I converted our "Primary looking" calendar to a work-plan chart, kind of like the one that My Boy's Teacher set up for her children. 

S is red, T is blue. I intended to use tacks to hang these cards and that is why they each have a hole punched at the top. After considering that I needed to run to the store just to get tacks, this pocket style seemed more appropriate. Plus, I figured it was time that T and S both could start using a regular calendar since they both have already learned the days of the weeks and the months of the year. Now they can use a calendar as a reference rather than a learning tool.
This simple classroom change REALLY REALLY helped direct both T and S toward work on Friday and each child was finally able to flow from one work to the next almost quite nicely. 

Each child sticks his/her work cards in the pockets under the day marker, and then flips them over when that work is finished. I made small 1 1/2" sq card stock squares with the works on printed labels that had been trimmed. I purposely made each "work" label categorical so that the child would need to choose a work within that category. (I also gave each child a list of works for each category. For example, under Math Facts, T can do: skip counting, division boards, multiplication magnets, etc.) I also have them note their activities, more specifically which works they do, in their journals. I haven't necessitated they note their start and stop times yet, partly because we need to work on telling time, and partly because they need so much help to remember to write what it is that they are doing, or did do. We'll get there.

The reason this work plan only has works for Friday is because we started using this work plan on, well, Friday. Next week, you'll see it filled up after we plan our week on Monday.
On the left is T's journal, which is almost complete for the day. And on the left is S's journal, and this isn't complete either. The first work item on S's list is "math facts egg subtraction" in case you needed some translation.
T is reading Dwyer sound folders to D.
And then both boys figured out I had the camera.
Then D went into hiding and spurred a giggling session.

And that was our week. 

We are taking the Monday off since Daddy will be home and I doubt we'd get much done with him in the classroom. (And because I have so much reading to do.) So we'll see you back here Tuesday. Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. I am going to have to break down and get a pocket chart - I have tried planners, but they are so easy to ignore or conveniently *not find* when they need them, and I need something that is very visual for them, and also easy for me to check, so that I don't have to try and find their planners as well. And that way, we are getting the work in that I know they need to do, and also have to freedom to choose when they do it! :)

  2. I hear you on the pocket chart lament. They are over priced at best. I was trying to figure out another way to do it besides this. If you have a cork board, or a wipe board, or a magnet board that could work too. I was going to use an extra cork board we had and tack up work tickets to it. (But somehow I lost all my tacks, they just disappeared, and I haven't gotten to the store to get more.) Or a poster board with velcro bits on it, and velcro tickets. I guess all of these ideas in the end are "wall chart" type ideas... But you don't necessarily need to get a $20 pocket calendar for just this. They are so expensive. I got ours at a local Teacher store (which is over priced) but I had a coupon for half off.

    I just need to make sure the younger one isn't feeling too left out now, since HE wants his own. Maybe something with photos or hand-drawn pictures he can choose from a basket and post up? He actually said, "what about mine?" to me when I gave this to T and S. :)

    Thanks for coming by! Are you feeling better?

  3. I bought our pocket charts for $1 in the Target dollar spot. Wish they had them regularly. Look for them in August.

    S is such a beauty!

    LOVE the pix of D putting all puzzles together and laying them out like a display. Me Too used to do that :)

    1. You are right, I think that your pocket chart is different from ours. I've seen this kind for sequencing cards. Ours is a calendar design and it is rather large, which fits well for one-chart, two kids. I've seen the smaller pocket chart on amazon for $10 or there about. Still way more than your terrific dollar find!

      S would be very pleased to hear you say that, she spends an enormous amount of time in the morning "preening" as my husband calls it. She carefully does everything but her hair.

  4. Oh, yes! Thank you for asking! I almost bought a pocket chart in the Target Dollar Spot section, and really regret not doing so now! I haven't checked our teacher's supply store, though. I will have to do that!

  5. We found ours a few years ago in August at the target dollar spot. We've moved away from the visual work plan to having a daily basket with must do daily stuff and then my 7 yr old is free to choose whatever for the rest of the day. We are trying it out now, let's see how things continue!

    1. Thanks for this tid bit. I am always looking for the next step. Your suggestion is right, that by focusing on the visual work plan, the children tend to only attempt those items they see. My intent is to have them use this visual as a "must-do" list and then be able to choose what ever work they want after they've done their "responsibility work." I think our visual will work for a bit, especially since S is a little younger that yours. I'd eventually like to get them to the journal planning only down the road.

      Another aspect I am trying to incorporate here is the fact that we need to be a little tied to what the state public schools mandate. For the most part, the children are way ahead, but I just want to make sure we are covering our bases for standardized testing and if per chance, anything were to happen to necessitate public schooling. By instituting this visual, I hope to keep both older ones aware of which works are "need-to-do."

      Thanks for coming by!

  6. I have been seriously wondering if my Logan is left handed but not using it because every thing is set up for right!! He has been struggling with using his pointer finger on his right hand correctly and even though he chooses it more often, when he chooses the left hand he does better work. I just told Tim this week that I wanted to watch and see if we should be encouraging him to go left more. He is just 3.5 now but I'm not exactly sure where to go with him to encourage continues strength with activities that meet his interest and challenge him as well without being too hard. We are figuring it out but it is an adventure for sure!

    My albums have both time (clock and calendar) and money as early cultural work for E1- typical start grade of 1. I will admit with most of my kids, we have picked this one up through practical experience and practice instead of lessons. They seem more receptive to that.

    1. Heidi, how interesting. I was surprised that S turned out to be a lefty since my husband and I are both righties. With D he is loving the switching, left right, right left. And does both fairly well. Through careful observation, I've noticed that he always picks up a pencil with his left hand but will switch if that hand gets tired. But that pencil always migrates back. Cutting he likes his right hand, but I believe that is because we had right-handed scissors at that time. And for eating, finger foods are still both hands, but we help a little with the fork or spoon. My husband usually has better luck offering him food, and will load up his utensil so he can grab it and eat. If you leave the fork on his left, he'll use his left. If you leave the fork on his right, he'll use his right.
      With puzzles, he uses his right if the piece is on his right, and his left if the piece is on his left. This makes me think that his w-sitting is preventing him for doing as much cross-the-mid-line work as he needs to be doing to develop that hand-dominance.

      I'll be interested in following Logan's journey!

      Which albums do you have? And are they primary albums? I think last time I was looking for clock work, I was only looking in my elementary albums. And I do agree with the practical life experience lessons on this subject, though, the other day I asked T what time it was, and he said, "the one hand is between the 12 and the 1 and the other hand is between the 7 and the 8." I was able to decipher that it was 12:35 PM-ish, because I could see the sun outside the window. :)