Friday, January 24, 2014

Part 2 Wk 3, January 20, 2014

It has been a COLD week here on the east coast. We aren't used to temps like these down here, south of the Mason-Dixon line. I got little D out from the house, down the walk, into the van, and buckled up, before my hands started to hurt they were so cold. I figured it is because I am getting older.

Here is a bit of what we did the latter half of the week:
Language: spelling with moveable alphabet CVC words, Dwyer sound folder reading, cursive
Math: Addition strip game, telling time, skip counting
History: Fundamental Needs of Humans - follow-up work food chart
Botany: flower puzzle
Sensorial: Square of Pythagoras
Practical Life: Table washing
Other: Puzzles and more puzzles 
S started doing her spelling with the moveable alphabet. There are a couple of reasons I have her starting here. First, is that she needs practice segmenting sounds. And, since she can read CVC words, she can check her segmenting and spelling work by sounding out the word she just spelled. (Most Montessori children learn to write before they read, but it didn't work out this way for S. So for MOST Montessori trained children, this read-to-check-thing wouldn't work.)

Anyway, another reason we started here is that she is comfortable with CVC words so this "new" activity wasn't going to be scaring her back into the forest right off. We'll work through these and then through some short and easy phonograms and blends. Taking baby steps (and custom materials) seems to be the way to build her confidence. (How come we can't use a particular scheme and sequence and just do that? She likes the tailored-for-S lesson plan I guess.)

And lastly, I wanted her to start recognizing the cursive letters. As you can see below, she isn't there quite yet. Her Lefty-Hand-Writing-Skills booklet teaches print first and subsequent volumes introduce cursive. Nevertheless, I think as much cursive exposure she can get, the better.
After S constructs her words, we go over them together sounding out exactly how they are spelled on the mat. After sounding out the words she spelled, S was able to identify all of her errors. And to my surprise, she was able to fix them without any difficulty and without tears! At the end, she exclaimed, "I solved the mystery!" Many of these errors I believe were from classroom interruptions, aka D's antics, (like b-g-a for "bag") and because she didn't recognize the correct cursive symbol, (like p-e-v for "pan.")
Putting away the moveable alphabet can also be a useful exercise as well. First the child will collect all of one letter from the work space and put it back in the box. It helps them know and remember where in the box that symbol resides.
This is one of the 24 piece floor puzzles D does in a few minutes by himself, almost daily. I rotate puzzles to try to prolong interest, but this rate of puzzle consumption is nothing I've seen ever before!

And another 24 piece floor puzzle that apparently feels slippery.
D also did all of our botany puzzles as well...first the tree puzzle, then the flower puzzle, and lastly the leaf puzzle--all in one session.

S finished her first Addition Tables booklet and is onto the number two. The difference between them is that number one has each equation in ascending order (1+1, 1+2, 1+3, 1+4....9+7, 9+8, 9+9) and the next booklet has them in semi-random order organized by first addend (1+9, 1+4, 1+3, 1+8...) You can download my versions of these books on my Primary printables page.

Oh, the sparkle of delight is fantastic in this little man's eye when he looks up at me and says, "washing t-DAY Mama?" I feel particularly blessed that little D can wash a table, in the middle of the winter, in sub-zero temps, right in front of a snow-filled landscape, barefoot, and not get chilled. (I had the space heater facing his direction...and the carpet's direction.)
 At this point he shouted out, "rainbow!"

I don't know what this was about, but I got my camera anyway.
Working, working, working away on his Fundamental Needs of Humans Food chart. I've read in my theory albums that in this plane of development children generally have an internal order and do not display much notion of any external order. T made this evident by the fact that he left a trail of small paper bits all over working on his chart. 

Additionally, children ages 6-12 typically like BIG works. I am thinking that in the coming year we just might need to get another work table, because, goodness, his project takes over the ENTIRE table. And if you are anything like T, children in the second plane of development also like lots of double-sided-tape.

The hierarchies and spacial relationships in the chart are a little iffy-and its overall design made me a bit itchy. But for a first attempt, I was willing to let it go, not correct (goodness that was difficult) and just let his creativity flow, because that is what he needed to do. Flow. I am sure this lay-out makes perfect sense in his brain. I hope that there are many more charting opportunities ahead of us, and we'll pick up on the particulars then.

While working on his chart T also took out his phonogram dictionary and the Dwyer sound folders to look up some spellings. He wasn't sure how to spell some of the items like "strawberry" and "sunflower." So he segmented the words and then looked in the dictionary for the spelling he was considering to see if that spelling indeed said that sound. 

We were looking for "aw" for strawberry and "ow" for flower. T hasn't yet memorized all the spellings for every sound so he ended up rifling through the sound folders for the sound cards and by trial and error figured out the correct spelling for each word.

This is his expression after he finished his chart.
We laminated his chart with clear contact paper and he cut the extra off from the sides. Look at the proud grin.

This is T's Fundamental needs of Humans - Food chart. Not bad for a first charting experience, not bad I say.

Again, S decided to construct the Square of Pythagoras. I answered this in the comments, but should note here that I did not make this work from scratch. I didn't feel floppy or stiff fuzzy felt was going to work, and I didn't want to go with cardstock since the edges could get bent, and I have a serious aversion to those foam sheets. Also I had no idea how to keep all those pieces together without a box. (I am sure some smart DIY soul has figured this out.)

Anyway, I purchased these from Montessori Outlet, and they came in fine condition. My only complaint (I usually do have a complaint don't I?) is that when you scratch any piece, but the gold pieces, with your fingernail, or otherwise, (which it is hard not to since they are kind of difficult to get out of the box) it leaves a mark on the painted plastic piece that you can see in angled light. This doesn't seem to matter to S, but it annoys me. This material does come with an extra red 1 square.
T and S are working on their clock exercises.
S chose to do this exercise again later in the week and we expanded the lesson a bit.
She is firmly knowledgeable about the on-the-hour times. So we moved to half-hour times. Together we made a clock that fit the 5-square chain. Here we used 60 5-chain beads to represent the 60 minutes in an hour. We made clock hands and I showed her how the 6 on the clock actually corresponds to 30 minute beads. We went over how the long minute hand needs to see 30 minute beads, or pass 30 friends, on it's way to the 6 and this is why we call it 6:30. We also used our fraction circles to note that the minute hand's trip from the 12 to the 6 constitutes half of the circle and this is why we also call this formation half past 6. 

About three quarters of the way through the tile tickets she just caught on and figured out which hour was indicated and that we were talking 30 minute beads. 

She loves playing games as well so I told her that I was trying so hard to make it tricky but by gosh, she was just getting them all right! This made her beam with pride that she couldn't be outsmarted.

Oh, and the 5-chain idea isn't mine...I got it from My Boys Teacher who also has a much better explanation of this presentation.
S was so proud of her work she wanted to take a picture of it with the kid camera.
At my suggestion, later that day she took out these fraction circles, traced them and started labeling them. By about the quarters she caught on that the "family" number is the denominator and goes on the bottom and the number of members we have is the number that is the numerator and goes on the top. 
S and T are discussing their work plan tickets.
D is showing me something in the sand table.
And T and S are snuggled together under the down comforter throw reading sound folder words to each other.

And there always needs to be a good bout of silliness initiated by this one. (And D picked out what he wanted to wear today.)

 D did a wonderful job observing S doing some pin-punching.

This is our amaryllis after one week. I am sorry to say that I think that the other two stems were damaged by the "transport" so this stem is the only one growing nicely. As you can see, the pot is rather tall, and this makes me worry that the entire flower will end up being too tall to fit under the grow-light. 

For those who haven't seen, this is our grow-light set up. I have steel piping pieced together with elbow and T connectors holding up our T-5 4-foot commercial grade grow-light. I have a chain on each side of the light housing that connects to S hooks which makes lowering and lifting the unit a breeze. At the top you can see our electrical cord plugs into a timer at the left and the entire thing is velcro-ed to the top support. The entire set up weighs more than a little bit so I've reinforced the center of the island with 1x3 stringers underneath. The plastic base you see below is just to keep water and soil off the wood beneath. I made it out of quarter round molding duct taped at the corners to create a rectangle. Over this rectangle I've draped a double thickness of plastic sheeting you would usually use to seal drafty windows in the winter, and this is taped to itself underneath the frame. The light and the space work well enough, it is just our growing skills that are making our plants so tiny! Does anyone have any good resources about indoor growing?
This very cool material arrived to us in the mail Friday from Hello Wood. Immediately S took this material and called it hers. And then everyone had to have a try. 

This material comes with an angled elevated writing surface which aids in arm, wrist and hand alignment. There are different insets that contain engraved cursive letters with a green dot at each starting point. (You can also purchase d'Nealian and print engravings too.) These insets are placed into a groove in the writing surface and the child will trace them with a triangular wooden pencil, though the pencil is actually a sharpened dowel. This material is called guided letters since the groves in the wood guide the pencil point.

This material took forever to arrive and was not cheap. But with three children who need to learn cursive, I thought the price was something we could swing. 

Also, after you put varnish on certain woods this extra coat often raises the grain of the wood. Both the engraved letter plates and the writing surface itself could have used a little bit of sanding. I first saw this material in T's old Primary class and everything was as smooth as it could be. I think that was because hundreds of children have used it hundreds of times. I hope that after three children, or just one for that matter, use this it will be as smooth as can be too.

With both S and D clamoring for the wood guided letters, T set to work on his Handwriting Without Tears practice booklet. He has been chipping away at this work for a number of weeks now, but I am very pleased with his continued focus.
This is what happens when you get out the 4-square chain and D is around. For some reason he thought this little straddling antic was hilarious.
We did the Crazy Daisy multiplication game again today, but instead of a random shuffle I organized the cards into categories. I gathered all the problems with 7's and we spent time skip counting with white bead bars until we came to the product answer. Like for 7*5, we counted 5 white 7-bead bars, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35. The repetition when we then did 7*8, 7*3, and 7*9 helped T begin to get those multiplication facts.

Afterward, we pulled out the long chains and did a little skip counting, this time trying to remember all the numbers along the way instead of just placing the tickets.

In a week or so, I plan to resume our regularly scheduled math lessons and move into multiples where T can really work on solidifying those math facts.  And that is where we'll leave it for the week.

Oh, I should say only that the kids and I are very excited about what is to come next week!! We'll share all about it as soon as we have pictures! Until then hope you are keeping warm! (If you are reading in a place that is cold.)


  1. Well now, you have increased my wish list! I have printable addition and subtraction boards, but Miss Priss never did like them, and didn't want to use them much. However, when she saw S using the addition board, she said she really would love it if it were a board! I also love the clock stamps, which I have seen, and now that I see them in use I don't have to question whether they would be a good investment or not! :) I also love the writing boards, but I think those will have to stay in the wish category! :)

    1. I completely understand where you are coming from. My wishlist is so very long. And a lot of it seems completely unattainable. One step at a time I say. I know you have more than two students too, and it is nice to know that most investments we make can be used by more children. It is also nice to know that the materials for Elementary many times are just some paper, colored pencils and one's brain. I am looking at some of the more expensive elementary math materials and am glad that there aren't too many! And of course people say, oh you'll be able to resell them, but frankly, at this rate, I project that I am going to have a hard time parting with any of them!