Friday, January 31, 2014

Part 2 Wk 4, January 27, 2014

Life is filled with ups and downs, twists and turns and sometimes even loops. We had tried to adopt a couple of very nice kitties this week, but it was not meant to be. The children and I prepared by talking about the needs of animals. We went shopping and set up our home to welcome these new souls. But in the end we decided that they needed a loving home that was not ours. S turned out to be VERY allergic to cats. Over a 24 hour period, her short visits with the cats began transforming her into a crying, moaning, runny tomato faced girl with hive-ridden hands. She looked and sounded terrible. Well really beyond terrible...horrible. So, we decided to let these kitties find another home filled with family who are not allergic to them.

The kids are overwhelmingly sad and that is certainly to be expected. I wonder what I could have done differently, but I also realized that there was no way we could have known she would be so allergic. We've visited the homes of friends who have cats and she has never had this type of reaction before. But over this 24 hour period her symptoms really escalated to misery and there was no other choice but to not adopt.

So this is where we are for now. When we experience the happiness and the sadness, we know we are alive.

The children have been keeping it low-key in the classroom these past few days. Here is what we did in the latter half of the week.
Sensorial: Color Tab Box 2, rough and smooth touch boards
Language: Handwriting, spelling with the moveable alphabet, double letter sound games
Math: skip counting, test tube division with four digit divisors
Geography: puzzle maps

This is Color Tab Box 2. (The Color Tab Box 1 has two tiles in each of the primary colors.) This box also contains secondary and tertiary colors and black and white. In all, there are tab pairs in each of the following colors: yellow, blue, red, green, orange, purple, pink, brown, grey, black, and white. All color tabs are housed in a small wooden box with a lid. (I ordered this material from Montessori Outlet and this box arrived in fine condition and the tabs are nicely colored plastic, and very uniformly colored. I actually kind of like this material. Now Color Tab Box 3 from Montessori Outlet, well, that is another story for another day. If you are buying now, making your own would be best if you care more about function.)

D can match the colors VERY easily. First I removed from the wooden box the blue tab pair, the red tab pair, and the yellow tab pair and placed them in random order on the rug. After replacing the box lid, I placed the first red tab at the top of the rug and the second red tab underneath it. D took over from there stacking the tabs and matching the colors. After the primary colors tabs we repeated this process with the secondary colors: green, orange, and purple. After that we repeated the process with the tertiary colors: pink, grey and brown. And finally we did the same thing with the black and white tab pairs.

D called the entire thing a whoo-whoo (or a train.) In a little bit, think we'll introduce nomenclature.
While the guide is supposed to hold the tabs using only the white parts, the child can touch the colored part, though he/she should be dissuaded from doing so as finger prints may make smudges on the tabs.

The amaryllis is standing tall and so is S. She is so puffed up with pride that she took care of this plant all by herself. 

She decided to take a picture.

And D also decided to take a picture. And then he decided to take another 1,000,000 pictures until the 4GB card said it was full. Now I have to go through all that wonderfulness and delete the silly blurry stuff. FUN.
Anyway, inspired by the very cool amaryllis flowers, T took out this book and had a closer look at pollen grains and their reproductive role. I plan to do more botany in the later spring when nature starts waking up again outside.

More handwriting practice for lefties.
We are back to the double letter sandpaper sounds with S. She still doesn't remember what they are after segmenting them, sounding them, saying them, drawing them, and "feeling them." So, we played a little game. 

Mama, "Put "ch" on your head."
S: *giggle giggle*
Mama: "Put "ai" under your arm."
S: *laugh laugh*
Mama: "Put "ee" under T."
S: *laugh hysterically and fall off the chair*

She got the sounds right. And then we had to repeat this game six more times.
Little D doesn't know his sounds yet, nor his letters, but he wanted to get in on the action too!




Then I started asking S to "hide" the double letter sounds. And of course, little D got into it too.
Here he is hiding "b" under the globes.

and a letter behind the stool...
And under the table...
And under the sand-table. (We kept "finding" sounds all over the classroom the rest of the week.)
Puzzle Map of Africa. A primary work. A little bit of help moving Madagascar around. D actually helped put this back in the puzzle form.

S whipped through all of the CVC picture cards (I think I got these from Helpful Garden Pink Set 3, but I think that this site may be changing its format and the Pink/Blue/Green series may be going away.) in just a couple of weeks, spelling each one using the moveable alphabet. Also, she has gained a lot more confidence identifying cursive letters.
In the beginning she mixed up her "b" and "d." I always review her "writing" with her, helping her to sound out each letter as she's written them. She thought that "dug" and "dus" were pretty funny and made their corrections immediately. (Again, a traditional Montessori child wouldn't be making these kinds of "mistakes" since they would have learned the sounds and symbols in a different order than S. Also, at the time traditional Montessori children begin to write using the moveable alphabet they typically write sentences, segmenting sounds to create complete spontaneous thoughts, and they would not know how to read what they have written. So please have in mind that this is not the traditional Montessori sequence here.)

After I mentioned to her that the last picture was a "tub" she thought that "daf" was pretty funny too. That IS how the children say bath, "ba-f." I wonder when they grow out of this. T practices phrases like this on a regular basis with his speech therapist.

 D needed a little bit of help from T to do this puzzle map of Oceania.
 This little guy thinks that doing puzzle maps is the best!
T really likes doing puzzle maps when he needs to relax his brain. Imagine learning the political geography of Asia as a soothing and relaxing activity.
S decided to take out some of the short bead chains. (These short chains are also known as the square chains since they represent squares. The green chain has to 2-bead bars. The square of 2 is 4.) The child will label all of the units in the first bead bar, and then he/she will place the number tickets in ascending order along the rest of the chain all the way to the square of that bead-bar. (You can see more examples below where 3^2= 9 and 4^2=16.) 

These chains are used in many primary and elementary lessons, but until now, I was starting to think that we weren't going to get our money's worth since the kids have never really touched them. T did all of the chains, including the thousand chain work, in Primary, though he didn't work on memorizing any of the numbers. Maybe now it is S's turn to take advantage of the skip counting lessons.


T did more racks and tubes!! This time with larger divisors into the thousands. Somehow this didn't phase him a bit. It is my hunch that he just remembered it all from our Division with Ninjas work a few months ago.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Part 1, Week 4 January 27, 2014

This week I am relieved to say that I think we are back in the flow of work. All the children seem a little more settled, and a little more focused, and by gosh, D just blew through all of the practical life works I set out for him this weekend, in about 10 minutes time.

I made a few changes to the classroom this weekend and I don't think that T and S really noticed. I've been reading more about the Primary side lately and am trying to better guide little D who is at the very beginning of all that curriculum.

I must mention that S has continually surprised me over the past weeks. She really has come into her own, focusing more on works that are appropriate for her level, and astounding me with her spelling, writing, and reading abilities. I'd say she also astounds me with her math, but the sentiment is a little different considering she acts like these collective exercises (golden bead addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) are nothing out of the ordinary, not hard, and no big deal.

Oh, and I must apologize for the slightly blurry, unevenly lit, and dark pictures this week, and probably for a while. My Nikon SB-400 flash just broke, so I am not using a flash in these shots. The company doesn't manufacture this flash anymore so I need to figure out what I am going to do. (The little plastic switch that turns it on and off broke.) And until I figure out a replacement solution, all the photos on this blog are going to be taken without a flash. The kids move fast, and the lens on the camera is pretty fast too (AF-S Nikkor 55mm f1.8G), but sometimes not fast enough in the low light we get on the north side of the house. So sorry for the temporary dip in picture quality here on the blog.

This is what we did the first part of the week.
Sensorial - rough and smooth boards, pink tower, red rods, cylinder blocks and extensions
Practical Life - table washing, plant washing, tonging, spooning, pouring, care of self
Language - handwriting and handwriting books
Math - fractions equivalencies, clock work, hundred board, test tube division
Other - work journal

I see here that we haven't done any direct science or geography, but I somehow feel at ease with that. Maybe it is because the kids actually were choosing their work this week. 

A small side note, to that choosing of work, is that many of the works were suggested by me. But the child then chose to do that work and followed-through.

The other thing that happened was that our work tickets almost completely fell by the way-side. Each child was so caught up in making his or her own choices, that they just didn't need to follow the ticket board because they were already doing something productive that was interesting to them. I guess when we come to a point where we NEED to plan what we will accomplish in a day, or in a week, we'll get back to a more firm work plan. But for now, independent work is wonderful.
Oh, the racks and tubes!! This long division material FINALLY came in the mail around Christmas time, only three months after I'd ordered it from Montessori Outlet. Overall the material is perfectly usable though one of the green bead boards is warped a little bit. I think with a light touch and a very careful fine-motor skill we will not break anything or lose any beads. (I am not even sure that you can purchase extra test-tubes for this...I should check this out now, before they change the material.) The material does come with one extra bead in each color.
Right after I requested T do some division in his booklet 1 (it is posted on the primary page here) he said, "mommy, those are so boring!" So I asked if he wanted to do the racks and tubes division and jumping up in the air he exclaimed "yes!!"
I asked him to put together the material right out of the box.

And then we got started with 8,942 ¸ 34 from the Keys of the Universe Math album. 
I now realize that I didn't get good shots of this work because I was busy giving little D some lessons, so here is a preview of what it all entails, and the cards I made up in a hurry since T is already running through this material already...and I promise to post a follow-up with the what and the how soon. For now, for those who are searching, this video and this video helped me figure this all out.
I made a few new equations for T since he is ready to go! I need to make another round of cards to cover zero place holders, and remainder work.
I simply made this paper in word, using the table function and making each cell 1/2" x 1/2".




This is what T thinks about long division.
Again, we had some washing going on in the early part of the week. You can see my many comments about washing and other antics here, here, here, and here.


He loves he warm water...
and the soap...

S did a little bit of plant washing. Because of all the cinnamon dusting we've been doing lately, our plants are pretty dusty. So S cleaned them.

She brought over a small bowl of warm water and a sponge. Some lessons indicate a mild soap but we didn't this time. She gently supported each leaf and her sub-dominant hand and wiped carefully with her moist sponge with her other hand. After each swipe she rinsed her sponge in the water and changed it out frequently for fresh water. Later she told me that this wasn't real work, but I assured her it most certainly was very real Montessori work. I also explained that when the plant has dirty leaves, the leaves cannot absorb the light that they need to grow, so she was doing the plants a great favor taking care to wash their leaves.

This is S's amaryllis, just about to open.
This picture was taken Monday.
This picture was taken Tuesday.


D was washing some oranges in our sink, which is too high for him. I haven't yet set up his washing table for dish washing and clothes washing. It is my hope that we can renovate over the summer and lower the sink to make it a much more appropriate height for the kids. 

T did a little bit with fractions this week finding equivalencies. Since this is such a large work, and T's attention to the more mundane isn't great, he has never finished his first two attempts at this work. I think this fact is calling us to do different fraction work to get those equivalencies down. 

Because T is past that sensitive period for repetition, and because he didn't get a lot of the Primary curriculum that is more for memorization, I feel that we are driving in the dark here and always playing the catch-up game. Every work takes longer because he doesn't know his math facts, and in this case, hasn't explore all the equivalencies to find commonalities and patterns. Many elementary Montessori works give the child a good chance to practice their math facts, and to learn these equivalencies but I can't help but think it would have been much easier for him to learn this stuff three years ago. There is no going back, so we are working with what we have and just move forward.

Here we have a bit of tonging. Traditionally, Primary practical life exercises are color-coded. Here I put red star dishes I got from the dollar store, on a red tray. But I decided not to use red pompoms because they were kind of hard to see. 



Here are those Hello Wood guided letter boards again. Above, you can see that S is not tipping her writing surface in the correct direction. I ask the children to trace each letter three times before moving on to the next. I like that these writing insets use similar stroke forms as much as is possible.

This primary spooning exercises is coded blue.
We set up the pouring, tonging and spooning exercises going from left to right, just like how we read and write. The full bowl is on the child's left, and he/she will spoon the beads/rice/bells/sand/pebbles/etc. into the bowl on the right which initially is empty. Then this spooning lesson turned into a pouring lesson. 

After the child has transferred all of the items to the dish on the right, they can either pour the items back into the left most dish, or they can simply reverse the dishes so that the one that is full is once again on the left. The child will reset the tray to its original condition before placing it back on the shelf. This ensures that all children in the classroom will approach the exercise from the same starting point.



This practical life tray I've color coded yellow and it is a pouring exercise. The control of error here is corn kernels falling on the tray.



S took out the clock work yet again and she got to it without the tickets. (This was completely unprompted by me.) She drew her clock hands and then wrote in the appropriate on-the-hour time stamp underneath. She is certainly getting more comfortable with this work and she is VERY much loving that stamp.

D did a little bit of rearranging work on the selves. This isn't how the child is supposed to do the work.



S wrote down the works she did in her journal. The first words were finished independently. Then we had a melt-down. And then we picked ourselves up off the floor and with Mama's help finished this work, writing beautifully, and neatly.

I think T used the hundred board first and then D had to get in on the action.

Since D left the tiles NOT in order, this is what S had to deal with when she got to the hundred board.
But with a little vertical patterning, and a lot of work, she was able to put to it all together almost correctly. I think she got tired by the time she got to the right-side of the board.

T and I reviewed our commutative property of multiplication today, and actually wrote out an original definition that came from T. In the end I think he wrote something like: "2 numbers when switched around multiply to make the same product." For the boy who looks at you like you're a three-headed alien when you ask him to write original prose, this was a fabulous result.


This week I decided to start little D on the rough and smooth boards. There are a few different board variations, but the one pictured above is painted on one side (D's left) and has a rough sandpaper surface on the right side. 

In the picture above, D is "sensitizing" the fingers on his dominant hand. I asked which hand he wanted to use to feel the boards, and he indicated that he would use his left hand. Here he is soaking his fingers in a small bowl of warm water for just a few minutes before drying them to begin.
Here D is making faces while "sensitizing" his fingers.

After the child has wiped his/her hand dry, the guide will demonstrate the light touch needed to feel the smooth and rough surfaces. (UPDATE: in the initial presentation, the guild would sensitize his/her fingers first and then wipe them dry. After this step he/she would demonstrate the light touch needed to feel the smooth and rough surfaces. All of these presentation steps would happen BEFORE the child repeats the lesson from start to finish.)

On the dual toned board above, the child will start with the smooth surface to his left, and lightly swipe from top to bottom with the index and middle fingers that part of the board first and say, "smooth." In this lesson the language is given at the same time as the first sensorial experience. The child will then lightly swipe his fingers over the rough side of the board and say, "rough." He is welcome to repeat that sequence with the first board if he wants, each time using a light touch, and saying the appropriate nomenclature.
The board you see above and below is the second board in the series, and this board alternates smooth and rough surfaces. Orientate the board with the first smooth surface to the child's left. (The child will move from left to right in the same manner as they will later write and read.) The child will again lightly swipe first the smooth surface and say, "smooth." Then they will swipe the second rough surface and say, "rough." Then they will repeat this process along the rest of the board.
This lesson helps the child refine their sense of touch, orientate from left to right, and develop focus and muscle control. Later rough and smooth lessons get into matching textures and gradation.

These are all of the other practical life activities I'd set up for little D this week.
D also decided to do the knobbed cylinders. He is getting quite skilled with this material. Here he is working with three cylinder blocks in a triangle formation at one time. He removes all of the cylinders first, mixing them at random, and then works to replace each in its appropriate spot. Each cylinder will only fit into one spot, except the longest cylinder with the largest diameter will fit into the block to the left and right, but not into the block at the top. 

D took everything out and replaced everything in its right spot three times before replacing the work on the shelves.

D calls the cylinders "people," and the holes they belong in, their "homes." And apparently even though he likes doing the rough and smooth boards with his left hand, he likes doing the cylinders with his right hand.







These blocks are heavy and a little difficult to replace on the shelf.
I rearranged our shelves to hold the cylinder blocks on the top two shelves and the brown stair on the bottom shelf.
D took his cylinder blocks out again on Tuesday and made a "train." Everything I've read from traditional AMI style manuals cautions against allowing the child to "make-believe" with the materials, so when this antic started up I kind of braced myself. I merely told him that he'd have to use the cylinder blocks the right way, or he'd have to return them to the shelves and that they were not for play. Well, he got right to work taking those cylinder people off the train and mixing them up into what I could only think of as a rush-hour mob before replacing all those passengers in their ticketed seats once again. (I knew that this was what he was thinking because he was narrating his work.)
I've never seen an album page that recommends this cylinder formation. He ended up using all four cylinder blocks this way. I'd imagine that this configuration isn't encouraged much because the child may be less likely to mix up the cylinders if they are removed and placed in a linear fashion. Typically when using four cylinder blocks, we'd set them up in a square formation and the child would place all of the cylinders in the center of the square. As you can see here, D mixed up the cylinders pretty well and and so this wasn't much of an issue.



S has surprised me with her spelling ability. She needs next to zero help with this work and is perfectly content to do this work independently. (This independence alone impresses me.) She occasionally will still have questions about the local of a certain letter, or the name of the item in the picture, but she rarely has any trouble segmenting the sounds and remembering which symbol goes with that sound.

She actually spelled "lips" for the "lip" card without any help or prompting. She said that there was an extra "s" sound on the end and she just put it behind all the other sounds. This is the spontaneous learning and discovery we are shooting for here!!

D was playing "the which one is the biggest" game with me. He'd pick up a cube that was clearly NOT biggest, show it to me, and proclaim it biggest with the largest smile you've ever seen. I'd joke, "no! can you find the biggest cube," and he'd giggle and put it down only to select another cube that was clearly not the biggest and ask again.
I ordered the subsequent Lefty Handwriting Skills workbooks numbers 2 and 3 all the way from England! BUT, not having seen them BEFORE buying them, I am thinking now that they may be a waste of money. The cursive style is just really not the cursive we are trying to achieve here in our classroom. Why is it that so many, Handwriting Without Tears included, think that dumbing-down cursive is a good idea? Linked print letters, fewer back strokes, what is going on? I feel this does no service to the child but indicate to them that real cursive is too difficult. Why would we want to teach our children that something is too difficult. I am sure glad the great inventors throughout history didn't think that their work was too difficult.
Anyway, the book does work on fine tuning her letter formation a little bit. The tracing forms and the writing spaces are smaller than in the first book. S liked this booklet just fine, though she didn't fly right through the first ten pages in one sitting like the last book. I think if I had known what was on the inside of these books, I would have saved my money. (This isn't to say that this style of writing is terrible, it is just really not what I am trying to achieve here.)


D had a little bout of extreme independence.  Here he is putting on his own Neosporin on his non-existent "boo-boo."
He got the first-aid kit down from the shelf, unzipped it, took out a band-aid, and the Neosporin, then zippered the kit up and replaced it on the shelf before sitting down to self medicate.
 First we tried to apply the band-aid sticky-side-up.
Then, we figured out that sticky-side-up doesn't work, and we turned the band-aid over and finally got it on the leg!
THEN, we needed to take some pictures. So he shoved a stool up to the shelf where the kid-camera was and climbed on up.
 He figured out pretty quickly where the power button was located.
And with chubby little fingers all OVER that camera lens he proceeded to take 1,294,513,513,256 pictures. Good thing they are digital and I don't have to pay to develop them all to figure out which ones came out okay.
We went over our first red-rods lesson today. D doesn't really like constructing them correctly in descending order. But he does like stepping on this work, just like he does with the brown stair work.

This work is typically introduced after the pink tower and the brown stair, at an average age of 3 years old. (D is a little more than 2 1/2 years old.)

There are ten rods that differ in length dimension only. The longest is 1 meter and the shortest rod is 10cm and the difference in length between the rods is 10cm. 

First I asked D if he wanted a lesson for the red rods. D usually always accepts lessons so he said yes. D and I rolled out two work rugs short end to short end to prepare to work. He and I went over to the shelf and I selected the the shortest rod, picked up carefully with two hands, and walked over to our work rugs to place it flush left. He and I worked using two hands to transfer all the rods to the left-side work rug in random order. Afterward, I had D kneel beside me to my left to observe.

I took a good long look at all the red rods and selected the longest rod, picked it up with two hands, transferred it to the right hand side rug and placed it horizontally at the top of the rug. Then I placed my right index and middle finger on the left end of the rod and swiped it slowly across the length of the rod to the right. Afterward, I took another good long look at the red rods that remained to the left and selected the next longest rod to place underneath the longest rod, with their left edges aligned, and then used my fingers to feel it's length. I continued this process until little D took over around rod five. Afterward, we admired our work from all different angles, standing, laying, and the 360 degree tour. As you can see from the above pictures he also took a photo of his work.

Afterward he dismantled the stair and put the rods away on the shelf in the correct order. (The rods should be all aligned to the left though.)



And here is D just acting cute again.

And that was the first part of our week!