Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New Lessons on the Shelves!

We are back at it after a two week break which was made especially nice by a very good friend who came a long way to visit us in Texas.

After the visit we found out that D had broken his elbow. Technically the pediatric orthopedic doctor didn't know for sure that his elbow was broken. But he couldn't rule out that possibility. So after a great deal of pain, many x-rays, and hundreds of dollars later (and we have insurance!!) he is in a full hard cast for three weeks to see if there is healing. If there is healing he may need some more "rest." If he is healed then he can go on his merry way. D picked a man-ly blue color for his cast. Now he is fine, not in pain anymore, and is slowly figuring out how to do things with only one arm.

So, we are finally back in the classroom. Since all are easing back in slowly we did just a little bit today.
D started sandpaper letters. I reviewed my Dwyer booklet last night to confirm we are ready to move on and we are. The sandpaper letters are the first lesson in the writing sequence. The Montessori sequence guides primary children to write before they can read.

We've done I Spy-style, and purely oral, sound games focusing on beginning sounds (b-b-bee) and ending sounds (fox-x-x) and middle sounds (ch-er-er-er-ch.) And we segmented multi-syllable worlds like rh-i-n-o-ce-r-o-s. And we read stories and poems every day. We worked on expanding vocabulary, rhyming words, looking for "like-words" and "opposite-words." We also "found" words that all contained a same sound "cap, crane, crack." I think most of this aural prep work took about 7 months or so. Of course he has also been talking, listening and exploring language generally for his entire life. Now he is very nearly 4, so by Montessori's standards we are behind. By absolute terms, we seem to be on target for him. 

I am a little confused about how the Dwyer booklet lines up with the KotW albums. Dwyer assures her readers that the methods she outlines are Montessori methods. I feel that the KotW albums give a lot of detailed lesson description and the booklet is a more concise outline of all that is to happen in writing and reading sequence. I like how simple the Dwyer booklet makes everything seem, so for now I am going with that.
After a thorough period of aural training the child will be able to hear each of the 40+ sounds in the English language in all the words they are saying. This is the time when the guide begins to show the child that we can use symbols to represent those sounds. 

I selected three letter symbols to start. (We have a cursive sandpaper letters from Montessori Outlet.) I showed him one sound symbol at a time, by tracing the symbol with my left hand and then saying the sound that corresponds. Then I invited him to do the same. Really, it wasn't so much of an invitation, as it was allowing him to get his little anxious hand on the material. He traced the sound symbol with his dominant left hand and then said the sound it made. Then we played the rest of the three period lesson. (The first period is when I show him which symbol makes what sound.)

In the second period part of the lesson I asked him to show me the symbol that said the sound I requested. "Please show me the sound "a." He's select that sandpaper letter board, trace it and say the sound "a." Afterward we'd think of some words that contained that sound like, "apple, ax, astronaut." He got pretty goofy during this part and I am trying to figure out why he is seemingly less focused, and more tense these days. Too much screen time? Perhaps. 

In the third period, I'd ask him to name the sound for me. I'd select a sandpaper letter and ask him what sound that symbol represented. He'd trace the sandpaper letter symbol and say which sound it made. 

Tracing the sandpaper letter is critical for muscle memory and later handwriting. D is the only of my three children who will receive cursive first. Both T and S learned print first at their Montessori school.
D has been itching to learn the sandpaper letters. It was just before we took our two week break when he asked me how to write a Christmas letter to Santa and how to spell "Tokyo-Mater." He now seems pretty excited about this new material that is "all-his" so we'll see how this sequence goes.
We also started our Asia cultural studies. I've designed most of the activities, stories, and lessons for the primary age, but in our classroom, elementary level T and S always join in too. So far, I have an arsenal of music, crafts, coins and paper money, story books, Nanoblock landmarks, recipes, country flags, personal photos, a book about Korean first birthdays, a carved box from India, a ceramic "om" plate from India, and cultural cards. There are just a couple more fun items I am planning to pick up in the coming weeks.

The way I am organizing these cultural units is not in the KotW primary albums. The cultural cards are, but the rest is not. I am choosing not to have cultural boxes either, but instead, collect items that I will slowly add to our classroom environment that represent cultural topics that are familiar to me.

Above are a few of our Safari Toob landmarks (The Great Wall of China, The Great Buddha, and The Taj Mahal) and a very short Asia cookbook I made. 
 These are pictures of Japanese bento-inspired lunch boxes.
This is our new CD from Putamayo, Asia Playground. S was very excited about this one.
T and D got to working on the Nanoblock Kaminarimon gate that is in Japan. 
I just happened to have a picture of me under that gate. I was afraid that the lantern was going to fall on my head.
This is the market behind the gate.
And this is the finished gate. This thing is tiny!!
And finally, a pic of our injured one...

I'll be checking back in later in the week so stay tuned!


  1. Poor D and his arm! I hope it turns out ok!

    I love LEGO re-creations - I didn't used to appreciate all that went into building something of Legos, but now I do. ;)

    There is a chart here showing how Dwyer and AMI align :)

  2. Oh, THANK YOU for that chart! I see how AMI and Dwyer progressions align. It still seems to me that there are many fewer materials mentioned in Dwyer than in AMI and I think that this is the crux of my confusion. The phonetic and phonogram command cards in AMI seem to be phrases whereas Dwyer mentions that they simply be single word commands. Dwyer describes only the object box with written and printed labels whereas AMI uses printed single word reading cards in addition to the labels for an object box activity. Even the phonetic booklets seemed different to me. Dwyer describes illustrated booklets that contain both phonogram and phonetic words and AMI describes booklets that isolate phonetic words in addition to a set that includes both phonograms and phonetic words.

    Perhaps I am misinterpreting the Dwyer pamphlet and the AMI lessons that are omitted are indeed necessary for a child to "explode" into reading. In addition, perhaps my experience an therefore opinion is unusual having had experience with only one child learning to read at home (my oldest began reading in Montessori school) who I felt learn to read mostly on her own without many of the materials that both AMI and Dwyer describe. I seriously don't know how she became such a confident reader all by herself. And now she reads, EVERYTHING. There are no more secrets around here.

    I'd be interested to know what your opinions are on Dwyer's omissions and if they were purposeful. Or I could go back and read your posts! :)

    I wish I could catch up to you in the Lego department. I just wrote on the message boards about having a Lego "problem." They are everywhere. Somehow with the nano blocks, the kids are way more careful with them, and they don't go rolling all over the floor under-foot.

    D is a little irritable these days with his arm in a cast, but doesn't seem in pain. He is trying his best to keep up with only three working limbs Thank goodness that he writes with his left hand and his injury hasn't dampened his sandpaper letter excitement!!

    1. I do not this for certain, but my *impression* is that Dwyer never intended for her booklet to be used AS a learning to read/write program or even outline. It feels as if it were meant to be a description, a summary, of the Montessori approach - which is exploring the child's language.

      In shorter terms, I typically say that Dwyer summarized things. When we summarize things we tend to gloss over some things and out of necessity leave some things out.

      Does that help?

      Also, it's not so much about learning to read, a bit more about learning to write, but both are really more focused on exploring the child's language (or languages). Can a child learn to read/write without any of it? Yep. I learned to read and write from watching my grandma do crossword puzzles.... but what I missed was the appreciation of it all, the depth, etc. Our languages are more than the skills of reading and writing and that is what Montessori does (explore the languages) and Dwyer summarizes.


    2. That so helped. THANK YOU!! I see the stars aligning into clarity, and my slow brain is slowly waking up with coffee! :) Thank you Jessica. I so appreciate your clarification.

  3. Oooh, LOVE the pic of you!!!! I need to go around the world now and get some awesome pics of me doing cool things so the kids will like school...lol.

    I'm about to place an order for all the cultural cds! Love them! Glad our kids will know all the same songs despite them being in different languages! And I'm totally going to have to pick your brain on the cultural items you are buying! Help!

    Ok, well everything looks so good. Hope D feels better :(, poor little guy!

    1. Wait until you see the pic of my husband in Hong Kong! I am still wanting a copy of MBT's husband trying to scale the Egyptian Pyramids!!
      We like the Putamayo CDs. It is just frustrating that there isn't a playground one for each continent. People have got to get on the Montessori continent wagon here! Yeah the kids don't mind songs in other languages. We play just as much K-Pop and Latin and Celtic music as we do music with words in English.

  4. Oh my... Poor little guy! It happened to my little guy last year http://www.duallearninghomeschool.blogspot.com/2014/07/two-days.html Make sure to tell him the cast will scratch everything. It ruined his car seat, our table and his chair.
    To get him ready for the cast coming off, here are some pictures: http://www.duallearninghomeschool.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-cast-is-off.html
    I have a question for you. What type of table do you use for your older kids? and where did you get it from? Thanks

    1. Ugh. You are right. When Kal-El broke his foot his cast ruined his chair. I forgot about that.

    2. I am thinking of trying painters tape on EVERYTHING. Maybe a few layers? Duct-tape? A concrete table? I get skinned raw knuckles every time I pick him up under the arms and my hand scratches up against the underside of his cast. And I can already see signs of wear on our kitchen table. We are lucky enough to not need to go places in the car too much. Maybe I'll remember to put a cloth diaper in there as liner. Thanks for the warning!

    3. Table for the older children: It is from Community PlayThings, and you can see their Table and Height Guide PDF here: http://www.communityplaythings.com/products/tables/~/media/Files/CPUS/Product/Product%20Info%20PDFs/TableChairHeightGuides.pdf

      I am pretty sure for the older kids that we have the 14" chair and the 22" table height. I think this table is the 48" x 30" one: http://www.communityplaythings.com/products/tables/a811-classroom-activity-table

      D also has a community plaything stable, but he is short for his age, so he has the 8" chair the 16" table. They are so tiny and cute!! And my rear hurts when I sit in his chairs.

      If you order the chairs, there is no assembly. You can just lift them out of the box. And the tables are SUPER heavy. I can barely lift the elementary table by myself without the legs. To long and cumbersome and heavy. And we love our tables. They hold up very well and don't stain that easily. Maybe we've been "careful" with ours? BUT, they can get wobbly. I don't know how to fix this, and I haven't asked the company but our larger table now shakes a bit because someone would use it like a pummel horse. Oh, and this year I am planning to buy different legs for the tables to adjust for child-growth. I am going to have to buy taller chairs though.

    4. Awww, your little guy was SUPER brave, that cutting tool looks a bit mean! It was the same color cast as D's and everything. Was it a broken elbow too?