Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Geometry Solids, Owl Pellets, Lego Stories, Diagramming Sentences and The Nutcracker

Here are just a few of the things we are working on presently...

Geometry Solids:

This was a made-up-by-me lesson for T. He is a very hands-on-learner. Text makes his eyes glaze over in a hurry. Here he was doing a geometric solid exploration. I asked him to create prisms, pyramids and other polyhedrons out of paper. Then we explored how circles can help us construct regular polygons.
Later we will calculate and derive formulas for solid volumes and surface areas using our paper solids. To be honest, I haven't reviewed how our Montessori album says to do this, but I figured we just tackle this subject this way since T already likes to make little 3-D objects out of paper. (T, S, and D all like making messes with paper and scissors.)

Now moving away from a Montessori-centered curriculum, I am quickly realizing that T needs an entirely different curriculum than that which can be found in a book. I think one of the reasons Montessori has worked so well for us is that I haven't required a lot of expressive writing and the curriculum is highly manipulative-focused. T is clearly a kinesthetic learner who loves visuals. Text and verbal language just aren't his modes of communication and knowledge acquisition...AT ALL. The above geometry exercise worked well for him because it was experiential and very hands-on. I set him up with a "problem." How do you create a regular hexagon using this circle? He needed some prompts, but then he realized that we could use isosceles triangles to create our hexagon. Trial and error, hands-on, movement, problem solving, manipulation, and visuals are what drives his learning style. So, these are the kinds of learning experiences I am seeking to find and put in his path.

It is hard for me to let go of the linear progression and book-learning I personally prefer. But this teaching style doesn't work for T; he wastes time, takes for-EVER, and doesn't retain a darn thing. I am searching science kits, computer programming, and other experiential learning opportunities for him.

 Lego Story Starters:

The Lego Education Story Starter program is an attempt at a new writing sequence for T. I set aside our classical writing program, and went back to "before-the-basics." He really needs a TON of one-on-one help with this. These two pages required more than an entire day's attention and coaching from me. (Like more than 10 hours of my time.) T just doesn't understand how to express thought in a logical manner. I've known expressive language is a huge challenge for him since he was 2 years old. But now that composition is starting to be very important in the upper grades (past where he is now but coming up soon) I am wondering if he will be able to write what he needs to write in a few years.

So, Lego has this education arm which has developed a bunch of education programs that utilize its building bricks and include instructional support and assessment metrics. The product packages are generally designed for groups of 8+ students but they do sell uber-expensive sets for a smaller homeschool class environment. We didn't get the package...but I did manage to adapt their lesson plan to fit our needs, sort of.
 The end goal is a comic-book style story with photo visuals, text, and dialogue that illustrates a story from beginning to end. The Story Starter curriculum outlines scenarios and the child builds a visual with Lego bricks. He takes pictures of the 3-D brick scenes and then heads to the computer to post-edit, lay-out, and add text.

Lego has also developed software that makes it super easy for the child to independently upload their photos, drop them into their document, and add text. We did our spread in MS Word. After watching me align, crop, and add text boxes and bubbles, T was able to do much of this on his own (without deleting my entire computer.)
T was able to come up with a very simple storyline from the Story Starter prompts and a lot of help, and build and photograph what he needed to illustrate his story. Drafting the text was SUPER, SUPER, SUPER difficult. Who, what, when, why, how questions are like non-existent in his brain. I am never sure what is going on up there. It was like 100 questions to literally PULL the story out of him, "who was doing what and why." In the end, we created a pretty cool looking product. I am NOT looking forward to coaching him through the next one.

Diagramming Sentences: 

This is one of my new most favoritest books ever. EVER! You need to get it from the publisher, but I sooooooo, sooooo, highly recommend it for those looking for something laid out from A to Z in the sentence diagramming world. Eugene Moutoux, the author, has his own website here, and he has a ton of really great info on his site. I wasn't sure if I'd like the book, but it is really, really, really, helpful. Both T and S are using this now and we all like it.

Both T and S have had some exposure to the very beginning basics of sentence diagramming. T has had more Montessori lesson experience than S. But this book starts off with simple baby steps so it was easy to start on page one and progress. (We haven't gotten that far yet.)

One of the things I love about this book is that there are tons and tons of practice sentences that I didn't have to draft. I don't have the children draw each sentence though, especially T who writes slower than a snail. We do practice outside on the sidewalk with chalk. We'll put together our diagramming lines on the sidewalk. I'll call out the short sentence, and then they'll repeat the sentence, saying each part as they hop from indefinite article, to the subject, to the predicate, to the attributive adjective, to predicate nominative. It is kind of funny to watch them do this. (It is like 80+ degrees here today, so hopping around outside can be done comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt.)
 We also use white boards and dry erase markers to practice our sentence diagramming. Somehow children love dry-erase markers a lot. T likes whole body movements. Using a large whiteboard allows for whole body movements, and so does sidewalk sentence diagramming hop-scotch.  (The example above is S's work and I think it is on a piece of paper I laminated, not the big white-board.)

T seems to like this work since it is all about logical classification and he is pretty strong in advanced grammar concepts and sentence diagramming.

This book is pretty thick, it has answers to everything, and very good definitions and explanations of each rule. I am terrible at this kind of thing. I was never taught how to diagram a sentence in grade school. So for a complete novice like me, this book is just exactly what I needed!

 Owl Pellets:

We did this a couple of weeks ago actually. I purchased the jumbo owl pellets from Home Science Tools and the kids got to work dissecting them and finding out what owls cannot digest. (T said that he remembered from the book Poppy, by Avi, that Mr. Ocax threw up a pellet after he ate Poppy's friend Ragweed and Poppy was able to collect her old friend's earring. Then T sighed and set to work pulling apart his owl pellet, probably thinking about Poppy and Ragweed.)
 Okay, I purchased two jumbo pellets for each kid not really knowing what was going to be in these things, nor how much time it would take to dissect one. My kids are 10, 8-almost-9 and 5. Everyone but my science girl was done after one jumbo pellet. I was also done after one owl pellet. And we now have more rodent bones bumping around in a plastic container than I know what to do with. They freak me out each time I see the container again. My advice: get one jumbo per child, or a large one will do. You will literally find 2-3 complete animals in a single jumbo pellet, skull and all.


Kindergarten Grammar

 D has finished up the elementary verb grammar boxes and we introduced the preposition. I gave the initial Montessori-style lesson asking him to put his stuffed dog Chase, "on the chair," "under the chair," "over the chair," etc. He thought this was funny. A preposition is a word that describes relative position between two things.

Then I introduced grammar symbol, the green bridge, which stands upside down on our grammar tray from Montessori Outlet. I made some sentences for him and he used our grammar symbol stencil and assigned each work their appropriate symbol. Then he wanted to act out each sentence, like a command card, but S didn't want to be stuffed into a box.

Stamp Game Division...or not 

I went away for 5 minutes and this is what D did with the stamp game. He was supposed to be finishing up his division with the stamp game. (8988/14=   )


And, D is working hard on his Minecraft activity book. I seriously do not understand what the Minecraft craze is all about.

Flute, flute, flute...

S is preparing for her next flute recital and is working on the Spanish Dance from Tchaikovsky 's Nutcracker in addition to her other tone exercises and Suzuki pieces.

We practice about an hour once a day, almost every day. She has lessons for 30 minutes once a week, and has been playing now for a bit over a year. (She started playing the assembled instrument last September.) S just loves her teacher who is a performer and recording artist in the time that she is not teaching. With hard work S has progressed to about half way through the Suzuki Flute Book 3. She knows all of the 12 major scales and we are working on tone quality.

We are also trying to sort out some flute stuff now. She has an Azumi Wave-Line Flute which has that bend at the top. She started playing when she was 7 and her arms were too short for a regular student flute. This wave-line flute reaches low D and goes up to high A. The Suzuki music she is doing now extends lower and reaches higher than her flute. Typically, one would just upgrade to a larger flute. But S is still very small. She is 2-months away from turning 9, but our last measurement indicated that she is still two keys-worth-of-arm-length away from being able to fit a larger flute. So, what to do? This is something we'll be exploring in the months to come, while making sure that she gets enough calcium, green juice, and sleep so that she can grow and grow and grow.

A special thank you to a special someone for your very kind and wise flute wisdom. :) It is very much appreciated.

And that is what we've been doing!

1 comment:

  1. This is definitely an incredibly rich resource that you have spent so much valuable time developing, I'll recommend it to parents at our school as well as link to it in our Montessori Resources section so that our teachers can take a look. Thanks! Check us out too at C’e Montessori Preschool in Brooklyn