Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's just not working!


"it" - what IS "it"? That is your first question. Is "it" a subject area, certain materials, the environment, etc.

Your next question (and where you will find your solution) is "what foundational piece is missing for "it"?"

NO PROGRESS can truly be made, in any sort of joyful or even efficient manner, if the
FOUNDATION is MISSING. hint-hint ;)

If the problem is adult preparedness - you are the only who can fix that ;)

If the problem is the environment - consider what obstacles are in the environment that hinder the child's natural and proper development? This page has some ideas on that.


Let's look at the different subject areas regarding the foundation:

Mathematics: 
"it": the children are just not enjoying mathematics, they are not really working with it, they are either playing with it or ignoring it.
PRIMARY: Go back to the numerals 1-9 and 0. Play the basic change game with them. These are the foundational pieces for EVERYTHING in mathematics in our society. They don't even NEED the teens and tens (this is just vocabulary, not directly "math" - it is language).
ELEMENTARY: Well, same thing. Go back to make sure they understand place value. But one more thing: do you have cosmic education going? Did you tell the Story of Numbers? Do you have other stories in your environment that utilize mathematics? For younger children, Sir Cumference is great; Life of Fred for several ages; stories on early mathematicians; more.....


Geometry: 
"it": the children are not learning the names of the shapes, not exploring with the geometric cabinet and solids, or the volume work and geometric sticks.
PRIMARY: Go back to the early geometric cabinet presentations and begin again. Make it a GAME. Assure that you have albums with exercises for the 5 and 6 year olds as well. This will help keep you on track giving those early presentations early ;)
ELEMENTARY: Go back to the early presentations, and add in MORE nomenclature (roots words, language connections). But also - again - Cosmic Education - did you tell the story about the Ancient Egyptians? Do you tell stories of the early geometers? Do you have the children exploring shapes in the environment?


History: 
ELEMENTARY: COSMIC EDUCATION. Get those Great Lessons going; repeat them as needed and at least once a year!
Do you have and USE the History Question Charts?
Do you have timeline paper in various formats available, with resources on hand to entice interest?
Are you making trips to the library, to museums, to other outings, for further experiences?



Language: 
"it": the language area just isn't working. The children aren't really writing and/or they aren't really reading. There are children about to go elementary who just can't or refuse to read. There are elementary children who can't read, don't want to read.
PRIMARY: Go back to the beginning of the language album. Lay that strong foundation. Sound games - environment games - vocabulary building - experiences to talk about and eventually write about.
5 year olds should be reading. Period. There are VERY FEW children who cannot read at age 5, with ease and joy, when given the right tools at the right time. Those remaining children will read around age 8. Not to lay a guilt-trip! Just look at the tools provided, start at the beginning and work your way through. At this point, each step does not have the 100% perfect to move on because frankly, a 5 year old still working on the sandpaper letters is not having his/her developmental needs of the moment met (but still needs those foundational pieces to get to the point of access to materials that DO meet current developmental needs).

ELEMENTARY: Use the "remediation" sections in the language album. COSMIC EDUCATION: Story of Communication in Signs in particular - but ALL the Great Lessons. Give them books to read they WANT to read (but not junk books either - show them you value them by giving them real literature).
Remove the audio books if elementary children are not reading. Or listen to the first chapter and invite them to read the rest themselves. Or take turns reading a page or a paragraph.
Get them started on the grammar boxes - most of the words are basic enough, and the phrases start small and slowly build.
DO NOT MAKE THEM READ ALOUD. Provide written commands or other reading material that requires some action such that you can assess comprehension. And have some reading material that is just for enjoyment, so they're not feeling "tested" all the time.
PS Dr. Seuss books are great for reluctant readers!


BUT THE ENVIRONMENT IS NOT CARED FOR! 
Go back to the beginning of the year. Check into Grace and Courtesy.
Do the children know where the cleaning supplies are located?  How to use them? Who is responsible for the room? (hint: the children are!)
Control of movement (walking on the line, silence game) - is it being done? Daily? Really, truly daily???
How are you the adult behaving within the environment? Graceful movements? Two hands to carry one object? Completing your work cycle? If you said "yes", are you absolutely sure?



The point in all of this - if "it" isn't working, and you desire true success, don't just finish the album and mourn, stop where you are, go back and re-build that foundation. Likely a bit faster this time, but make sure all those pieces are there!









Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Planning Presentations and Materials

In non-Montessori environments, the tendency is to push towards minimal planning. In this way, the children are not given too much, too fast; parents and teachers do not feel "overwhelmed" if the plans weren't completed in a set timeframe (because now we need to move on to the new set of weekly plans, i.e. in an environment that centers on weekly themes).


WELL....

In Montessori we over-plan so that we are always prepared to meet a child's interests and needs.

Elementary: We don't know which presentation is going to incite a deep interest, so we present and present and present until something clicks - and then they are off. And we might not then present something new for several days - or we'll still drop little plant stories here and there for example, or recall a language-deep child back to geometry with a story about Pythagoras - just to keep it fresh.
The albums are not necessarily the easiest to organize by ages, because of the wide differences from one child to the next, but it is possible to focus on the most likely possibilities for one year at a time.

Primary: We prepare ahead, but know that we will present and back-off. I love how primary albums can be reorganized into groups of 6 month spans. Within those 6 months, the child has a lot of space to explore but the adult can better focus for planning purposes.

But we also have to balance that over-planning with the recognition that a child's interests might take off and we set aside our plans for a time. Therefore *our* plans have no date on them. The elementary child's work-plan might have dates, and there is where we help to work through the planning process of what MUST be done within a time-frame and what can be put off while a new interest is being explored.