Thursday, September 25, 2014

Life in the Lower Elementary: September, 2014

To kick off the school year and help the children to get to know each other, we split them into four teams and gave each team a few missions. The first was to come up with a team name based on an animal—resulting in Team Snow Leopard, Team Snake, Team Starfish, and Team Cow. The next was to create a family shield that featured the team’s animal and a personal icon for each team-member. Each team presented its shield to the rest of the class—the team-members introducing themselves, explaining why they chose their animal and icons, and telling their classmates a little about who they are in the process.  

At the end of each day, the teams get together again during clean-up time. The children are responsible for taking care of their own classroom, and each team has a few jobs to do: sweeping the floors, watering the plants, wiping the tables, tidying the kitchen, maintaining the supply shelf, and taking out the garbage, compost, and recycling, to give just a few examples. 

Working in various groups, the children have begun learning to identify countries via the puzzle maps (wooden maps in which each country is a removable puzzle piece). Each group chose a continent and a handful of countries to start with, recording them in a list to which they are adding more and more names as they go. The children label the maps and play games to memorize the names, locations, and shapes of the countries. 

At the start of the school year, the focus of the classroom is on getting to know each other, coming together as a community, establishing expectations, and practicing protocols. As these foundational components of a Montessori classroom come into place, the focus shifts to lessons, follow-up work, projects, and other learning activities—a variety of which have been on display over the last couple of weeks.



Reading and Writing 


Depending on what they're doing, the children usually work by themselves, with partners, or in small groups—freely* moving from one activity, classroom-location, and social context to the next (*within the limits set by the classroom's environment and expectations, and the children's responsibilities and capabilities). To the question "what did you do today, where did you do it, and with whom did you do it?", no two children would give the same answer; at any given moment, they're all off in different directions (literally and figuratively), charting unique paths. (This is one of the virtues of a Montessori classroom—but it's also what makes it impossible to give a classroom update in a simple, "This month we did X, Y, and Z" sort of way. What we can do instead is provide you with a sampling of some of what's been going on lately, via this blog.) 

However, we do some class-wide activities—a recent one being "the tables." With a partner, each child collected information about his or her classmates (e.g., eye color, month of birth, favorite game, etc.) and recorded it in a table. This was a preliminary step toward doing more work in science this year—the focus here being on the act of documenting data in an organized manner. (In doing the activity, the children weren't doing science per se; the point was to focus on one of the skills involved in doing science.) The next step will build on the last and add observation and tracking changes over time into the mix; stay tuned! 

Last but not least, we've been spending time outside, enjoying the beautiful days of autumn while they last! 

To be continued...