GRACE AND COURTESY: This area has been one of our biggest focuses in the first few weeks of school as we establish classroom expectations and routines. We have focused on learning and living the classroom rules: use gentle hands and feet; use calm words and voices; obey the first time. These are simple to remember with repetition, and they work in any situation. The children also have been learning to greet teachers with good eye contact, a handshake and a "Good morning," as well as working to remember to stand and offer a greeting when an adult enters the classroom. In addition, our students are learning how to care for their environment by being responsible to push in their chairs, to move carefully around their friends' activities, and to clean up after themselves at snack time. They are doing a wonderful job!
LITERACY: We enjoyed beginning our year with a Read-a-Thon fundraiser for the Aloha Community Library, reading a lot of books to go with our studies. We raised $160 for the library! Our year has also started with one of our favorite lessons...fairy tales! We will continue with this at least through Christmas, enjoying many different stories, some fractured fairy tales, dramatic reenactments, science activities and even fairy tale snacks. We have also introduced the lower case letters by name and sound and have read many books highlighting the alphabet. As we move through the alphabet, we are learning how to sign each letter in sign language. As children demonstrate readiness, they will begin working with the reading activities in the classroom. This readiness develops at a different pace for each student, but typically is present sometime during a child's four-year-old year. How can you promote literacy at home? Very simple...provide plenty of books and limit screen time!
MATH: Patterns, patterns everywhere! Our year has started with a lot of time looking for, recognizing and creating patterns. The children are getting very adept at this skill! We are also enjoying sorting and classifying activities with the Montessori equipment and are getting to know the ten plane geometric shapes. As they are ready, children are working on numeral and quantity recognition, written numerals and the concept of addition. We are counting our days of school, leading to the ever-so-popular 100th Day of School sometime in the spring. As we mark days off on our chart, we are looking at how the numbers lead to the next group of ten. The Kindergarten children are working with the gold bead materials in the classroom to understand the decimal hierarchies as they prepare for future math activities.
SCIENCE: Our year began with a look at how to classify the things we observe in creation, first learning the difference between living and non-living. We learned that living things are then classified into plants (living things that make their own food) and animals (living things that have to hunt/harvest their food). Animals are then classified into vertebrates (last year's study) and invertebrates. We certainly don't expect that every child has mastered all of this information. As with everything in the Montessori classroom, we want to provide exposure to concepts and information so that children can absorb as they are ready. We have just started our first invertebrate group, insects. Can your child tell you something that makes an animal an insect? (Three body parts, two antennae, six legs, exoskeleton.) In the plant world, we are learning about the parts of a tree and the parts of a leaf. We will also be learning the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees as we discuss the autumn leaves that are now falling all around us. It's a beautiful time of year to be a little scientist!
MUSIC: This group of children likes to sing! We are thoroughly enjoying music time with our Little Lambs as we learn new songs, explore rhythm and practice how to respectfully use the classroom bells. Are you hearing any songs at home? We are now learning the songs and poems that will be part of our harvest celebration and performance on November 9. There is truly always a joyful noise in the classroom!
Parenting Thought: This section is used to explore topics and struggles that frequently arise in parenting and to address common questions we receive from parents. We will start with a look at fairness and sharing.
One of the most common things we hear in the classroom is, "Hey, you have to share!" This can be a tricky area to navigate with young children because they tend to think that sharing and fairness mean that everything must be equal. So if a child sees that her friend has gotten two pink ponies out of the box, and she wants one, she is likely to say, "That's not fair! You need to share." In reality, the child who first got the ponies has every right to continue playing with them, if he or she chooses to do so. The fairness in this situation is that the "wanting" child still has access to the other ponies in the box. The child with the pink ponies is not obligated to make everything equal. Some children certainly might choose to offer one of the ponies, but it shouldn't be required. Forcing one child to give up something he or she has a right to have typically fosters resentment, not cooperation. The goal here is to encourage communication and awareness, as children in the 3-6 year old range are usually still in a pretty egocentric time of development. In the classroom, we facilitate this kind of situation by modeling the following requests and responses:
* Instead of "You have to share," we encourage the child to say, "May I have a turn with one of those when you are finished?" This allows the child to state her desire to her peer and creates awareness for the peer that the first child has a request. More often than not, this results in the peer quickly offering to share, without being forced to do so.
* If a child tries to grab a toy from another child, we encourage the "non-grabber" to say, "I wasn't finished with that yet. May I please have it back?" The child should then wait for the item to be offered back. This can be a little trickier to navigate and occasionally requires teacher assistance to make it work smoothly.
These habits and behaviors take time and repetition to develop. Many children do not need to deal with sharing at home yet, so the classroom is the perfect place for all of this practice. It isn't easy or quick, but it is well worth the time and effort!