"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion..." Philippians 1:6
After all the crazy weather at the beginning of the year, it has been nice to have a steady schedule in which to continue and complete our "good work" in the classroom. The children have been busy! Read on to see what we have been working on the past few months.
Grace and Courtesy: We are thrilled to see the growth and maturity in this area for our students as the year moves along. In fact, they are so doing such an amazing job, we consistently receive compliments from members of the community when we are at the park or out on field trips. And last week our photographer said that our class is the highlight of his year because the children are so polite and well-behaved. Thank you for all you do at home to help foster good habits in your children...it is working! We consistently see them demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit, love, kindness and patience. What a blessing!
Literacy: As the class continues to make great strides in this area, we are enjoying stories, songs and games to enhance the children's love of language and reading. These stories and songs are also strengthening our current literacy concept of rhyming. The children are getting good at hearing and recognizing rhymes in our classroom work.
Math: The students are moving full steam ahead through our math curriculum, each at his or her own pace, and they are doing great! In addition to numeral and quantity recognition, place value concepts, subtraction and addition, and written work, we are working on measurement and the concept of ordinal numbers. We also continue to use games and Montessori activities to work on organizing, sorting and classifying, skills that carry over into every area of study. Next up is the study of solid geometric shapes.
Science and Social Studies: We are nicely caught up in these areas as we finish our study of vertebrate groups with a look at birds. The Kindergarten group enjoyed a chilly "Mammal Mania" field trip and hike at the THPRD Nature Park and will have another trip in May to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to become further bird experts. We are blessed to have so many resources nearby! It is now time for us to begin our solar system study, always a popular topic with the children. In addition, the Kindergarten group will be studying rocks and minerals as we "dig in" to our beautiful Earth. We are also finishing up our look at the seven continents and the different animals, people and cultures that make up our wonderful world.
THINGS WE THINK: This month we take a look at reading readiness in the Montessori classroom.
Out of all the academic areas of development, reading is probably the one that brings the most questions, worries and, eventually, excitement from parents. Will you teach my child letters? When will my child read? Why isn't my child reading like other children yet? These are very common questions from parents, as we all recognize the joy and confidence that come with reading, as well as the fact that it is a critical skill for future success in any area of study.
As with all other areas of instruction in the Montessori classroom, our reading curriculum is highly sequential and repetitious in order to allow the child to achieve mastery at his or her pace. All students are given an introduction to the alphabet phonograms at the beginning of the school year, working on both letter names and sounds, primarily with lower case symbols. At that point, the materials and activities are made available to each child individually on a regular basis, as we watch for the child to enter the "sensitive period" for reading acquisition. Most children enter this period between age 4.5 and 5.5, but that doesn't mean each child will fall exactly in that range.
How do we know when a child is in a sensitive period? Some typical clues include the following: the child suddenly craves repetition of a certain skill, wanting the same type of activity over and over; the child shows intense concentration when working with a particular skill; the child is quick to become angry or throw a temper tantrum if interrupted during these moments of concentration and repetition. This is the same regardless of the skill being mastered, such as walking, learning to speak, mastering a sense of order, etc. So, what can be frustrating and confusing behaviors to see as a parent, are often signs that the child has entered a period of sensitivity and is ready to learn a new skill!
In general, once the phonograms have been introduced, and once we see signs of readiness in a child, he or she will begin working to recognize and isolate beginning sounds in words. There are dozens of these activities in the classroom, allowing for plenty of repetition and much language development. When this has been mastered, students move on to blending and building words with three phonetic sounds, followed by those with four phonetic sounds. Once this is a solid skill, the child is introduced to long vowel rules, and we continue from there. The children also work with our set of books that they read in class and then take home to read to their parents so they can share this great new skill!
Watching a child learn to read is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of parenting and teaching, but it does require patience. We can't hurry it; we can't force it; we can only wait for the child's sensitive period of readiness. It will come!