"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." John 14:26
As we close out the first month of school, we can attest to the power of "the Helper, the Holy Spirit" in our classroom. This has been an amazing beginning to the school year, probably our best ever! We have seen evidence of all of the Fruits of The Spirit in the children: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We are so blessed by our students and their families every day. Here is a look at what we have been working on in this first month of school:
Bible: We use The Beginner's Bible curriculum for this portion of our day, alternating from year to year between Old Testament and New Testament. This year we will be studying the Old Testament. We began the year working on the ideas of Who Is God? and What Is The Bible? Now we are moving fully into the OT curriculum, beginning with creation.
Grace and Courtesy: We have spent much time this first month working on habits that are gracious and courteous and that help keep the classroom running smoothly. The children have been learning to respond quickly to the bell, giving the teacher their full attention in order to receive instructions. The bell is our primary classroom management tool, as it is quick and easy, as well as being portable for field trips and for play time at the park. The students have been mastering other practical and polite skills such as being careful with our books, walking in the classroom, pushing in their chairs and walking around a friend's activity, rather than through or over it. In addition, we have worked on other courteous manners such as shaking hands, greeting the teachers with good eye contact and a "big" voice, standing when an adult enters the classroom to visit, and answering the teachers with "Yes, Mrs. _______" rather than "yeah." We are so impressed with how all of the children are doing in this area!
Literacy: Our days have been full of books and songs as we strive to enrich the children's emerging vocabulary and grasp of the complex English language. We are enjoying clapping the rhythm of our names and objects in the classroom. At this point, it is just a fun game, but it is actually training the children's ears to hear distinct syllables in the language. We have started our formal introduction of the letter names and sounds, and will continue working our way through the alphabet. We use a phonics-based method of instruction, so much emphasis is placed on learning the sound each letter makes, not only its name. We use primarily lower case writing in the classroom since this is how most of English is written. Please keep in mind that this is an introduction, only. In no way are we expecting that our 3- and 4-year-olds are mastering this skill. In keeping with the Montessori philosophy, the information is offered and available, but we wait on the child to show his or her readiness. And when it comes to reading, the span of readiness is huge! Some children come to us reading at age 3, and some children are ready to read around age 5 or 6. There is no rush right now! September was Shel Silverstein's birthday, so we have enjoyed some of his books as well, especially The Giving Tree and The Missing Piece. Our Kindergarten students have begun independent writing in their personal journals. This is a fun way to see each child's progress through the year!
Math: This particular group of students has a fairly firm math foundation in place already, so we are just moving right along. The children are in various stages of learning numeral recognition, producing accurate quantities, mastering written numerals, grasping the idea of place value as well as understanding concepts of addition and subtraction. This is an enormous range of skills because we have a wide range of ages and abilities. Please don't worry if your child isn't doing any or all of these activities yet. We also are working on "non-numeral" math skills such as shape recognition, pattern recognition and categorizing. These are vital to future math success and can be introduced in fun ways with this age group.
Science: This year's science curriculum will focus on the vertebrate family in the animal kingdom: mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians and birds. We will finish the year with some time on invertebrates. Right now we are learning about mammals and learning specifically about squirrels; bats will be up next. Our look at these animals will also tie in to our study of the changing seasons and hibernation. Is your child able to tell you something that makes an animal a mammal? (Has fur/hair, has a backbone, is warm-blooded, mother's body makes milk for babies, babies are born live-except the platypus and echidna). We learned that a squirrel home is called a drey and that it has two rooms, one of which is a nursery for the babies! The Kindergarten group will be kicking off their science lessons soon with a look at gravity.
Social Studies: Social studies is highly integrated into our entire curriculum, from Bible to science, as we look at cultures, geography and animals from around the world. We began with a brief introduction to globes and maps, and we are working on learning the names of the seven continents. We do not believe that children at this age require "diversity" instruction; the integrated nature of this area of study just naturally teaches children about many different regions and cultures and peoples. In keeping with our Bible curriculum, we are learning that all of God's creation is valuable and precious.
Music: In addition to enjoying many songs in class as we prepare for our harvest performance, we are working on the idea of rhythm as a "sound pattern," and we are learning how to use our classroom set of bells. The bells allow the child to create beautiful music, while developing a strong pincer grasp and good self-control. Eventually the bells are used to introduce the names of the notes in the C Major scale and to train the child's ear to hear matching tones. Along with all of this joyful noise, we are also teaching the children the importance of "finding silence." We do some brief deep breathing to calm our bodies and then just enjoy a few moments of silence in the classroom. In our noisy, overwhelming world, this is a valuable skill for all of us to learn and practice on a regular basis.
THINGS WE THINK: This section will be used each month in a variety of ways, such as to highlight a particular area of our curriculum, to answer common parent questions or to provide developmentally appropriate parenting tips. Please comment or email if you have any particular topics you'd like to see addressed! We will begin this month with a look at our Bible curriculum and our approach to Biblical instruction for this age group.
As you well know, it is an awesome privilege and responsibility to deliver God's Word to a child. At Little Lambs we use The Beginner's Bible curriculum that is designed to offer a scripture verse each week, highlighting a certain character trait as illustrated form a story in the Bible. We read the story on Monday and begin practicing the verse. On Tuesday and Wednesday we have more stories that highlight Monday's lesson, as well as more practice on the week's memory verse. On Thursday, the students have a chance to recite the verse in front of the class, and then they have a picture to color and take home.
This year we are studying the Old Testament (with a brief journey into the New Testament at Christmas and again at Easter). The OT allows us to delve into the character of God as powerful, strong, loving and eternal, and it lays a foundation for children and adults to learn what God expects of us. However, the OT also includes many of the stories that can be overwhelming or frightening to a child. Stories such as Joseph being sold by his brothers, and the plagues on Egypt are confusing, at best, for this age group. Fortunately, most of our students have been shielded from the true ugliness that is in the world...it is baggage that is too heavy for a child to bear. Some of these stories can raise questions to which the children are not yet developmentally ready to hear the answers. Our goal during our Bible instruction is always to deliver God's Word in an age-appropriate manner that first and foremost exposes the child to God's loving and eternal nature. Although we do focus on God's expectations and rules for us, and we do discuss the very real presence of sin and its consequences, we want God's love and forgiveness to be front and center in the students' minds so they can grow in a confident, loving relationship with God, one that allows them to unwrap and understand more and more of His Word as they grow and mature.