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I'm not sure if you are like me, but I am not really a winter person, and I am sick of winter, snow, and cold. I am waiting with open arms ready to welcome spring! I do, however, always find a positive, and that has been the children's enthusiasm with cutting intricate snowflakes. Our classroom is filled with them, as are the finished work drawers. The next time work comes home you, too, will be able to decorate your home!
Our morning circle has included many conversations about the Olympics. What an exciting two weeks for Canada. Maybe Winter wasn't so bad after all.
We are all now anxiously awaiting the safe arrival of the Schefold baby. Holly has done so well working and is ready to welcome her baby girl. I know the children will miss her, as will I. Our cupcake party was fun and I know the children were really happy to give Holly the book. Thank you to all the families that contributed.
Once Holly begins her Maternity leave, Casa East will welcome Stef Goruk as the assistant, and I will be acting as the Directress. Stef is currently finishing her student teaching placement in Casa North with Dylan. She is both enthusiastic and excited to be joining us and we are happy to have her become a valuable part of the Casa East community.
The group picture is just one lovely example of the social dynamics that can happen spontaneously. The children are playing a game that is an extension of the pink tower. It was so enjoyable to watch.
Holly and Elizabeth.
It has been a delight getting to know all the children and seeing so many strong friendships. One of my latest readings for my Montessori training focused on social cohesion -- a sense of belonging in a group. This is very apparent in Casa North, and the comfort level of the children and respect for one another are the results. I especially enjoy how enthusiastic the kids are about working together and inventing new jobs when the mood strikes: tracing, cutting, and colouring all the bases of the cylinders, or writing a list of new polygon names as they are learned.
I can see the benefits of how Dylan invites the other twenty-four teachers in the classroom to blossom by guiding one another: reading to one another, a group of three matching provinces with their flags, and even simply doing up another's coat. The children have also been helpful in teaching me the routines and expectations in the classroom.
Observing Dylan has given me confidence to one day lead a fun and respectful class. Cards sent to the Tuleeni orphanage in Tanzania were a success, with the children putting great effort into drawing a meaningful picture and writing messages to go along with the gift of a book. Outside on the playground, we built a giant walking labyrinth that welcomed play for many recesses. Some friends would excitedly run through it, while others patiently patched up walls that got damaged.
My first four weeks have flown by and I know these last two will also. I'll be sad to not return to Casa North after March break, but I'm very excited to only be moving down the hall to Casa East, where I'll be covering as the assistant for Holly when she leaves to have her baby.
Sincerely (trying not to slip and fall on the ice),
Dylan and Laura.
The written word is one of humanity's greatest achievements. It allows us to learn from those who have gone before and has changed the course of human development. We became able to communicate with each other in new ways, writing wonderful stories and songs that expanded our consciousness.
Because literacy is so important, as adults we sometimes become anxious about when a child will begin to read, but before children can read stories they need to be able to read individual sentences; before sentences come individual words (which in English can be downright perplexing!); and before words, they need to learn both the symbols and the sounds of speech.
In a Casa classroom, there is much to learn before readers go home. We spend many hours working on each stage of development with no visible proof that progress is being made. However, if given the proper time to develop naturally and logically, the end result of the Casa literacy program is a child who not only loves to read but one who can understand the thoughts, sentiment, and style of a text.
Our message to parents is to have faith; that even if your child is not yet bringing home readers, he or she is working every day to develop the necessary skills to make reading a joyful experience.
Pat and Serena.
As a lot of you know, Montessori pedagogy encourages keeping younger, Casa-age children grounded in reality to meet their developmental needs. At the elementary level, they are at a developmental stage where they can grasp the distinction between reality and fantasy. Accordingly, we have been looking at fairy tales recently, and how they differ from other types of stories.
We have read many traditional fairy tales, and we have also looked at some modern interpretations that offer the tale from the perspective of other characters. This is a great way to introduce the concept of point of view, andis a lot of fun if you want to try it at home. We have also worked at writing our own fairy tales.
In the bigger picture, this is all a part of a larger body of work on learning about storywriting, from first drafts to final products. As part of this, Lower South Mom Lynne Kittredge-Fox , a published children's author, came in as a guest speaker. (A huge thank you to Lynn and her friend Scott, a musician). They explained the entire story writing and publication process, from initial idea to book on a shelf. Fabulous!
Our arts focus also involved visual art, as many of you saw at our art exhibit during the Strata Cafe a couple of weeks ago. We looked at the six elements of art: line, shape, colour, texture, form, and value. We also focused on the Abstract period and produced works in the styles of Kandinsky and Mondrian, which were what you saw at the exhibit.
When we get back from March Break, our arts program will shift to the dramatic arts and theatre.
Lower North has been heavily focused on developing our community recently. We have a weekly meeting where we all have an opportunity to discuss any issues or problems we may be having, even problems with Rob (Noeleen is not invited). Taking a cue from Lord of the Flies, we have our own conch in the form of a marker that serves as a microphone.
Most of the issues and problems that come up in the classroom community have to do with three dis-es: disrespect, distrust, and disturbing. Since we began addressing these things in a more formalized manner that gives everyone a chance to talk, and to be heard, I have noticed a big change in the classroom. There is much more focus and flow during the work cycles, and the children are learning to resolve issues amongst themselves.
As an example, Sylvia told me about an incident she overheard in the hallway during lunch when I wasn't around. One of the girls was upset that the cloakroom area was always messy and initiated a classroom meeting. All of the children got together and discussed what strategies might make it easier to keep clean. They came up with a system by which only a few kids at a time would use the cloakroom to hang up and put away their belongings. All without adult intervention or instruction. Solving their own problems with their own solutions works so well because they all buy-in to the solutions they have come up with as a way to make their own community better; the solutions are not imposed by an authoritative adult.
I have also noticed that having the formal discussion process in place, and having a developed sense and skill of being able to solve their own problems, has allowed the individual children to focus more on themselves and less on peer pressures that may lead to dis-ing behaviour.
We will be putting our new collaborative, community-building skills to work in the coming weeks as we begin a novel study period that will involve a considerable amount of group work involving social relations.
A challenge and a lesson in humility:
An element of the classroom experience that always elicits a smile and a flurry of hard work is a good challenge. Challenges are usually issued by the teacher, but the really exciting ones come from the children themselves.
Of late, our class has a group exploring the mathematical patterns of square root. Finding square root by hand and brain without a scientific calculator is an exercise for the flexibility of the mind. Some people like solving suduko or the jumble, while others prefer the challenge of the multi-digit square root.
Two boys were working with such a problem this week when they got stumped. They brought me their work on paper with their accompanying diagram and said they thought they had it right but something was amiss. I looked over the work and suggested that one of the digits in the root was a zero. After another hour or so of enthusiastic figuring, diagramming, and general puzzling they grabbed a calculator and proved that their original work was correct, and that my revision was incorrect. They were elated with this progress.
But what made me smile at the end of the day was listening to them tell the story to their peers, saying, "We stumped Terrence and he didn't even care. He's not mad and in fact he challenged us right back with a more difficult question."
I like to foster a spirit of humility and reverence for mistakes in the classroom. Without mistakes we wouldn't truly grow in mind or character.
The Upper Elementary West students have been lucky enough to have an opportunity to work with an exceptional student. We choose to use the dictionary definition of exceptional to mean "outstanding." Gabriel is exceptional in so many ways. He brings a smile to the children in our classroom every time he walks through the door. Gabriel experiences many challenges day to day that the children in our class will never have to face. However, over the past months the upper elementary students have made comments like "Gabriel is doing so well," "Gabriel high fived me this morning," "You should see Gabriel catch and throw the ball now!" Gabriel has brought out the best in my students. He has increased their awareness of special needs and he has helped them further develop empathy and understanding. He has made them appreciate the little things in life. Gabriel cannot pass our classroom door without a flurry students rushing to say hi and receive their daily high five. Each Wednesday, it is a contest to see who can get to Marissa first to volunteer their time in the gym with Gabe. They work on gross motor, communication, and peer play with him. I am not sure who has the better time, Gabe or the Upper Elementary students who have the privilege of playing with him. In the resource room, the students are working one-on-one with Gabriel on fine motor, sensory activities, and communication.
When first approached by Marissa about my students working with Gabriel every week, I thought it was a wonderful idea. My students could help teach Gabriel so many wonderful things. The truth is, though, Gabriel has taught my students so much more than they could ever teach him. Upper Elementary says "Thank you Gabriel":