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Montessori School of Greater Lafayette Blog


Insights and inspiration from our Montessori classrooms.rss


 

 

Miss Emily tries out a science experiment during the Teachers' Silent Journey and Discovery.

 

     Have you ever wished you could experience Montessori through a child's eyes? We would like to offer you the next best thing. Please join us on Monday, September 22nd from 6:00 - 7:30 pm on the MSGL campus for the Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery. This is your opportunity to see the classrooms as your children do and to use the same materials they use to develop their bodies, minds, and spirits.

     The Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery will take you on two guided tours of the school, starting as an infant and progressing through the Toddler, Preprimary, Extended Day, and Elementary classes. The first tour is silent. Your tour group will spend 5 minutes in each room looking at - but not touching - the classroom environment and the various materials. After the first tour, your guide will once again take you to each of the classrooms, but this tour will be the Discovery portion when you can use the materials, ask questions of the guides and teachers, and take part in the teachers' presentations. We will wrap up the Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery by gathering together for refreshments and discussion afterwards.


Miss Stacie presents the Squaring Chains.  

     We are very excited to offer this new parent education event and we highly recommend it for all new families and anyone who would like a hands-on experience in our Montessori classrooms. This is also a nice tour for grandparents and caregivers. The teachers practiced the Silent Journey and Discovery in August and really enjoyed the experience. You can read about one parent's experience with a Montessori Silent Journey and Discovery on the I Heart Montessori blog.

     Childcare is available for children ages 2 and older who are currently attending MSGL or familiar with MSGL. All of our teachers will be on hand for this special evening and we look forward to seeing you there, too!

     Please register for this fun event and sign up for childcare in the office or by phone by this Friday, September 19th.


 


A child explores the knobbed cylinders.

"Gradually the children begin to concentrate. One day one child, another day two or three children. After they have concentrated the children are different. They become detached and work for themselves. The disorderly children begin to love order. They all become so orderly that disorder is an extraordinary thing." - Maria Montessori, The Child, Society, and the World

     "Normalized" is the word Maria Montessori coined to describe children in their natural state. She believed that a "normal" child is one who is able to focus on activities that interest him and, through these experiences, he constructs his personality. A normalized classroom is one in which the children interact peacefully while exploring activities that introduce them to the world. Montessori described a normalized classroom this way,

"A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and voluntarily, without commiting any rough or rude act, would seem to be a classroom very well disciplined indeed." - The Montessori Method.

     At the beginning of the year, Montessori Toddler and Preprimary classrooms are far from normalized. Some children shout, wander the room, and maybe even throw objects or dump materials on the floor. There is crying and spilling. Messes are made and not cleaned up. Disagreements arise. Those first few weeks can be wild, indeed! In traditional educational methods, teachers might respond to these behaviors with reprimands and punishments. In Montessori classrooms, the teachers respond with redirection to purposeful work. 

     For example, when a new three-year-old is wandering the room and disturbing the work of others, a teacher will take him by the hand and present a new material to him. If he has shown an interest in counting then we might present the Hanging Bead Stair. When this work is completed, we assist him in finding another activity that calls to him. 


While polishing the sailboat, a child tunes out everythiing else around him.

         Whatever the activity the child is redirected to, the aim is always the same: to develop concentration. Concentration is the key to a child's natural development and all learning takes place in a state of concentration. We can think of ourselves in our adult lives to get a better understanding. When you need to study for your GRE exam, what do you do? Do you head to a busy shopping mall to work on your laptop in the food court with your friends, or do you choose a quiet place? If you need to paint a room in your home, do you do it in the afternoon when the children are busy around your feet or do you save it for those glorious, quiet mornings when they are at school? Adults relish those moments when they can concentrate and really focus on their work without interruption. Children also relish those moments, but they must first know what concentration feels like.

     This is what a Montessori classroom does: it provides an environment where children are free to concentrate - without interruption - on work that is essential to their development. A child who is excited and distracted by all the activity around him will transform into a peaceful, thoughtful individual when he is able to concentrate on a work he enjoys. Because concentrating and being in control of his body feels better than thrashing around wildly and causing mayhem, he continues to seek out other activities that allow him to feel this way. 

      Since concentration is the ultimate goal of every activity in our classroom, we are reverent of it when it appears and we do not interrupt it for any reason. If all learning occurs during a state of concentration, it would be illogical to interrupt a child's concentration in an attempt to "teach" her something. Corrections, points of interest, fixing a lock of hair that has fallen over her eye, picking up the pencil that rolled off the table, reminding her to wash her forgotten snack plate - we must do none of these things. In fact, when a child begins to concentrate on an activity, our job is to quietly step away and behave as though we are not in the room.

"The great principle which brings success to the teacher is this: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist. Naturally, one can see what he is doing with a quick glance, but without his being aware of it." - Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind


Dressing the baby doll and fastening its clothes requires great concentration. Some children choose this activity nearly every day.     

     Eventually, in a few weeks or even months, the classroom has been transformed from a noisy, chaotic scene into a peaceful, happy place to learn and play. We have seen this transformation begin in our classrooms. The children are beginning to put their belongings in their lockers and walk quietly into their classrooms. They greet their friends warmly, but not loudly. They choose work, complete the work, and put it away when they are finished. They choose to work with a friend or by themselves. They tap us on the shoulder when they have a question. They pour their own water for snack and wash their dishes when finished. They use the toilet without assistance (although assistance is always available.) They are also preparing to read, write, and count to 1000 - but when you are a young child, those accomplishments are of secondary importance compared to the ability to control one's body and interact peacefully with friends.

    Your children always benefit from opportunities to concentrate on an activity. You can provide these opportunities at home by providing space and, most importantly, time for them to focus on just one thing. Maybe painting with watercolors, washing the breakfast dishes, watering the plants outside, looking at the spider web by the front door - let her look and explore for as long as she wishes. Be available to answer questions, but don't obey your urge to jump in and explain everything you've ever heard about spiders or tell her all about color theory. Let her concentrate and formulate her own ideas and questions. When her curiosity is satisfied and she is ready to turn her attention elsewhere, you may notice that she looks refreshed and relaxed. This is a sign that she is learning and making new connections in her brain! Dr. Montessori observed that, "The child who concentrates is immensely happy." 

     Do you have a story about concentration from your life or your child's life you would like to share in the comments below? We would love to hear about it.

     May you find yourself concentrating and immensely happy in the week ahead. Thanks for reading.

~ Heather

 


 

 


Following Friends to Physics


Free play and building with logs and boards is a realistic way to explore physics concepts. MSGL has an outdoor space that allows for more than just "recess." Outside time is not a chance to get away from the classroom, it's an opportunity for children to use their whole bodies to learn and, most importantly, have fun with friends.

     On Thursday, a quartet of boys was getting very silly in the back corner of our Montessori classroom. They were speaking with outside voices and using all available paper to make pretend swords so they could have a pretend swordfight. When I tried to redirect them, they asked to make paper airplanes and see whose would fly the farthest. Although Montessori teachers are known for their flexibility and laid-back grooviness, I could not condone sword-fighting and airplane-flying during class on this, only the second full week of preschool. What would people say?

     I empathized with these friends because they wanted to play together and needed to actively move their bodies, but it was still 30 minutes before we (read: I) could even think about going outside where this type of gross-motor play was appropriate. They took a half-hearted interest in another activity and I sat at a table nearby to observe. When they realized I was there to stay, they started putting away their work and chanting with dead eyes and sad voices, "No more fun. No more fun. No more fun." It would seem I had officially become "the man." They went to the other side of the room to build a tower with the brown stair and the pink cubes and within minutes, they were using the smallest brown stair as a lever to launch the smallest pink cube across the rug. Clearly, they were trying to tell me something.

     What these boys wanted was action. They are perfectly willing to come in each morning and work on their maps or practice writing their names, but after a time they really want to make things move. And it's not just the boys, of course. Girls thrive on kinesthetic learning activities and they are usually the first to line up to walk across the log seesaw.


 

     In fact, all young children are kinesthetic learners. Most mature into adolescents who can learn successfully through watching and listening, but not all. As long ago as 1979, researchers studying how humans learn understood this:

"Restak (1979) and others have indicated that many students do not become strongly visual before third grade, that auditory acuity first develops in many students after the sixth grade, and that boys often are neither strongly visual nor auditory even during high school. Therefore, since most young children are tactual and kinesthetic learners, such resources should be developed and used, particularly for those who are experiencing difficulty learning through lectures, direct verbal instructions, "chalk talks," and textbook assignments."- See the full article at Education.com

     No one is suggesting that preschoolers should be taught through lectures, but sometimes society (or maybe our high school principal's voice in the back of our head) worries us into thinking that if we don't make our children sit down, concentrate, and learn - how will they ever be successful in school or the Real World that supposedly comes after?

     Parents sometimes ask, "When will you teach him to sit still and listen to the teacher?" The answer is that he will sit still and listen when what I am saying is of interest to him. It's my job to find the topic that is so fascinating to the child that he can't help but hold his body still so as to not miss a single word. A teacher's job is to be fascinating; but only until the child is so interested in the subject that he sets off to explore it on his own. At that point, the teacher observes and prepares for the child's next question then guides him to find the answers on his own. (Please note: Matters of health, safety, and courtesy are always addressed immediately. No one in the classroom has the freedom to hurt themselves or to hurt or disrupt others.)

He has found the exact point to stand where his weight balances the log.
 

     Maria Montessori observed that not only do young children learn kinesthetically, they absolutely MUST learn this way for proper brain development. 

"Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas." - The Secret of Childhood

     So, as a good teacher who believes in a research-based approach to education, I am obligated to consider the kinesthetic learning style of my preschool students. I am also obligated to follow a child's interests because a child who is studying something she is interested in, as opposed to an externally-imposed curriculum, is much more likely to retain that information and build connections in her brain. So why were we still inside the classroom and NOT outside studying the physics of flight and simple machines? Because I didn't know they were interested until Thursday. But now I do.

     As a result, my assistant and I will be following our 3, 4, and 5-year-olds into the action-packed world of physics this week starting with the simple lever. We will spend a little extra time outside on the log seesaw for some major gross motor exploration, then we will scale down the kinesthetic experience to make smaller levers inside the classroom using blocks, rulers, pennies, rocks, and pompoms. We will introduce the appropriate words such as "load", "effort", and "fulcrum" and we will figure out how many pennies it takes the raise the rock load. I will do my best to be fascinating. There may be squeals of joy and pompoms flying through the air, but no more "No more fun."

Thanks for reading,

~Heather