Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Montessori workshop - day two

On the second day of the Montessori workshop we focused on mathematics in the morning and science and history in the afternoon.

I love the Montessori mathematics curriculum!  Montessori starts by teaching quantity. Using teen beads and bead stairs and more, the children get lots of practice with counting. Then they are introduced to the symbols with teen boards.  The child is shown various numbers and told their name.  At this point the child has heard the number names before during all their counting practice and now they are starting to see symbols, another way to represent the numbers they have been practicing.  As the final step the child is shown the number and the correct beads together, thereby linking the quantity with the symbol.  At each step the child is allowed ample time to practice and learn the work.

The children go on to learn about "squared" and "cubed" using bead chains, decimal places using number cards and tangible materials, and then to addition and subtraction with the same materials.  Using individual units, the ten beads, and the 100s and 1000s wooden blocks (I need to be better at remembering the names of these materials!) the children get a very clear understanding of numbers, counting, and mathematics.  One of the workshop participants was amazed to see the "five cube chain" and learn that five cubed is just 5 x 5 x 5.  She had always thought that "cubed" meant multiplying the number by six because a cube has six sides.  Being able to see the tangible materials made the concept clear to her.

In the afternoon we talked about science and history.  The science curriculum includes the study of flowers, land and water, continents, and more.  She showed us many activities and tools that could be used and how to adapt them to different learning stages.

The Montessori history curriculum, she told us, is the study of the Earth's history and the passage of time.  They don't focus on human history (politics, wars, etc.) at this level.  She talked about demonstrating for students what a second feels like by asking them to jump or clap or perform some other task for one second. They do several repetitions with different actions to get the feeling of a second.  Then they discuss "collecting 60 seconds" to make a minute, repeating the activities for one minute each.  Then collecting 60 minutes into an hour, at which point she sets a timer for an hour and tells them to go off and do their work.  When the timer rings they regroup and discuss what they were able to get done in an hour.  Again, activities focused on making the intangible tangible.

She also showed us two cool materials she uses to discuss time and location.  The first is a months mat that shows the months, with a tangible item related to each one, in a circle around the sun, to reinforce the cyclical pattern of the months and seasons.

The second is a nesting box to show place.  The largest box represents the universe and then they come apart to show the galaxy, solar system, planet, continent, country, state, town (not in hers but should be!), school, and you.  The inner most piece is to represent the child. She used a small toy, but you could also use a photo or a mirror or some other representation.

Each box is painted in the theme of what it represents, such as stars, planets, flag, state bird, etc.

I don't want to rush summer vacation, but I'm excited to get into the classroom and see all of this with real students in real situations.  It almost sounds too good to be true,  but the instructor insists the students will get it.  I'm eager to explore the materials we have in our classroom as well.

As with any good workshop I came away with my initial questions answered, but so many more on my mind.  There are many things I'm going to ask my lead teacher and many other things I'm going to research on my own. A big one, that I will have to talk to the teacher about because it is teacher specific, is just how to keep track of it all!?  With so many presentations to make, most of them part of a series that scaffolds on a previous one, and each child working at their own pace, it seems like a challenge to keep track of who has been presented what, who has mastered and who is still working, and what presentation does each child need next.  I see a complex spreadsheet being necessary, but my teacher says she keeps it in a pretty little journal.  I'm going to have to study that!

We ended the day with a discussion on listening games, silence games, and the importance of supporting your fellow teachers.  It sounds like Montessori will be a wonderful place to work.

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