Wednesday, December 7, 2016

An Hour of Code

The Westmont Montessori Kindergarten class participated this year in the Hour of Code. They were led by Maria Fehling, a Westmont parent from the company Accenture who encourages their employees to volunteer at schools to teach computer coding. In the case of our Kindergarten class, they learned that computers have a special language that people called programmers use to tell the computers what to do. They discussed the kinds of computers around us and the children named quite a few items in their own houses that were programmed.

Next, the children participated in an activity in coding. Some of them were “programmers” and some of them were “computers”. They were told that the code they were going to use was arrows and the task that the computers were to accomplish was to build a structure using cups. The programmers then worked to write their code of arrows; an arrow pointing up meant to pick up a cup, an arrow pointing right or left meant to move the cup that many spaces on a grid, a circular arrow meant to turn the cup 180 degrees, and an arrow pointing down meant to put the cup down.

Once the children had a few practice runs all together, they split into groups and started their work. It was a great experience for them in collaboration, cooperation, and coding!

Thank you to Mrs. Fehling and Accenture for the opportunity to participate in this fantastic lesson!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Montessori Student

Children in a Montessori Early Childhood classroom (ages 3-6) experience a different preschool experience than what is traditionally offered. The Montessori classroom is an environment filled with exploration, order, and a community of multi-aged learners that inspire and lead one another.

The key to this peaceful and busy classroom is the carefully prepared environment filled with materials that can be adapted to meet the needs and interests of the children. The classroom is divided into interest areas that include, math, language, practical life, sensorial, geography, science, and art, with work that frequently changes  to grow with the children and pique their interests. Children are free to work in all areas of the classroom and receive new one-on-one lessons with the teacher throughout the day.
Learning Areas in the Early Childhood Classroom
The work of a preschooler, and what brings that child the greatest joy, is learning to do things for himself. Whether the task is putting on his own shoes, pouring a glass of milk, setting the table, or reading a book, the confidence and joy that comes from a child who is encouraged to help himself, is what Montessori is all about. Our curriculum focuses not just on the traditional academic subjects, but on the development of the whole child.
Care of Self:  Children learn to care for themselves, including dressing independently, organizing their work space, completing work in a timely fashion, washing hands, bathroom independence, cleaning up after oneself, being respectful, and patiently waiting for a turn. With this independence, children grow confident of their abilities and take initiative in all tasks, rather than waiting for an adult to direct them to tasks.
Motor Development:  Motor development involves learning to control the whole body: walking up and down steps with ease, carrying large items, and having coordination while playing outside. It also focuses on the small muscles of the hand, enabling the child to scoop and pour, use utensils, and develop the muscle strength and memory required for writing.
Social Development: The multi-age classroom provides for opportunities to interact with peers in different ways. The community of learners develop a love for helping each other and find joy in the successes of others, as well as their own.

Through lessons about geography, cultures, science, and nature, children develop knowledge and understanding of the world around them and learn to appreciate diversity in the world.
Speech and Language: As vocabulary grows, our classroom provides countless opportunities for practice with language.Our curriculum also focuses on sentence use, answering verbal questions, expressing feelings, and following directions. Children are introduced to the sounds that letters make as soon as they show interest in them. By teaching the sounds instead of the letter names, children can begin sounding out words as their language skills develop, and by the end of their three years in the classroom children have become enthusiastic readers.
Cognitive and Mathematical Development:   Development of processing, perception, reasoning, and memory takes place at an early age.  Children are introduced to the concepts of order, matching, and sorting, which serve as the foundation for mathematical concepts.  Children learn numbers, shapes, and colors not simply by memorizing their names, but by experiencing them with hands-on materials that engage the whole body and mind, while developing concentration and focus. The hands-on mathematics materials help to develop a true sense of number quantity, quantity-symbol relationships, and an understanding of mathematical operations for numbers into the thousands.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Teach Gratitude not only on Thanksgiving.

At this time of year we are always more aware of giving thanks for what we have as we gather with friend and family to celebrate Thanksgiving and all that it brings.
At our school our children delight in preparing for a special “feast” or celebration with friends where they express their thanks for what they hold dear, their mom, their dad, their baby, their pet, their teacher, their home, their bed…the list goes on and on and is heartwarming to see their faces when they speak. 
Luckily our Montessori curriculum includes a Grace and Courtesy component, and on a daily basis we model and teach and model grace and courtesy.  We expect our students to say thank you to a friend who holds the door, or helps them clean up, to a teacher who helps with laces or zippers, or a parent who comes to read a book or do a craft.
“Thank you” - two very small and simple words that are big and important to both the user and the receiver.  Showing and receiving gratitude makes a person feel good and sets them up for positive interactions and relationships. Gratitude is a skill that will help children grow into healthy adults, therefore it is really important that we help our children focus on what they can and should be thankful for apart from material things.
Dr. Monisha Vasa in an article on  recommends the following to encourage attitudes of gratitude in children:

·         Have them engage in random acts of kindness
·         Spend time in nature and learn to appreciate its beauty
·         Create a daily reflection ritual on the highs and lows, joys and challenges of the day
·         Practice mindfulness at meals, exclude toys and electronics to allow appreciation for the meal
·         Help children volunteer in age appropriate ways

We all know the importance of role modeling, if we can make gratitude part of our daily lives our children will too.

Colette B. Cross

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Importance of Parent-Teacher Conferences

This time of year is a great time to get together with your child's teacher to discuss goals for his growth and development. Conferences are an opportunity to collaborate on your child's strengths and come together to set goals and a game-plan for his success. 

In Montessori schools, progress is measured individually and through mastery of objectives, as opposed to a grade-based system that compares your child with other children. So, at conference time you should expect to hear about the skills your child has obtained and the future path of development planned for your child. Since lesson planning is done individually, don't be surprised to hear that your child may prefer one area of the room to the other and that the teacher is not concerned about broadening her lessons for now. Often children will focus on one task or subject for an extended amount of time until they have mastered the skill, at which time they will move to another task to master. This ability to follow the interests of each child is one of the amazing gifts of Montessori Education that promotes a true love for learning.

Since Montessori schools focus on the whole child and not just academic subjects, teachers will share information about social and emotional growth, fine and gross motor skill development, and your child's acquisition of practical life skills such as caring for himself. Strength in these skills helps to encourage the development of academic skills and build concentration. 

Overall, parent-teacher conferences are an opportunity to work together to share insights with each other so that the partnership between parents and teachers can be strengthened to best meet the needs of your child.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Boo Hoo – the End of Daylight Savings    ---      FALL BACK ONE HOUR
November 6, 2015

In the fall, the clocks ‘fall’ back an hour. What used to be 7:00pm is now 6:00pm and baby/child is tired and ready to sleep earlier than ‘normal’. While you may not be successful in helping your child make it to bedtime, the real problem comes in the morning because most children will wake early. Their normal 7:00am wake-up time now becomes 6:00am. Prepare to nap them a little earlier and allow them to ‘chill’ in the crib after waking from naps a bit longer.
Your best approach is to not worry about the plan and just go with what the clock is saying. If your child’s bedtime has been 7:00pm prior to turning your clocks back, still put your child down to sleep at the new clock time of 7:00pm. The reason you can ignore the time change is because a lot of our social cues like meals, bathing, leaving and returning from work and school, are all adjusted with the time change. Social cues help regulate a child’s sleep schedule. It is entirely possible that your baby will be tired before the 7:00 pm bedtime and you should absolutely read baby’s cues and put him down a little earlier if very fussy or obviously very tired. Remain strict adhering to usual bedtimes, wake times and nap times. This approach works best for good sleepers or those who have mellow personalities. What I would suggest, however, is that a little catnap for about 30 minutes offered anywhere between 4pm and 5pm may help take the ‘edge’ off before the normal bedtime.
Some parents find it is best to try to make gradual adjustments by making a slow transition starting on Thursday night (November 3) before the time change, moving your child's bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each night. By Sunday night you will be right back on schedule.
1.    Starting Thursday, November 3, move your baby/ toddler bedtime back 15 minutes each night. Your baby’s whole daily schedule moves back those 15 minutes the day after. This way, you will have shifted your baby’s schedule ahead by one hour by the time you have to move your clock back one hour. Therefore, your baby would be going to sleep at his usual time right away, based on the Standard Time.
2.    See the chart below for guidance. Note that this chart assumes baby’s current bedtime is 7pm and waking time is 7am.
3.    For an even smoother transition, you can start moving your baby’s bedtime back 10 minutes on Tuesday, November 1, 2014.
Adults as well as babies and children can take a few days to a week or even longer to adjust to the time change. And, this is perfectly normal. Be patient with yourself and your children until your biological rhythms catch up with the clock. Being diligent with your schedule will help your child, and you, to make that adjustment more quickly. If you find the adjustment challenging, consider the following suggestion: the day after the daylight savings time ends, Monday, November 7, 2016, your baby may wake up one hour earlier than usual (based on the clock). If this is the case, you will want to make your child’s naptime and bedtime 45 minutes earlier than his regular schedule the first day; 30 minutes earlier the second day; and 15 minutes earlier the third day.

The whole daily schedule adjusts to those changes accordingly. By doing this, your baby would be going to sleep and waking up at his regular times, based on the Standard Time, by Friday November 11th. 
Pam "Mimi" Small
Newborn/Infant Care Consultant
Sleep Consultant 0-5 Years    

Transition Steps
Current Time (Daylight Savings Time)
New Time
(Standard Time)

Thursday, November 3
Move back your baby's 7pm bedtime to 7:15pm
Friday, November 4
Move back your baby’s daily schedule, starting at wake-up time 7:15am
Move back your baby’s bedtime to 7:30pm
Saturday, November 5
Move back your baby’s daily schedule, starting at wake-up time 7:30am
Move back your baby’s bedtime to 7:45pm
Sunday, November 6 (Fall Back Night)
Move back your baby’s daily schedule, starting at wake-up time 7:45am
Move back your baby’s bedtime to 8:00pm
Monday, November 7 (Standard Time in Place
Regular waking time 7:00am
8:00am(Doesn’t apply!)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Make Time for Books

Colette B. Cross

Read for the Record Day this year is October 27.  On this day over a 24 hour period, many many adults and children take part in a shared reading experience.  This program is facilitated by Jumpstart, a national early education organization, whose goal is to support more adults reading to children, and put more books in the hands of children.   Westmont has been a participating school for a number of years in this now 10-year initiative. 

Teachers, parents, grandparents, alumni students, siblings, and classmates provide reading experiences in our classrooms on an ongoing basis.  We see books in the hands of our students every day, from our youngest “Little Steppers” to our oldest Kindergarteners in their cozy dedicated reading spots.  We also welcome any opportunity to read to our students and enjoy a school-wide appreciation of a new shared book.  Each class received a copy of the book for its library.

Today, I had the pleasure of being the guest reader and read this year’s book selection The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach to all of our Early Childhood and Kindergarten students.  The animated faces, thoughtful observations, and creative responses to questions showed engaged listeners and provided fun interactions for all.  I do not have daily opportunities of reading to a large number of students and enjoyed the experience as much as the children.  I do, however, recognize the importance of giving a child the lifelong gift of enjoying a good book.

Research shows that children, who are read to from an early age develop larger vocabularies, become better readers, and experience greater success in school.  Providing literacy-rich environments will ensure that children receive the support necessary to develop pre-reading and appropriate cognitive skills, for school and for life.   We can do it together; remember to keep books in your car,  in your home, and read to your child daily.  Add a book to the birthday and holiday gift list, take trips to your local library and bookstore.  Make books visible and accessible, and take time to enjoy a good book yourself. 

If you click on the link below you can read or download this year’s Jumpstart book selection.