Friday, January 30, 2015

Gratitude for the Montessori Kindergarten Year

When I am asked to explain the importance of the kindergarten year of a Montessori student I get very passionate. I have the unique experience of being a Montessori parent as well as a Montessori teacher, so I have seen the remarkable metamorphosis of children in my classes, as well as in my own children.

Having taught for many years before my first son reached kindergarten, I knew that a Montessori education worked and I felt it was superior to anything that the other area schools could provide. By that time, I had seen hundreds of children excel in the Montessori program and knew that my own son would be no different. Still though, I had the same concerns that I hear repeated every year from other parents: How will he transition when he leaves Montessori? What if he never “chooses” to learn to read? Is it worth the private school tuition when I can get kindergarten for free?

I am here to say though that year after year, those parents (including myself) share the tremendous sense of success in having chosen Montessori for the Kindergarten year.

The best analogy that I can give for the kindergarten year is that of the building of an archway. When children are three and four in a Montessori classroom they build their foundation of knowledge. As they learn their isolated letter sounds and numbers with the materials, refine their fine motor skills, and learn to be a good member of their community, they are building up the pillars of their archway.  It is during the kindergarten year though that, using the foundation they have built, they can tie all of that knowledge together to create a beautiful, strong support system for their future success.

For those children not continuing in the Montessori program, they still have great pillars of knowledge gained from their preschool years which they will continue to build, but the “coming together” of concrete materials and abstract concepts will not be as strong as the archway could have been.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to give my children many gifts. We have taken trips, had elaborate birthday parties, and numerous toys. But the one gift that I feel is the most important that I have given them, that they will have with them their whole life, is the gift of their education. And I truly believe that their Montessori foundation, including the kindergarten year, will be with them forever.

Melanie Thiesse
Parent of Nathan (15) and Brandon (9) and
Curriculum Coordinator at The Westmont Montessori School

Friday, January 23, 2015

Parent Involvement: What Skills need to be part of a Daily Routine

Parent Involvement: What Skills Need to be Part of a Daily Routine?
Repost of article by Erika Burton
Parent involvement in early literacy is directly connected to academic achievement. Children need parents to be their reading role models with daily practice in order to navigate successfully through beginning literacy skills. According to research, parents should focus on the words on the page while reading with their preK reader (Evans, Shaw, Bell, 2000).
Here are some strategies for beginning and seasoned readers' literacy success:
   Point to each word on the page as you read. This beginning literacy strategy will assist children with making print/story/illustration connections. This skill also helps build a child's tracking skills from one line of text to the next one.
   Read the title and ask your child to make a prediction. Beginning and seasoned readers alike need to make predictions before reading a story. This will go a long way to ensure that a child incorporates previewing and prediction in his or her own reading practices both now and in the future.
   Take "picture walks." Help your child use the picture clues in most early readers and picture books to tell the story before reading.
   Model fluency while reading, and bring your own energy and excitement for reading to your child. Both new and seasoned readers struggle with varying pitch, intonation and proper fluctuations when they read aloud. Older readers will benefit from shared reading (taking turns).
   Ask your child questions after reading every book. Reading comprehension is the reason we read -- to understand. The new CCORE standards assessing U.S. children's readiness for the workplace and college ask children at all grade levels to compare and contrast their understanding of concepts. This takes practice. Help your child explain his or her understanding of any given story in comparison to another. Have your child share a personal experience similar to a problem or theme within a story. Higher-order thinking skills (critical thinking) are skills children are expected to use in both written and oral assessments in school. There is no way for a teacher to ask every child to use a critical thinking skill every day. Parents can.
   Connect reading and writing if possible. The connection between reading, writing and discussion should be incorporated with daily literacy practice. Have a young child dictate to a parent who writes in a journal or on a sheet of paper. Modeling the formation of sentences aligned with the words of a story is crucial for a child to begin making a neural interconnectedness between reading and writing. A child's process of drawing pictures brings his or her personal creativity toward the story. Sharing these illustrations of experiences and individual interpretations related to the sentence he or she has created on the page is yet another step toward this early balanced literacy approach.
Beginning and lifelong literacy is transformative and constantly growing. However, the process must begin when initially learning to read, and must be as intuitive to a child as when he or she learned to speak. This can happen through incorporating repetition, proper skills and modeling.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Practicing and Modeling Empathy

How can we teach our children to be empathetic and not just sympathetic? We role model it ourselves! This is a great illustration of the words of Brene Brown, Ph.D., that remind us to stay connected to those around us by feeling with people.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How Babies and Children are Designed to Learn

Psychologist, Alison Gopnik gave a Ted Talk where she made some bold statements about the minds of babies and children. In it, she explained that while adults are task-oriented and tend to focus like a spotlight on one thing at a time, children have more of a lantern of consciousness, taking in and learning from all of the environment. In this way, she believes that children are actually more conscious than adults.

Experimenting with the environment and learning about it is the job of the child. When adults see this happening we tend to call it "getting in to everything" but it is the true work of childhood.

The Ted Talk, viewable here, is informative, funny, and certainly worth a look. Enjoy!