Ms. Kristen’s Corner – January 2014

Cuyahoga Falls School

by Ms. Kristen Minnich

Our classroom was busy this month after returning from Christmas Break! It was wonderful to see the children pick up where they left off and work so well in the classroom this month! During the first week of January, we learned about the planets, outer space, and about being an astronaut!  We learned the order of the planets and played a matching game in the afternoon to help us remember the names of these planets. The children also enjoyed learning about famous astronauts such as Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. We also enjoyed watching a video of the Space shuttle launching! The children we fascinated! Together we graphed which of the planets we studied was the children’s favorite. The winner, by quite some margin, was Neptune! The majority of the children said they picked Neptune because it’s blue and “lays on its side”.
During the second week, we learned how to take care of our bodies. We discussed how we need to take care of our bodies by brushing our teeth, taking a bath, eating healthy food, drinking plenty of water, and exercising. We also discussed the food pyramid. We learned which foods are healthy to eat, and which foods are “sometimes” foods. The children enjoyed separating pretend food into grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy, and oils. We also enjoyed learning about different ways we can exercise, such as dance, yoga, riding a bike, etc.977

Next we explored our five senses as well. To further investigate our sense of taste we tested something sweet (a sugar cube), something sour (lemon juice), something salty (a cheese-it), and something bitter (a piece of baking chocolate). To explore our sense of touch, Ms. Kim brought in several items and had the children categorize the items by how they felt and separated them into piles ( soft items in one pile, bumpy items in another, etc.). We also talked about how our ears help us to hear. To further explore their sense of hearing, the children played a game where one child would close their eyes, and another child would say, “Hello Friend”, and the child with their eyes closed guesses whose voice they heard.

976

To further investigate our five senses, we celebrated National Popcorn Day. Ms. Kim popped popcorn in an air popper, and we were able to hear the popcorn pop, smell the popcorn, touch the popcorn, see the popcorn change from seeds to fluffy popcorn, and we were also able to taste the popcorn. So much fun!

We also learned about our skeletal system during the final week of January. We read a book entitled “Dem Bones.” This help teach us how all our bones work together to help us move and to help protect our organs.972

During morning circle time, we also reviewed our orange sandpaper letter packet. We learned the sounds “l”, “u”, “f”, and “d”. The children enjoyed coming up with words that started with those sounds.

We also have a new addition to our classroom! A male Beta fish! The children have enjoyed watching him swim and observing him during their work time.

973

It’s truly a joy teaching your children and I am amazed by them everyday!


Ms. Kristen’s Corner – November_December 2013

Cuyahoga Falls School

First, and foremost, I would like to sincerely thank you for entrusting and sharing your children with us. They bring us such great joy. All of them are kind, bright, and funny (not to mention the cuteness factor). Everyday, when I drive to and from work, I find myself feeling very thankful for each and every one of them. We are very vocal about our feelings in the classroom, so our students are very aware of this (and vice versa). It was so nice to meet for conferences, and I hope you enjoyed and found it informative as well.
The children love listening to stories, learning new facts, and receiving new presentations. But most of all, they love learning and singing new songs. Their faces truly beam bright, when I say it is time to learn or sing a new song(s)!914
Here are a few you can enjoy as a family at home:

Indians and Pilgrims (tune: “Row,Row,Row Your Boat.”)

Beat, beat, beat the drum;

Beat it loud and clear,

To tell brave Indians everywhere

That hunting time is near.

Cut, cut, cut the logs,

Make them long and short.

To help the pilgrims build a house,
Turkey Dinner (tune: “Are You Sleeping?”)

Turkey dinner, turkey dinner, gather round, gather round

Who will get the drumstick, yummy, yummy, yum stick

All sit down, all sit down

Corn bread muffin, chesnut stuffin’, pudding pie one foot high

I was so much thinner, before I came to dinner

Me oh my! Me oh my!

Vegetable Harvest (tune: “Are You Sleeping?”)

Vegetable garden, vegetable garden, harvest time, harvest time

Gather corn and snap the beans, dig potatoes, pick the peas

Veggies taste good, veggies taste good

Some of the other things we enjoyed learning about were, What Is the Universe, What is the Solar System, What is Planet Earth, and What Are Countries, Towns and Cities. We took this opportunity to learn the names of the cities or towns we live in. As well as, the name of our wonderful country! The children did very well indeed!! Maps, borders, island groups, and country capitals were briefly touched upon along with people, their homes, food, clothing and celebration.

We tied this into our study, songs, and crafts we did for our Thanksgiving Celebration. The children learned about what maps are, and what maps show. They loved working with the globes, and the maps of the 7 continents in our classroom. Some children are building the maps on the rugs.

912

The children always enjoy being read to in circle. They pay close attention, using their eyes and ears only, till the end of the book. Then comes the comments, and questions!!! The children enjoyed learning new words from our children’s’ dictionary – pie, sang, yolk and igloo. These words correspond directly to the sounds they are learning. The sounds they are learning corresponds directly to the order of how the Sandpaper Letters are or will be introduced to the group or individually to each child (tracing the letters and learning their sounds). Counting is also enjoyed by all the children, especially during roll call. The children take turns in counting how many children are present during morning circle time. Students cannot wait to see if they will be called to do the head count for the morning!

880

In the afternoons, Ms. Kristen has been focusing on teaching our students about families, thankfulness, yoga and building more sign language vocabulary. I hope you were able to see our “We are thankful” tree on display at our Thanksgiving Feast!

We love to read in our classroom! I hope you enjoy reading to your child at home too!

Reading to Children
Children need to be read to from infancy through elementary school. Reading to your child on a daily basis improves your child’s comprehension development, vocabulary expansion, and exposure to the world. The following are suggestions of how to read to your child and some activities to assist your child in developing thinking skills.

Start reading to your child, as early as birth or even before. As a newborn you can read your child books intended for young children, and you can also read aloud anything you are reading: the newspaper, a textbook, a piece of fiction… A newborn’s brain develops at such a fast pace that hearing the language of anything you are reading can aid their development. Risley & Hart, in their 1995 book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Lives of American Children, compared the early language environments of children from 7-9 months until 3 years, and then correlated language exposure to achievement test scores in 3rd grade. Children who heard the greatest amount of language when they were young had the highest achievement test scores, while children who heard the least amount of language had the lowest achievement test scores.

911

Continue reading with your child into toddler-hood. Toddler aged children love the repetition of books. Favorites include Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Engine That Could, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. A note about using books with toddlers: do not underestimate a toddler and their ability to handle or stick with a story. Not all toddlers require board books but few board books provide great stories. Left to their own devices you may want to stick with sturdy books, but for reading time with your child branch out past board books to stories. With a toddler (and older children) you have many options for story time. Before you begin a story you can read the title to the child and have your child guess (predict) what the story may be about. You can go on a book walk – look at the pictures in the book before you actually read the book to get an idea about the story. If the book is obviously about a topic (Brown Bear is about animals and colors) you can discuss the topic with your child beforehand. Ask your child if they remember when they went to the zoo, park, pet store… to see animals. Talking about a topic ahead of time enables the child to remember their prior knowledge on the topic. As you are reading the story you may want your child to listen as you read or you may encourage your child to participate (pointing to a picture, making an animal noise while reading Brown Bear). Think as you read about the vocabulary in the book and if a word or an expression requires an explanation; give it. Exposing your child to vocabulary outside what they use everyday is critical for their vocabulary development.

913After the story you can ask your child about their favorite part. It isn’t critical that you do all of the above items with every book. Reading with your child should be a special, enjoyable time. With a preschool aged child you can do the same as with a toddler aged child. A preschool aged child will likely want to re-read the same book occasionally, but will also enjoy exposure to new books. Your child may even venture into the chapter book arena. As your child learns to read and is working on reading phonetic books, continue reading to your child. You are likely to spend time nightly listening to your child read. This is not a time to neglect reading to your child. You continue to set an example on how to read: reading fluently so your child hears proficient reading. Read aloud books are typically several reading levels above a child’s reading ability. An important component of reading aloud to your child is keeping their interest. What is your child interested in reading? They may be interested in a topic that doesn’t hold high interest for you. Consider reading a book on that topic to your child and then picking a book that has high interest for both of you. This is a wonderful age to introduce chapter books and higher quality pieces of literature. Think about what books you consider classics: Winnie the Pooh, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, etc. No matter the book you choose, continue reading to the child, perhaps a few chapters a night. Reading chapter books at this age helps your child increase their attention span (entire chapter books are not typically read in one sitting) and it gives your child the opportunity to follow the development of characters.

910

December was such a fun month! In addition to our individual work time, we focused on naming and identifying different musical instruments, learning the concept of addition and subtraction and incorporated many fun winter themed lessons in our classroom. Ms. Kristen conducted some fun experiments with ice, students made their own snow and even walked like penguins!

944

The Christmas Show was such a success! All the hard work paid off! The children sounded and looked beautiful. I am ever grateful for Ms. Kristen’s expertise in the Music field, as I have none! I thank all of you for your support, also Ms. Kelly and Ms. Brandy’s of course. We all hope those of you who attended Breakfast with Santa had as mush fun as we did. I wish you a very happy New Year!


Ms. Kristen’s Corner – October 2013

Cuyahoga Falls School

The children are adapting very well to their classroom!! All of us are truly enjoying being at school. Here are a few things we are working on in the classroom. In language and vocabulary, we are learning about autumn’s changes, weather, nature, and activities. My students enjoyed observing the changing season this month and I loved talking with them about it! We are also discussed fire prevention and fire safety.  While we were learning about fire prevention, children enjoyed trying new “routes” around the school, walking up the different stairways in the building to explore our safe exits.  We also talked about “stop, drop and roll” and practiced putting action to those words!  Students loved singing, “The Wheels on the Fire Truck.” Ask them about it I’m sure they will sing it for you!

833

We also talked about Halloween safety, and the concepts of real and pretend. We also enjoyed new colors in our classroom for the Month of October which gave special attention to black and orange. I also enjoyed hearing the beautiful voices of our students as we sang together a few fun filled Halloween themed songs at circle time. We also focused on the directional and positional concepts of IN and OUT. We put objects in a variety of containers, and then took them out to demonstrate the concepts of IN and OUT. We also used a variety of the Sensorial materials to reinforce the concepts of big and little.

Students were able to work on refining their fine motor skills this month while practicing with lacing, cutting, coloring, drawing, play dough manipulation making circles and path tracing. The children were also able to enhance their perception skills by learning about same and different, puzzles, sorting, and copying block and peg patterns. Gross motor activities such as organized games like musical chairs, tossing and catching and moving to the music is also enjoyed many afternoons!  Students focused on where they live, learning their phone numbers, new ASL signs and also baked some very tasty items this month with Ms. Kristen in the afternoons.

832

Students learned and sang their own phone numbers and worked hard to memorize their address, city, county and state they live in. Together they also enjoyed the tastes of the season by making a very tasty pumpkin dip, baked pumpkin seeds and even home made butter!  Students also enjoy their yoga time with Ms. Kristen.  The music and the moves truly help our students relax after a hard day at work! 

830
Last month I shared a bit about Practical Life in our classroom, this month I wish to focus on the Sensorial area. Every area of the Montessori classroom includes multi-sensory materials that encompass sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. These sensorial areas of the Montessori classroom focus on educating through the senses. Dr. Montessori wrote, “Nothing comes to the intellect that is not first in the senses.” (Montessori Method). As early as the infant program, young children explore Montessori materials through their senses. The toddler environment may include knobbed cylinders which are cylinders that have a knob, but are exactly the same size, making the child successful due to the self correcting nature of the material. The 3-6 year old environment also includes knobbed cylinders but they are graded according to height, width or both to distinguish differences in these two properties.

Attention is also drawn to the totality of an objects’ properties – size, shape, color, texture, weight, smell, sound… Eventually children learn to pay attention to small details in an object and the environment, which helps them discover how to learn.

831

The Montessori materials help a child to distinguish, to categorize, and to relate new information to what they already know. Dr. Montessori believed that this process is the beginning of conscious knowledge: Knowledge that is brought about by the intelligence working in a concentrated way on the impressions given by the senses. The Directress assists the child in developing their learning techniques by creating a prepared environment and presenting exercises with deliberate, exact and slow movements that the child can follow. The Sensorial area can be further divided into sub-categories:

  • Visual: pink tower, brown stair, red rods, knobbed cylinders
  • Tactile: Touch boards, touch tablets, fabric boxes
  • Auditory: Sound boxes, bells
  • Baric: Baric tablets (differ by weight)
  • Olfactory: Taste Jars
  • Gustatory: Smelling Jars

An additional sub-category includes geometry. Geometry is introduced at the toddler level with shapes (circle, square, triangle, sphere, cube, prism) and further developed in the 3-6 environment and the elementary classrooms. The children are introduced to what they know first, plane figures. We begin with the triangle, square and circle. Once a child masters these basic plane figures, additional ones are introduced. Then a child can find different plane figures in the environment. Once solids are introduced, a child can match a solid figure with its base. The sensorial area of the environment is one that naturally draws children to it so each child can explore and further develop their potential through the senses.

As I was reading the Ohio Department of Education standards for preschool learning and what is expected in grade K, I was amazed to find that the Sensorial area helps the child meet and exceed their ma thematic requirements, such as number, number sense and operations, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, patterns, functions and algebra, as well as, data analysis and probability! 

868

The Sensorial area builds up the child’s Mathematical Mind, as Dr. Montessori discovered. Just imagine what the Math area of our classroom can do for our children in meeting those same standards. Therefore, next time when you hear that your child builds with the Pink Tower and the Brown Stair, or worked with the Red Rods among others, rejoice! The website of the Ohio Department of Education is www.OhioAcademicStandards.com

Activities for the Home:

Keep your child moving to help them develop their senses. It is through movement that babies first learn to crawl, walk, and then run! Allow your child to walk (safely) on the flower bed wall. This encourages your child to develop a sense of balance and to become aware of them self. Let them jump, hop, skip… while playing games or outside. Take walks often – whether you live in an urban, suburban or other environment there are always things to see and do. Go on a sensory walk – listen for sounds or smells in your environment and point out smells and sounds that change with the different seasons. Your goal is to help heighten your child’s awareness and it is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your child. A walk can be around the block or a long hike. Let your child be the guide in terms of when they are finished or how long they want to continue. Keep sensory activities active. Video and computer games can be very sensory (especially visual and auditory) in nature, but limit the amount of time your child spends on this type of activity. Video and computer games tend to be very sedentary. Visit a new playground in your area. Find out where your community has handicap accessible playgrounds. Often, these playgrounds have equipment for blind or otherwise special needs children. These playgrounds provide a great opportunity for your child to learn about other children and their needs and the opportunity to play with something that might be new.


Ms. Kristen’s Corner – September 2013

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio Preschool

 

To begin our school year we focused on grace and courtesy, love and respect, self-control and self-government. We develop these skills through purposeful work, beginning in the Practical Life area of the classroom. Practical Life is an essential component of the Montessori curriculum. Children learn skills that promote order, concentration, coordination, and independence. Therefore, many of the Practical Life activities are a preparation for math and language acquisition.

The materials in Practical Life are set up in a very orderly manner. The easiest work is located on the top left of the shelf. The child progresses through various levels of difficulty as the work becomes more involved or complex. For example, the first pouring work is two cups or containers that have no handles and no spouts. Usually one container has a dry ingredient such as beans. More difficult pouring work may include using a funnel to pour a liquid from one container to another.

775

Concentration is developed when the child is able to freely choose what she/he works on and for how long. As long as the child is not damaging the work nor is being disruptive to the other children and is not “hiding behind the work,” the child is free to develop his/her self-government skills through this independent work. The child can repeat the exercises as many times as he/she desires. Choice and repetition helps the child develop concentration.

Another component of Practical Life is movement. The materials in a Montessori environment are set up on shelves, in baskets or on trays so that the child can use a work at will after being given a presentation on it. The environment is purposefully designed so that the child can coordinate his/her movements and independently carry her/his basket or tray to a table. This freedom of movement allows children to develop courtesy; saying “excuse me” when passing another student.

776

“Walking on the line” is another aspect of movement. As a child learns to control his/her body movements, he/she becomes more confident. After our line walk each day we discussed what is means to be courteous of others, respectful of others and kind to one another. All students agreed that when we say “please,” “excuse me” and “thank you” we are being kind and respectful. We can show each other respect by the words we use and by how we help one another. We played The Silence Game, where the children sit quietly and listen to the sounds around them. We invite Hoot, our classroom owl to join us, and we light a candle in the center of our circle. Everyone sits quietly for about one minute listening, and then we discuss the sounds we heard during our game. This is becoming a favorite group activity. 774

 

Children also learn social skills through Practical Life lessons. Children learn how to greet someone, how to appropriately interrupt, how to watch a friend work…Through direct instruction on some of these social skills, children learn early on how to handle a variety of situations. We do not assume that the child knows how to handle situations. Instead, we break down a task into step- by- step directions so the child can successfully learn social skills. Children also practice how to greet a visitor to the classroom, or give a guided tour. These and other skills are shown and practiced first and then implemented into daily living.

771

Ms. Kristen has been working with the students and planning wonderful lessons in the afternoons.  The children have been singing, composing songs, learning sign language as well as cooking!  She has also reinforced the ground rules that we have been working on.  The consistency she provides for the classroom is a big part of why the beginning of the school year has been so successful!

We hope you are seeing some of the courteous and respectful behaviors we have been practicing in the classroom modeled at home. We have enjoyed our focus on practical life during the month of September it  is the foundation of the Montessori curriculum that helps your child grow and mature in many ways as well as to become life long learners.

Here are some Practical Life activities to practice at home: 

  • Putting on / taking off all types of clothing: mittens, gloves, scarves, ear muffs, and caps
  • Buttoning, Zipping
  • Folding
  • Hanging up clothes or putting them in drawers
  • Putting on / taking off socks, shoes and boots