The holidays are approaching – ushering in a frequently scary season for Montessori teachers. We often have conflicted feelings around holidays and events that occur in the larger culture – afraid that these distract children from their work, disrupt the calm and productive atmosphere in the environment, and are just plain bothersome to us. I’d like to propose changing those feelings and finding ways to see these popular culture events as positive elements in the environment and exploring ways to channel them in support of each child’s development.
Here at Montessori Northwest, the scope of our teacher trainers extends well beyond the walls of our beautiful training center. Whether offering individual consultations within schools, providing original content for Montessori journals, or presenting at education conferences, MNW’s leadership is passionate about advancing the international Montessori movement and bringing the benefits of Montessori education to children worldwide.
This fall, the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association (NAMTA) will be hosting their “Fostering Montessori Preparedness for Global Citizenship” conference just up the road in Seattle, WA, from November 13-15th. NAMTA has invited two of our Directors of Training, Sarah Werner Andrews and Elise Huneke-Stone, to present workshops and lectures to Montessorians coming from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
When asked about her breakout session at the conference, Elise Huneke-Stone, Director of Elementary Training, said:
“The six years of elementary (6-12) are the relatively stable period between the transformative times of infancy and early childhood (0-6) and adolescence (12-18). At this stage of development, human beings are primed to learn as much as they can about how to get along together, how to meet their social needs. Dr. Montessori writes that these children have a special sensitivity for the acquisition of culture, and the classroom is one of their most significant experiences of human society. The prepared environment for elementary has to be a place in which the children are guided by the adult in the creation of a "practice society" in which the elements of social life can be explored. In this workshop, we'll examine ways that we can put before the elementary child these elements of social life, and help them develop the social skills they will need throughout their lives.”
The staff of Montessori Northwest are committed to the success of our students and the growth of Montessori as a whole. By training to become a Montessori teacher at MNW you access our rich organizational history, work alongside some of the best trainers in the world, and begin a journey towards more meaningful and enjoyable work.
“Thank you for inspiring my work with children!” - Workshop Participant
This past weekend, Montessori Northwest was host to 124 Montessorians for our first ever Weekend Workshops. Attendees included teachers, assistants, administrators, program coordinators, parents, and students. Every level of Montessori training was represented, along with a handful of participants who were not trained. While there were many local Montessorians at the workshops, one-third of the participants traveled from outside the Portland area, representing seven different states and four countries. All in all, it was an extremely diverse group.
The Primary workshop, Self-Discipline and Joyful Learning, was presented by MNW Director of Primary Training, Ginni Sackett. In this workshop, the seventy-nine participants explored Montessori’s theory of normalization in relation to the materials and activities found in a Montessori 3-6 classroom: how to first offer motives for concentrated activity leading to normalization and then turn this point of arrival into a point of departure through the materials for development in Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics. Observation, friendliness with error, and indirect preparation all gave further focus to this exploration across all of the areas and all of the ages in the Children’s House environment.
The Elementary workshop, Stories and Self-Construction, was presented by MNW Director of Elementary Training, Elise Huneke-Stone. In this workshop, the forty-five participants examined the Great Stories in terms of how they contribute to children’s intellectual and emotional well-being. They also explored practical ways to start and sustain the children’s journals and individual conferences, and to help the children develop these Tools of Responsibility in accordance with their growing independence and self-awareness. The workshop concluded with a focus on how to implement a developmentally appropriate class meeting that meets the children’s social needs and empowers them as citizens in the “practice society” of the Montessori elementary community.
Thank you to all those who were able to attend. We hope you enjoyed the workshops and your time at Montessori Northwest. We look forward to seeing you again!
Peer review is a collaborative learning process in which students assess each other’s work and provide constructive feedback. It shifts responsibility away from the instructor in order to give the student a more active role in managing their own learning. At MNW, peer review involves students reviewing each other’s weekly assignments and illustrations for their albums. Guided by the trainers and course assistants, this process provides students with an additional opportunity to engage with the presentations and illustrations. The following is a quick look at how peer review is incorporated into our Primary and Elementary Courses.
In Primary, peer review typically takes place in pairs, which include the teaching staff. When reviewing presentation write-ups, students look for a logical sequence of activity, clear descriptions of movements, important notes from the lecture, and detailed illustrations, all of which will reflect if the future guide will be able to accurately present the material and support its aims. If any issues should arise during the review, students can go to the material for guidance or check with staff. This helps students not only create accurate albums for future reference, but also adds another layer of understanding about Montessori principles and practice.
In Elementary, peer review is targeted toward the accuracy of specific language, drawings, and etymology. The reviews take place in groups of four, each of which is overseen by a staff member. These groups will often have practiced presentations together, which helps to confirm understanding of a concept. Initially, peer review is helpful in learning how to write an album as most students have not had experience with doing this. As the students become more seasoned in the review process, they are able to offer more detailed feedback on the accuracy and readability of their peers’ albums. As final exams draw near, peer review sessions offer valuable time to review concepts and solidify practices.
Peer review is not a replacement for staff input, but rather an opportunity for the students to benefit from collaboration with peers, to become more familiar with the concepts presented, and to become more adept at editing and self-correcting. Staff still review the work in more detail after the peer review and offer individual spoken and written feedback on each week's work. It also gives staff the opportunity to spot trends and notice challenges students are having with specific assignments and provides feedback about how the students are receiving the information presented to them.
Since peer review was introduced at MNW two years ago, we’ve witnessed many benefits for students, including:
- Exposure to different approaches to formatting and content
- Clarification and reinforcement of students’ own understanding
- Builds problem solving skills
- Encourages self-reflection and self-assessment
- Increases motivation through responsibility for peers’ learning
- Improves self-confidence
- Provides preparation for professional workplace
At its core, peer review is about students working together to capture the essence of a concept and coming to a consensus about it’s relevance and meaning, creating another layer of learning and a deeper and more fulfilling understanding of this great work they’re embarking on.
From her recent post on EAA-Talk, Elise Huneke-Stone, Director of Elementary Training at Montessori Northwest, shares her thoughts on how to keep the teacher's and children's specimens and sharing from overwhelming the prepared environment.
In the elementary practice classroom at the training center, I've instituted a practice borrowed from my tenure in the classroom for displaying specimens. In each 'area,' (math, history, geometry, language, etc.) there is a large tray on the top of a shelf. I use identical big rattan serving trays. That's the "sharing tray" where the children or I can display specimens or artifacts or things brought from home or even their work as relates to that aspect of Cosmic Education. I keep a general supply of small baskets and book stands to group or display things. Children (and students in the training) are encouraged to write a little display card and/or share with the group in a gathering.
There are two trays for biology (one for botany, one for zoology) because that's where the most specimens showed up! Additionally, I have a little extra biology display space that's teacher-managed: A series of 5-6 crocheted doilies across the top of the biology shelves, each housing one particular specimen or small collection (e.g., 3 sand dollars). Most of these specimens rotate, either seasonally or more often.
This way of preparing the environment has had so many benefits: reducing clutter, increasing order, controlling my own collector impulses, keeping things fresh for the children through rotation of objects, making it easier for the children to clean and put things back, etc. There was the added benefit of the grace and courtesy that was possible when the children were involved. The child who brought the artifact or specimen shared with the group how it was to be treated, handled, observed, etc. Additionally, the rule was that if the tray was full and you wanted to bring something new, you had to make space for your object by politely informing someone else that it was time for their object to go home. The process became entirely managed by the children.
One other thought: My favorite book as a child was Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. It's the story of Jo from Little Women all grown up and running a boarding school for boys (and a few girls). In it there's a description of the "natural history museum" that the children built in an old barn, with a glass-doored curio cabinet with many drawers for the housing and display of their treasures. I'm still searching for that cabinet, decades later.
There is nothing like a single isolated rock, shell, branch, feather, leaf, or bone to spark the imagination of the elementary children...
Get more great insights from Elise by attending our upcoming Elementary Workshop: Stories & Self-Construction, October 10-12. Click here to learn more and sign up.