Posts filed under Elementary

Beyond the Walls of the Training Center

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. 

Click here to begin your journey!

What A Wonderful Weekend!

“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!

Posted on October 17, 2014 and filed under Elementary, Primary, Workshops.

Peer Review at MNW

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.

Posted on October 3, 2014 and filed under Elementary, Primary.

Specimens in the Elementary Environment

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...

Warm regards,

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.

Posted on September 15, 2014 and filed under Elementary, From our Trainers, Materials.

Pints of Interest


Pints of Interest is your chance to informally come together and connect with others in the Portland Montessori community; discussing some of the most relevant topics of our craft.

You are invited to catch up with friends and make new connections. Pints of Interest is a great venue to talk with others and share what's working in your classrooms, ask/give input, and think about “big picture” ideas. The topics for the evening will be pre-announced and appropriate for all Montessorians working at all levels. Your host for the evening will loosely facilitate the conversation.

Come out, order a pint, and plug in--We'll see you there!

When:  Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Where:  The Aalto Lounge 3356 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR, 97214
Time:  Socializing begins @ 5:00pm, discussion from 5:30-6:30pm.
Who:  All trained Montessorians
Cost:  FREE to attend

Our final Pints of Interest will be Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Venue TBD.


Posted on August 20, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Primary, Public Event, Elementary.

Welcome Students of Elementary Course #3!

Yesterday, students from Ireland, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Canada, as well as, Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, arrived in Portland, joining several local students, for the start of Montessori Northwest's Elementary Course #3.

Together they explored our prepared environments, learned about MNW systems, met MNW staff, started to get to know each other, and most importantly, began orienting to the Montessori principles that will guide their training year and their future work with children.  

Students collaborated with each other and with the staff about what makes for a positive learning experience, discussed how to make sure that each student's needs are met, and that learning is joyful, focused, and productive.

The day culminated with elementary trainer, Elise Huneke Stone, sharing the story of Maria Montessori with the students--a MNW tradition. We look forward to the days ahead, but for now, welcome students of Elementary Course #3!

Click here to learn more about teacher training at MNW.

Posted on August 19, 2014 and filed under Elementary.

5 Reasons to Take AMI Teacher Training at MNW

Facilities 10.jpg

Since 1979, Montessori Northwest (MNW) has offered rigorous, practical, and in-depth Montessori teacher preparation. The quality of our graduates reflects the quality of our training: knowledgeable and compassionate, with a teaching practice grounded in a thorough understanding of Montessori principles and child development. 

1. RECOGNIZED AROUND THE GLOBE. MNW’s training courses are affiliated with The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which was founded by Maria Montessori in 1929. Today, AMI champions the spirit of her discoveries through its affiliated training centers. An AMI diploma from MNW is recognized in over 110 countries as a mark of teacher training excellence.

2. VARIETY OF COURSES. MNW offers training courses at three different levels: Assistants to Infancy, (0-3), Primary (3-6), and Elementary (6-12). All courses are conducted by AMI trainers, master teachers with a profound understanding of Montessori theory and practice.

3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Our bright and spacious facility is located in Portland, OR, a city characterized by its dedication to individuality, award-winning public transportation, and easy access to everything from trendy cafés to snow-covered mountains.  Come see for yourself why we consistently get voted “Most Livable City in the US.”

4. CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION. Dr. Montessori said, “The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind. If we therefore mind this embryo as our most precious treasure, we will be working for the greatness of humanity.” This powerful statement lies at the heart of Montessori education as an aid to life. MNW graduates empower children to take responsibility for themselves and others, to seek solutions, and to work together for the common good.  

5. ICNING ON THE CAKE. “It’s a transformation for many people of they way that they think of themselves in the world. In the way that they think about themselves in relation to children.” We hear this sentiment consistently from our graduates upon completing their training. The work begun at Montessori Northwest has the power to change lives for the better.

Click here to learn more Montessori Northwest’s Teacher Training.

Posted on August 7, 2014 and filed under Primary, Elementary, A-to-I.

Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind.

Here's a great article originally published in The Washington Post.  (full story here)

Earlier this year, Amy Joyce wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.

“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:

1. Make caring for others a priority

Why? Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friend who is being bullied.
How? Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. For example, before kids quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend and encourage them to work out problems before quitting.
Try this
• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”
• Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
• Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. For example, ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school.

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude

Why? It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to others’ lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.
How? Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition—whether it’s a helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job—make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude similarly involves regularly practicing it.
Try this
• Don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. We should expect our kids to help around the house, with siblings, and with neighbors and only reward uncommon acts of kindness.
• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.
• Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway. Express thanks for those who contribute to us and others in large and small ways.

3. Expand your child’s circle of concern.

Why? Almost all children care about a small circle of their families and friends. Our challenge is help our children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country.
How? Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable. They also need to consider how their
decisions, such as quitting a sports team or a band, can ripple out and harm various members of their communities. Especially in our more global world, children need to develop concern for people who live in very different cultures and communities than their own.
Try this
• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.
• Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who was teased.
• Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.

4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.

Why? Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults, e.g. “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best friend doesn’t like her?”
How? Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen
to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others.
Try this:
• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.
• Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.

5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings

Why? Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
How? We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.
Try this
Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her. After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.

Posted on July 25, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Elementary, Primary, Resources.

How to Organize a Glass Classroom Event

Next week, for the second time in two years, MNW will be hosting, Montessori in the Square, a public glass classroom event in the the heart of downtown Portland. While it may seem like a tremendous undertaking, we feel it is one of the best and most unique ways to raise awareness about Montessori.

In response to numerous requests following the 2013 International Montessori Congress, MNW published a document entitled, "Organize a Glass Classroom Event of Your Own!" This resource includes tips about creating an event timeline, developing  floor plan, how to publicize the event, what promotional items to create, and more.

Click on the photo above to download a free copy!

Click on the photo above to download a free copy!

So, if you've been considering organizing a glass classroom event in your community, click on the photo to the right to get started. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Posted on July 23, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Elementary, Portland, Primary, Public Event.