Posts filed under Resources

Observing Children

“When [the teacher] feels herself, aflame with interest, seeing the spiritual phenomena of the child, and experiences a serene joy and irresistible eagerness in observing him, then she will know that she is initiated. Then she will begin to become a teacher.”    - Maria Montessori, Spontaneous Activity in Education

Observation is a way of looking at something in careful detail. It is the identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical exploration of a natural phenomena. For Dr. Montessori, observation itself was an art that had to be exercised and practiced continually. She was constantly collecting and reflecting on her observations of children, which allowed her to consolidate and refine her method. Montessori expressed observation’s task as being based on an interest and commitment to each individual child and his development.

Observation is the cornerstone of the Montessori method. Dr. Montessori’s observations enabled her to provide for the needs of the child. She never stopped observing the child, and neither should we. The better we can understand the art of observation, the more we will regard it as vital to our practice.

As MNW students leave the training center for their first round of observations, we’re reminded of what Dr. Montessori had to say to a teacher training course in 1921 as they were about to go out on their first observations. Click here to read what she said them.

Posted on October 17, 2014 and filed under Articles, Resources.

Books to Love at School and Home

Books are a beloved and important way for children to explore the world around them.  In the Montessori classroom for children under 6, there are specific criteria for books, including: 

  • Books that have a variety of styles of prose and esthetically appealing illustration styles.
  • Books that relate to the child’s own life and expand their understanding of the experiences of others.
  • Books that can be looked at or read independently.
  • Books that convey a sense of joy and appreciation for life and the world around them.

To get more insight into this topic, we recently had a conversation with Sarah Rinzler, a self proclaimed bibliophile and recent MNW graduate, who became “hooked” on Montessori when looking into preschools for her son. Sarah, who is currently an assistant at Chestnut Grove Montessori, shared some of her tips and insights about embracing books with children both at school and home.


What do you see as the characteristics of a really great book for a Montessori Children’s House classroom?

I will admit that I do “judge books by their covers.” Or at least, it is the cover art that first draws me to a new book. Beautiful, interesting, unique illustrations are important to me in choosing books. Attractive pictures are more likely to entice children to explore with books on their own, especially if they are not yet reading. I also strive to find books with a variety of art styles and which depict the wide array of settings and cultures present in the child’s world and the world as a whole.  

Selecting books with rich language and vocabulary is also important, but variety is important too so I want to strike an overall balance with some books with simple text, others more poetic or rhythmic. I also look for books that are funny! There’s nothing better than making a group of children laugh.

In terms of a book for the classroom, it’s almost always essential that the book to be based in reality, with context that the children can relate to. I don’t discount books that have fantastical elements like talking animals, princesses or superheroes, but if I did read this type of book I would be sure to consider my audience and have conversations with the children about which themes are realistic and which aren’t. I don’t believe that a child who reads “The Cat in the Hat” will believe that cats can talk that Thing One and Thing Two may one day show up at his doorstep, but I would take a moment to acknowledge this.

I also prefer books whose goal is not to “teach a lesson.” Children don’t learn how to act from hearing a story that tells them how to behave; they learn from their own experiences.


You wear two hats, one as a mom to a 5 year old and one as a recently trained Montessori who is entering the classroom. How do you decide if a book is a good fit for the home vs the classroom? 

In the home, I personally feel that we don’t need to shield children from fairy tales. I think it’s a losing battle, because at some point or another they’re going to be exposed to them. At Nana’s, for example, at a friend’s house, at the library, it’s going to happen. They will find a book that teaches them that all girls aspire to be princesses who wait around for their whole lives for a knight in shining armor to come and make them happy! And I actually think it’s great when that happens, because then you have a golden OPPORTUNITY to talk about the ideas in those books, and talk about why you may not (or maybe you do!) agree with that philosophy on life.

So much of Montessori education is based on the idea of exposing children to situations that will give them the opportunity to practice cognitive and social skills so that they develop independently. We sort of guide them into these situations that secretly turn out to be “learning experiences.” We can’t teach them self-control, for example, but we can put them in situations in which they need to control themselves. They learn self-control by experiencing it. Along those lines, books and stories can help them experience some things about life that can translate really well into opportunities for helping them learn about life.

This can lead to some great, and sometimes hilarious, conversations about life and how to treat people and how not everyone is nice all the time. My five year old son told me that he thought Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach were so mean because their underpants were too tight. It’s kind of silly, but the point is that, here we see something happening that we don’t like, and don’t want to see in our children. So, let’s take this chance to talk to them about it. Now, that doesn’t mean that we will read these kinds of books at school. All of this stuff I’ve been talking about really applies to YOU at home (families and caretakers), and what kinds of stories YOU are comfortable sharing with your children, and how much “real life” YOU want to dive into with them. 


What’s your favorite way to find new, wonderful books?

In general, as I mentioned, I wander around and pick up books that appeal to me aesthetically. My favorite haunts are the Library, Kids at Heart, and Powell’s. I do have enough of a collection now that I will also explore what’s new by my son's and my favorite authors. I pass around books and recommendations with my parent friends (this is such a great resource!) and always look for used copies at bookstores and online. 


Dip into a treasure trove of book ideas for the Montessori 3-6 environment by visiting our Primary Course Assistant lists on Powells.com -  Casa Friendly Books to Share

Posted on September 26, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources.

Explore Our Library

Did you know that Montessori Northwest has built one of the largest Montessori libraries in the world? Did you also know that it's open to the public? You can search through over 900 titles, including:

- Books that are no longer in print or accessible. Some, especially a few foreign language titles (Spanish and Italian), can only be found elsewhere at the Library of Congress or in Italy.

- Rare translations, like the Kalakshetra versions, which you cannot find on Amazon. In fact, after searching local library websites, we discovered that most don’t even have the Clio Series or the Montessori-Pierson versions in their holdings. We are the keepers of the knowledge!

- Many practical texts for parents, from how to set up the home environment to sensory integration to dyslexia. We also have the latest psychological, sociological, and neuroscience literature.

- A huge repository of periodicals, including: the NAEYC Journal, the NAMTA Journal, AMI Communications, EAA Newsletters, and Forza Vitale! Our AMI & NAMTA periodicals go all the way back to the 60’s! 

- A special Assistants to Infancy section in honor of and memory of Karin Salzmann (1934-2013), with books from her own library and donated by her family.

The MNW library is open to teachers, students, parents, and the general public, from 8am-4pm, Monday through Friday. Most books can be checked out for up to three weeks. If you have any questions about our library or are interested in donating books, please contact us at info@montessori-nw.org.

 

Posted on September 10, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Resources.

Simple Uplift for Math Memorization Tables

Here’s a brief how-to from Primary Course Assistant, Corinne Stastny, for creating sturdy petite folders for Memorization tables, that are ready to be used, or perhaps set aside for a child to finish another day. Nothing like adding a little pizzazz to this otherwise rather staid looking area of the Casa!

Materials: Double stick tape, practice paper, final paper (card stock works well and/or something with a different color on front and back), color printer, and a corner rounder, if you like.

1) Practice with some simple paper first so you can create a template that works well for your materials. Basically, I use a template similar to this one: envelope. Play with the dimensions a little so it will hold a full set of papers nicely (not too tight/narrow). I like to have a high enough back that the papers are supported and don’t curl.

2) Print the cover with the words if you like and cut to size.

3) When ready, cut out your shape from your good paper. I like double stick tape to secure everything. And also delight in using the crafty corner-rounding tool MNW’s buddy Sally C. brought back from Japan.

xacto.jpg

4) As a final touch that ensures durability, laminate the whole thing when you’re done. Then, use an exacto knife to basically surgically reopen the mouth of the packet (see photo right). Many thanks to Shannon W. for this tip! When using laminate, trim close, but not too close to the edge of the paper. Slightly round the corners as these can be quite sharp.

Looking for ways to enrich your Elementary environment? Check this out: Elementary Material Making Workshop with Gloria.

Posted on September 9, 2014 and filed under From MNW Staff, Primary, Resources, Materials.

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.

Why You Need to Know About OMA's Sub List

Maybe an illness is working its way through your teaching staff, leaving a handful of them home ill, and you don’t have enough coverage. Or, you enjoy the rush of an early morning phone call and the anticipation of spending the day with a group of children you've never met before.

If you’ve found yourself in either of the above situations, you might be interested to know that the Oregon Montessori Association (OMA) maintains a list of substitute Montessori teachers. All OMA member schools receive a copy of list. And, individuals who are looking for work as a substitute can have their name added to the list. 

OMA works to increase the vital presence of Montessori education in the Pacific Northwest through workshops, lectures, e-mail newsletters, community outreach, strategic relationships, and more.

To learn about the how you can tap into this great resource for substitutes, please contact OMA at info@oregonmontessori.com or call 503.688.0526.

Posted on July 10, 2014 and filed under A-to-I, Elementary, Primary, Resources.

Volunteer Sign-Up for Relief Nursery...

We have received many inquiries from people looking to be involved with MNW’s new collaboration with the Volunteers of American Relief Nursery. Below is the information you’ll need to move forward with that process!

 All volunteers that work at the Relief Nursery are required to be registered with the Online Central Background Registry—ensuring the safety and wellbeing for the children. You might consider this the first step towards becoming a volunteer.

 If you are not already registered, it’s easy and can now be done online. Follow this link to learn more about the Registry.

Once you’ve started that process, you’re ready to contact the Relief Nursery directly. Our contact there is Anne Rothert. She can be contact either by phone (503.236.8492 x1761) or by Email (arothert@voaor.org). From there you will slate a time to come in and fill out some preliminary paperwork, learn more about the organization, and move ahead with becoming a volunteer.

We thank you in advance to your interest in this exciting endeavor!

A Poem for Our Elementary Graduates

Elise Huneke-Stone, Montessori Northwest's Director of Elementary Training, composed a poem for the two elementary courses she's had the privilege to lead.

"It really speaks to us, because almost every line and image can be sourced back to one of our Montessori elementary key lessons." says Elise. 

We thought you might derive meaning from this composition as well. A selection from the poem is included below. Following the link on the bottom of the page will download a printable PDF version.


A Cosmic Education by Elise Huneke-Stone

For Montessori Northwest Elementary Courses 1 and 2, and for the rest of us who are part of this line. 

This is a line, and this is a line.
Pronouns shadow the shape of their antecedents,
liquids fill every hollow, the river carves and carries,
you listen to the stories that others have heard before you.
On their convergent lines, the children of geometry smile,
and the fundamental needs of humans are met
in the voice of the verb, on the agent of an arrow,
on a tiny drop of heat and light,
in the little life cupped in the seeds we sow.

Elementary Workshop Weekend!

Elementary Workshop Weekend:  Stories and Self-Construction

Montessori elementary children explore the legacy and creative power of language.  Montessori adults, too, can learn much from an in-depth investigation of stories and the roles they play in development and in the transmission of culture. The stories we tell the children as a framework for Cosmic Education, the stories the children tell us, in their journals and in our conferences with them, and the stories we tell each other in our class meetings or gatherings: All contribute greatly to shaping the Montessori elementary experience, and contribute to optimal development for the children.   

In this weekend workshop, we will examine the Great Stories (including the Great River, from the Bergamo tradition) in terms of how they contribute to children’s intellectual and emotional well-being. Participants will also explore 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 will conclude 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.

Intended Audience

Elementary Teachers and Assistants 

Schedule

Friday, October 10, 2014 6-9PM

Saturday, October 11, 2014 8:30AM-4PM

Sunday, October 12, 2014 9AM-12PM

Cost

REGISTRATION FOR THIS WORKSHOP IS CLOSED

download a flyer here   /   housing and travel information here

Continuing Education Units

This workshop earns both Oregon Registry and Washington STARS/MERIT credits.

Posted on June 27, 2014 and filed under Elementary, From our Trainers, Resources, Workshops.

Montessori Environments for Dementia Conference

The first International Montessori Environments for Dementia Conference is being held in Sydney, Australia!

The Montessori approach aims to support the full development of the human being. It is a person-centered approach that draws on the capacity of human beings to learn and develop from within. If we provide the appropriate support and the best possible environment, we will continue to be amazed at the incredible capability to learn at any age. Whether it be infants, children, adolescents or the elderly, all human beings seek to be independent, to participate in meaningful activity, and to make a contribution. Montessori provides the practical ways to support this at all stages of life.

The International Montessori Environments for Dementia Conference promises to bring together some of the international leaders in the field, covering some really interesting topics. Here are just a few of the workshop titles:

  • Dementia Specific Residential Gardens
  • Engaging People Living with Younger Onset Dementia with Their Community and the Workforce
  • Creating Memory Books
  • Art Therapy – A Restorative Model for People Living with Dementia
  • Changing the World for People Living with Dementia with the Capability Model that Includes Developing
  • Roles and Activities for Residents that Reflect the Montessori Principles
  • Individualized Music: Bringing Out the Person Not the Illness

For more information on this interesting event, visit their website here.


Posted on June 27, 2014 and filed under Resources, Public Event.