Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Early Montessori Writing Exercises and LOLZ

A bit of info on Montessori for those who are not teachers: one distinct difference between Montessori and traditional education is that writing comes before reading. This may sound crazy, but makes perfect sense when you consider that the process of writing is encoding, a process much less complicated than decoding, which reading necessitates. The children learn the sounds of the English language and their corresponding symbols, and soon learn that they can put these together to make words. Later on, they have what is often called an "explosion" into reading. They know all the sounds, understand concretely what it means to put letters together to make words, and for this reason are quite well-prepared for reading, and as soon as they realize that they have what it takes, generally take to it quite easily.

When they do begin to write for the first time, however, they write phonetically, and without having been exposed to the correct spelling of many common words through reading. (You would be surprised how easily they adapt their writing later, however.) Children in Montessori classrooms are encouraged to put letters together to make words, without being bothered with the tedious task of making sure all of the words are spelled correctly. For the young child just beginning to write, the main concern is that they can express ideas in written form, and that they gain confidence in writing. This is fascinating and exciting to watch, and fills the teacher with great pride.

The material used for writing in primary classrooms is called the Large Movable Alphabet (pictured). Children take out the letters needed to form words from the box and place them on a rug or a table. Children are not corrected when they choose the wrong letter, but encouraged to write whatever they desire. As they practice, and are exposed to more written material, they begin to write more perfectly, usually without even realizing it.

This process is absolutely incredible, and is often a source of great pride for the children. I love reading what the children have written in the way they saw fit to do so, and sharing their excitement over this accomplishment.

However, as a member of a generation where proper grammar and spelling are often abandoned for the sake of brevity, internet culture, or lolz, it can be quite amusing as well.

Vowels are often omitted, as they are much harder to pick out than the consonant sounds. So, sorry is often written as sry, and please as pls or plz.

Third person verbs and plural nouns are often written with a z on the end instead of an s, as in runz, livz, walkz (more commonly wokz), and catz.

My often becomes mi, your ur, and our if often just r. Love is almost invariably written early on as luv.*

Perhaps lesson plans for the LMA box should be adapted to include the indirect aim of preparing the child to communicate via text message and the internet(z)?

Very young children who do not yet know the sounds, but do know what some letters look like often try to write as their older peers do. One favorite thing for children to write is their own name, and many very young ones insist that they know how to write their name simply because they are so determined to do so, whether they have learned to or not. I have learned to memorize many strings of shapes and squiggles as the "name" of particular children on their art and other work to take home. One of my favorites, however, is one girl who always writes her name (in all caps) as LOL. L is actually in her name, and most children, no matter what age, know what O looks like.

*Note: Writing in this way is only done early in the process of learning to write, and children have been shown to benefit greatly from uninterrupted practice and the confidence gained from the same. Children who write in this way are generally quite young, and become excellent spellers and masters of their language soon after.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I have posted nothing more on the literature unit, because it was rescheduled. One of my lovely co-teachers was going to teach on Space in March, but had to schedule a surgery and will need recovery time, so her space unit is going on now and my literature unit will start in February.

I must say that space is amazing. If you are trying to think of a special topic for a class, do consider space. The kids are so into it, as are the teachers and parents. It's so cool!

Anyway, the reason for this post is so that I can wind down after the most exhausting day I think we've had since September!

Perhaps it was the change in the weather, or the long and not so engaging (but incredibly well thought out and well-meaning) talk about satellites from one of our dads who is an engineer, or the two wonderful interns who came to observe and spent the work time shooting numerous photos. Whatever it was, it made the kids WILD. I screamed when I got into my car. I literally screamed. It was all I could do to hold on until I made it into my car. Ah, well.

All of that meaningless chatter out of the way, I can get to the point of telling you the most hilarious moment of the day, which I am only able to laugh about now:

It was almost 3:30. We were at recess and almost all of the kids had been picked up. We were exhausted. I looked over at a small cluster of kids near the fence on the playground, and one of our feisty little pre-k girls* was halfway up the chain link fence with four or five others watching her in amazement. Of course Montessori teachers yell very seldom, if ever, but I did yell her name across the playground at this point, hoping that she would immediately get down off the fence. She didn't hurry, but did come down, with a very innocent look on her face. I walked quickly to her end of the playground, and as soon as I began to address her she enthusiastically pointed up into the sky and with great excitement shouted, "LOOK! A HELICOPTER!" I was too frustrated to notice at this point, but I am reasonably certain that there was no helicopter. I am continually amazed at how clever children of this age can be when they want to take an unhappy teacher's attention off if the issue at hand.

* This happens to be the same sweet girl who, in her first week as a new three year old looked at me with amazement when I said "Adios," gasped, and asked, "Are you a Dora!?"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Literature Unit

I've published my rough plan for the literature unit as a google document so anyone can see it who is interested. It is very rough and tentative. I'll make changes after I hit the library and hobby lobby, and a critique after I see how it works for the children. I'll also post photos of the works when they're all set up.

Here's the link to the doc: http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=ddtwrj2j_2gbnq77d7&hl=en

First Post!

All of my best ideas come either in the middle of the night, when I should be asleep, while I'm in the shower, or while I'm brushing my teeth. The trouble is that many of these same ideas never make it past the idea stage.

Awake at 3:30 am after New Year's Day finishing up plans for circle times centered around a thematic unit for my Primary Class on literature, I am frustrated by the apparent lack of a viable Montessori teachers forum, and really any Montessori activities on special themes posted anywhere. We really ought to share these things! There are so many pages with printable cutesy, cartoony coloring sheets and little songs about everything from washing your hands to Purim, and nothing that really works perfectly well in a Montessori environment. How can the internet be missing something so huge!?

Thanks to my frustration, I have decided to start a blog just for the Montessorian in me. Here I will post the ideas I think up, and how they went once implemented. I will post joys, surprises, successes, and terrible failures in the classroom, as well as anything the kids say or do that strikes me as particularly fun and/or interesting on any give day. I will happily welcome your thoughts and input, and do hope to dialog with many other Montessori teachers eventually.

When we get back to school next week, I will start the literature unit, and create a lot of fun thematic works in all of the classroom areas to go along with it. I will take photos and post the successes and blunders of these new lessons for your enjoyment.