Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School Day

The boys started school without me this morning. By the time I had finished my morning chores Me Too had traced several more insets for his "Shapes" book. Kal-El was trying to make a book by tracing all of the letters of the moveable alphabet. This doesn't work by the way. Rather than tell him that, I let him figure it out on his own. He put together a couple pages and then abandoned the project to write the neighbor a letter. He wanted to thank her for letting them take some turns on their little electric jeep when their grandchildren were visiting and ask if he could ride it sometime when they weren't visiting. The spelling was as to be expected, but the neighbor is a former preschool teacher and should be able to figure it out.

Kal-El put on his shoes and delivered his letter to her mailbox and then checked his chipmunk trap. He finally caught one! Me Too had to put his shoes on then and go out to join him for a while. Then, they came inside to leave Daddy a message at work. They were lucky and his line actually rang in his room instead of going to voice mail. They were excited to be able to tell him instead of tell the machine.

After all of the chipmunk excitement Kal-El worked on some of the Handwriting Without Tears program. He can trace the sandpaper letters perfectly and writes the letters correctly in the sand tray. However, he experiences a total disconnect when he writes them on paper. It is for that reason I decided to have him work through the HWT program.

Today we worked with the wood pieces for capital letters, the small chalkboard and their version of squared paper. Here he his writing a capital R using the "wet, dry, try" method on a small chalkboard. Me Too has his own small chalkboard and he does this part along with us.

The child wets a 1"x1" square sponge in a bowl of water and wrings it out. They use the sponge to write the letter on the chalkboard using the proper strokes and sequence. They then dry the letter using a small towel or napkin. The same strokes and sequence are used to dry the letter as were used to write the letter. Finally, they write the letter with a stubby piece of chalk (reinforcing tripod grip).

We often will piggyback all of the different tactile ways of practicing the letter one after the other. The key for Kal-El right now is for the last activity to always be writing the letter on the squared paper. I am hoping to connect writing on paper to the other activities this way in his mind.

After all of the writing the boys were itching to do some math. Me Too pulled out the numbers and counters...

...while Kal-El and I practiced the collective exercises with the golden beads.

Today we worked primarily on subtraction. In the picture that follows you can see one of our works. Kal-El retrieved 8738 beads for me from the "bank." I told him they were "all mine" but I would let him "take away" some. I gave him the small number cards for something like 6423. He removed the appropriate number of beads from my rug and transferred them to his own rug.

He thinks it's hilarious when he "steals" my beads. Afterward, I obviously don't have 8738 anymore so it is Kal-El's job to count up what I do have, construct that number with the small number cards, and read that number back to me (2 thousands, three hundreds, 1 ten, and five units). Finally, I put all of the numbers in a column and we read the number we started with, what we took away, and what we have left. He knows this is called "subtraction."

Kal-El learned static addition, subtraction, multiplication and division back in June shortly before our summer hiatus. We worked with the beads frequently over the summer but we practiced those skills and didn't move on to dynamic. I am making sure he is strong in all four operations this week and maybe part of next. Sometime next week I will show him how to exchange.

Me Too will be reviewing the number rod extensions next week. He is not quite ready for the beads yet because he still has to work really hard to get the number cards in the right order when he works with numbers and counters. I'm hoping some more time spent with the number rods will help with that. Kal-El has been taking the number rods out a lot lately which will hopefully make it easier to motivate Me Too to work with them as he has not been choosing them.

Because the boys began work in the school so early this morning we practiced violin last today. Kal-El learned a new note yesterday in his lesson (f#) and is almost ready for "Twinkle." Me Too is a pizzicato star but is struggling to use the bow successfully. I think he is right on the verge of breaking through. I hope he does soon because he is anxious to play some of the songs his big brother is playing.

After their work period both boys made their own cashew butter and honey sandwiches for lunch. Apparently they are "extra tasty" when you make them yourself.

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  1. Sounds like a good day. I enjoy reading your posts.

  2. I have a question about HWT. Don't they start with upper case letters? Is that problematic if in Montessori they start with lower case. This point is what has prevented me from buying it; however, I can already tell that this is the kind of program I am going to need for my son in the future.

  3. TGWPT:

    Yes, they start with capitals and that is a problem if you are using it parallel with the Montessori curriculum. We are not using it parallel however. Kal-El is two years past the introduction of sandpaper letters, has been reading for a year-and-a-half, and has been at the pencil to paper stage for a year. I added this to our work because it was clear to me that the Montessori-way didn't work for us here. There is a disconnect between his practice with the Montessori materials and when he puts the pencil to paper.

    He learned lowercase first in the traditional way and learned uppercase later. He mastered the sandpaper capitals when he was four. Now he's five-and-a-half and he can show me a perfect sandpaper capital, writes it perfectly in the sand tray, and then picks up a pencil and writes it completely differently on the paper.

    He now writes all the letters we've covered so far with HWT correctly.

    If you wanted to start with lowercase the teacher's manual says to just skip to that section and do it first, then come back for the capitals. The capitals are so easy to write (which is why they start with them, as you know Montessori does lowercase first for primarily reading purposes) that we'll be on to the lowercase in two weeks depending on how often we do the work. So I decided to just go in order. We've been doing two-three capitals a day because they are so similar (F and E together for example; P,B, and R together...). We can go that fast because he already "knows them" we are just training the writing strokes.

    I don't know why the Montessori-way didn't work for us here. I wonder if there isn't something that isn't in the manuals that an experienced Montessori teacher would do to transfer the tactile skills to paper? If there is, I don't know what it is so we are solving the problem this way.

    Hope this helps! I should probably post this...

  4. I found you comments about the letter writing fascinating. I had similar problems with a group of 6/7 year olds I inherieted this term. I have shown them how there are "letter families" and how letters are formed using the first letter and then adding more on. This has completely changed how they hink about letter formation because it cuts down on how many there are to learn.
    For instance - start with the letter c. Then continue and join it up - o. Then continue and add the down stroke - a. If you add an ascender you make - d. if you add a descender you make - g or q. All from the initial c! Your son might find that approach helps when you get to the lower case letters?! The other letter families are "r" - r,n,m,b,h,k,p, "i" - i,j, l, f, t, v, w, y and the odd ones out, all the rest!

  5. Thanks again Annicles :)

    The letter families are part of the Gettman sequence and we did try that presentation a couple of times. I will represent when we get back into lowercase.