Wednesday, February 8, 2012

School Day: Geography


The boys are absolutely on a Geography binge today.  After their five-hour work period this morning, Me Too ran around the house in circles holding a miniature Emu while Kal-El chased him holding a miniature Tazmanian devil.  Me Too came down from his afternoon rest and immediately asked, "Can we do more geography?"  My husband finally made it home at 6:00 and he's been listing to Kal-El give him a presentation on what he learned about Australia today while Me Too has been working with fraction circles.  

Phew!  Anyway, I took a lot of photos during their work session this morning.

Now that Kal-El is a strong reader, he has been rediscovering the definitions cards we have around the school room.  He asked to start his work today by reading the definition of "Geography" to me.

This idea, and the definitions, are from the Karen Tyler albums.

Next, the boys played the "globe game" they invented.  They each take one of the globes...Kal-El usually starts with the sandpaper globe and Me Too starts with the continents globe.  I get to shout out a continent and they try to be the first one to find it on the globe.  After we get through all of the continents they switch globes and we do them all again.  Here they are after the switch (Me Too has the trickier sandpaper globe).  They have just found South America:

After the globe game they asked me to show them "something new."  We talked about the Earth being made up of land, air, and water.  Then, they did a land/air/water sort of plants, animals, and transportation.

Here they are checking their work by sorting the photos back onto control cards:

The compasses were taken off the shelf and the boys placed the cardinal directions arrows:

The boys pulled out their laminated "maps of their rooms", hid small treasures for one another to find, and drew locator arrows on the maps.

Me Too had enough geography at this point and chose to work on even and odd with his numbers and counters while Kal-El spent some time exploring the Australia continent box.

I put this photo (above) in even though it doesn't look like much is going on because the boys are so often like this and I want to remember it.  They are each doing their own work, but are always excitedly reporting their progress to one another.  In this picture Kal-El is looking up from trying to memorize where the rivers are in Australia (he was scouting a good place to put a miniature crocodile) because Me Too is reporting "Hey 'Kal-El', eight is even."

Later Kal-El, so happy he can read them on his own, worked with a labelled photo glossary of Australian animals and matched them to the miniature animals he has.

Afterward, we explored some photo and information cards (I think from Target, the "Animals of the World" card collection from the dollar section).  He specifically wanted to discover which part of Australia his animals were from so he could place them in the "perfect" places on his map.

Today he place the taipan, saltwater crocodile, Tazmanian devil, kangaroo, koala, and emu.  He also learned about the great coral reef and asked for a hammerhead shark and green turtle to place in the water just off of the east coast of Australia.

 Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the map all loaded up before Me Too stepped in to completely dismantle the map and see if he could get everything back in the right place himself.

Kal-El also placed some landmarks today.  We have a red rock just about the right shape to stand in for Ayers rock.  Our landmark card for Ayers rock (also from Target, world landmarks cards, $1) shows a map of the country for each landmark with a star for location.  Kal-El used this to place it on the map.  He found a spool to stand in for the Sydney Opera House...

...until I surprised him and pulled out a miniature brass version to replace the spool.

He was SO excited.  He couldn't stop telling me how beautiful and special it was.  He carried it around for the whole rest of the day.  You will see it in our post about the rest of our school day as he carried it around from work to work like a spectator.  I have quite a few landmarks like this.  They are small brass pencil sharpeners and you can find many on eBay.  

After learning about the kangaroo the boys had questions about kangaroos boxing so we watched this great little video from the BBC that shows both adult kangaroos and joeys boxing.  Kal-El thought it was sad that kangaroos only live about seven years.  Today's work opened a lot of doors for zoology. The cards reported the names of the groups of animals and the names of their young, as well as mentioning the animal family.  Kal-El made the connection on his own that the young reptiles (taipan and crocodile) were called "hatchlings" because they hatched from eggs and that both young marsupials (kangaroo, koala) were called "joeys".  We haven't done the typical "animal groups" or "animal young" vocabulary works because I wasn't interested in trying that until he could read the labels on his own.  It's great that we will be able to do that now right away.  We haven't started our "elementary albums" yet, but Kal-El certainly thinks like an "elementary child" now and this is exactly how Montessori elementary is supposed to work.  Our work in one area is natural leading to another.  The subjects (in this case geography and zoology) are intertwined and it seems like we could just keep going down rabbit holes like this forever.  I find that this is changing my planning structure a little bit. I used to just have columns for each subject on a dry erase board and would write in some presentations when I felt I needed a reminder.  Now I find I'm definitely needing a reminder so I've switched to a larger dry erase board and my notes are in the form of a cloud diagram or flowchart of some kind.  I'll try to get a picture and post about planning sometime soon.

More time was spent with the atlas.  Kal-el likes to compare and contrast the types of maps (physical, political, etc.,).

He also likes maps that show other things like temperature, occupations, or in this case, population.

Of course the flags made an appearance.

In the background of this photo you can see that Kal-El pulled out some sandpaper letters to help with his reading.  He pulled the "or" because he was having trouble reading "aboriginal".  He pulled the "au" just for fun because he says "Australia is my favorite thing that begins with 'au'."

We also read this book today:  Look What Came from Australia.  It was much better than the continent book that we own from the box, at least for Kal-El's age.  Great pictures and just the right amount of information is provided.  This book will have us chasing down a few more rabbit holes this week.  The boys want to make a boomerang and a didgeridoo.  Aboriginal "click sticks" were mentioned in the book and are very similar to the rhythm sticks that the boys have.  Me Too wants to compose a didgeridoo and click stick duet.  Kal-El also planned an "Australian meal" for us to cook this weekend.  My shopping list suddenly includes Vegemite and PVC pipe.

When my husband was home all three of them looked up the size of the saltwater crocodile and used a 12-inch ruler to measure out 24 feet on the floor (saltwater crocodiles range in size from 15-24 feet long).  This was coincidentally quite close to the distance a kangaroo can jump (25 feet).

This post is already HUGE, so I might put up some of their other work in a separate post later.  Hopefully this isn't too much detail, but I know some of you like to get a feel for what our days are really like when we are working.

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  1. What amazing work your boys are doing! LOVE their 5-hour work period and their excitement for geography! Thanks for your detailed descriptions and all the photos showing what they're doing. I'm so glad you link up with Montessori Monday. I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:

  2. I'm an intern at a mont school in India and this post was so useful and inspiring...the work you do with your boys at home is mindboggling..many rabbit holes there may be, but it just shows how much the mont method can engage and intrigue a child...fascinating!

  3. Deb! You are FAST! I hadn't even gotten the link back installed for Montessori Monday and you've already got me up on Facebook! Thanks!


    I am truly touched. Thank you so much for your kind words. Best wishes for your internship!

  4. Wow!!!! I am actually a little jealous! Our work period was rough today! in fact I refuse to post about it beacue I just want to foget about it! :) I love all the geography work! It looks like Kal-El is doing amazing! I have a question for you. What do you do when he doesnt want to do anything, but super easy work? Bunny has only wanted to easy work that she has mastered, if anything at all. I dont know why. My hope is that its all just growing pains! :) I love all the work you guys did! Happy Schooling!

  5. Stephanie,

    That's a particular problem we haven't really had. We have plenty of other problems. Sometimes I'll see him do a lot of review in a particular area, but he is usually doing something challenging in a different area. I wouldn't worry about it unless it feels like a permanent condition. I have read that they will sometimes do that in reaction to getting a little too far ahead in the materials. The Karen Tyler albums repeatedly say that "the child losing interest is a sign that the teacher has introduced too much, too soon. Despite all of the math sequence discussion, you did mention you thought the stamp game was over her head. Maybe she needs to back up a little and spend some more time with beads.

    He can be that way with violin...he loves playing the songs he knows and is excited to learn new ones. But, as soon as the new ones have a new *skill* he puts down his violin and throws himself on the floor and cries, kicking his arms and legs. (I told you we had other problems.) We overcome this every time by waiting until he has calmed down (I just wait out the fit, when he's ready he'll stand up and bring back his violin). Then, I break it down to the absolute smallest part I can think of and we try just one thing. We give it a couple tries and as soon as we have a little success and are smiling again I quickly have us put everything away. Usually a day or two later he is able to do the new skill and brings up his tantrum on his own, "Mom, remember when that was so hard for me and I got all mad? That was silly of me."

    Usually if he resists a skill (outside of violin) I wait like a vulture until there is something he does want to do in the "real world" that's related. He didn't want to learn to write with a pencil. I made him do the smallest possible amount everyday (because I think it is something, like violin, that isn't fun until you are a little proficient and needs a little bit of daily work to learn...unlike Australia which can be gorged upon). We literally would practice one letter in the sand/on the chalkboard and then do HALF a workbook page (that's like writing the letter 3-4 times) and put it away. Then one day, he was mad that his brother kept taking his toothbrush on accident. I slyly said, "I could teach you the letters you need to label that." Then he wanted to label something else, then something else... Suddenly writing was "useful" and he begged me to show him as many letters as I could and he did the entire capital section of his Handwriting Without Tears workbook in one hour. He's been practicing on his own naturally in his environment every day since. This week he's suddenly decided lowercase would be useful and wants to finish the workbook this afternoon.

    I think it's okay to learn in big bursts most of the time. There are just some things that are a motor skill and like a sport or exercising need a little daily work too. If he resists we just do the tiniest amount and I wait for him to catch fire.

    Some Montessorians will strongly disagree with "making them" do anything. I guess I'm just not "pure" that way. I think there needs a little bit of that in their lives. But, I try to make it just a little bit. I would NOT want to approach everything that way, that would be super unpleasant for everyone.
    Hope this helps!

  6. Ok....that makes me feel loads better! Bunny really does do ok, but when she get frusterated, she throws a huge fit and storms off to her room. Once she calms down, she can work it out if I walk her through it tiny step by tiny step. For example, today she wanted to write a letter to her friend. She got frustrated by having too much to say, and not being able to write it as fast as she was thinking it! After she calmed down, I helped her word by word to write it out and did great!
    I dont think that its a presenting too much too fast because she can do it if she puts her mind to it. Something are too much and I back up and we start over (like the stamp game, which she used perfectly today!). I think that sometimes she needs to do things daily in order to learn it at all. Like you said, sometimes she just has to. Letter sounds are a daily thing now, and so is some form of math (whatever she chooses). If we dont it seems like she looses what she does know! I also am hopeing that this not wanting to choose work is a phase. I guess I will have to wait and see. I really dont like to wait. ;)~ Thanks for your advice! Its good to know that Bunny isnt the only one that gets frustrated and yells at me! :) Like Kal-El I'm starting to realize that waiting out the storm is the only way to handle it. When she is done, she is fine! Thanks so much!