Monday, December 3, 2012

School Days

We are working around a rather large obstacle in the school room this month!

The boys had a blast putting up all of the decorations.  Despite the reduced floor space they have been getting a lot of learning accomplished.  Here are some photos of activities from the last week or so that didn't make it into any past or future topic-specific posts.

Me Too has been practicing writing number A LOT to help with recording his work on the addition strip board.

Kal-El is breezing through the first subtraction strip board.

Me Too worked on understanding oppositions using a Melissa & Doug teaching puzzle.

Kal-El made a legend in order to map his neighborhood to fulfill a Cub Scout's belt loop requirement.

This is his map.  He has done similar work before, but the belt loop had specific parameters.

Kal-El has been reviewing all of his landforms as part of his work toward fulfilling that same belt loop requirement.

We are still using All About Spelling.  Me Too just uses the movable alphabet as writing things with pencil on paper is too much during spelling practice.

We still use The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading to organize our word study here.

One of Me Too's word studies this week explored ing, ang, ong, and ung words. We used an activity from the book in which he used a magnetic fishing pole to fish for single letter sounds and blends to add to ingangong, or ung.

Afterward he spent a long time exploring what was magnetic and not-magnetic on our Christmas tree with his fishing pole.

Kal-El received a Magic Science for Wizards Only Kit as a gift recently.  He has been very busy this weekend doing the first couple experiments.

He made a wizards' hat.  Then he made a wizard's wand using first a color-mixing activity and then growing crystals (polyacrylamide) that he used to fill the wand.

Both boys made their own alkaline and base solutions to use for invisible ink.  I wish that the kit came with more than one piece of ph-sensitive paper.  They made a TON of solution and there are ingredients to repeat that work many times, but just the one piece of paper.

We have accomplished a TON of history work this week.  I've been saving those works up for their own post so stay tuned!


  1. Just out of curiosity what is your reasoning for using all about spelling rather than the Montessori Dwyer method. Curious if and when I should try that with my almost 5 year old prereader.

  2. Melissa,

    Either you are confused, or I am confused.

    Me Too completed the Dwyer method quite some time ago (He began reading when he was under four and he is into elementary reading work). We are using "All About Spelling" for elementary spelling, not primary reading. Are you thinking of the other program, "All About Reading" ?

    The Dwyer method does not include spelling. Spelling is not something you work on during primary. Many elementary Montessori programs use something like All About Spelling or Words Their Way. In early elementary some people use a series of baskets sometimes called "Claremont baskets" that are very Dwyeresque. I have one album that uses the Claremont spelling system but most people won't have access to that information.

    Spelling is one area in which many people are not satisfied with what is in the Montessori albums alone (Maria M. developed the method in Italian which is a phonetic language. She did not have all the issues we have in English.). All About Spelling is how I've chosen to deal with that.

    Perhaps because "pig" was on his spelling list this week you thought he was in the "pink" stage of a PBG-type scheme? The first half of his spelling book is too easy for him, but we are doing the work anyway to get him used to the procedures.

  3. Melissa,

    Edited to add...some people use a series of baskets (Claremont Baskets) followed by "Galsworthy Booklets" (books for "tion" "cion" etc.,), followed by the "advanced dictionary." Although, as I said, most albums take care of spelling through word study and a spelling notebook of sorts and don't include the three things I mentioned above. In the one album I have that DOES use those they only mention the "advanced dictionary" they don't describe it or give a presentation outline. I can only assume it is something like a spelling journal or something like the "phonogram dictionary" but including "tion" "sion" "cion" etc.,

  4. Thanks for the explanation. I have done no research into elementary Montessori as learning the primary has been keeping me so busy. Sorry for the confusion - I guess my real question was what the reasoning behind going with a different curriculum other than strict Montessori for spelling. You answered that in your comment. For some reason I was thinking the dictionary and word study was connected with Dwyer method, but like I said I am knee deep in primary so I have not gotten there yet. Thanks for your explanation. I appreciate your blog so much! While on the topic - when you used the Dwyer method did you formally teach your child to blend sounds or expect them to read aloud. I am getting a lot of conflicting opinions on this as I read about the method. I have a degree in education and teaching reading using the Montessori approach is SO different then what I am used to and really trying to trust the method, but is has been slow going as I did not find or even begin using the method ti my son was almost four. Before that point I was following a very traditional approach. Just be curious to hear how the transition from writing with moveable alphabet and introducing all the phonemes (green sandpaper letters) transitioned to reading in your experience.

  5. Something interesting of note:

    Those of us trained as elementary teachers, learned how to teach elementary age children to read. The assumption with the typical educational world is that if it works for a 6, 7, or 8 year old, it must be the same process used to teach a 2, 3, or 4 year old. But then even they (meaning me back before I found Montessori) realize that the children aren't ready for reading and writing. Not according to THOSE standards and THOSE procedures.

    Because the child BEFORE age 6 is in a different plane of development, the approach is very different. AND there is a beautiful built-in window of opportunity: that sensitive period for language.

    On the topic of reading aloud when still learning to read, consider this:
    Just as we did not expect babies to practice their sounds before starting to make them (they just started making them - THEN making words!) because we know that they are observing and soaking it all in. Yes, we do see them doing some practice (babbling - carrying on conversations of their own) - but we don't control that - it is totally spontaneous on their part. We help it along by providing the right environment, speaking to them, etc. providing all those skills at the right times - but you still might end up with one child with a speech impairment and 5 kids who are just fine - it's not because YOU messed up! It's because they have a different internal working and WE cannot control that.

    Sorry - got off a little bit there!

    At primary, we do not ask the children to read aloud while they are learning to read because it is not developmentally appropriate. Let them read the whole word and respond to the word. We start with commands - matching a word to an object - because in this way, the child does not read it ALOUD, but does show his understanding of the written word! By this time, in a Montessori setting, the child has already been writing!

    Then when we get to phrases, we use command cards such as "run and jump" - they love these because sometimes they get to do what they don't ordinarily get to do; and they can demonstrate an understanding of a "secret language" - he has read your mind and you've not SAID a thing!

    Now, if the child spontaneously sounds it out, or just says the whole word - FANTASTIC! But it's not expected.

    Those experiences typically turn into Kal-El's first experience with the timered flash cards ;) And was exactly our experience when trying to re-build confidence in reading skills (long story!).

    Flash forward to elementary - with a child just learning to read. Guess what? At that age, we have a reverse and the children do indeed read before writing though it happens pretty close together. They also are already orally sounding out letters and combos within the remedial/bridge exercises. Because that process is appropriate to the elementary age.

    So in this case, it's not so much about opinion, but about solid observation of the characteristics of the young child. There will always be those children who WANT to read aloud - and that is totally OK, but it should not be expected of everyone, because it is not "typical".

  6. Melissa,

    This comment will be in two parts because Blogger won't let me post a long comment today. To answer to some of the things you said/asked specifically...

    There is a phonogram dictionary (I've posted about it) that is part of the Dwyer method. This is DIFFERENT that what I referred to as the "Advanced Dictionary." The Dwyer pamphlet pretty much ends by saying the kids continue on to "WORD STUDY." She puts it in all caps because words study presentations are standard in elementary albums. She doesn't explain how to do word study because it is already in the existing albums.

    The way you worded your questions leads me to think you have it in your head that the kids do the single sandpaper letters, the movable alphabet, THEN the green sandpaper letters. That is true (with a couple extra steps between) for the PBG method. It is probably how the AMI method works. Dwyer teaches the green sandpaper letters ALONGSIDE the singles. I was very successful with Me Too this way.

    So, his first day of sandpaper letters I showed him three...something like "a", "c", and "th." This completely changes the child's experience with the movable alphabet to something more like Maria Montessori might have seen her students experience. Why? Because when the child receives the movable alphabet they can write ANYTHING THEY WANT because they have all 44 key sounds. It is really really cool for them to just be able to dig in and say anything they want to say. If they only have the singles they have no way to write "chip" for example and they get frustrated. The guide gets around this by offering objects or pictures to use with the alphabet in order to control what the child tries to write. This is not how that material was intended to be used and not as interesting for the child. My personal opinion is the reason so many guides (home and out) see children reading before writing with the movable alphabet. The MA is less compelling when controlled.

  7. Every child is different. I did not do anything special to teach my children how to blend. There is no "blue series" in Dwyer. They figured out how to blend all on their own. They are excellent blenders :) I think for many kids it is an unnecessary extra step. I wonder if the PBG scheme was invented for kids who WEREN"T blending well and now they just use it on every kid.

    I find that different people mean different things by "reading aloud." My experience with kids in general (and I used to be a teacher) is that they tend to sound things out aloud. Many kids (not all) find it easier to "hear" what they've just read if they say it. My own kids sure do. Plus, when the guide presents the work the GUIDE usually (not always) sounds out the word aloud so the kid knows what the guide is thinking. "P...I...G..." and then matches the "pig" label to the "pig" object. This probably give the kids an idea that this is "how to do it." Also, the fact that several Montessori exercises exist to bridge the child from reading aloud to reading in their head makes me assume that they may naturally be reading aloud and need help transitioning to reading silently. The "secret" words in the PBG scheme and the "activity word game" in Dwyer's method come to mind. However, object box activities in Dwyer and picture matching activities in PBG can certainly be accomplished without speaking aloud. I would just see what the child does. I never told my kids to do it one way or another but just let them do whatever they did (which was usually to sound it out aloud). It is easy to see if they are progressing by looking at the matches they make.

    When they get to puzzle words and handmade readers there is no real way to know what is going on in their head if they are silent. Here is where people's definition of "reading aloud" may differ from one another and people can argue not even realizing they aren't talking about the same thing. In a traditional school making the child read aloud in front of ALL of his or her classmates is almost certainly a daily occurrence. Most Montessorian's are going to be adamantly against that. That is NOT the same thing as working one-on-one with the guide to learn the puzzle word cards or to read them a handmade reader. It is CERTAINLY very different than reading a handmade reader aloud to one's own MOTHER. I don't see anything wrong or threatening about that if the family lives a "Montessori" kind of life. I can certainly see how it COULD be horrible with the wrong kind of parenting. I wonder if some people thought I had gone all Tiger Mom in my recent flashcard post (No). My boys read aloud to me at the reader stage almost every day. Kal-El does a lot of reading on his own and reads at about a 3rd grade level. However, sometimes I am shocked when after he has been reading something like a science topic book by himself for a half an hour and then I ask him to read a page and he is guessing (wrongly) at half the words. Easy to do when the words are things like anamometer. I don't know how he can be so absorbed in something that he clearly isn't understanding, but he is. He still needs to read to me daily so that I can see what word study he needs me to prepare from him, so I can teach him strategies for new problems, etc.,

    So, that's how Dwyer played out at our house. Me Too was a "Dwyer kid" the whole way. Kal-El started in the PBG scheme and I changed to Dwyer when he was starting the blue series. I had to take some time to bridge the gap at first but it all worked out.

  8. I am NOT picking on MBT when I say the following (I hope she knows me well enough to know I wouldn't do that!) :) (BIG smile!)

    The AMI primary sequence is very similar to Dwyer, with a few differences - I've not been able to really get into the nitty-gritty for a direct detailed comparison - but these two are far more similar than PBG is to either one.

    AMI introduces the green letters sometime before the child is halfway through the single letters, such that the all the letters (pink, blue, green) will end at about the same time. Another way of saying it is that we start with the pink/blue sandpaper letters and insert the green sandpaper letters once the child has about 10 individual sounds (give or take depending on the child) - then it is learn 2 individuals and one combo; sometimes it might be two combos and 1 single letter.

    In the end, for your own child - you mix it up in the way that will work best for that child. :)

  9. Oh, I was just digging around in the Montessori by Hand AMI album and found this:

    "It’s important that we don’t ask children to read aloud. The exciting thing about reading is that it’s silent communication. Throughout life, don’t ask children to read aloud. Children don’t learn to read better by reading aloud to you.
    Most children do read aloud, however, at least at the beginning. Don’t stop them, but don’t ask them to
    read aloud."

    I still stand by having Kal-El read to me a little bit of what he is reading as a matter of assessment/observation. Meg says children don't learn to read better by reading aloud. No, if they are going to spend 20 minutes reading with NO ONE making any comments it doesn't matter if it is silently or aloud. But they DO learn to read better when someone takes the time to present new information to them when they need it...which is the purpose of the reading aloud he does with me.

    Just as Jessica hasn't taken the time to get into the Dwyer nitty-gritty I haven't taken the time to get into the AMI nitty-gritty. As she said, Dwyer and AMI are very similar. I get them jumbled in my head because the Gettman is much like the AMI primary albums and not as much like the AMS primary albums. BUT, he uses the Dwyer scheme for reading rather than what I see in Montessori by Hand. I just peeked at MbH to see where the double sandpaper letters were and they are kind of nowhere. She gives a two page presentation for singles. The first paragraph includes in parenthesis "double sandpaper letters MAY be introduced at this time." If you don't take advantage of the "may" it doesn't come up later. This is, however a whole slew of phonogram activities at one point after several reading activities with single letters. Just glancing at the two schemes again after some time, it seems like AMI has just more "stuff" to do. It is a far cry from the ridiculous amount of "stuff" in PBG. As Jessica said, the AMI and Dwyer have a lot in common. I think that the Dwyer is more streamlined and makes it as simple and easy as possible. However, if I had a kid that had trouble I might want some of those extra activities to solve a problem.

  10. MBT describes a bit of our experience too - there was a benefit to reading aloud, but it wasn't a benefit when I required it (that would be the flashcard experience!).

    And despite what various sources say about not reading aloud "any time in one's lifetime" as a requirement (I have seen that noted in many places), the AMI training I had said that you DO have them read aloud in upper elementary.

    And my son MUST do some reading aloud in lower elementary simply for the sake of speech therapy (his issues are totally unrelated to reading aloud or not).

    But now I am needing to look at Dwyer vs AMI - just so I can truly see the similarities and differences.

    Sheesh - MBT keeps adding stuff to my to-do list - first it's Adam's Family, now it's Dwyer. Last week or so was the music album. ;)

    Hehe - I am SO teasing!

  11. Big duh moment for me ;)

    We DO have them read aloud at primary - sort of. When we introduce the sandpaper letters (of any color), we trace it say the sound; we invite the child to do the same so we know they have the right sound AND to help infuse those sounds in their minds right? It's the same idea!

    And there are various places we will have them tell us what they've read or what they've written - we're not asking them to read it aloud, but asking, "Tell me what you just wrote!" which is a kind-of invite to read aloud or to summarize. If the phrases are short, they usually just say the words back.

    With the commands, they can read it, and do it, then tell you what it said.

    So it's not reading aloud like most people think of (especially the blending stage of reading aloud - that part we skip entirely unless the child does it naturally) - but it is telling us what has been read.

    I found the same experience with going through any sort of graded readers - if I let the child go off and read it for themselves, then come back and read it to me - it worked SO much better (and this was elementary age children who started with no reading level).

    So I have to be careful with my own terminology - yes we have "reading aloud" - it just has a very particular definition here ;)