Tuesday, September 4, 2012

School Day, Part Two: Music, Language, Math

I bought a couple of traditional lesson plan books from the local teacher supply store (one for each child).  I am using them to write down what the kids DO as the day progresses rather than writing down what I PLAN TO DO.  I think I'll occasionally write down what I plan to do (or get a third book), such as pencil in "God With No Hands" for next Monday. I am SO GLAD I planned on using the books this way.  Today was our first day back to planned work cycles.  If I had written down a week's worth of presentations I would be almost all of them right now.  Other than violin practice, music wasn't even on my plan for today but Kal-El worked with the Montessori music materials for about an hour-and-a-half.  

 One of our small visitors recently made a mess of the bells.  Toddlers who visit our home are always drawn to these like a moth to a flame and they almost always reorder them or put them all on the tray. I actually love it when that happens because the boys feel compelled to put them back eventually.  That is what happened to day.  Kal-El restored order using two different techniques (each one is a different presentation in your Montessori music album).  First, he graded the white bells by continually finding the lowest bell.  Second, he graded the brown bells by pitch-matching them to the white bells in random order.   Afterward, he was compelled to label the bells by note name with the white discs.

Next, he created a control chart with the numbered staff board and numbered/lettered black discs.

Then, he pulled out the unlabeled green staff board and the drawer full of white discs labeled by note name.  The child works with the staff boards loosely as follows:

  • Pull a white disc from the drawer
  • Read the note name
  • Walk to the bells, play and sing that note
  • Find the note (if necessary) on the control chart
  • Place the disc face down on the appropriate line and space on the green board
  • repeat

There are multiples of each note in the drawer.  When he was done the green board was nearly full with several discs, face down, on each line and space.  Next, he picked a line or space and turned all of the discs on that line or space face up.  They should all match.  If they do not, he's made an error and corrects the error using the control chart.  Then, he walked to the bells and to play and sing the note name as many times as it had appeared on the board.  When he returned to the board he put all of the discs that were face up back in the drawer and chose another line or space on which to turn the discs face up.

While Kal-El was working with the bells, Me Too worked a word study.  Today he focused on some consonant blends (lt, lk, ct, st).  He built the blends with the movable alphabet, read a few word lists, and then matched sentences to photographs independently (As always, you can make my photos A LOT bigger by clicking on them if you want to read the sentences).

They both chose some math today.  Kal-El worked with an addition chart while Me Too requested "distraction with the beads."  Huh?  He had to ask three times, but I finally realized that he had confused the words "distraction" and "subtraction."  It's a good thing we are taking some time to review this week!

Afterward, He worked with the teen board in hopes that it would go smoothly so that I would show him the tens boards tomorrow.  It didn't.  He started by sitting on the wrong side and putting all the unit cards upside down but did the work otherwise correctly from top to bottom.  After I asked him to sit on the other side he did the work bottom to top and put the unit cards on top of all the ones in the tens postion.  I corrected him again, and the third time he did the work from bottom to top again (the child is allowed to do this in random order as well, but my kids always refuse) but managed to get the units on top of the zeroes.  He was very successful in matching up the bead bars with the board and enjoyed counting the beads with a tab from the bead chains.

In response to my "panic" post, several people suggested that it might help me relax if I looked up the state standards for the boys' grade levels.  It did.  The order of topics is rather arbitrary for the non-language/non-math areas but I could see that we have already achieved much of what we need to.  As for language and math, Kal-El is already proficient at all of the state standards for first grade (today was is first official day of first grade).  Today was Me Too's first official day of kindergarten.   Once he does the tens board and hundred board he will have completed all of the kindergarten math standards for our state.  I didn't look to see how many of the first grade standards he has already touched upon for math, but I did happen to notice that he has already completed the language standards for first grade. I bring this up to both thank those of you who told me to take a peek at those, and also to perhaps alleviate some anxiety for those readers who are uncertain about whether Montessori kids who choose their own work can really meet the state standards.  It might also be interesting for some of you to note that last year we only worked for three hours, 2-3 days each week. Otherwise, I just tried to take advantage of as many teachable moments as I could.

Kal-El worked on word study today as well.  Today he reviewed a list of words in which a lone "o" makes the short-u sound (won, ton, etc.,).  Then, he looked at a new list of words in which a lone "o" PLUS a silent "e" make the short-u sound (love, come).  He learned two new sight words, "one" and "once."  Finally, he read a short book that I made that used many of the words from the list and the new sight word.

I haven't shown a few pages from any of these little books I make for quite some time, so I thought I would today just so you can see how simple the illustrations can be.

As you can see, this book provided a teachable moment contrastion "won" and "one" as well.  

I still use The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading to organize the word studies for both boys.  They don't, however, actually use the book.  I put the word lists and the books I make on the their shelves like any Montessori work.  I put any sight words on green cards just like traditional Montessori and they are added to their "puzzle word" collections.

I think a lot of reading methods let the "sight word" collections get super out-of-control.  Everything is tossed on a card into the "sight word" category when so many of those words have things in common.  I use the OPG to help me corral those words into categories, associate them with more advanced phonics, and hopefully help toward an easier understanding of spelling in the future.

This work is really easy from the boys' perspective.  They find lists of words on their shelf, read them, see if they notice anything about the list.  Sometimes they find some puzzle word cards.  It only takes a few minutes to read these and ask questions about them.  They always find a book or sentence/picture match and they think these are really fun.  


  1. Wow! Way to get back into the swing of things! I love it! Bunny is really getting back into it and I know that i am trying to make sure that I have my presentation ready in my mind so we can really get to work! I am slowly introducing things to her and I cant wait to see what she picks! Good luck and I cant wait to see what is coming up for you guys!

  2. Your classroom always look so beautiful. I wish I was as organized! I do use a plan book just the way you described. I have spaces for each subject and then when I see my daughter do an activity, I just write it down. Sometimes I have few activities/reading planned which I write in pencil just in case. This allows me the flexibility to follow her interests and at the same time it gives me a peace of mind that she's learning every day! Without the written record, I would wonder what I did the day before because I tend to forget. I also use the plan book to write up monthly reports to document progress.

  3. Thanks all! It feels good to be back in the swing of things. Kal-El says we have "the best school in the world" so I guess he's happy. Otherwise, he would tell me we have the "worst school in the world". Everything is the "best" or the "worst" lately.

    Joyful Learner: It's good to hear I'm not the only nut filling in a blank "planning" book LOL!

  4. What an awesome start to the new school year! I envy all your music materials and knowledge! I have zero knowledge in music. Do you have any book recommendations for me?

  5. You have to use a planner of some sort ;) Usually at the start of each "semester" (loosely defined ;) ), I use some blank ones leftover from a family giving me their old curriculum to re-sell, in which to make my plans. I cross out the day names and just fill in items in the order I want them presented - and only fill in my own presentations to be given. I use those to check off as part of our attendance record (the only thing we are required to do in my state).

    Then my son has his own work plan and journal for the follow-ups and such.

    And I think the extremeties last into the teen years !? Best/worst, nasty/most-delicious-ever, etc. !? :)