Sunday, November 12, 2017

Age of Discovery, Week 2

First, I would like to thank the families and friends who recently made donations to the classroom. One family sent in several packages of fun Halloween napkins for us to use at lunchtime. The kids love them! And a friend donated some new art supplies to our homeschool group: two different sizes of blank tags for papercrafting... and great new colors of acrylic paint!
I always arrange my paint in a colorful display in rainbow order... and my thread... and my yarn... and my wool felt...

When it is time to get supplies, I tell the children, "Let's go shopping at the Paint Store" (or the Thread Store or the Yarn Store, etc.). They just love it. It sounds much more fun than, "Please choose your preferred paint color."

Little classroom routines like that are easy and so sweet.

And, by now, the students have all settled into the school year rhythms:

They have each figured out their preferred spot to work, whether it is

    the long comfy sofa,
    the card table in front of the sunny living room picture window,
    the roomy dining room table,
    the cozy kitchen table, or
    the card table downstairs in the quiet book-filled library.

    Some children even like to cuddle on the dog bed with the dog in the morning and read to him!

They know that shoes get lined up behind the living room sofa, coats go in the coat closet, lunch boxes go on the kitchen table, and backpacks go along the living room wall.

They know that we will start the day with SSR and then have our Morning Meeting where I will make announcements of the plan for the day.

They know that there is one classroom rule: You can do anything you want as long as it does not cause a problem for someone else.

They know how to document their work (complete with color coding) and plan a balanced day, and that they can take water breaks, snack breaks, bathroom breaks, and stretch breaks whenever they need to in between work choices. They also know that they can't just walk off to do this when we are in the middle of a lesson together.

They know that they need to be working during work time and that they can't choose to do nothing.

They know to write their names on the Name Board to show that they need me, and how to choose something else that they do know how to do independently while they are waiting for me to come to them and help them.

They know where to find the curriculum materials, how they are organized, and how to get things out and how to put them back when they are finished. They know where to find office supplies like tape, scissors, glue, extra pencils, a ruler, a yardstick, the stapler, the pencil sharpeners, sticky notes, index cards, lined paper, blank paper, graph paper, and so on.

They know that they can freely use the countdown visual timer, the InTune and ChillOut essential oils, and any other strategies that help them to be focused.

They know that they can absolutely play educational games as part of their plan for the day (such as Scrabble) but they know how much is too much.

They know that if they are not making appropriate work choices that I will step in and plan their day for them.

They know that when they borrow plates or silverware or mugs from me during the day that they need to put them in the kitchen sink when they are done. And they know to cover their food when they put it in the microwave.

They know that paint palettes and rinse water jars and paintbrushes always and only get washed at the art sink, and they know that the blue handled paintbrushes are special and are only used for watercolor painting.

They know that you don't pull on the selvages when you are weaving on the loom.

They know that the Cutter Bee scissors are only for fabric!!!

They know that they must do a rough draft of both their summary and their illustration -- and get an edit -- before they can put anything in their main lesson books. EVERY TIME.

They know that when I stand outside and ring the silver bell it is time for them all to come in from recess.

They know that they need to do their classroom jobs each day and that the jobs rotate each week.

The younger kids know that they don't have homework and the older kids know that they do, and where to turn their homework folder in each day (and the one student who keeps a grade book and calculates the percentage he gets on each assignment knows to set aside time to do that each day).

They know that if they are feeling frustrated that they can go sit on the steps and shake the Ocean in a Bottle nice and hard and sit and watch it until the layers separate out again, and that then they will feel better.

They know that when there is a behavior problem in the classroom I will schedule an Appointment with the appropriate child(ren). The Appointment then takes place during their lunch and recess time so that we can talk about the issue privately and deal with it in as much depth as is needed, without taking away from instructional time.

They know that their pile of supplies will be waiting for them in their quiet working spot when they get to school, and they know that when the alarm goes off at 2:30 pm they need to come to a stopping point in their work, neatly stack up all of their materials, and write their favorite part of their day in their gratitude journals.

They know that after everyone has tidied up their area and gotten their backpacks and lunchboxes and shoes and layers and is ready for pickup... we will have our read aloud time.

We continue with the Age of Discovery main lesson block, making our way through the Hundred Years War, the Black Death, the story of Joan of Arc, the invention of the Printing Press, and the discovery of Gunpowder. We ended our week by hearing the story of "Henry the Navigator," Prince of Portugal, and his school of navigation, which was the first in the world. We also looked at some great books by David Macaulay: Castle and Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction.

For the Printing Press illustration last time I had my daughter carve letter stamps out of potatoes. This takes a surprisingly long amount of time... like all afternoon! I didn't have enough time to do that this year. However, a Rubber Stamp Alphabet Set is also a useful thing to show students and pass around the classroom and even incorporate into the main lesson book illustration. For the Gunpowder, we drew colorful fireworks with colored pencils. For both of these, you can do the summary in the middle of the page and the illustration (stamped letters or fireworks) as a border around the story.

We continue, of course, with Farm Day and with our read aloud story (The Cat Who Went to Heaven). We continue with Art (I have a lovely lesson which we did in Philosophy to share in a future post), Handwork (corking is currently enjoying a surge in popularity), and with a whole variety of individual lessons as well as the group ones. As always, we have student-driven choice time as well as teacher-driven main lesson time; we have small group lessons, one-on-one lessons, and whole group lessons.

There is so much variety in our day!

A few examples: I presented The Montessori Teaching Clock this week in a small group with just two students. For one child it was a completely new lesson, for the other it was a review of the hour hand and the introduction of how to read the minute hand. The Lord of the Flies literature circle is also a small group lesson for only the older students. But I always meet students one-on-one when we need to do a Reading Meeting (one little girl is very excited to start reading her new book: The Complete Adventures of Curious George). Students get one-on-one lessons when they are ready for new skills as well. This week I met with a student individually to present the Word Study material for alphabetical order. One child is learning how to add fractions with common denominators, while another is discovering what the term "similar" means in Geometry. I really enjoy seeing the mixed-age classroom environment, where students are able to learn at their own pace!

On the other hand, we love to get together at a few points in our day and do lessons all together as a class. On Thursday we all gathered together to watch a student present "The Cosmic Story" (also called "The First Great Lesson" in Montessori), which is the story of "The Big Bang" (also called "The Great Inflation"). Whatever you want to call it... it was fabulous!

setting up the Cosmic Story Mat from Waseca Biomes

laying out the demonstrations, then
covering them with the long star silk to pique interest

ready for the students to come in

where did you come from?
where did your parents come from?

where did everything come from?

popping the balloon filled with silver star confetti

picking up the stars and putting them in the dish of water

telling the story, step by step, and then laying down the cards in order

showing the relative sizes of the Earth and the Sun

when we look again, our stars have gathered together into a galaxy...
all on their own!

A fun note:
In the "Publisher's Perspective" by Anita Silvey, part of the introduction to the Curious George anthology, we found out that one year -- in 1945 -- the story of Curious George actually sold negative-six copies! Yes, this is possible. Bookstores returned more copies to the publishers than they bought. If you are teaching Algebra in Seventh Grade, this would be a wonderful way to introduce negative numbers! Jamie York suggests that negative numbers NOT be introduced using a number line, which then either becomes a crutch or becomes a source of confusion (such as why a negative times a negative is a positive). He suggests real life examples, like thinking about a bank account and how you could write a check for more money than you have in the bank and, thus, have a negative balance. I appreciate that idea but I love the Curious George story even more because it is a wonderfully quirky real-life example!

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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