Monday, October 31, 2016

Homeschool Co-op Week 10

This ended up being a very Montessori-ish week! If there's something I touch on which you want me to explain further, just type a comment and I'll respond.

We had our final week of outdoor yoga with our very talented Yoga teacher, whom we will miss very much!!!!

Continued The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels as our read aloud (I want to just say... I had NO idea this had been made into a movie!)

Continued Handwork projects and ASL and Farm Day

Completed Parts of the Biome nomenclature booklets (, then went depeer into the Energy component of the biome. We experienced The First Great Lesson, followed by some lessons on the Parts of the Globe, Climate Zones, and The Reason for the Seasons.

    I have pages on my website for my Lending Library, and the Montessori page gives a ton of suggested resources for the Five Great Lessons, the most Waldorf-y of all Montessori lessons.

    I can't tell you the entire story in this little space but I can share some of my favorite parts.

    There are several great demonstrations for this lesson! In the first, you fill a black balloon with silver confetti stars using a funnel, then blow up the balloon. You keep the balloon and a pin hidden under your silk. I used the starry night silk because I just can't resist. It's so perfect for this!

    When you prick the balloon the stars fly all over the classroom! The Great Lessons are intended to be impressionistic and not too heavy on the science... yet scientifically accurate in a simplified way. The idea of something coming from a great nothing-something is one of the greatest mysteries!

    The teacher lights a candle to show that light now exists, then collects the stars (with eager help from children -- be prepared to lose a few stars to pockets) and places them in a large clear bowl of water. Because of surface tension, the stars will slowly be drawn together to form galaxies. It's pretty cool!

    Another popular demonstration shows how heavier particles fell to the center of the earth, medium heavy particles fell a little less deeply, and light particles floated on the top. Take a large jar with a lid and into it dramatically pour a large quantity of water which has been dyed blue, then a quantity of honey (which will sink and spread out to cover the bottom of the jar), then a quanitity of vegetable oil (which will float on the top). Even though all of the hot liquid melty rock which was our earth at its beginning seemed to be the same, some of the particles were heavier, some medium-heavy, some light. Over time they separated out into layers. Screw on the lid and pass the jar around and let the children shake it up vigorously. Then set it down and watch it settle. It won't take long.

    I also had a piece of pumice from my hike up Mt. Vesuvius many years ago. It was great fun to hand around! You could really see that gasses escaped from volcanoes as well as the solid material which cooled to form rock. Those gasses contained hydrogen and oxygen which could become water. Of course, for millions of years that water which fell instantly evaporated back up into the air when it tried to land on the sizzling hot earth's crust. I used to have a great demonstration for this! I heated a little cast iron skillet on a hot plate and when we got to that part in the story, I would spritz the skillet with a little spray bottle of water. The drops would sizzle and immediately be gone. It was very effective!

    How life first came to be on earth is the story for another day... the Second Great Lesson.

    Several great follow up books for this First Great Lesson are

Our poem (a joke "haiku" which helped us practice counting syllables), math facts (Ghostie Numbers), and morning pages.

    one two three four five
    six se-ven eight nine ten e-
    le-ven twelve thir-teen

Ghostie Numbers is a wildly-popular Halloween math lesson I invented years ago which is actually algebra. I like students EARLY ON to understand that the equals sign does NOT mean "put the answer here." It means "is the same as." It is amazing how often kids are only given math problems which look like a + b = c. Or a - b = c.

If you only ever saw math presented that way, wouldn't you think the equals sign means "put the answer here."

I read an article from the National Council on Teaching Children Mathematics about this which was incredibly striking and which has always stuck with me. You can test this with your own child. Give a problem like 5 + 3 = ___ + 6.

Does your child write an eight in the blank? Lots of kids don't know what to do with the "+ 6" because it doesn't match any format they've ever seen before, so their strategy is to just completely ignore it.

We focus on two things in Ghostie Numbers: understanding that the equals sign means the two sides must balance, and checking your answer for reasonableness. (The concept is that one of the numbers is wearing his Halloween costume and you have to figure out what number is hiding underneath.) I have no problem with "guess and check." I only ask that once you've guessed, you think to yourself, does this feel reasonable? We did a few of these problems every day and the class got into animated discussions about how to solve them. I would put up two problems on the board, and people could choose which one they were interested in solving. They could use any manipulative of their choice, as well as scrap paper of course.

In the pictured problem "9 x 9 = ghostie + 44," it was interesting that my daughter was adamant that you solved it by adding 44 to 81. You can see that she went up and wrote that on the board below my original problem, because she was busy explaining her logic to her classmate and couldn't keep from jumping up to show him. It's wrong. But this is a great test for reasonableness.

Is it reasonable that 9 x 9 is the same as 125 + 44???

No, of course not.

For the older children, whose problems were much more difficult, I talked about George Polya and his strategy of trying the same problem with littler numbers. You can solve them in your head if the numbers are small enough and figure out the correct answer quickly. Then, whatever steps you used to solve the problem with the small numbers are the correct steps to use for the larger numbers too. We had to do this when I gave them a problem which included fractions.

If you change the problem above to "2 x 2 = ghostie + 1", you can see that four is the same as ghostie + 1, which means that ghostie is 3. You subtract the one from four. Therefore, to return to the more difficult problem, you would subtract the 44 from 81.

A lively discussion always results from "Tell me step by step how you would solve this problem."

The other Halloween favorite in my classroom is the Haunted House of Speech. My co-teacher at my Montessori school taught me this lesson and I used my pictures of her classroom students doing this work as the basis for my own spooky house template. Students trace the template, then add details to their little hearts' content. The only stipulation is that you have to write down everything you add under the symbol for its part of speech. Naturally Montessori is unique in how it presents grammar, and the Grammar symbols are wonderful for visual-spatial and tactile learners! Once they know the symbols for the parts of speech, they can take any sentence or passage and symbolize it by stenciling and coloring in the appropriate symbols above each word. What a wonderful way to see at a glance how a sentence is put together and the job of each and every word!

You can buy lots of grammar materials but the stencil and colored pencils and a chart showing all of the symbols are all that is really needed.

My older students did some Halloween-Themed Fact and Opinion and Halloween Decimal Operations Word Problems. All operations with decimals are still really challenging for them, especially long multiplication and long division!

My Four Seasons / Poetry group wrote Autumn poetry, experimenting with haiku and acrostic poems. They have a few they wish to share in my next blog post. Nothing like an authentic audience to encourage people to polish and publish!

My Old Testament Stories group started with The Dreamer by Cynthia Rylant, a wonderfully written book which is based on the Judeo-Christian Creation story. It is luminously illustrated by Barry Moser. It's out of print and I haven't the foggiest idea why...

They then did a wet-on-dry watercolor painting of the great void which existed before anything was created. We painted outside and it was amazing to sit in the sunshine and listen to the birds singing and hear the sounds of life all around us and try to imagine what it would have been like if none of that existed and there was only nothingness.

I didn't articulate this but it was also interesting to juxtapose the scientific beginning of the universe story with the religious one. We are not studying the Old Testament as a religious study, but as a world mythology / cultural study. However, since the Creation is several days worth of painting, we can't help but compare it to the biomes work and the Montessori lessons as they unfold side by side.

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