A day in our life

Today’s Globe and Mail featured an article on how a five-year-old may spend their days in a variety of settings, one of which being Westside Montessori School’s Casa classroom. We’d like to expand on what was written about time spent in our school.

Ellery is dropped off at 8:30 am and, following her morning greeting with her peers and teachers, spends five minutes riding the bicycle. Her classmate, Cameron, asks for a turn, she tells him, “in two minutes” and races off. Three minutes later, she happily hands over the helmet and bicycle and runs to find a watering can. After watering the herb garden and commenting on how “yummy the mint smells today!”, she sees her buddy, Owen, arriving. “Owen, Owen!! Let’s play monster trucks!” Owen gives his mom a quick kiss goodbye and races over to hop on the tricycle, revving up his engine.

Ellery grabs the dump truck and lines up, ready for action. Young Rowan quickly scans the playground in search of something to use as her “monster truck”; she chooses a yellow bucket, a resourceful and creative choice. Cameron, still on the bicycle, races over to join the other monster trucks as they gear up for their race. The four children run over to me and ask, “Lizzie, Lizzie, can you please be our monster truck coordinator?” (Upon completing my Montessori Teacher Training, I had no idea I’d one day be able to add “monster truck coordinator” to my resume!) “Sure!” I respond and we all take our positions.

We begin the game by counting how many monster trucks are on the track today. “Four!” the children exclaim. Myron hears his friends counting, grabs a truck and joins his pals. Now there are five. The “monster trucks” and I discuss the weather and any obstacles on the track (baseballs, hockey sticks, classmates, etc…) before they head off on their way. After round one, Jones and Ally want to join in the excitement. They leave the sandbox, where they’ve been busily baking birthday cakes together and join the crew of trucks. We hold a recount and the seven trucks race away. Around and around the playground they go, stopping each round to catch their breath, note the obstacles and count the trucks. Since the children invented this game last month, it’s become a daily ritual for the Casa class. It’s incredible to see them cheer on their friends, take turns on the vehicles and happily await the other monster trucks for the next round.

At two minutes to nine, we hold the last run around the track and then everyone parks their “truck” and together we tidy up the playground. When all the toys have been put away, the children line up at the entrance to the school and we quietly enter the classroom to hang up our coats, change into our indoor shoes and wash our hands.

Next, the children choose their work. Myron decides to wash the classroom windows. He loves to use the spray bottle and says the “window cleaner” (water and vinegar), smells “really, really clean”. This work helps him learn to take care of his environment, while building up his ability to concentrate, as well as the strength in his hand in preparation for writing.

Jones heads to the classroom library, a cozy little nook with baskets of books and comfy seating. He’s thrilled to discover I’ve put out some new books. One about a train ride catches his eye and after turning a few pages, he’s completely captivated. The children love to curl up in the library and read story after story.

Ellery heads to the snack table, where she is delighted to discover that Real Food for Real Kids (our catering company), has provided us with “marble cheese, my favourite!” and whole-wheat crackers for today’s snack.

Cameron chooses the Large Moveable Alphabet, an activity involving cut out wooden letters, which are all kept in separate compartments of a very large box. He uses this material to build words. He sounds out c-a-t and chooses the letters to make his word. Next, he moves on to the word f-o-x. I know that before too long, he will be using this material, one of his favourite pieces of work, to write wonderful stories about monster trucks. Ellery finishes her snack, washes her dishes, and asks Cam if she may join him. As partners, they discuss which words to build next. They encourage and motivate one another as they work.

Rowan and Ally, the two youngest children in the classroom, decide they’re going to build the Pink Tower together. Rowan gets a mat, upon which they’ll lay out their material and Ally carefully begins to carry the pink cubes one at a time to the work mat. They happily build the tower together, gently take it down and start over, repeating it several times. The children master new concepts through their repetition with the Montessori materials. A new lesson is generally quite challenging when first introduced, but over time, the children master the concepts and are then ready to move onto greater challenges.

I scan the classroom, notice the children happily engaged in their work, and approach Owen, who has just finished putting away his painting and cleaning the paintbrush. I tell him that I’d like to do some new numbers with him today. We get our Sandpaper Numbers from the Math area of the classroom and sit down together at a table for an individual lesson. “Owen, this is three”, I say, tracing the number, which is cut out of sandpaper and glued to a piece of wood, giving the child both a tactile and visual representation of the numeric symbol. “Three? I’m three now!”

So starts our day in the Casa classroom at Westside Montessori School. If you’d like to see more of how we spend our time here, please give us a call; we’d love to have you visit.

June 16, 2009. Classroom life. No Comments.

“I did it!”

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These three words seem to be a very common phrase currently in our toddler classroom. I can’t count the number of times I have heard these words uttered with the utmost of excitement and joy in the past week. Whether it is a child snapping the snap frame, using the tongs to transfer beans, putting on their own socks and slippers, or helping a friend to unzip their sweater. The look on their faces while expressing their accomplishments is priceless. And the bond that they have all developed over the past year as a group is something spectacular. It is amazing to me to see and hear a child of 20 months console their friend with a gentle touch and ‘Okay’.
The school year is coming to a close and the toddlers are growing up! Not only are they choosing their work freely, but they are taking it to a table, focusing and concentrating on the task, completing it, repeating it, and then putting it away back on the shelf (most of the time in the place they took it from!). They are setting their places for snack and lunch time and pouring their own glasses of water with ease. They are caring for each other, their classroom, and their school. Just this week a few toddlers helped me weed the garden out front of the playground and plant new plants in the planters. And we have one child who has taken to rubbing her friends backs to help them fall asleep for nap time. Sometimes she even hums a tune!
This is what teaching is all about, what friends are all about, what community is all about, what school is all about and what Westside is all about!

June 5, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Our Neighbourhood Magazine

Please check out this month’s issue of ON online at www.onmagazine.ca/documents/WestsideMontessori.pdf

This month, the magazine’s issue is all about Family. The children at Westside Montessori thoroughly enjoyed looking through the magazine and delighted to see themselves, their classmates and teachers featured in the publication. Enjoy!

June 4, 2009. Articles. No Comments.