Welcome to the Southeast Lower Elementary Classroom! I trust that you will find our classroom an exciting, attractive, lively and engaging place to be. Together we will create an atmosphere that is fair and just, and allows us to develop to our unique potentials. I am excited to share this journey and all of the promises that it holds with you.
Onward we go, with flexibility and love!
The warmer days have finally arrived and with them, the opportunity to spend time in our outdoor classroom. Currently, we are having snacks, lunch, physical-ed, and reading times outdoors. We have yet to put up our tent, as the warmth of the sunshine feels mighty good!
As I wheeled the lunch cart outside for the first time this week, it brought back a flood of memories from the start of the pandemic, when we were solely outdoors. This time has surely taught us all an appreciation for being outdoors and the importance of flexibility! I am forever grateful for a campus that allows us outdoor space, and a team that works to keep us all here, in person, together. The next month could throw us another curveball or two, but I know that we will make the best of whatever comes our way, together, and be grateful for it!
Our Earth Day trips were both wonderful. The 3rd years came back exhausted after working really hard. They were all a “good tired”, yawning as they told us about their adventure. The 1st and second years had a great hike at the nature center, experiencing 3 ecosystems: wetlands, meadows and woodlands. We then went in and sorted the taxidermy animals according to their ecosystems.
Over lunch without the 3rd years, who were still on their trip, the children’s conversation turned to how different it felt in their absence. The children then realized that they would be the leaders in the fall and liked that idea! When the “big” kids came back, they all expressed how it was different being in Upper Elementary. Although we all cherish the time together, it made me realize, that it’s as it should be, with everyone excited and ready to step into what is ahead.
Wow, here we are at the tail end of the month already! I know that the tempo will only accelerate as we get closer to the end of our school year together. I always find myself gripping tightly to the time left, never feeling like it is enough to get in all I want to, and never ready to have the community disperse. That being said, I am seeing signs of readiness, that are as they should be. The 3rd years have mastered so much, and will be ready for what lies ahead, and the youngest children are eager to take a step up and not be “the first years” anymore. We all will savor these last six weeks, and all the festive fun ahead!
Poetry books are being assembled and brought home. We’ve added theme poems, rhyming couplets, haikus and an alphabet poem. Have your child share theirs with you! I have really enjoyed hearing them and I know you will too.
For Earth Day, we put on our (compostable) gloves and headed out to pick up trash around the campus. The children worked hard and were amazed and appalled at all they found. We’ve talked about alternate forms of energy and how their generation will be the ones that truly need to embrace these as common practice. They also wrote some lovely Earth Day poetry!
Hopefully, we will be able to spend time in our outdoor classroom soon!
On Monday all 24 students were here for the first time in weeks! Between early and late spring break travels and stuffy noses, it had been awhile. I love the energy of a full class and the excitement that comes with classmates reuniting after an absence. This truly is their home away from home, and this community is their extended family. Each year the community has it’s own personality, which forms over time. One outstanding thing I am seeing this year is the oldest students in this group (the 3rd years) are very willing to work with the younger students, which in turn cements their learning , while their younger peers are inspired. I appreciate their constant kindness and hope that the current 1st years pay it forward when they become the class seniors!
April brings us poetry month. Thus far we have been working on seeing things using poets' eyes and making big pictures scaled down to a small portion to write about. The lovely sunny day this week beckoned us outdoors to work on acrostic spring poems. All of our poems are being gathered and will be assembled into poetry books. You can look forward to having your poet share their verses with you at the end of April.
Jack Lee, is a grandpa to 3 TCH alumni, all of which were in my class over the years. Jack has loved coming in once a week and listening to students who chose to read aloud to him. We finally were able to welcome him back this week! He has missed being a part of our class during Covid and the kids are thrilled to have “Papa Jack” back!
Music: Nadine’s Class
We finished our cycle on the Brass Family Instruments and their long term project about The Magic Flute opera by Mozart before Spring Break. Since then the students have been learning about Mechanics and Music, primarily through hands-on learning. This includes various types of mechanisms that are used in the making of music, like music boxes, a musical tree, marble run chimes, and the marble machine. Ask your student how simple machines combine in different ways to create music!
It’s March. Not much is new. This time of year can feel like a grind on cold, gray and windy days. Yet in the warmth of our classroom, a happy group of children are bustling around. Not much gets in their way. They are focused on the work in front of them and their classmates. I marvel at their constant ability to stay in the moment, not hurrying to completion, their delight in the simple pleasures of the day, their kindness to each other and their courage to tackle new challenges.
Sure, there is some talk and anticipation of spring break vacations, but along with it is the desire to get that study on the Everglades finished beforehand or the Bavarian pretzels baked for a presentation. Dr Montessori talked about children becoming “normalized” in our classrooms. She described this as the ability to concentrate, work freely, have self-discipline and peace. This time of year, although there isn’t much new, brings the joy of watching all of this unfold.
We constantly talk about the world around us, both past and present. The month of March provides us the opportunity to focus on Women’s History month. We have heard the stories of Clara Burton, Rosa Parks, Sacajawea, Harriet Tubman and others. We have talked about Women’s rights around the world, and in our own country. Each student chose a card from a deck that featured inspiring women from around the world, who in some way contributed to make the world a better place. We are sharing their stories with each other. Have your child share their story with you.
Talks of current events have surfaced. We’ve discussed that over hundreds of years humans have faced adversity, whether it was from animals, climate or each other. We have talked about how sometimes fighting is the end result, and other times resolution has come from communities working together.
“Like the disciples of old, the nations of the world are quarreling as to who shall be the greatest; and, as with the disciples of the old, Montessori would place the child in their midst to show them the way of peace.”
—Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work E. M. Standing
We have been enjoying daily Presidents Day trivia presentations. Students are taking turns sharing the facts they have learned about their president, and we try to identify them from their clues. The children are blowing me away with their knowledge, and so far the class has identified all 6 presidents we’ve started with from the clues given! Along with learning about their own presidents, they have been reading about the others so they make correct guesses. Have your child share their presidential clues with you and see how you do! This has been a great way to incorporate some history, as well as a basic understanding of what it means to be the president.
Daily, we have a minimum of 20 minutes of quiet reading time. Books are chosen for the children who are still learning to read, and we rotate them on a weekly basis. My rule of thumb is that the book needs to be something that the child can read accurately most of the time. I tell them that if they miss more than five words on a page, the book is too hard for them to benefit from. When this happens, they are working so hard to decode the word, that they don’t comprehend the content. I know that at times these limits can be disappointing, but over and over, I have seen this process of practice lead to fluency. The children that can read chapter books covet this time, and inspire their classmates. I encourage them to read a variety of genres, so they don’t always binge on graphic novels or Diary of a Whimpy Kid. In our busy lives filled with technology, time spent reading a book is invaluable! Our public libraries have great selections for all levels of readers. Please let me know if you‘d like suggestions for your child.
Finally, thank you for coming to visit the classroom with your child. They absolutely adore the time with you here. You will be receiving progress reports from me shortly before conferences. I look forward to sharing thoughts with you all soon!
Not only does February bring us the 100th day of school and Valentine's Day, we also have Black History month and Presidents Day. Because children at this age are so tuned into hero worship, telling stories of remarkable people that have shaped our history is especially fascinating. We’ve talked about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks thus far, and we will be hearing tales of others throughout the month. Storytelling captivates the children and is a wonderful way to introduce new ideas and concepts. In turn, the children are inspired to tell their own stories through writing. There were some really sweet pieces written on what we’d say to Rosa Parks if she knocked on our classroom door.
We have some new President cards that we will be working with to learn some Presidential history. In our setting the children need a lot of repetition to master new concepts and variety truly is the spice of life. Each child will have a President that they are experts on, and we will have a trivia day where they share their knowledge and their classmates can guess who they are talking about. We also will learn the names of the 50 states in a song this month. Have your child sing it for you once they have it down. Using jingles to help memorize information is a fun way to learn. We have been working on multiples (so far 2-5) with motions. You may want to try it with math and spelling practice at home too!
We’ve just passed the halfway point of the school year, and many students are completing the handwriting books they began in the fall. As they do so, I am introducing them to a new Fundamentals book. Each page contains a short Math, Reading and Language activity. This daily warm up page is a great way to practice basic skills before diving into classroom work. One of the best things about these books is the practice the children are getting reading and following directions!
Art- Nadine’s Class 2/10/22
This time of year, when it tends to be gray no matter what time of day it is, I like to find some projects with COLOR. So Lower El classes have been introduced to the artist Paul Klee. His work is both abstract and colorful. We discussed as a class his use of shapes and line in his work and especially focused on his painting titled, Castle with Sun. His use of geometric shapes to make up his castle looks similar to building blocks. Students used rulers and circle tracers to draw and build their own castles. They then used black sharpie to trace over their lines and shapes. Then comes the color! Students are using watercolor to fill in the geometric shapes of their creations. They were given a brief lesson on two different watercolor techniques and we discussed the reason for the name “watercolor”...It takes lots of water! The students have really gotten into this project and the colorful castles are a bright ray in the midst of all the gray.
Learning to be a member of a community is part of the work and focus of Lower Elementary students. Development of a sense of justice and morality is ripe at this age. Listening to classroom banter, you can overhear tones of this regularly! Consequently, we spend time meeting to discuss concerns and work together to find solutions.
This week the topic of how noisy our room should be, knowing that conversation and collaboration is ongoing, but so is the need for an atmosphere that is conducive to concentration. A system was put into place, designed by the children. Day one of the new plan was a bust! There was a lot of disappointment when consequences they had designed were implemented, leaving the majority of students feeling as though their plan was unfair. Back to the drawing board we went, and the new ideas seem to be a much better way to meet our original goal. It’s great watching the children navigate with respect and kindness, no matter how passionate they feel.
These past couple of weeks during Writer’s workshops, we wrote some more snowy day pieces. The children wrote directions on the step by step process of making a snowman after watching a wonderiful clip of someone from Nigeria experiencing snow for the first time. We then talked about writing a persuasive essay and the task at hand was to write to a friend in a warm climate, convincing them to come for a winter visit. There was a lot of mention of hot chocolate in those pieces!. Our final writing was to listen to The Snowy Day. After listening to the story, we wrote our own versions of how a child could enjoy spending a snowy day outdoors. I appreciate the chances for the children to use their creative thinking and writing skills. It also is a great opportunity to discuss some of the mechanics of writing, such as proper punctuation and capitalization.
We enjoyed a game of outdoor “math” baseball and look forward to playing again. It was a very fun way to practice our math facts! Have your child tell you about it.
Snow has been a highlight both inside and out! Sledding is a delight at recess. Indoors, we have been doing science experiments around the density of snow, cutting out snowflakes to decorate our windows, and writing snowy picture books and poetry. The children have also enjoyed looking at flakes with magnifying glasses and determining which one of the most common crystal forms they are.
Jana has begun giving lessons on handwork, starting with knitting for the oldest students. Over the next several weeks each student will have a turn to sit beside her and learn some type of work with yarn, whether it be knitting, weaving with a loom or finger knitting. Each day during read aloud the children can work on their projects. It is a very sweet and relaxing time of day, to soak in a story while doing their handwork. Your child may enjoy practicing at home too!
Again this year I have agreed to judge the Battle of the Books Tournament that takes place in our area for 4th and 5th graders during the winter months. TCH has several teams participating in the tournament and I know that some of the students are watching their siblings prepare. I have decided to read a couple of the books to our class during read aloud time, as they are typically very good books! We have started out the year with A Cricket in Times Square, which is a real crowd-pleaser. The next one on the list is Music for Tigers. Ask your child to tell you about the cricket’s NYC adventures.
Songs of the season have filled the air during our lunches and as preparation for our annual Seasonal Sing. We look forward to sharing songs with you tomorrow!
Our morning candlelight conversations have been very dear. I have loved reflecting with your children on caring, feeling, and doing good. We’ve listened to quotes from a group of inspiring folks ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Maya Angelo and talked about our own personal experiences. We’ve also talked about a way to show our love each day. I hope you all have been a recipient of some of these sweet acts.
The children have written Solstice stories or skits to share this week. They have come up with their scripts, made props like crowns out of paper and painted cardboard suns. Their creativity is grand! Dragons, dancing villagers, and magic are woven throughout their tales, which all share the theme of the return of the sunlight. There have been some great negotiations going on, as they have worked on their collaborations. The work of being a team that works in harmony to come up with a product together is equally important as the content being created! It’s pretty cool what these learners can do independently, given the time and space.
They have created their own Solstice lanterns to brighten your homes during these dark nights. Together may you bask in the warmth and glow of them and each other as you share this special time of year. Happy Holidays to you!
“Play is the work of the child” Maria Montessori
Your children come to the gym each day to play games and activities with their classmates. I especially enjoy watching as they learn and practice new skills while they think they are just playing. Play and work are not in opposition to each other, they are mutually supportive. Play is nature's best tool for creating new neural networks. Each Friday during P.E. students are free to choose any activity and play as long as they like. We are always modifying games and changing activities to make them even more fun. I hope that you and your family have plenty of time to play over the next couple of weeks and look forward to getting back at it with your kids in the new year.
We are enjoying the festivities that this time of year brings, starting with our Harvest Feast. We read a variety of versions of the Stone Soup story, ranging from the traditional tale, to a Chinese version, to a local story. Each tale shared the theme that everyone benefits by contributing. The children then wrote and shared their own unique versions of Stone Soup. From there, they loved chopping vegetables, making placards, arranging flowers and the 3rd year tradition of plunking the stone in the pot. We ate heartily, shared our gratuities and enjoyed a delightful game time afternoon. Not only are these traditions lots of fun, they establish identity, create bonds and provide a firm sense of belonging.
As the days shorten, we have moved on to learning about the Solstice. Over the next few weeks, we will be starting our day in candlelight in hopes of brightening up this dark time of year, and igniting a spark in each of us. I love this tranquil beginning, where each day we discuss a quote and an idea of something we can do that day to share our care and love with others.
We have begun talking about the history of the Solstice and will be listening to stories told worldwide how people explained the return of the light. We will decorate our room with greens, make some special art, sing songs and write our own Solstice tales. We are graphing the sunrise and sunset times each day until winter break and are learning about how the earth revolves around the sun.
I know that the children are excited about the rituals that are taking place in your homes now too. With that in mind, the routine of school gives a wonderful grounding rhythm to all that is going on around us.
These warm days that are lingering have offered the opportunity to be working outdoors. We had a wonderful time one afternoon this week doing a leaf scavenger hunt that focused on the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees. We also gathered leaves and arranged them in color gradations. I loved listening to the children exclaiming over how beautiful the leaves were as they were examining them and searching for just the right shade of red or orange. It makes me so happy to see them loving time learning about nature, and appreciating its wonders and beauty. During our writing time together on Friday afternoon, I will tell them a Native American legend about why leaves change color in the fall and invite them to create their own version. Ask your child over the weekend about their story and why many cultures from around the world used legends to explain the natural world.
Animals are a favorite topic of research at this age! So far this year we have heard presentations on dogs, snakes, wolves, and birds. Many other animal studies are in process. When a study and some corresponding artwork is completed, the final step is to present to the group. Prior to presenting, practice time needs to occur, with a focus on loud and slow articulation. Some projects are done in groups, so the teams need to figure out how that will all work. We then are ready to set the podium up in front of the class and gather! Upon completion of a presentation there is always time for questions and comments and the viewing artwork. The interest based research projects offer so many learning opportunities and it is a delight to see the pride the students take in their hard earned success! I hope when they bring their work home, they share their presentations with you too.
Thank you for your time this past week during conferences. Please know that I value our partnership and truly believe that our work together best serves your children.
After our grand seed finale in botany, creating mosaics, we have moved onto leaves. We have learned about the leaf being the food factory for the plant, why leaves change colors in the fall and we’ve been enjoying doing rubbings of leaves and labeling their parts. We are beginning leaf collections so that we can classify them according to their types. It is wonderful to be able to get outside and gather real specimens to make learning much more fun and concrete! We also will be making some nature inspired art with the fantastic hues of the leaves.
The school Student Council met for the first time this past week and our class reps were eager to report back to us. Seeing the children so engaged in the process of leadership and ownership of the school community is wonderful. Our Monday morning class meetings have this same type of ambiance. All week long, the students write down discussion points that they want to share with the class at the upcoming meeting. The meeting runner (a 3rd year student) then goes through the book and invites the children to read and discuss their topics. I love sitting back and listening to their concerns and ultimately , their solutions to better improve the class/school. These processes are empowering to them, and I hope they encourage them to be life long advocates for what they need and believe in!
Thanks to each of you for joining your child this week for a classroom visit. What a unique community your children are fortunate to be in, where 100% of the families took time from their very busy lives to dip into your child’s. I am eager to share conferences with you next week.
Art- Nadine’s Class 10/27/21
In afternoon art classes, as per tradition, the students have been working to design their placemats to use for the year during lunch. As always, the designs are extensive and fairly detailed. I always enjoy seeing the student’s personalities come through in their art, notably so when it is such a personal project to them. Every year I hear multiple students tell me, as they are working on their current placemat, that they already know what they will be creating the following year! I love this enthusiasm and look just as forward to this project each year as much as the students do.
The season of fall has been a focus in our botany work. We’ve spent time outdoors looking at the way that seeds travel, and collecting and sorting them accordingly. We also enjoyed learning about apples, how their seeds travel and how farmers grow them in orchards. We were fortunate to sample some wonderful Gala apples that were shared with us, and had a good time making a list of adjectives to describe them. Invite your child to tell you the story about the little boy and girl in the forest that they heard prior to eating their apples.
Our creative writing work has been focused on fall too. We have been writing about animals and their preparations for winter. Some children are drawing a picture and writing a few words, others are getting down a sentence, while some veteran writers are doing several paragraphs. No matter where the children are in the writing process, we talk about how all stories have a beginning, middle and end. We have talked about the elements of a story, including settings, main characters, protagonists, antagonists, plots and the climax. These terms are ones that we use in discussion when we complete a novel during read aloud. Writing is indeed a process, and during your child’s time in Lower Elementary, they will have many opportunities to work on a variety of genres and share their work with one another.
Sally, our class pet, made her first visit today! Adrienne and Vivienne have gone over the things they felt were important for us to know in order for it to be a success for all. I am not sure who was happier, the children or Sally to be back with “her kids”.
We are winding up our first month of class already and the calendar page is just about ready to flip to a new month. The children are all becoming adjusted to what a school day feels like and the flow of the days. It takes awhile to get those school “muscles” back in shape again after summer! Daily we have some warm-ups which include handwriting, working on math facts, and completing a math sheet. For some students, getting the date written in their journal and finishing these things is a huge task, others are done quickly. Being able to work at your own pace allows everyone to follow their ability level comfortably.
DiAnn Service has spent time reading with each of the children, so along with classroom observations, we can know how to best support each of them. This week in class, most children began using the SRA reading cards, which is a self paced program to enhance comprehension and fluency.
These are what I think about as the nuts and bolts of the classroom, the accountability part which ensures children are working towards the state standards. Our Montessori classrooms offer so much more. The education of the whole child is the REAL focus. Your children are getting new lessons weekly on the wonderful Montessori materials, which bring concepts from the concrete level to the abstract level over time. Ask what new lesson they had this week. The Great Lessons spark the imagination and set the stage. This past week we had the Coming of Life lesson. Ask your child to tell you about the timeline. We have weekly Monday morning meetings that feature the agendas the children have recorded in the book all week, so that they truly own this community. Ask your child what he/she talked or heard about at our meeting this week. A constant conversation is the balance between freedom and responsibility (time use, work choices and so on). Ask your child how they balanced their day. The atmosphere of respect and support permeates the classroom and not a day goes by when I don’t see examples of this. When a bowl drops and shatters, there always is a crowd hustling to help out. Ask your child who they helped or who helped them in the course of their day.
To me, these are the real lessons we’ve been fortunate to share in these past couple of weeks.
September 29, 2021 Nadine’s Class
Welcome back to the Music room! So far we have been working on the foundations of reading music and rhythms. This year we will be spending time listening to and making music on as many instruments as we can. We are starting our instrument exploration with the percussion family. So far we have had hands-on time with bongos and castanets in a drum circle working on call and response playing.
With magnifying glass in hand, students explored the garden behind the greenhouse. The goal? What insects are in our garden right now? We have found praying mantis, ambush bugs, and so many bees and wasps. One day the weather was cold and rainy. During this time we searched and searched for insects. We found so many bees seeking shelter under the succulent plants that it was fun to count and see how these insects made it through the cool wet weather.
The other part of our time together was used to ask ourselves the question, “Is a seed alive?” We discussed what makes something alive. This is a harder question than you might think! Then we spent some time dissecting a bean seed to identify a seed coat, seed food, and the baby plant inside.
We are so thankful for the warm fall so we can explore our garden to the fullest!
One of my favorite school songs, At the Beginning, was written by Sanford Jones, a wonderful musician and Montessorian. All of the wonders, excitement, and joys of a new year are captured in the lyrics. Whether it was your child’s first year in our class or their third, I think we’ve all shared in the thrill of a new year, along with some jitters these past couple of weeks.
Routines are being established and new friendships are being forged. Learning how to use a work journal has been a focus for the new students. Returning students are “clearing the cobwebs” after summer. Our third year mentors have been fabulous supports to their new mentees. We have heard the first Great Lesson, the Creation Story, which has sparked our imaginations and opened up the universe to us. We have co-written our Class Creed, which I have posted below. This creed will serve as our guiding document over the course of the year to help us create and maintain the atmosphere and culture of our community. Each of us have signed the creed in agreement to live by its words to the best of our abilities. I love the process of writing this with your children as their sweet words are so kind and honest.
On a practical note, we are eating all of our snacks and lunches outdoors under our big top tents. The plan is to continue doing so until it’s too cold. I am grateful that we have a campus that allows us to do this in an effort to keep us all safe and healthy. Our classroom windows and door are open as well, so having an extra layer to add such as a fleece or sweatshirt that can be kept at school, would be great for the chilly mornings to come. Once it is too cold to be outdoors, we will close up and turn on the filtration system and eat at a distance of at least 6 feet apart.
Cheers to a grand year ahead!
2021-2022 Southeast Lower Elementary Class Creed
We will enjoy our time at school, knowing that being here with our friends in work and play makes us feel good, happy and excited !
We will be active by having daily recess and phys-ed. In our class we will use quiet voices and move slowly and carefully so that we can all concentrate.
We will act kindly to one another and include each other, and speak kindly to everyone.
We will be good friends by being helpful, supportive, loving and comforting .
We will give each other personal space and respect others thoughts and choices.
We will to listen to each other, greet each other and be friendly with one another, so that we are all comfortable and feel at home.
We will have new lessons and make hard work choices so that we feel challenged, interested and surprised.