440 Classroom Newsletter – March 2012
It is hard to believe that spring is almost here! The weather is definitely tempting us with some warm temperatures and sunny days. We hope you are enjoying it as much as we are!
Kristen, Melody and Vida
440 Classroom Teachers
Over the course of this year, we’ve written a Classroom Spotlight covering each of the major areas of the classroom: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, Art, Geography and Science. Another major area of learning and development for children in the Montessori classroom is their Social and Emotional Development. Yet you won’t see an area in the classroom dedicated to this, or specific activities on the shelf. Rather, this area of development is supported by all of the classroom routines, the way in which the environment is prepared and lessons and modeling provided by the teachers which help facilitate social skills on a daily basis.
All of the children in the classroom are part of a community. Children learn to greet each other at the door each morning as we come inside to start our day. We gather on the rug to share information with each other – children learn how to sit quietly and listen while someone else is talking, and they learn to raise “silent” hands while they wait their turn to ask a question or make a comment. These are all very important social skills for working in groups.
The environment is prepared with many activities. However, there is only one of each activity in the classroom, and most activities are intended for an individual child to do independently. This means a child must wait until another child is done with an activity before they can work with it. This teaches patience, how to wait, and how to take turns. If an activity is designed for more than one child, then children are taught how to ask politely if they can work with another child, or join in on a “game” already in progress.
Each child is assigned a day when it is their responsibility to bring snack to share with the entire community. The child takes great pride in choosing what to bring to share with his/her classmates. The snack person gets to choose one classmate to have snack with them at the start of the day. The rest of the children are free to choose snack whenever there is a spot open at the snack table, and can invite anyone they would like to join them for snack. Children learn that not every child is going to choose them for snack on their snack day. In fact, each child will be chosen once a month or once every six weeks. This seems like forever to a young child whose concept of time is still developing – a month is such an abstract idea! Since the child learns that she will not be chosen for snack every day, she learns that she is one member of a community and that each child has many friends in the classroom but can only choose one person on his/her snack day. It teaches the child that just because her friend did not pick her on that day it does not mean that the child is no longer her friend. The important thing is that each child will get a chance to choose a friend to have snack with him/her on his/her snack day. All of this is a valuable life lesson – we as adults have many friends, some we work with, some we play with, some we like to have lunch with. All of these friends are important and valuable to us in our lives.
The playground provides many opportunities for children to develop and practice their social skills. This is often a place where one or more children will start a game pretending to be any number of things – Scooby-Doo, super heroes, cheetahs, kitty cats, princesses, mermaids, and firemen — to name a few possibilities. Often if two children are playing together and another child approaches and says, “Can I play with you?” one of the children will answer, “I’m already playing with so-and-so.” Children at this age need help to visualize how multiple children can play together, or how to include a new child in a game already in progress. A teacher can offer a assistance in this area. Instead of saying “Can I play with you?” we may suggest that the child ask, “What are you playing?” Once they know what is happening, then we can suggest a way for the new child to be involved. If two children are playing superheroes and one is Batman and the other is Superman, the teacher could suggest that the third child could be Spiderman. Most children will readily accept this suggestion and the third child can join in on the game. This is an example of how we help a child negotiate so that they can be a part of what is happening.
If a large group of children is playing together and they are excluding one child, we will make sure that everyone is included. We don’t allow children to exclude others based on age, gender, or any other factor – if a large group is playing a game, everyone is allowed to join.
Other times, there may be two children who are truly excluding a third child. If the teachers try to dictate that the two children must play with the third child, it can create resentment. In these situations, we try to empathize with the third child about how that makes them feel, and help them communicate those feelings to the other two children, “It hurts my feelings when you won’t let me play with you.” Once the third child has communicated this, they can try to continue to play with the other two children, or the teacher can help them branch out to play with other children. We are helping them to develop the skills of evaluating who they really want to play with –“ I want to play with someone who is going to be nice to me.”
Another reality is that sometimes one child wants to play Scooby-doo and another child wants to play superheros, and nobody feels like playing the other person’s game. This is okay, and does not mean anyone is being mean, exclusive or difficult. Teachers help facilitate what the choices are in this situation – split up and find someone else who wants to play your game, or choose a completely different game to play together.
It is amazing how early all of these social dynamics come into play. We work hard every day to help children learn how to treat everyone with respect, how to be a contributing member of the community, and how to get along with others — even when those others have different viewpoints or ideas than they do.
PARENT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Please continue to watch our Parent Volunteer Basket, which we bring out to the gate periodically, for ongoing Parent Volunteer Opportunities.
We would like to wish a Happy Birthday to the following children who have birthdays this month:
Cameron Buese March 14
Thank you to Nora Rapp for the tracing paper and scrapbook paper. Thank you to Finnur Mercier for the bead necklaces, glass bowls and ice trays. Thank you to Nevi Louis for the scrapbook paper and the swiffer refills. Thank you to Lucas Dickinson for the Valentine candy for the teachers. Thank you to Hunter Schmidt and Giffin Sheldon for the bead necklaces. Thank you to Annika Byyny for the banana bread for the teachers.
Thank you to Emily Strong, Beth Dickinson, Angie Oxenreider, Maren Hayes, Missy Brown, Deb Knobelman, Rob Robertson and Kaatje Vandenberg for reading to the children.