Sunday, July 31, 2011

Montessori Moment Day 2 - Surfer

Yesterday at Rockaway Beach in Brooklyn. This persistent first-time surfer watched and listened as his dad taught him how he rides a wave. The next four hours, he figured he'd learn how to ride some of his own. I didn't catch his best surf - he was really good, but I did catch him riding one of his first waves. No better prepared environment than this! His dad was a great guide, showing him twice and then letting him go.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Montessori Moment Day 1 - The Pianist

The combination of the decor at the back of the Manhattan Inn and the music by the pianist make for a great launch to the 30 day challenge. My friend Chaz launching a new mobile technology last night called 'brouha' tied for the win, just didn't remember to take the video of his launch speech.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

30 Days of Montessori Moments

Matt Cutts suggests at TED 2011 to try something new for 30 days a la Morgan Spurlock AKA Supersize Me McDonald's guy. Well, not exactly a la Morgan Spurlock, hopefully something that will bring some positive growth along with it. This is his TED talk:

Next 30 days mine is :
Photo/Video + caption of most Montessori (independent + creative + innovative in this case) moment of day posted on this blog. Chance of success - 65%

Let me explain - it should be somebody doing something to solve a problem they're having or accomplish some kind of goal independently without following specific instructions or examples. You'll see a great example of this tomorrow (hopefully).

Send me Montessori Moments/Pictures if you capture them! Or any other good ideas? I'm also going to see what our students come up with for their 30 days and share...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

10-step Montessori Workplan

1. The Monday morning meeting begins, children excitedly joining their tables and advisory groups coming together to discuss the past weekend and coming week. Today, the meeting begins and one of the students has a movie review to share, she went to see Mr. Popper's Penguins on Saturday.

2. The advisor shares announcements and schedule changes, forewarns of events in the coming week that will have a bearing on how the students will be able to schedule their time. She also reminds students of longer or less-structured commitments, understanding that for students new to managing their work this aspect will be the most challenging.

3. During the past week, students and teachers have written short notes of thanks or toodles about specific behavior from their classmates that affected them or the environment in a positive way. Some students like their toodles read aloud, some prefer the private note to read themselves.

4. The workplan is handed out to those students that have chosen that their obligations be weekly. The workplan has room for lessons and projects and already includes commitments that are ongoing and repeat weekly such as Aleks math practice, keeping up with daily news, reading comprehension SRA, Rosetta Stone, etc.

5. There were take-home commitments from three of the seven students this week, so the advisor collects the promised work. The work done at home is acknowledged, but recopied into the coming week's workplan, it is not finished until its quality is ensured by the appropriate teacher.

6. The advisor and student leaders of the group have kept close tabs of work and ideas from all the members. Ongoing discussions have transformed those ideas into long term individual projects they are each working on. Interesting advances regarding those are discussed and the projects are re-entered into the new workplan.

7. The lessons for the week are mapped out and penciled into the workplan. The advisor lets the group know when the lesson will be delivered or how to access the lesson if it is material-based or digital. Follow-up obligations engendered from the lessons are also made clear and included in the workplan.

8. Student workplan adaptations now take place, transforming their workplans into a schedule that makes sense for them. These include color-coding by priority, including date and time they would like to complete a lesson, writing who they would like to finish the lesson with, prioritizing 1st to last, and many others. Student adaptations can also include students asking to be included in lessons scheduled for classmates, this can happen at the Monday meeting or any time during the week.

9. The advisor and student leaders confer shortly with all the members of the group, ensuring that everyone understands their obligations. Because follow-up assignments from lessons are created to judge mastery, there are often myriad options that cannot be fully discussed at the Monday advisory meetings and will need to be made clear during that particular lesson.

10. The Monday meeting breaks, the students eager to begin tackling their favorite assignments during the morning work time. There will be a student run advisory meeting on Wednesday to check on everyone's progress and make sure all members complete their workplan by the end of the week.

Monday Meeting

1. Student share

2. Announcements and schedule changes

3. Toodles

4. Weekly repeating commitments

5. Take-home commitments collected

6. Long-term individual projects

7. Lessons and follow-ups

8. Student adaptations

9. Review and close

10. Student meeting Wednesday

Monday, July 25, 2011

IB - Montessori part 2 - Peace

"Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education." Maria Montessori

People that follow the work and life of Maria Montessori and the evolution of Montessori education closely have little need for a reminder of the strong connection between her work in schools and her ideal of peace.  Montessori's life and work on 'Peace Education' was engendered by two world wars, work in the slums of Rome, her exile from Italy by Mussolini, the Spanish Civil War and her work at UNESCO and as a UN ambassador.  

At Waterfront Montessori our Primary and Lower Elementary programs set a strong foundation for an understanding of the world and its peoples.  The Lower Elementary student knows peace and the world through mapwork, studying fundamental human needs, and an emphasis on human togetherness.  

The Middle School IB curriculum gives us an opportunity to abstract peace and human relations and cement the concept of peace.  As our students develop into abstract thinkers and continue to challenge subtleties and disconnections between what we say and do, questions invariably arise.  

Why do we fight?
Why does inequality exist?
Why are people sometimes cruel to each other?
What can we do about it?

Even an average IB curriculum is a strong peace education ally because of its focus on internationality and plurality of thought.  By focusing on economics, political geography in context and especially on understanding the mind and motivation of the other, our IB Middle School program asks all the right questions to develop that Early School Montessori foundation.

Open-mindedness is one of the IB learner profiles that we aim to develop in our understanding of peace and human relations.  In our curriculum, we explore iterations of a key question that informs the relationships we have with our classmates, peers and neighbors:

How do our experiences help determine our opinions and who we become?

We can extrapolate that question into the realm of international affairs and peace among nations and peoples.  The most important lesson however, is that the different experiences we've had yesterday will inform our actions and opinions today.  That we are not fundamentally different but have lived different circumstances and that what brings us together is much more powerful than what separates us.  

Our Montessori-IB students develop that question and answer every day.  The strong peace connection of the philosophies make them experts in the field and leaders of Peace Education.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

IB - Montessori part I - Questions

We know from experience and Montessori's work that the driving force in our classrooms are not the adults standing in front of them, but the questions that develop in the child's mind.  The role of the teacher in the Montessori classroom is that of a guide, and that of a storyteller.  Through the five great lessons and countless stories we set the stage for a universe of human reality and wonder for the child to begin exploring.  Their questions will ultimately create their understanding of those lessons and of our universe, as well as provide their focus going forward.

The Montessori classroom is able to create an environment that prolongs the interactions that infants and toddlers have naturally with their parents, friends and surroundings.  Interactions where the toddlers are innately curious and voracious in their exploration. 
  • What is this?
  • What does this do?
  • Why is this here?
  • Where does this come from?
  • Why are we going there?
The child's curiosity is insatiable.  Not only verbal, but also - as any parent will eagerly chime in - completely sensorial.  The child touches everything, tastes everything, listens to everything, smells everything and attempts to transform everything in this exploration.  By taking advantage of this instead of suppressing it, the Primary and Elementary Montessori curriculum is second to none. 

We chose to create an International Baccalaureate Middle School because the program is founded on asking powerful questions.  The difference in the two philosophies is that in the Montessori tradition our questions are not explicit or necessarily shared. Taking advantage of our MS students moving into a decidedly more social plane of development, we understand that discovery and exploration is not only private and self-driven but has also become a shared peer experience.  In our Middle School curriculum we share questions and ideas, we still let the child drive his learning by asking questions, but we now make their questions explicit and available to their classmates.  We tell stories and expand on the great lessons and use student curiosity to develop our curriculum.

We are driven by questions instead of content:

  • What is order? What is chaos? Instead of Ancient Greece.
  • What is a number? Instead of base ten number systems.
  • What is an ideal community? Instead of The Giver.
  • When is it good to be wrong? Instead of the Scientific Method.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Montessori and the International Baccalaureate

A match made in heaven!  And explored in our Montessori - IB Middle School as well as countless others.  The connection - Look at the center!

Part 1 of this magical relationship next!