Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reflecting on Montessori From A to Z

April is a busy time of year in the Montessori world. Once Spring Break is over, the rapid evaluations must take place so that you can write all of those lovely conference reports for May. I tried to be a good girl and start them a little earlier this year. I got distracted, though, having to post for the A to Z Challenge this year. I was determined to actually complete it, as last year I was unable to.

I enjoyed doing it again this year. I set up most of my titles well in advance. It gave me a chance to reflect on who I am and why I do what I do. I also felt it could be a learning tool for parents and others interested in the Montessori philosophy. One of the parents in my room, who is also a coworker of mine, told me that she came across the challenge and read the whole thing. She really enjoyed it. If even one person learns something new....

I have a feeling I will try to do this one again next year. There is just so much to say about Montessori and the philosophy. It's a great way to share my passion for it. The challenge also helped to revive my passion this year.

Here are the links to this year's posts. The few that I did last year will follow after this. Happy reading and thanks for stopping by!

A is for Art
B is for Believe
C is for Concentration
D is for Demonstrations
E is for Envrionment
F is for Fill the Chair
G is for Grace & Courtesy
H is for Helping
I is for Independence
J is for Justification
K is for Knowledge
L is for Language
M is for Maria
N is for Nomenclature
O is for Observation
P is for Peace
Q is for Questions
R is for Respect
S is for Self-Awareness
T is for Three-Period Lesson
U is for Understanding
V is for Victory
W is for Whole Child
X is for Xyloid
Y is for You Can Be What You Want to Be
Z is for Zoetic

And last year's posts....

A is for Autism and Asperger's
B is for Beauty
C is for Concentration, Coordination and Control
D is for Daddy
E is for Expectations
F is for Final Day of School
G is for Getting Ready
H is for Happiness

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

True Confessions: I used the Kindle Fire in class yesterday

My beloved refurbished Kindle Fire arrived at my house Friday evening. I was ridiculously excited and played with it all evening. I brought it with me to school yesterday. And then, yes, I used it in the classroom.


Honestly, I used it for the same thing I have used my Droid on occasion. A few months ago, one of my kids asked me how a tree is made into paper. I knew we didn't have any books on the topic, so I found a YouTube video for kids, a la PBS-like, that shows how trees are made into paper. He sat to the side and watched the video a couple of times and then started to explain the process to other kids. Every once in a while after that, he would ask to watch it again.

Interjection: I prefer allowing him to watch an educational video on my small Droid than to have broadcast it on that ginormous monstrosity known as the SmartBoard. That way, the other children were able to continue on with their work without being disturbed.

A few weeks ago, I managed to actually locate a children's book about how trees are made into paper. I handed it to the boy, who immediately looked through it, and then he put it in the book area. The other children have been reading it for the past several days.

Yesterday, one of the girls asked me if she could watch the video, also. Voila - a chance to pull out the Kindle Fire. The screen is larger, so it was easier to see what was going on. I pulled up the video and she sat with the Fire in the rocking chair, watching it two times. The first boy asked if he could use the Droid to do the same. A small group formed to watch the video and then to discuss what they had just seen. And then they returned the technology and went back to their works.

Actually, some of them started to create their own science experiments, but that is another story.

I know I can also use the Fire for showing some sight word books to mix it up for the kids. I have already been doing that on the laptop here and there. I will never replace real books in my classroom; but, I think I can implement a little technology and be okay.

Monday, May 7, 2012

11 of 14 done

With a lot of swearing and yelling at a computer that wanted to be uncooperative for a couple of hours yesterday (and then the gremlins disappeared), and numerous other distractions throughout the day, I did finally submit 11 of 14 parent-teacher conference reports to my boss. Those final two "public school pages," as I call them, still need to be done for the K's but those do not take long. There are just a few more things I need to "test," if you will, for them.

This means I am already well ahead of the game. Usually, I am still working on these through the rest of the week. My final ones are usually submitted as Panera is closing on Wednesday night. I used to be even worse and submitted a few on Thursday. This time around, I should have them all submitted by tonight. And then I have a breather of almost two weeks before the next batch is due.

I also usually work on them at Panera. I have a never-ending supply of food and drink that I don't need to prepare myself. I have music and enough background noise to help me focus on what I am doing. (Silence is more distracting to me than noise - Montessori upbringing?) I have no furry kids walking all over my stuff. Yet, this time around, I have done all of it either at school or at home.

What kinds of rituals or routines do you have for writing your reports?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Parent-Teacher Conference Report Time!

This time of year always gives me fits. It's parent-teacher conference report time. That means endless hours of paging through a year's worth of notes, digging through those mental files of what I know about the children, and typing, typing, typing, typing. I always have intentions of starting early, sometimes I do, but the majority are always held off for the last minute. I am a procrastinator by personality. Somehow, I work better under pressure. I am always reminded of college finals week.

This coming Friday, I will sit for about 8 straight hours of conferences for the first round. I meet with the parents for 25-minute intervals (5 minutes in between to cushion and to allow for a quick bathroom break). I have the parents come in about 5-10 minutes early so that they have time to peruse the reports. That way, they can have their questions ready before they come in. It is difficult when they don't come in early and you waste the first half of the time watching them read. It's also a little uncomfortable to watch their expressions while they go through it, especially if the child is having some kind of difficulty.

Our reports are all narrative. Sections are divided up by subject area and child development. How much detail you go into tends to vary from teacher to teacher. I am as concise as I can be, but include a ton of information. I have been burned in the past by not including every single little detail that is on my mind. These reports will often follow the child to the next school or next classroom and I want future teachers to know everything there is to know about this child. We also have a special section for our K's who are leaving us. It is somewhat redundant, but follows more of a checklist format, organized in such a way that it is more easily interpreted by public schools. Yes, we wish that our students stayed with us forever, but are realistic and know that only 1/3-1/2 will stay for first grade. Again, we want to make sure that the next school knows everything we know about the child.

The advantage that I have in doing them is that I am a writer. I can type and organize my thoughts pretty quickly. I have also developed a system that works. We have our form that we use. I go through and fill out the generic sections first, such as a summary of everything we have done in social studies, science, art, etc. When I go back through, I can add specific points about that child in each area. Not having to type all of that over and over is a huge time-saver.

I am sure there is always something that could be tweaked in how our reports are presented. We comment on them annually during our meetings. We wish there was some way to streamline the process, while still presenting all of the necessary information. Nothing better has yet come up.

What do your reports look like? How often do you write them?