Archive for May, 2008

Spring 2008

Winter softened into springtime, and it was a wonderful time at the Mountain View. After a long, cold winter, the spring came, and enabled us to go back outside for longer periods of time. By that point in the school year, we had got into a regular rhythm for the days. The beginning of the day was really all about structure and routine. Most of the time, we had free play, tidied up, had our opening circle, and had our snack. After snack, we began our morning lesson, which was the “sitting down” and “focusing” time of day. For the younger children, it was a time of school readiness. We began some elementary writing skills—we learned to hold a pencil with a grip. We used “dot to dot” puzzles from one to five or one to ten, as well as mazes. We began a tally sheet for each day, and we called it teamwork. I would set the clock, and we would work quietly side by side. A teacher would visit each student, offering encouragement, and pointing out what the student was doing well. (The books we used were by a company called Kumon that I would recommend. They are clear and accurate, and they build skills gradually. (They are available at Barnes and Noble and online.) At the end of our 15 or 20 minute block of time, we would to around and count the pages we did, and cross them off on a large grid. Most of the time we would far surpass the goal we had set in the beginning of the time period, simply because they were having fun. The object of counting up our work together was to get friends to start working as a team, and see how much we could accomplish together. Friends who worked slower generally worked neater, and they were praised for that as well. Friends who worked faster tended to be a bit sloppier, and they were encouraged to pay attention to the lines, and staying within them, and stay in control of the pencil. The main emphasis, however, was on learning to work quietly for brief periods of time, and work together as a team to accomplish a lot together. We played lots of board games as well. Most of them involved counting and moving beads, game pieces, and spinners. Taking turns, encouraging each other, and adhering to “the rules” were important parts of learning during this time. We played games to completion, meaning that each friend had a turn to arrive at the given destination, and they were greeted with high fives, and a welcome. We used the games mancala, the Ladybug Game (invented and published by a first grader), bingo with letters, shapes, and colors, the Goldilocks and the Three Bears Game, Shake the Cherry Tree, and others. Marcelle continued her work with friends in finger plays, poems, and rhymes that celebrated the changing seasons, the forces of nature, and some nursery rhymes. Many stories were read, settings were built with blocks and scarves, and small plays were enacted. Ask your friend about “Silly Soup,” a game they played with little stone blocks to build counting and memory skills. Older friends were working on math and word skill building. During math lessons, we counted everything! We counted by twos, by threes, by fives, by tens, by hundreds, and by thousands. We were working on getting the basics down—and trying to help them learn about the “big picture” associated with math and getting it all in order. After lessons, we got ready for lunch, and had outside time. In general, our outside time was at least an hour long, weather permitting. This gave friends lots of time to play pretend games on the rocks and hills. After our outside time, we came indoors for cozy time for reading aloud and depending on time or unit, an art project. At least once every two weeks, we did a short hike in the neighboring woods. It was good for the soul, we usually had a brief naturalist/science lesson from Marcelle, and we began a bit of training for Mountain Day–our end of the year hike from Kate’s home to Marcelle’s home. At the beginning of May, Marcelle led us in making a forsythia house that we then expanded to include a tunnel connected us with a second house. (If we are lucky, the forsythia will take root, and next year we may have a blooming forsythia house complex!) This spring we continued reading chapter books aloud during our rest time. We began reading the trilogy that includes My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland. They are wonderful lessons in planning ahead, the cleverness of children, and contain lovely imaginative ways of problem solving as inspired by a young boy named Elmer. (Note that we did not finish The Dragons of Blueland. It was not as enjoyable as the first two, and some of the younger children were showing some a bit of trepidation.) Little Bo was a better fit for what they liked. So, at this point, we also began reading a book that Marcelle found for us in a local library called Little Bo by Julie Andrews Edwards. Playing the cat and dog game was a normal occurrence during free play, so this was an excellent choice! Thanks Marcelle! (As soon as the older friends learned what was going on, they also wanted Little Bo, so that became our afternoon book for reading aloud. You witnessed the enthusiasm for all things feline at our Summer Solstice Potluck. Following Little Bo, we began Little Bo in France. Tony(a) gave us several books on tape called Catwings and Catwings Return (by Ursula K. LeGuin) that were also greeted enthusiastically, and carried us through several days of extreme heat. Thanks Tony(a)!

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