stories of discovery

Welcome to North Star Montessori’s blog.  Stories of Discovery is a place where faculty, students and parents share knowledge, experiences and things that motivate and inspire us.

Alternatives to Punishment

Categories: Faculty insight, Parent's perspective, Uncategorized
Authored by:
Date posted: October 30, 2018

This article is a blog post written by Maren Schmidt

When you sign up for her Kids Talk blog,  you will receive a free copy of her book titled, 7 Parenting Problems You Can Avoid.  “Maren has over 30 years experience working with children and families. She holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale, as well as an M.Ed. from Loyola College in Maryland. 



Six-year old Bobby walks into the kitchen from playing soccer.

Bobby’s dad, Tom, had asked Bobby to take off his muddy shoes before entering the house. Red Georgia mud dotted the new hallway and den carpet.

When Tom sees the footprints, he is furious about the mess and that Bobby had disobeyed him.

”Bobby,” Tom says, his voice rising, ”for disobeying me, you’ll not be able to watch TV for a week. And John won’t be able to come and spend the night on Friday.”

Bobby starts to cry and runs up the stairs yelling, ”You’re the meanest dad in the world. I hate you.”

Punishment for misbehavior can have the undesirable consequences of resentment and anger that can damage our parent/child relationship, perhaps forever.

What alternatives to punishment do we have?

In their book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, Faber and Mazlish give seven alternatives to punishment in order to help children learn and exhibit appropriate behavior.

1. Point out a way to be helpful.
Tom could have phrased his command differently. ”Bobby, it would be helpful if you would take off your shoes on the porch and clean them outside.” Or after the dastardly deed was done, ”It would be helpful if you would sit down right now and take off those shoes. Then you can help me clean up the mud stains.”

2. Express strong disappointment in the action without attacking the person’s character.
Tom could have said, ”Bobby, I’m disappointed that the carpet is muddy from your soccer shoes. I asked you to take your shoes off before coming into the house.”

3. State your expectations.
”Bobby, I expect you to listen to me and do what I ask.”

4. Show the child how to make amends.
”Bobby, after you take your shoes off, you’ll need to help me clean the carpet. If the mud doesn’t come out, I want you to go with me to rent a carpet cleaner.”

5. Give a choice.
”Bobby, if you want to continue playing soccer, you need to remember to take your shoes off before you come into the house. You need to pay attention when I tell you to do something. Forget to take off your shoes, then no soccer. You decide.”

6. Take action.
If Tom has given a choice, such as the choice given above, Tom will have to take action if Bobby forgets to take off his shoes again.

7. Allow the child to experience the consequences of his misbehavior.
”Bobby, since I’ll have to clean the carpet tomorrow, I won’t be able to take you to the movies like we had planned.”

If our goal is to help our children learn appropriate behavior, punishment may not be an effective way for the child to see his mistake.

When dealing with misbehavior, try using one of these seven alternatives to avoid anger, resentment and discouragement in your child and to help build a trusting, loving parent/child relationship.

It may take a lot of practice to catch our reactions, but I think you’ll see it’s worth it.


Supporting Beginning Readers and Writers at Home

Categories: Faculty insight, Learning through discovery, Uncategorized
Authored by:
Date posted: October 22, 2018

Following our recent Elementary parent night on Language, I wanted to pass along some tips for helping children to develop foundational reading and writing skills to those parents who could not make it that evening. While reading can come very easily to some children and they may become competent readers by the time they finish the Casa Program, other children simply require more time, repetition and support at home in addition to their learning at school.

The first skill that needs to be developed is ensuring the child knows his or her letter sounds. We would like children to recognize and be able to form the letters in both cursive and lower case print. Often children are taught uppercase letters first either in other programs or through materials you may have at home. Please help them to learn lower case letters first in both cursive and print as these are the letters that are most often used. We also teach children the sound the letter makes rather than the name of the letter as this better enables them to sound out words both when reading and when spelling. Use a small erasable white board to write the letter and ask the child to name the sound the letter makes. They can also tell you words that start with or end with that sound. The next step is to check if they can write the letter when you give them the sound. Check how they are forming the letter and correct them as necessary. Often when children learn cursive first and then try to write in print, they will form letters from bottom to top rather than top down. Helping them practice the correct formation of each letter will make writing easier and require less effort. Use fun markers and paper to make the work enjoyable.

Once the child knows his or her letter sounds, they can begin to blend letters together to make short three or four letter words. Have the child say the individual sounds and then go back to the beginning and blend them to make the word. Practice reading lists of words that have a consonant –vowel-consonant pattern (ie. cat, pen, fin, dog, run). Children often mix up short vowel sounds, especially ‘i’ and ‘e’ and may require some extra repetition to distinguish between those sounds both when reading and when spelling the words. Once the child is proficient at reading and spelling three letter words, you can move onto four letter words that blend two consonants together (ie. clap, glad, stop, bump, slip).

If your child has mastered these skills, it is time to move onto introducing more complex phonograms or groups of letters that make a new sound when put together. For example, adding an ‘e’ to the end of words changes the vowel from short to long, sounds made by letter combinations like ‘wh’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, or sounds made by vowel pairs like ‘ee’, ‘oo’, ‘ai’, ‘ay’, etc. You can find lists of phonograms online or buy card packs with phonograms and lists of example words from many book stores. Introduce one phonogram at a time and come up with examples together. Write a story using as many as the examples of the phonograms as you can and have your child practice reading it back to you. Look for things around the house that are spelled with that phonogram and make labels for them.

Sight words are another area of reading that should be introduced to children early on. Knowing sight words or high frequency words will enable them to have greater fluency with readers as many of the most common words do not follow phonetic rules (ie. he, she, you, are, they, was, of). Once again, packs of sight words can be bought at local book and supply stores or you can look up lists of sight words online and make your own. Introduce the child to around 5 new words at a time. Play games to practice committing them to memory. Add new ones as they master them but keep practicing the old ones on a regular basis to ensure they stay committed to memory.

Once children have mastered some of the basics, you can begin to introduce readers for them to practice. Introducing readers too soon can lead to frustration if the child does not know at least 80% of the words in the book. We want them to be mostly independent and feel successful with the book so it is enjoyable for them. When reading together, encourage them to sound out new words on their own first, only telling them the word when they really can’t get it. New words can be made into practice cards to go with the sight words they are practicing. After finishing a line or a page, ask them to read it again to increase their fluency. Repeat the book several times until they can read it independently and fluently. Comprehension is directly related to fluency and so rereading ensures they have also understood what they have read. Ask questions and engage in discussion as you are reading to ensure their comprehension.

Finally, I would like to talk about writing and spelling. Young writers often require support to remember to leave spaces between their words. Ask them to use their finger as a spacer and help them to notice where one word ends and another begins. When children are first starting to write, we encourage them to spell phonetically by breaking the word into sounds and forming the letter or group of letters for each sound they hear. This is an important skill for them to develop so they can become independent writers and succeed in beginning to get their ideas onto paper.   I tend not to correct too much in the beginning unless they ask me to and would like to make a revised draft. I may just pick a few words to take a look at and show them the correct spelling. Too much focus on perfect spelling can make many children fearful to write anything and overall, I believe it’s their ideas and confidence as writers that matters the most. Later on, spelling will be taught more formally and separate from their independent writing. We will focus on a particular spelling rule and practice a list of words for informal quizzes. Children of this age love to quiz each other and come up with challenging new words to learn once they have mastered the basics. Children are also taught to peer and self-edit and to develop the skills to look up words in the dictionary in order to ensure accuracy in their work as they get older. At home you can practice spelling in a game like way by looking for things around the house or when you are out for a walk to try and spell – they get to ask you too! Games like hangman and scrabble are other fun ways to practice spelling.

I hope this gives you some ideas for working at home with your young readers. If you have any other questions feel free to come and ask me. One of the best ways to promote reading at home is to model to your children your own enjoyment of reading and to read books to them on a regular basis so they can see the magic of the written word and feel motivated to practice themselves. Happy reading!


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