September has flown by and it already feels like our classroom community has been together for months. The beginning of the school year is full of excitement, new friendships and new routines. I wanted to share with you some of the topics and activities we have been working on so far and give parents an idea of some of the larger picture things that go on in a Montessori elementary classroom over the span of the first month of school. Individual and small group lessons in all subject areas are always taking place as well.
At the beginning of each school year, we discuss as a class some of the important agreements that we want to make with each other to ensure that our classroom community is peaceful and productive. Children are invited to share their ideas for what agreements need to be made and to contemplate why each is important. We have been adding to our ideas each morning and have published our final draft on which we all signed our names, agreeing to the guidelines created. This helps make sure everyone understands what the basic expectations are in the classroom and serves as a frame of reference when children are having difficulty upholding the agreements. We discuss logical consequences when the agreements are not followed and how they affect both the individual and the group. We also discuss how we will all make mistakes and forget some of the agreements from time to time but will do our best to help remind and support each when that happens. Here are the agreements we came up with. You may want to make your own family agreements at home and discuss some logical consequences for what happens when someone is not abiding by them.
– We treat others the way they want to be treated. (Often what might be okay for you might not be for someone else so this is a step above the ‘golden rule’ of treating others the way you want to be treated).
– We do our best to help each other when we can and ask for help when we need it.
– We treat the materials in the school with care and clean up after ourselves.
– We use polite, kind, appropriate language.
– We respect each other’s personal space.
– We listen to each other.
– We listen to and cooperate with teachers and other adults in the school.
– We use our time in the class to focus on our work and choose the things we want to learn about.
Yoga and Mindfulness Activities:
As many of you know, I took a course this summer to be trained as a certified children’s yoga instructor. The course offered lots of great ideas to integrate into the classroom and the children have really been enjoying the activities I have introduced so far. We have practiced mindful listening, sitting or working in silence and listening for the sounds we may have not noticed otherwise, as well as listening more carefully to each other. We have also practiced breathing together using a tool called a Hoberman Sphere that expands and contracts like the lungs, matching our breath to its movement. The children all agreed they felt much more calm and peaceful after the breathing activities. We discussed how busy the mind can get, learning about the prefrontal cortex in the brain and how it helps us to make good choices. When we get angry or afraid, our amygdala in the brain takes over and prevents us from using our prefrontal cortex. We made mind jars using glitter to show how busy and clouded the mind can get and how with just a little time, patience and breathing, the mind will become clear again just like the glitter eventually settles to the bottom of the jar after being shaken up. The children have also enjoyed practicing some yoga postures together at circle in the mornings, acting out stories through the poses. We have a corner of the classroom set up as a quiet yoga corner that the children can go to when they need time alone. They can practice the breathing activities shown, roll out the yoga mat and practice some of the yoga postures they learned, or just take a few moments to themselves in silence and stillness.
We always begin the year in the Montessori Elementary classroom with one of the Great Stories that tells about the formation and the laws of the universe. Children at this age often have questions as infinite as the universe so what better place to start the year and to begin to nurture a sense of wonder and awe of life and all that is around us. This year, I told it as a yoga story where the children could move and act out the different parts of the story with their bodies such as becoming the different states of matter, rotating and orbiting like the Earth, and rising and falling like elements do as they expand and contract. We then went on to have lessons about the Sun, the stars, galaxies, constellations and planets and the students have been busy completing follow up work, many including paintings and the use of glitter! We got to apply our lessons in class and learn more about these topics from the experts at the HR McMillan Space Centre last week.
With the weather still so lovely, we have been spending some extra time outside this month exploring our local area. The children enjoyed going on a nature scavenger hunt to collect items from a list from around the park and then using their found materials to create an artistic design or mandala as an offering of gratitude to the Earth. We have also been learning the names and characteristics of some local plants. Some children have been completing sketches and descriptions in the class and we all spent an afternoon outside searching for different types of plants and making sketches of them. Next month we will study local animal species and take a trip to the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre.