Learning is Living
I have been full of thoughts of what to do with my dear first grader who doesnt read well and who seems to get very upset easily during lessons. The other day, I pulled out a program to help the reading. It is one i have seen used with great success and I thought that if I adapted it, it would work well. The first step that is recommended for the teacher to do is give a spelling test with words that grow in complexity so that you can accurately gauge what the child knows and where to start. I knew without a doubt that would be too much for her. So I thought I would do a sounds test. Easy right. So I said each letter sound from the Montessori sandpaper letters (double letters too). Then I did what every teacher in the world has done, corrected the work with a red pencil. Let’s just say Bunny now hates red pencils! I told her that she did really well. In fact she remembered more then I thought she would! She did wonderful job and I told her, but it wasnt enough. There were tears. So what should I do? Talk to her of course! I asked her what was up and why she was crying alot and she told me that she just thought that she should be able to just do things right the first time. So when things arent perfect, she feels like crying and like she couldnt do it. Hmmm….this is interesting. I always knew that she was a bit of perfectionist, but this was the first time I have herd her verbalize it. This is something that really we need to think about. I need to be extremely careful about how I talk to her about her work and how I bring attention to her mistakes. I am going to admit here that I tend to just say, “No. That’s wrong. We need to fix it.” I know that this is not the most Montessori way of doing things, but it is what I do. If she really has issues with feeling like she cant do it, I have been making it worse. This is a horrible thought for me, but one I need to face and change. So what do I? I have read about alot of people who have tried to unschool, or to let go of all the school expectations and it is really hard to do, and I was homeschooled! So obviously we have a few things to work on. *Sigh*. I really love the Montessori method, and I love that everything is child led, but is hard to trust the method! I feel like Bunny should be reading, like she should be doing math each day, like we need a plan. But it is not what child led is all about. So when I talked to Bunny I asked her what she wanted to do and how I could help her, and she told me she just wants to write. She said that she wants to write about things, to write stories, to just write. So I am thinking that we keep researching and learn with that. Maybe I have her write some copywork type things to help with spelling and handwriting. Maybe I have story problems to help with math. We will write. And I will prepare the environment. Make sure that there is pretty writing materials, to have enough things available for her to research when she wants to, to have little booklets for her to write in. But other then that, I am at a bit of a loss. I mean how do I make this work? Do any of you know? How to do you remain true to the method when the child isnt where she “should” be? I mean who are we kidding, this method is hard. Not in theory. In theory its simple, follow the child. But following the child when they arent reading when you think they should be, to follow when all they want to do is write, to follow when all the math that gets done is a few problems that are yelled out in the car on the way to somewhere else. I suppose that this is real learning. Learning is Living. It isnt supposed to be a static it is supposed to be fluid, all inclusive, Cosmic! I want to do this, but it requires I let go of what I think should happen. I need to follow, not lead. I apologize for my random thoughts and insecurities! 🙂 I just need to spill them out sometimes and this is where they land! It seems so easy to do with other people’s kids, but it is hard with my own kids because I dont want to leave something out and fail them. Thanks so much for reading this LONG post! If you have thoughts, I would love to hear them! Happy Schooling Everyone!
September 23, 2012 @ 4:19 am
You have instilled the Montessori philosophy into your heart. So following the child may sometimes mean leaving the part of the method that is not working behind, especially homeschooling. If Bunny has negative feelings about reading STOP and take a BREAK. What I am trying to say is there is nothing wrong with Bunny’s reading abilities, but it just could be that the method that is being used is not her style of learning. If she loves to write I would incorporate a Writers Workshop in your school. I love Write Shop by the way!! They have all levels, I am sure you would be able to find one for Bunny. I am eagerly waiting on a arrival of a review for reading and writing and I hope it is the answer to my prayers for a kindergartner that I am guiding. You sound like you are the right track to how to move away and then come back. Journaling and Copywork can be fun activities too. Make sure you are reading aloud books everyday!! For what it is worth, I have used other reading programs with children who were not absorbing reading presentations repeatedly while implementing the Montessori Method and it wasn’t the child, it was the method I used. I also have witnessed children reading beyond their age level with the Montessori Method too with children I guided. Once again follow the child!!
September 25, 2012 @ 2:12 am
Thanks so much for your thoughts! I love the idea of a Writing Workshop. I will have to research those a little bit. I also have been thinking of a different reading program. I have tried a couple of different ones, but they are just not the right thing. I have been thinking about All About Reading, but it is rather pricy. I am going to back off like you said. She knows the basics, now I just need to wait. Thanks so much for your ideas and support! Sometimes, I just dont know what I am doing!
The girl who painted trees
September 23, 2012 @ 4:27 am
I don’t have any Montessori Wisdom. My two cents is to let her write a lot! She wants to! Capitalize on that! Don’t correct her papers. But the next day present some copywork that allows her to correct the mistakes from the previous day (without using her words/work). She is learning to read indirectly through writing! There is a wide range of normal in learning to read.
Play math games a lot (outside of school time even) to get her to use those numbers. Play board games, play card and dice games that involve adding and subtracting. You’ll be following the child, but meeting your need to cover that material (though without the Montessori materials if you are okay with that).
September 25, 2012 @ 2:25 am
Math games! Brilliant! I will have to find some idea for some! I think I saw a few on Pintrest that look like fun!
I also do think that I need to stop correcting alot of her work! I am so glad that she was able to verbalize her frustrations, so hopefully it will help me help her! Thanks so much for your help and support! It means the world!
Mommy to the Princesses
September 26, 2012 @ 9:57 pm
Since you are looking for math game ideas, checkout right start math games. We use that and it is a lot of fun. You can order their games seperately, I think it is close to $50. Well worth it as it gets the memorization part of math easy and also teaches strategy and application. This week my girls were sick but still wanted to play!
September 23, 2012 @ 4:46 am
You sound like my kindred spirit! I don’t know you personally, but I love your blog and I love seeing the wonderful things you’re doing with your girls. I, too, was homeschooled and am now on the path with my too young kids. I’ve landed in this wonderful Montessori land and I want, very sincerely, to be good at this. But I too struggle with the very practical aspect of follow the child. I admire how well Bunny was able to verbalize her frustration. And I thank you for your honesty. I don’t have any advice, I just wanted to thank you for sharing and maybe let you know that you are not alone in your struggle with how to practically and responsibly live the ideas of Montessori and the personal struggle in letting go and looking at ourselves and how we speak to our children. Thank you for this post.
September 25, 2012 @ 2:33 am
Thanks so much Jessica! It is really fun to meet someone else who was homeschooled as well! That is really cool! I really understand wanting to do the Montessori thing really well! I know that learning all of this method has been fun and so much what I want to do, but it is hard to practice! It is really such a simple idea…prepare and let the child learn. But boy is it hard to let go and trust that they will learn! Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you pop back soon!
September 23, 2012 @ 6:26 am
It sounds like bunny is following the normal Montessori path – writing before reading. Go with it. There is also a lot of evidence that children learn to read from whole words to parts so flash cards to begin with and then breaking them down once the child recognises the whole word in any context.
I don’t ever use a red pen to mark work. It is too aggressive. I have a variety of gel pens in lovely colours ang I mark the work with the child alongside. Before we start I choose one thing to concentrate on, so just spellings or content or punctuation. Sometimes I use it as a grammar lesson. If I have been teaching this child adjectives. We put a symbol over each one.
I like the idea of a writing space. Print put word mats so that bunny has the high frequency words in front of her and doesn’t have to remember them. Recognising them is the first step to reading them.
Don’t get reading and spelling muddled up!
Finally, she doesn’t have to write- you can write what she dictates. She could copy her favourite sentence as handwriting practice. Teach her to touch type!
September 25, 2012 @ 2:48 am
Anna I am so happy you weighed it here! I was hopeing that you would have some Montessori wisdom on this! I think that teaching her some more whole words would be good for her confidence since she will know them. I also LOVE the idea of having a word mat for her to look at while she writes! It will make it alot easier and maybe it will encourage some more sentence writing since she wont have to sound out each word. I also love how you have a bunch of really pretty pens for correcting. I think I will try something like that. My question is what work do you correct and what work do you let go? I know that I need to correct some of it or she wont be able to learn from what she is doing as well, but where is a good line? Do the kids in your class do alot of their writing in their research work or is there other stuff that you encourage?
Spelling and reading! Two things! That is a good reminder! I think that I sometimes mix them up. Do you use a spelling program or a plan? Do you start this before they read and write well?
Oh sorry about all the questions! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share your wisdom! You are a really wonderful teacher and a great bloggy friend!
September 28, 2012 @ 7:43 pm
In answer to what do you correct and what do you leave, it depends on what work you are marking. Funnily enough we were talking about this on my 6-12 course. If you have set a piece of work then mark what you set. This means, if it is spellings, mark the spellings. If the handwriting is terrible then make a note to address this in a handwriting lesson but don’t mention it or mark it in this piece of spelling work.
Another tip is to set a Learning Objective. So, if you want to see how her creative writing is going, then set her something to do with 1 objective that you write at the top of the page. For instance, my 6 year olds have been learning about nouns and common and proper nouns in particular so the LO at the top of the page might be to write a story with the common and proper nouns correctly capitalised (or not) as appropriate. Spellings I would note in MY notebook and any punctuation that had been used as a reference for future lessons. The comments at the end of the work would only be about the use of capitalisation for proper nouns and maybe some positive comments about the content or handwriting but nothing negative. If the nouns had not been correctly capitalised then I would correct those (not in red though, green or turquoise are my favoured colours for correcting) and regive the lesson.
In my class I have children doing research and I also have a creative writing shelf as part of my language area. On here are the ubiquitous word mats, planning sheets and many, many prompt cards. The most simple are pictures, you can simply cut these out of magazines or from online and stuck onto card and to begin with I ask for three sentences – a beginning, middle and end. Later (and I tell the children this now) I will expect more! There are some great sequencing cards you can get free from Montessori for Everyone which I use for this age and we also have sets of three, stick men story cards. This term we are concentrating on poetry so I have some writing frames to support this too.
Spelling – I start with the Montessori pink, blue and green with sight words system. However, with so many children I have moved onto using workbooks too. In england I found books by Schofield and Sims but these will not be helpful for American spelling where we differ! These fit with the Montessori approach and I have seven different workbooks being used by my class of 23, so you can see I am still differentiating. This works alongside reading and writing.
Reading is a completely different kettle of fish! I would attack sight words for reading as soon as possible and have them as secure as you can. Spelling comes a long way after reading once the initial burst of writing has happened so children can read long words but only accurately spell short words. It is normal and OK!
If you go back to my blog and look for a post about creative writing last spring you will find one that has links to word mats etc. I have never seen them on US sites but once you have seen them you might have an idea of where to find them.
I hope all this helps. xxx
Mommy to the Princesses
September 23, 2012 @ 11:29 am
Hugs… Have you checked out the book-The Writing Road to Reading? I have not read it, but it occurred that I should mention it. I love Julie’s idea of just letting her write and playing Math games. That’s what I do when Montessori alone does not move us forward.
September 25, 2012 @ 2:51 am
Thanks so much for stopping by and for your help! I actucally was using a supplament to the Writing Road to Reading when I did a sound “test”. Like I said, it is great program and I thought it would work, but right now I’m not sure! My mom has used it for years with alot of success! Math games and writing is definatly going to be happening here! I think it will be fun for all of us!
September 23, 2012 @ 3:07 pm
I recently started following your blog and am loving it. I thought I would finally comment as I have classroom experience with second graders. When those kids would come from first grade, boy oh boy, was there a range of reading ability. And these kids tended to be on the older end of the spectrum. So it sounds like Bunny is just fine. You can both stop beating yourselves up over that one.
Another important thing to consider is that kids learn to read in a couple of different ways. One, they become good sight readers. That means they are good at seeing words and recognizing them as a whole. Everyone has a sight word vocabulary (the, a, and, mother, etc. you didn’t need to sound each of those out, you just knew them) but some kids rely very heavily on it. These tend to be the kids that read early. The other way is, some children are excellent decoders. They do learn sight words, but they are really good at seeing a word as its parts and then sounding out and putting those parts together. These kids tend to read later, but are better spellers and are ultimately better readers. You should also know that by the time kids are in the fifth grade it is almost impossible to tell who was an early reader, who struggled, who was a super star, and who was in the middle. It’s all a wash unless there are true underlying issues. You are not at a point where you need to worry about that. You may want to look into incorporating a phonics program into your exercises to hit those components of reading and give her a boost of confidence. I would not be surprised based on what you said if she turned out to be an excellent decoder. We used LindaMood Bell which was fantastic, but it’s also expensive. You could piece together some curriculums to create your own phonics program. Just make sure it isn’t abysmal and boring.
If Bunny is wanting to write I say, lead away Bunny! Other commenters are right (write!). It will lead her to reading. If she struggles with writing despite wanting to do it, make sure she is practicing her fine motor skills. It’s fatiguing for children to write when they haven’t built up the muscle control and ability yet. Especially if they have a lot of ideas they want to get onto paper. When you see her getting frustrated try having her dictate to you while you type on the computer. Some of our second graders loved it when I did this. You may also give her the option of dictating into a little voice recorder from time to time (places like Target have them for less than $30). I don’t think she should rely exclusively on this, because she needs to and wants to write, but for those times when she just can’t get it out fast enough and correctly, it might cut down on tears.
I love the Montessori method and am using it with my own daughter who is a toddler, but I think it has limitations for older students. Some kids will never choose to do math, but they do need the basics at least. I don’t think allowing them to never do it is good educational practice. It also teaches them that if they don’t like something they can just avoid it all together, which we all know isn’t reflective of real life. The method is also 100 years old and there has been a lot of brain and child research since then.
Make math fun. I second the math games. Do a search online for math games and you’ll find all sorts. A lot involve a deck of cards with the royalty taken out. Some involve dice, or money. They are all a good way to disguise the math, while hitting those skills and I bet Bunny would want to play them. We did this in second grade and the kids would beg to play math games. 🙂
September 25, 2012 @ 2:59 am
What an honest post my friend, as you I love the Montessori method! and philosophy says …. follows the child, and if Bunny wants to write, Let her write! … in some things one has to give different experiences, as in my case Spanish, I do not follow it exactly according to albums, I adapted to the needs and tastes of my daughter and I use some other NO montessori materials to complement it. If SHE do not want to read, leave it, do not push her and do not pressure your self either, you read better late than early?? Look friend, let her write all she wants! if in the end it’s reading! do not you think??, when she write must read no? Do not mention the matter, give her a break, and find her some cool stuff to write, you’ll do it spectacular!
As for math, games! I join all those who have spoken! Trouble, Parcheesi, dominos, board games and all that kind of things! fun, educational and above all family! You learn by playing! …. when neither mentions her, or tell, she will find math material in the shelves!!.
So friend, follow your daughter, what she liks and needs, remaining calm,!!!
September 27, 2012 @ 1:05 am
As always you are an inspirational friend! you know how to say what I need to hear! Relax! That is what I need to do! I totally agree with you that writing and reading become the same thing, and today, after letting go of my thoughts, Bunny wrote out a book with whole sentences! 🙂 So I suppose we will keep writing!
I am looking for some good math games! Can you believe I dont have a deck of cards here? Yikes! I need to get the store! Thanks for your love and support! 🙂