Mrs. Doyle’s Class: The Three Period Lesson

In a Montessori classroom teachers rely on the Three Period Lesson to introduce new vocabulary, concepts, and even to highlight the purpose of a material. These lessons allow the child to absorb concepts in a concrete manner while also reinforcing each component of the lesson.

The 1st Period is simply naming the concept or material and demonstrating it repeatedly. Some of the more complex materials or concepts may need to be introduced in the 1st period over the course of several lessons. So for example, using the color tablets from the Sensorial area, we introduce the child to the primary colors by saying, “This is red.”

During the 2nd Period, we ask the child to recognize and find the object. We ask the child, “Which one is red? Which one is blue? Which one is yellow?” This period is longer than the 1st Period and we keep it interesting by asking them to manipulate the object. We might say, “Hide the blue tablet behind your back. Place the red tablet on your lap.”  We are cognizant of making sure to begin each request or action with the last item we spoke about. So if we ask the child to manipulate the red, blue, and yellow color tablets in that order, the next series of directions would follow the order of yellow, blue, then red.

The last stage, or 3rd Period focuses on recall. We ask the child to identify the material or concept without any assistance. We ask the child, “What is this?”

While the intent of the Three Period Lesson is to isolate and introduce new concepts and materials, we are also helping the children to enrich and expand their vocabulary. We use this method to introduce almost every lesson/material in the classroom.

Have a wonderful week!

Michelle & Jeannine

“Help Me to Help Myself”: Independence and the Montessori Philosophy

Interesting article by Jennifer Shields about the importance Montessori places on helping children develop independence.  

Maria Montessori had an innovative perspective regarding education. She did not look at a set of skills or a body of knowledge. Instead she focused on the development of the whole person over the course of gaining maturity:

“Montessori saw education as a means whereby children might develop their personalities so as to eventually achieve a mature and independent adulthood.”

(Mario Montessori, Education for Human Development)

Isn’t that what each of us wants? For our child to become an adult who can make good decisions, who feels confident and knows herself? Who can both accept her reality and work to make the world a better place? The fundamental foundation for this independence is laid at the beginning of a child’s life.

To help the child reach her full potential, we try to understand these inner drives and offer the best guidance and environment in which that foundation of the personality can be formed. Only the child can achieve self-construction. Adults have the responsibility to assist her. We study to understand the stages of growth and we prepare ourselves and the environment to foster her best development. Then we let go—it is the child who strives to be independent to grow and to learn. It is her process. While we may believe we are “helping” the child, in fact, any time the adult offers assistance or interrupts, she becomes an impediment to the child’s growth.

Montessori observed children and found they had drastically different characteristics at different ages. From birth to age three, the child takes in her world while unconscious of the process. She is a sensorial learner; unable to use logic or reasoning to process these experiences. Her absorbent mind allows her to adapt to her environment. The Inuit child becomes an Inuit; the Taiwanese child a Taiwanese. The environment becomes her, in a sense. To help her develop to her greatest potential, we must allow this child access to her world. We can only indirectly influence this very young child. From ages three to six years, she is still absorbent and still forming that foundation of her personality, but becomes more conscious about choices. The adult can more directly affect this child and directly influence her development.

Initially, the infant bonds with her mother, then with her family. This healthy emotional attachment will allow her reach out into the world successfully.

Movement is a major acquisition during this phase. She needs freedom to move and a view of the environment. From lifting the head and neck to the sweet baby “push ups” to rolling over, grasping at objects, and eventually creeping and crawling—this progression of coordinated movements involves myelination of the baby’s nervous system. These patterns of nerve firing are strengthened. From baby’s perspective, she is urged from within to move and coordinate movement. By fostering an environment that allows a baby to move freely, with a movement mat, a floor bed instead of a crib, with comfortable clothing, and by avoiding having her in containers (including prolonged periods of time in a car-seat, bike trailer, swing, etc.), she can maximize her development.

Soon the child will be pulling up, then cruising and walking. Now her hands are free and she can more freely manipulate objects. Montessori called the hand the tool of the intellect. Through coordinating the hands, the child can master her environment, so we are very aware of giving material that will help her progress in her grasp, hand strength and fine motor control. To the child under six, we must offer the best of reality: to the youngest the best, Montessori said. The materials: child-sized tools such as a small broom, a lovely china pitcher for practicing pouring, a wagon, balls, a little watering can, etc. By giving her a chance to care for and interact with the environment, she may coordinate the desires of her mind with the movements of her body. This draws her into concentration, leading to self-discipline. She can experience activities that allow her to master the movements and steps in caring for her body also: combing her hair, washing hands at a special stand, fastening snaps on a frame.

All of these activities allow the child to experience her own abilities: she can practice in an unhurried setting. She has been shown the movements in a clear and consistent way, free of interference or chatter. The materials are lovely, real, sized just for her, and color-coded so she knows they make up a set. All of these practical life materials help the child attain functional independence.

Language is the other major conquest of the young child. If movement allows the child independence in harnessing the body to do her bidding, language allows for successful social interaction. She can absorb whatever language is in her environment without effort, just by living. How she acquires her mother tongue is affected by the quality of interactions and language. If we offer positive, stimulating communication, she experiences language as alive, useful, and exciting. It really is a simple system—what goes in comes out. Offer rich vocabulary. Instead of, “Give me that thingie,” we can ask, “Andrew, would you hand me the rolling pin?” Specific terminology helps them order and classify their world and to eventually use those terms to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs. We also listen attentively to each child. We do not correct her directly, as it will discourage her attempts at communication. Electronic language stimulation does not help her with this acquisition—in fact it interferes with her language capacities. Even “educational” television or computer games are a negative influence on her language and movement.

Order helps the young child conquer her world. She knows what to expect if objects are in the same place: from the rocking chair where she is nursed to the place where her toys and clothing are stored. We limit the objects in the environment. Less is more. We can rotate toys on her shelf so that only a few items may be mastered and no huge mess can be generated. The order of objects in her world and order of our responses to her will become part of who she is. External order creates internal order and this is a significant foundation to the intellect.

The Montessori teacher considers her role to be a guide or directress, acknowledging that it is the child’s work to develop. We prepare the environment so the child can master movements and become functionally independent—she can meet her own needs. She has a way to use the toilet so she needs as little help as possible. The adult examines the environment to remove any obstacles to the child’s independence: is the sink too high? Can we find a smaller dustpan and brush to fit the child’s hand? Is there a place to put cloths after wiping up a spill? We observe and wait to see if the child can solve a problem or if other children might step in to help. The large class size and mixed ages help insure that this spontaneous help will arise, allowing children to experience leadership and to follow good peer role models.

The young child delights in opportunities to master movements and experience independence. She works alongside others. It is not in her nature to share yet or even take turns. If she chooses work, it is hers and she uses it as long as she wishes. As she nears age four and a half, she may begin to collaborate in a small group successfully. However, natural social interactions take place among the mixed ages of children. This unfolds in the class as the children are ready.

The teachers consistently model positive social behavior. The Montessori guide respects the child as she studies the psyche of the child, prepares the environment, and observes the child’s behavior. She offers lessons based on the individual child’s needs, one on one, so that the child can have a customized lesson, tailored to her interest and ability.

Each lesson isolates a difficulty—e.g., how to use scissors. We show “open, close,” demonstrating rather than explaining. We separate the use of the scissors from the flower arranging that involves using the scissors. In this way, the child is only mastering one new skill at a time. She becomes independent because she can wholly focus on each small skill, not overwhelmed.

The lesson is called a “presentation” because it is a kind of gift. It is up to the child to choose that work again, to decide when and where to repeat and practice that activity. If the adult has observed well and prepared the environment successfully, the child will be eager to repeat. Through repetition and through free choice, the child builds up her skills herself and experiences success. She can cut with scissors, wipe up a spill, button a sweater, polish wood, serve herself snack. She gets to know her likes and dislikes. The materials give her feedback—is there still water on the table? Is there a button not showing on the frame? She does not need to ask an adult to evaluate her work. This control of error empowers the child to seek her own level of mastery. These experiences contribute to psychological independence, an important goal we have for the child. It is a pivotal time of forming her personality; she is able to assess herself, make choices, and experience consequences. All this occurs within a setting of freedom of choice (she can choose from among the lessons she has received) and clear limits that keep everyone safe.

The adult sets the limits, prepares the environment, and links the child to the materials with customized lessons. The adult must also protect the essential freedoms of the class and respect the child in all ways. We even go so far as to be mindful about the undermining effects of praise. The child ought to experience success on her own terms. We do not interrupt her work with “good job,” nor do we want her to depend on us for her self-esteem.

By the time the child is ready to move up to the elementary classroom, her teeth may be falling out and her body becoming lanky and tall, but more importantly her psychological characteristics are changing. Her mind is now a reasoning one. She wants to take on larger questions of “why” and has a desire to know about the bigger picture. Montessori says the child between ages 6 and 12 years has a “herd instinct,” a strong need to work with peers. A parent may feel left out by this child who is very stable, very driven to be with his friends. We must accept that he is happy with peers and will thrive amongst them. It is not a slight to the family, but a sign that the child is healthy and reaching out into the world when he wants to be with his friends.

This older child has the skills and abilities he mastered before age six, but we have to realize that he no longer is as focused on order. He may know how to make a bed and while he used to enjoy this task, now he does not. At this age, we have to appeal to the child’s reasoning mind: we delineate chores or responsibilities and give him chances to experience consequences if he shirks his duties. One elementary teacher reported that she allowed a few plants in the classroom to die if a child, after being reminded, did not follow through on his chore.

In a Montessori school, the elementary aged child is ready for lots of group work, and he thrives on organizing the roles and responsibilities within it. Who will record the research? Who will illustrate the timeline? What about the presentation to the larger group? Do you remember setting up little clubs with your friends when you were this age? Hours might be spent organizing the rules and structure of the group. We work with the nature of this child, building in opportunities for group work rather than discouraging chatting and socializing. As in the primary class, we have to allow the child to have choice in what he researches: e.g., what kind of transportation would you like to investigate? I recall one very detailed timeline that a pair created on the history of the toilet. The element of choice ensures the child is self-motivated.

The concept of justice is an important one to this child. We have to allow him to explore what is right and wrong and be sensitive to his challenges of, “But it’s not fair!” or tattling-type behavior. The elementary age child is trying to work out the rules of society, and he may have many questions and need to discuss what he notices. This summer, on a long stretch of road in very flat Kansas, my daughter was very concerned if I drove even two miles above the speed limit on the highway. “But, Mom, you’re speeding! Look at the sign.” This exploration of ethics will help the child come to an independent concept of right and wrong for himself.

We are continually walking the careful line with our children as parents and as Montessori guides: to understand the child’s phase of growth, her abilities, her interests, and challenges. If we can support her and know when to help and when to more importantly step back, to create the richest and most appropriate environments made up of materials, routines, and people that will stimulate and enrich the child at that time, she will be able to come to know herself. She masters first functional, then psychological, and eventually intellectual independence as she matures. I asked my 15-year-old son what independence meant to him and he said, “Become your own person.” I think that is what we all want for our children.

Pouches for Australia’s Animals

Students in 1st through 8th grade have been working hard these past two weeks to sew pouches for marsupials in Australia. This Global Giving project came to fruition after myself and co-STEAM teacher, Jennifer Reid, learned about Australia’s need for custom pouches.

We got right to work. Our Lower Elementary students started tracing materials and fabrics, and some even helped cut using the adult fabric scissors.

Upper Elementary students and Middle School students participated in one way or another- measuring fabrics, designing prototypes, learning how to use an iron, nether sitting down at the sewing machine and learning how to do a “French Seam”. Our finished pouches will make their way down under at the end of this week.

Our students are empathetic, compassionate, and above all- givers. They do what they can, for who they can, with every ounce of kindness that they have.

Follow the MakerSpace on twitter! @FWMmakers


*and a BIG special thank you to Chintz-N-Printz for donating 100% natural fabric to our MakerSpace for this project.

The Function of Education

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”  These words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarize the purpose of schooling.  Good schools unlock a child’s potential for cognitive thought while cultivating those characteristics that make them into good people.   Maria Montessori understood this well and would have agreed with Dr. King; however, she would have added that the function of education would need to lead to a singular goal: to achieve world peace.  It is important to clarify here that Maria Montessori was developing her methods during a time of global unrest and war.  She believed that her approach not only unlocked a child’s intellectual potential but also their ability to be compassionate, caring, and kind.

How would each school answer the question: “What is their primary function or goal in educating children?”  Unfortunately, too many schools are focused solely on raising test scores and achievement levels; they focus on the product instead of the process.  At FWM, our primary goal can be summed up in FWM’s mission which is eight words in length: “We cultivate compassion, confidence, and joy of learning.”  We have seen that one of the key by-products of our mission has been providing a challenging, academic program that, in the words of Dr. King, “teaches children to think intensively and to think critically.”  Like Dr. King, we believe that intelligence plus character are the recipe for true education.

Important Information & Upcoming Events

Current Toddler & Primary Families response requested
Please take a minute to click on this link to complete your family’s desired program choice for the upcoming school year.

Parent Association: FWM 1st Annual Snow Ball Saturday, February 1st – 3:00-5:00pm. The Snow Ball is a dance where students from toddler through middle school attend with their favorite grown up! The adult can be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or any other adult your child would like to invite. There will be dancing, a winter themed photobooth, craft activities, food, and a very special Winter Basket Raffle. Click this link to purchase your tickets.

March Break Camp Registration is OPEN (Toddler and Primary children).  To register your FWM toddler or primary child in FWM’s March Break Camp, please click here.  Parents may register their child for one or both weeks.  March Break Camp is:  Week 1 (March 16-20) and Week 2 (March 23-27).

Parent Association Meeting this Thursday, January 23rd from 8:30-9:30am. in the conference room. Be on the lookout for the upcoming meeting agenda. Everyone is invited and we encourage you to attend!

Mrs. Hood’s Class: Absorbing Minds At Work

Maria Montessori used the scientific method to study children’s natural learning processes. She found that the child absorbs the culture they are in effortlessly and without fatigue between the ages of 0 – 6. Whatever the child is exposed to is internalized by the child and accepted into the child’s own being, imprinted on their soul. If a child is surrounded with music, the child will be a musical person. If a child hears their parents singing, the child will sing. If a child sees their parents dancing, the child will dance. She called this the child’s “absorbent mind.”

In addition to our music enrichment class every Thursday, children are exposed to meaningful music experiences everyday. They learn the names of the instruments they are playing and they learn how to properly play them. This week, we focused on the importance of being polite and waiting until everybody gets their instrument before selecting a song and grabbing their instrument to play! Children were directed to recognize hand gestures for tempo, dynamics, and their favorite: the closing of the song. They all love to hold their fists up and watch how everybody’s instrument stops at the same time! Their smiles say it all! We call this our “band time.”

Another highlight of this week was the introduction of a beloved work by all the children: a baby doll. Her name is Rosie. Through this work children practice grace and courtesy, gentleness, and a lot of patience since everybody wants to take care of the baby. Children enjoyed this work so much! Some of them cuddle Rosie with such a care, others explored her body parts using it as an enrichment of vocabulary work. They worked together to make sure Rosie felt loved. They read, sang and kissed her. They walked her around and showed her the environment. Some of them even gave her lessons. Children also role played by taking turns to be the baby and getting into the crib while other classmates took care of them. It was so precious! We want to thank Ms. Ulacco and Ms. Benoit for using their talents in making for us the beautiful baby’s crib bedding. Children loved this work! We can’t wait to present to them the feeding and bathing extensions of this work.

Based on our winter theme, we introduced in the language area an object to picture matching work focused on arctic animals. Children learned to recognize a harp seal, an arctic fox, a killer whale, a walrus, a husky, a caribou, an arctic rabbit, a beluga whale, a polar bear, and they also received a lesson on what is an igloo.

For food tasting we explored hearts of palm. As children observed this food they asked if it was a cheese stick or a tortilla. 🙂 They learned that this vegetable comes from the inner core of a palm tree. At the moment of tasting it only a couple of children really enjoyed it and asked for more, however all loved the slimy exploration of this vegetable.

We hope you all enjoyed the long weekend, and this beautiful and unusual January weather.

Mrs.Wilson: Building Language

The children all enjoyed a new group activity this week. This activity will be part of our daily routine from now on. Each morning when all the children have arrived we use photos of the children to see who is present or absent. We hold up the photo and the children say who it is. If that child is present they may do a little dance. We show excitement for that child to let them know that we are happy they are here. If the child is not at school due to not feeling well we tell them. For example, Greyson is not here, he is not feeling well. I hope he feels better soon. This helps model empathy for our friends. At the end, the children join me as we count each of them that are present. This activity builds language, empathy, happiness, exposure to counting, a sense of belonging, and group.

Another language activity we added is the beginning, middle and end sequence cards. This set shows a sheep, a ball of yarn, and a knitted hat.

Food Tasting: Cauliflower (raw and steamed). These children amaze me! We had another successful food tasting and they all pretty much liked steamed cauliflower. Some enjoyed the crunchiness of the uncooked version.

Have a wonderful week!

A Fun and Busy Week

It has been a fun and busy week in Lower Elementary. We started a new unit in Writers Workshop on information writing. The students kicked off the unit by partnering up and teaching each other all about something they are experts in. First years learned about teaching all about a topic and seconds and thirds learned about topics and subtopics. We also continued to celebrate the personal narratives each child wrote by inviting them to share their stories with the class. The completed stories will go on a special bookshelf so the children can read each other’s personal narratives.

Next week, Tuesday through Thursday, the third year students will take a practice standardized test called the CTP5. This test is given to third through eighth grade students and is scored and reported to parents starting in fourth grade. We treat the third grade year as a true practice  year so the children have the chance to take the test with a little more help learning to navigate it this first year. For this reason, we don’t score and report it in third grade. As a Montessori school, we give this test to give our students the practical life experience of taking a test, to prepare them for future years in school. The third year students completed a sample practice test together this week and commented that they thought it was fun!