Thursday, March 7, 2019

Science Fair - What's inside a seed?

Our class shared a favorite seed exploration activity at the school's science fair this week.

"Do you know what these are?"

"Rocks?" was a frequent guess from students.
We discuss that they do look like rocks... and they're hard like a rock... but these are something else! They're lima beans, and that means they are seeds.

"We want to see if we can find what is hiding inside the seed. Would you like to see? "(Always a unanimous "yes!")

It's difficult to open a hard, dry seed, so we soaked them in water for a day (and added some food coloring to make them easier to see) 
Look how much they changed!

Soaking loosens the tough seed coat. Peel it off gently, starting at the side that is curved out 

Look! Do you see something poking out?!

Now gently separate the two halves... and there is the baby plant! The thicker part becomes the root and you can see the tiny little leaves 

In the classroom, we first explore the seeds as a group time activity. 

Then we have seed dissection available as an independent work choice on the botany shelf. 
Now we are waiting for spring so we can start our garden... 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Montessori Language curriculum

I love the depth and breadth of the Montessori language curriculum!


Here's a quick overview of how our children learn & grow through the 4 layers of language learning:
spoken language --> phonemic awareness --> writing --> reading

1. Spoken language

The daily classroom learning environment is steeped with opportunities to enrich spoken language, including:

-  frequent informal conversations with teachers and classmates, 
-  poems, songs, tongue twisters, stories
- read-aloud books
- many different spoken word games
- classroom materials that teach vocabulary

2. Phonemic Awareness 

Phonemic awareness is the ability to isolate and identify the different sounds (phonemes) that make up words. Examples: c-a-t and sh-ee-p - both those words are made up of 3 phonemes. 
We begin with sound games to practice identifying the beginning sounds of words (e.g. "mommy" starts with 'mmmm'). 
Playing the "I Spy" sound game with objects (Teacher says, "I spy something that starts with d-d-d" ... and the child identifies the dog) 

Matching pictures with the same beginning sound

Older students working together to decide if the two pictures on each card have the same or different middle vowel sounds - very challenging!

Once a child can identify most of the sounds in the alphabet, they are ready to start connecting those sounds to the letter symbol, which we introduce with sandpaper letters
We begin with teaching the letter sound rather than the letter name, because the sound is what they need to know to write and read
We provide a variety of activities for practicing and reinforcing the letter sounds. In presenting new letter sounds, we often create experiential connections that help the children remember (here feeling the hhhhot air of the 'hhh' sound)
We also introduce some of the key phonograms (double letters that make one sound)

3. Writing

There are two aspects to writing - 
1) the cognitive task of identifying the sounds in a word and knowing the letter symbols to represent each sound
2) the mechanical/physical task of using a writing utensil to form the letters and words

In keeping with the Montessori principle of "isolation of difficulty," we work on each of these aspects separately, bringing them together when the child has mastered both components.

Cognitive Writing
Many children have a grasp of letter sounds before they have the strength and coordination to write well with a pencil. The movable alphabet lets children practice the mental task of sounding out words.

Once a child knows some of the phonograms, we incorporate a phonogram movable alphabet. In this photo, the children are seeing how many words they can think of that have the 'ar' sound in them

Mechanical Writing
We simultaneously prepare children for the physical task of writing both indirectly (through materials that build the strength and coordination needed to write), and directly through a variety of handwriting practice materials
Indirect preparation - Cylinder blocks (picking up each knobbed cylinder uses the same fingers needed for writing) 

Indirect preparation - metal insets
Indirect preparation - perforation work

Direct preparation - handwriting extensions

4. Reading 

Phonetic Reading
We begin with phonetic reading - words that can be sounded out. First simple 3 letter words, then longer words that include blends (two consonants together - st, bl-, pl-, -nd) and phonograms (sh, ee, oy. ...)
 A child's first introduction to reading with the phonetic object box. A teacher writes familiar letter sounds on a slip of paper, and the child discovers they can fuse the sounds together and know just which object the teacher is thinking of. They often enjoy making their own written labels for the objects too.

 Phonetic 3-part reading cards

 We have many sets of 3-part cards in the classroom to practice reading, as well as introduce new vocabulary and concepts (to pre-readers too). These are animals that live in the arctic, one of our winter themes.
 Illustrated booklets to practice phonetic reading

 Reading application - labeling components of the Backyard Biome mat
 More advanced reading work includes a systematic approach to introducing the multiple ways of spelling key phonograms (example: the 'long a" / "ai" sound can also be spelled a_e, ay, eigh, ey -- such as in rain, made, day, weigh, they. English is tricky!)
Function of Words (Grammar!)
The Montessori language curriculum includes an innovative set of grammar activities - designed to give early readers more practice through fun, engaging materials that introduce the function of different types of words (article, adjective, noun, conjunction, prepositions, verbs, adverbs)
Introducing definite and indefinite articles

After an interactive introduction to adjectives with a teacher, children are ready for the Logical Adjective game - finding adjective-noun pairs that make sense
After the Logical adjective game, a variation is the Adjective Chain game - how many of the adjectives can be used to describe one of the nouns? (We also introduce symbols to represent each part of speech)

Another activity with adjectives
The Detective Adjective Game - adjectives for color, size, angle, and sides let the child use their sleuthing skills to gradually narrow down the 63 possible triangles to one perfect match for the description

Verbs! So much fun to act out with a friend!
Sight Words
Once a child has a strong foundation in phonetic reading, we start to introduce all the crazy words in English that don't follow the rules! "Sight words" (or "puzzle words") are frequently used words that must be memorized (learned by sight), because they usually don't follow the phonetic rules of our language.

If you want more details about the Montessori approach to Language development, I recommend Julia Volkman's thorough description of the Montessori Language Program on the Maitri Learning website

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Come learn about Montessori education

What’s so special about
Montessori Preschool?
Join us -
Saturday, Jan. 19th
Ferry Ave Library
Light refreshments provided

how Montessori education builds:
Independence & confidence 
Kindness & social skills 
Creativity & problem-solving 
- Academic skills & love of learning

about the Montessori Program at Sacred Heart School, a South Camden school for 3-year-olds thru 8th grade
(FREE for 3-5 year olds with NJ Childcare Subsidy)

Ask questions...
of Montessori teachers & parents who chose Montessori education for their kids

See more information for prospective parents, or email 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Enrolling for 2019-20

Give your child a strong foundation for success with

Apply now for September 2019
Space is limited! Apply by February 15th for priority consideration.

Sacred Heart School Montessori Program
(near Broadway and Ferry Ave) 

Enrolling 3- and 4-year-old children

Five full days
Aftercare available until 5:30 p.m.

Breakfast, snacks, and lunch provided

Cost: FREE for families that qualify for the NJ child care subsidy program
(for parents working or in school)

Affordable tuition & financial aid for other families

What is Montessori education?

- active, hands-on learning

- individualized lessons - teachers guide each child through the curriculum at their own pace

- respect for each child as a unique, capable, & intelligent individual

- mixed ages in a family-like atmosphere

- children learn academic skills as well as problem-solving skills, confidence,  responsibility, and kindness

To apply:
Apply online
Request an application in person at
Sacred Heart School 
4th & Jasper St, Camden 
(856) 963-1341

To learn more:

Monday, November 19, 2018

Learning about the Wampanoag

What do people need to live?
This was the start of our group time today. We had visited similar questions earlier in the year, so they quickly came up with water, food, air, homes, and clothing.

How would people get what they need before there were any stores (or cars!)?
This question was much harder!

We found North America - our continent! - on the globe, and I explained that there were many groups of people living in North America for thousands of years that knew how to meet all their needs without cars or stores. Today we were going to learn about the Wampanoag (wom-puh-nog) , and then go on an "adventure" through the seasons. We reviewed the four seasons with our seasons mat and talked about how the Wampanoag people met their needs in each season of the year.
Why learn about the Wampanoag? This is the Native American group that has lived in the northeast for thousands of year. They were the ones who helped the "Pilgrims" survive their first years in North America.

We started with spring - planting time! Everyone received three seeds before we went out - corn, bean, and pumpkin (sometimes referred to as the "3 sisters" because they can be planted together for mutual benefit). Our planting grounds were the raised garden beds in our outdoor classroom.

For summer, the Wampanoag would head to the coast, where they could catch fish, lobster, clams, etc., and enjoy swimming and games at the beach. The day was mild, but definitely not summery, so we really had to use our imaginations as we headed to the shore (aka the park!) and went "swimming" around the playground.

Catching fish and gathering clams

As fall approaches, we took the long trek back through the "forest" to our planting grounds, excited to see what we could harvest.

The corn, beans, and squash we planted in the "spring" (i.e. 20 minutes earlier) weren't ready to harvest yet, but we did find some carrots, a few peas, a radish, some lettuce, and a few green tomatoes!

The  Wampanoag spent winter in the shelter of the woods, where they would hunt for game to supplement the food they had harvested and stored. We retreated back into the warmth of the classroom, where our 21st century school lunch was waiting for us!

Interested to know more about the Wampanoag?
Photos of traditional homes (wetus)
Lots of info on the scholastic website