December is always a month that seems to go too quickly. This is especially true this year since Thanksgiving was so late. It is a short but busy month at Parkside which will, as always include, new activities placed on our shelves. Many of these are related to the December holidays.
In Practical Life, clementine peeling remains very popular. We will be making candy canes with pipe cleaners as well as bracelets with blue and white or red and green beads. We will be cutting brightly colored garlands into individual beads and then use those beads to tweeze or make a collage. The children in both classes are particularly proficient cutters this year as demonstrated by their fringing and placemat making from last month. So we expect that the garland cutting will further develop their skills. In Sensorial, the large Geometric Cabinet has been placed on the shelves in both rooms. This piece of equipment contains 7 drawers of the different geometric shapes in different sizes along with sets of cards to match. Large and small holiday puzzles will be put in the puzzle corner, and in both Language and Math new holiday matching, sequencing and counting exercises will be added.
As the first few months of school come to a close, it may be worth describing again for you in detail the daily classroom schedule, and, while the timing is slightly different in each room, the schedule and the routine are basically the same. After arrival, there is a short and fairly unstructured time where the children ease into their day by settling in after hanging up their coats, connecting with friends, and freely choosing to go to the art table, the play doh table or any of the shelves with materials such as building, puzzle or counting work. Sometimes a teacher will take a small group and read a story. After this initial period of transition which includes snack, we invite the children to bring their chairs to the circle. Circle time is our time of community and also of demonstration as we show whatever new activities are being added to the classroom. We will also use circle time to have a short lesson highlighting in a concrete way whatever monthly concept we are working on in the course of each month, e.g. sea life, trees, dinosaurs, etc. Then we move into “work time” where the children have the opportunity, after returning their chairs to the tables, to choose activities from the various classroom areas. The teachers quietly help with their choices of tasks, and they will also spend time with students individually or in small groups as they work on different tasks. And so it is of the utmost importance that we as teachers have a special eye on the individual learning styles and readiness levels of each of our students so that we may offer and implement the next appropriate learning challenge. This important work period goes on for about 45 minutes to an hour. After that we clean up the classrooms and prepare to go outdoors. After time on the playground, we return to the classrooms where we enjoy some moving and singing games, and then we always end with a story. The children really look forward to the story time as it is a calming and quiet time after a busy morning or afternoon. The above described schedule remains the same each day as continuity is always important for young students. They are very tuned into our daily schedule, and often will start to bring their chairs to circle or get set up for snack before we even invite them. They also are keenly aware that if we cannot go outside, we will be doing some extra indoor physical activity such as yoga, simple exercises, moving games and fun activities such as going on a “Bear Hunt”, taking turns on the indoor balance beam or playing the “freeze game”. We also may have one of Mrs. Walia’s magical puppet shows.
Young children are naturally more focused on receiving gifts this time of year, but they will be making holiday presents at school to bring home to you. In connection with our ongoing Peace curriculum, we will also talk about giving gifts that are not necessarily concrete….such as helping a sibling or parent at home, comforting a classmate in need, sharing, working cooperatively with a friend or friends on an activity from the shelves. Maria Montessori, more than 100 years ago, expressed her strong belief that it is only through educating children in the ways of peace will the world find lasting peace. This message is timeless.