R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Teaching Kindergartners what Respect Means

Respect is an important and universal concept, and one that is a life-long interpersonal practice. But what does it mean to respect someone or something? How do you explain this somewhat abstract concept to your kindergartener? Luckily, there are a few Montessori strategies you can use in teaching this fundamental idea, each of them founded in the key Montessori teaching approach of demonstrating and letting your child choose how to explore the topic, instead of lecturing. Afterall, not only is it easier for you to show what respect is rather than explain it, but it is also more easily learned by your kindergartner when they see and experience respect.

Observing and Naming Respectful Behavior

As you go through your day and your many interactions with the people and community around you, you can find many opportunities with your child to observe behavior. For example, you can ask questions and discuss interactions with their Montessori teacher that morning: “How did it feel when your teacher asked you how you were doing this morning and listened to your answer?” Together you can then discuss if listening is one of the ways to show respect. Eventually, you will build a good list of the specific qualities of respect that your child understands.

Model Respect in Conflicts

Your child’s understanding of the concept of respect might be best deepened and solidified when it is experienced in times of conflict. These can be the most challenging moments to adhere to respectful behavior, but as a consequence, these moments can also be the most clarifying. When you encounter a conflict, with your child or with other family and friends, you can model the sort of behavior you feel best demonstrates respect. An example of respectful, nonviolent communication you can use could be: “When I’m poked while I’m talking with our neighbor, I feel frustrated because I need to concentrate. Would you be willing to hold my hand and wait until I acknowledge you?” This type of response neutrally observes your child’s behavior that isn’t showing respect, shares your feelings and needs in the moment, and offers a way for your child to make another choice of behavior. Now, this response is not always easy or intuitive. But the good news is, even when you inadvertently or hastily use behavior that isn’t showing respect, that is another opportunity to talk with your child about how you would want to do it better in the future.

Acting as guides, older students help lead younger students throughout their education journey, including modeling for them good behaviors, such as respect.  Montessori education focuses on the child as a whole.  To learn more, contact the Montessori School of Flagstaff Sunnyside Campus today.

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Teaching Preschoolers Thanks through Fall Crafts

Fall is a great time to introduce or enhance a practice of gratefulness with your family, and it’s never too early to begin it with your preschooler. With all the lovely autumn days, time spent with family and friends, and the abundance of tasty seasonal food, there is a lot to be thankful for! Additionally, you and your preschooler can take advantage of some of the Montessori principles outside of the classroom by offering several crafty options focused on teaching thanks so your child can follow their interests and choose what activity suits them best. Here are a couple options the whole family can enjoy.

Tree of Thanks

In this craft, you and your preschooler will not only get to enjoy some hands-on crafting, but it will also result in a colorful decoration that you can keep up and appreciate all season. You will need colored paper cut in the shape of leaves, colored pencils or crayons, tape, and brown paper bags. To start, your Montessori preschooler can practice their motor skills by tearing the paper bags into thick strips and scrunching them up to look like the bark-textured trunk of a tree and its branches. You can make the tree as tall or thick as you like, using more paper bags as you need. Once you have set up the tree, you and your preschooler and even other family members can begin to write on each leaf a thing you are thankful for, and then tape it on to the tree. You can write words for your child, or they can draw the item they are thankful for. Together, you can keep adding to your tree until it is full of autumn colored leaves and an abundance of things that make your family feel grateful.

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving and are looking for a way to get everyone moving after the big meal, or you are looking for a simple activity that gets your family outside this fall, a scavenger hunt is a great option. In this activity, you can work with your preschooler before the day of the hunt to make a list of things for people to find and determine the teams and rules of the game. For example, your scavenger hunt list could be titled, “Something I’m Grateful For” and include options such as “something in nature,” “something that makes a beautiful sound,” and “someone who is kind.” You can choose to have participants take a picture of that thing, or simply write it down. After everyone has found the items on the list, or after a certain time period, teams can take turns sharing what they found on their scavenger hunt. This activity can not only be good practice in planning and thinking through steps for your preschooler, it will be fun to play and to see everyone else enjoying themselves with the activity you created, which could be something to be thankful for in itself.

Using hands-on activities, such as crafts, are a great way for families to incorporate Montessori learning at home.  Day Star Montessori offers programs for children ages 18 months to 6 years old and encourages its families to be actively involved in their child’s education from the very beginning.  Contact us today to schedule a school tour.

Handwriting Practice Tips for Kindergartners

Just as it takes practice to hit a ball with a bat, it also takes practice to write that the boy hit the ball with the bat. And even though your kindergartner will be exposed to written words from the time they are an infant, it can take several years of trial and error to learn how to make legible letters consistently. A few tips taken out of other people’s experiences will help your kindergartner learn the fine art of written communication.

Getting a Grip

Learning how to hold a pencil or other writing tool is the first step in writing letters. Begin with an extra-thick pencil. But learning to grip the pencil correctly takes time, and is related to the development of fine motor skills. Practicing will make writing easier, but children won’t usually perfect the pencil grasp until they are approaching 6 years old. By the time your child has gotten the hang of grasping a writing instrument, they may not even remember that they are still learning to do it.

Practice Makes Perfect

It takes time to learn how to draw the letters of the alphabet, but practicing will make it easier. Use ruled writing paper to give your kindergartner some perspective for letter orientation and size. Use a spiral bound notebook for practice, with each letter drawn clearly at the start of a line. Having an example right there on the page makes it easier to determine what steps are necessary, and gives the student an immediate comparison when each letter is complete. Drawing individual letters is okay, but making simple words will give them more insight into how letters interact to form words.

Playing Games

Any activities which bolster hand-eye coordination can be beneficial to learning how to write letters. This includes all sorts of physical exercise, but it also means things like coloring images or connecting the dots. Kids are not just learning with their minds, they are also teaching their bodies to perform as instructed. Games and activities that are not specifically about handwriting have the potential to bring about noticeable improvements.

Reinforced Repetition

For some children, including those with ADD, the problem of handwriting could use some assistance. Encouraging children who are learning to write letters and words to say each letter as they write will help them hold a mental image of the desired outcome in their head while they work. Using verbal association can be especially helpful as children progress from making letters to writing out short words.

When all is said and done, practice is the most important tool for learning how to use handwriting effectively. Keep in mind that development is crucial to success, and no amount of practice will allow them to write clearly before their coordination has advanced enough to do it.

With all activities, including handwriting, older students at Montessori Children’s Center act as guides and can assist younger students as they continue to learn and build on the foundational skills needed in education.  To learn more about the collaborative approach of Montessori Education, contact us today.

Help your Preschooler Learn Manners

Learning to interact politely with others is important. It helps preschoolers get along with others and teaches them that there are formal customs associated with giving and getting. Whether the prize is a piece of candy or making new friends, learning the rules of getting along should be incorporated into other activities which cast good manners as the appropriate way to associate with others.

Thank You, Please, and May I

The magic words of politeness are the best place to start when teaching your preschooler. The lesson begins with family members being polite to one another, teaching your preschooler to ask for what they want, and acknowledge those who give it. The sooner a young child includes these phrases in their vocabulary, the easier it will be for them to apply the concepts when they interact.

A Welcoming Demeanor

Children begin to comprehend the concept of sharing around age 2. Parents who include the concepts of taking turns with toys and sharing personal space will have a head start when they go to school. You can reinforce the concept of sharing by encouraging it during playtime with other preschoolers. Keep in mind that this can be a difficult concept for children, as it changes the child’s focus away from the “me first” consciousness of infants and toddlers.

Make It a Polite Game

There are a couple of ways to go about teaching manners to your preschooler. The first is to make your own use of manners visible and consistent. To back up this method, you can also make a game of being polite to others. This paints the use of good manners as an exciting and fun activity. Be sure to make a point of noticing polite behavior and praising your child when they exhibit it.

Learning to be a Team Player

It can be tough to transition from being the most important thing in your life to accepting that you have to share the spotlight with others. One way you can help your child learn to work with others is to create opportunities where teamwork can accomplish a task that working alone cannot. If young children experience situations where teamwork is beneficial to them they will be faster to adopt interaction as a way of life.

The definition of “good manners” expands as children get older. For infants and early toddlers, simply knowing when it is inappropriate to yell is a major accomplishment. Children are ready to learn how to modify their behavior when interacting with others between age 2 and 3. By the time your child transitions from preschool to kindergarten, they should have learned all of the basics of social graces.

At the Montessori School in Newark, our teachers use hands-on activities to teach students manners and being mindful of others – things that will lay a foundation for the rest of their education and beyond.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact us today.

Preschool Culture: Discussing Diversity

Teaching your children should begin as soon as possible. Keep in mind that preschoolers are watching every move and listening to every word. They are learning everything they can from you, and that includes your own attitudes towards human diversity and acceptance. Children are much quicker to pick up on what they observe than simply what they are told.

Rainbows are the Color of Love

The best approach to diversity is for it to be a fundamental part of life. Instead of focusing on racial and ethnic differences between people, focus on the traits that all people share. Treat racial diversity as another facet of what makes us all unique, but still a part of one human family. The key is to understand that we may look or act differently yet have the same likes and dislikes, emotions and activities.

A Little Help for Your Friends

It is important for preschoolers to learn that the same things which make them unhappy make other people unhappy as well. No one likes to be bullied or made fun of. But everyone likes to be accepted and encouraged. Preschoolers won’t understand a word like “inclusiveness,” but they will understand the excitement of being part of the team.

Acceptance is for Everyone

Most children are accepting by nature, and the trait should be encouraged. Just as it is okay for another child to like a different ice cream flavor, it is okay for them to look, act, or communicate differently. No one gets to choose where they came from, what they look like, or any of their mental or physical behaviors. It is unfair and even hurtful to treat someone differently because of them.

What You See is Only on the Surface

There are hundreds of ways that people are different, yet underneath all of our differences, we are basically the same. We laugh when we are happy, and cry when we feel pain. We all enjoy comforting things and playing with our friends. Teaching preschoolers that we should treat everyone the way we wish to be treated helps them personify each other and learn how words or actions could be inappropriate.

Take your preschooler to shows and cultural events. Let them see how diversity contributes to a richer, more enjoyable environment. Picture books which feature diversity in characters show how we can all work together without preaching it as part of the story. And that is the key: To make diversity a natural part of everyday life.

Montessori education embraces and celebrate diversity.  Students are guided by each other and are able to learn and explore at their own pace.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact Mission Valley Montessori today.

Parent-Teacher Conference: What to Expect

As the school year plunges deeper into fall, you may be anticipating the first parent-teacher conference of year. If this is your first parent-teacher conference in your child’s educational career, or one of several already attended, it doesn’t hurt to reflect on what you can expect from this meeting, and what you would like to get out of it. As a parent of a Montessori student, you also have the opportunity be curious and learn about the educational principles that structure the classroom and check in to see how your child is progressing in the context of them.

What your child’s teacher will share

Parent-teacher conferences tend to be short – only 20 to 30 minutes – so there is typically a lot to cover in a small amount of time. No matter what school or grade, the purpose of the meeting is to go over the teacher’s observations, and sometimes your child’s work, in order to discuss your child’s progress, strengths, and areas where they can improve. Some Montessori teachers will prepare a status report of sorts to guide this conversation, covering language, math, practical life, social emotional development, and motor development – all the topics they are learning in the classroom. The teacher will provide their insight regarding your child’s progress in these areas, and if they have any concerns, will work with you to determine what the best next steps will be for all involved. Montessori teachers can also offer many suggestions for ways to extend the lessons from the classrooms into the home, and which subject areas would benefit from that extension.

Helpful questions you can ask

You are the important other half of parent-teacher conferences, and you can also contribute to the agenda of the meeting. As with any meaningful exchange, it is helpful to listen as much as you contribute, so here a few examples of questions that can keep the conversation going. Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity to ask about the learning tools your child is using in the classroom, and even get a chance to use them yourself. You can ask how your child is getting along with their peers, and ways you and your family can encourage progress in that area as well. And a key question you can ask is how you and your child’s teacher can best continue to communicate and collaborate until the next parent-teacher conference rolls around.

As is common in Montessori education, the teachers and staff of Day Star Montessori invite families in to discuss the progress of their child and how all involved can continue to encourage the child’s growth.  To learn more about Day Star Montessori’s approach to teaching each child at their own pace, contact us today.

Pets and Kids: Is your Child Responsible Enough to Care for their Own Pet?

A furry, feathered, or scaly friend is something that many people have enjoyed in their childhoods and is often considered a rite of passage in a family, demonstrating a child’s increasing maturity. But you may be wondering what age is the right age for a pet, or how will you know when your child is able to take on the responsibility of caring for it? There are a few ways to look at that question, including considering what positive outcomes you are most hoping your child will get out of pet ownership.

Benefits of having a pet

Many of the benefits of having a pet resonate with the tenets of the Montessori method your child is immersed in at school, such as cultivating independence, providing opportunities for observation and experiential learning, and strengthening a child’s social emotional development through their bond with their pet. Further, pets can provide a connection with nature, affection and comfort contact, physical activity, lessons about life, and can teach respect for other living things, among many other positive outcomes. Depending on which benefits you want to prioritize for your child’s experience with a pet, you can determine what their role in caring for the pet may look like to best encourage those outcomes.

Age appropriate options

It is recommended by the ASPCA that young children start with pet gerbils, guinea pigs, or goldfish, and overall, that child/pet interaction is supervised, like what they may experience in their Montessori classroom setting. As children get older, they may be able to care for a larger animal, like a dog or cat, though it is also recommended that families choose an adult pet that has known favorable interactions with children. It is also important to consider the physical dimensions of the animal – though your 10 year old is responsible enough to walk the dog, they still may not be a match for an 80 pound retriever who decides to chase after a squirrel.

Ways to demonstrate responsibility

No matter what animal you choose for your child and family, there are many different ways your child takes responsibility for pets. They can help you clean the food bowl or cage, monitor or refill water when it is low, make sure the pet gets enough exercise, or help train their pet. It can also be helpful to let your child choose what tasks they would like to be responsible for, so they have a greater sense of ownership of the well-being of your animal family member.

The teachers and staff at Mission Valley Montessori can work with you to determine if your child is ready for their own pet.  If the class has its own pet, it can also be a way for children to practice responsibility with others before bringing a pet into your own home.  Contact Mission Valley Montessori today to learn more about the Montessori difference.