The new elementary math program at Dancing Moose Montessori School

math symbolsNew research from psychologists at the University of Missouri (UM) confirms the importance of knowing basic mathematics by first grade in order to be successful in math in fifth grade.

The three basic competencies vital to success are:

  1. Numbers
  2. Counting
  3. Low-Level Arithmetic

Dancing Moose has had a strong emphasis on basic mathematics skills incorporating the hands-on Montessori materials to the abstract numbers.

We are happy to introduce a new Math Expressions Program that will add to our Montessori Math and be initiated this year in Kindergarten, first, and second grades.

After students understand basic math facts and counting, the new program will:

  • Teach them to express math operations verbally
  • Teach them to express math operations in writing
  • Provide a solid foundation in general education studies

According to David Geary, UM’s Curator’s Professor of Psychological Sciences,

“Math is critical for success in many fields, and the United States is not doing a great job of teaching math.” Further he states, “In order to improve basic instruction, we have to know what to instruct.”

Dancing Moose is excited to meet the challenge of helping students not only recognize numbers and counting, but to work toward foundations of mathematical expressions.

Current Study Highlights Benefits of Full-day Kindergarten on Improved Reading

A report was published today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (post-gazette.com) that compares reading scores of children who were in full-day kindergarten with those in part-time kindergarten statewide in Pennsylvania.  Of the state’s 500 school districts, 349 have full-day kindergarten.

Results of the study first showed comparisons with children in kindergarten in 2005 and third grade in 2008.  The percentage who were not proficient in reading in third grade dropped by 9.1 percent in schools with full-day kindergarten and 6 percent in schools with part-time kindergarten.

Another group of students in kindergarten in 2006 and third grade in 2009 indicated similar results.  The full-day kindergarten students not proficient in reading dropped by 9.4 percent; those in part-time kindergarten dropped by 6.5 percent.

These results provide compelling evidence that children who have an opportunity to attend full-day kindergarten benefit significantly in the area of reading.

As you can guess, math scores showed similar results.  It’s nice to see some hard evidence that points to the importance of full-day kindergarten.

Summer Sun, Summer Fun, and a Fully Integrated Science and Social Studies Curriculum

Summer is a magical time for learning while taking in the fun and excitement of traveling to new places and learning about culture, music, art, and traditions.  It is also a great time to experiment with chemical reactions in the great outdoors as we watch our garden grow and study the life science of plants, animals, and the senses.

Learning takes on new life as the summer curriculum shifts to the study of nature and new and exciting places.  It is a perfect time to work with earth and water, sun and skies, while music, movement, and dance are integrated into every-day activities.

As we board a ship to cross the ocean, we will make brief stops at a number of different countries to learn about their culture, including traditions, music, dance, art, and food. Of course, we’ll chart the course on a globe to indicate where the countries are located. And explorers will enjoy following clues to hidden treasure as they make their way across the sea.

One aspect of visiting a foreign country involves eating specialty food.  Dancing Moose chefs will prepare some appropriate fare, but children will also have an important role in the kitchen.  Children will help prepare food for each of the stops along the travel route. This will be a wonderful time to experience food preparation, measuring, cooking, and of course, eating the results of their labors.

Each of the summer art projects will correlate with life science activities, and some intriguing charts will indicate several aspects of children’s preferences. Traveling and studying nature will require some interesting math questions all along the way.

A collection of books that elaborate on life sciences will provide solid background information, which will include the study of vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

In addition to the study of animals, children will learn about science of plants as they observe their garden flourish by their daily care.  They will learn about the importance of planting seeds in rich soil with plenty of water and sunlight.  Predicting, observing, and recording will be children’s basic scientific processes as they become familiar with plant vocabulary.

This summer will surely be an exciting adventure!

Where’s the Big Teacher’s Desk

There is no big desk at Dancing Moose and for an important reason: teacher’s move with and focus on children, not the other way around. Sitting together, moving together, learning together, and sharing with one another is the foundation of a community. The Dancing Moose classroom is prepared with an environment that fosters common experiences and shared understandings. A teacher is a more knowledgeable guide, demonstrating and sharing information, but children lead themselves through curricular tasks. They have an opportunity to explore activities, express new understandings, and satisfy their curiosity without looking constantly to the teacher for approval. These are the qualities that support and sustain growth, success, and independence throughout their lives.

Caring about each other is an essential ingredient of a classroom community. When children respect each other they demonstrate care; when teachers value each child, they support children’s growth and desire to reach their potential. Children who know that they can trust their teachers to be kind and understanding are more likely to take risks in thinking critically and exploring creatively.

Hence, there is no big desk at Dancing Moose, but there are actively engaged children and teachers who are invested in the common goals of stretching their thinking and understanding. Children in our small classes know each other and know their teachers; they are part of a community, and the community of invested learners will continue to be part of them.

Montessori Education and the Dancing Moose Curriculum

Dancing Moose has been delighted to conduct several tours in the last few weeks for individuals who are looking for a quality early childhood classroom for next fall. One of the first questions that tour guides answer has to do with what exactly Montessori means. Our guides quickly respond that it doesn’t mean exactly the same thing at every Montessori School, but it should certainly mean that a school with the Montessori name adheres to the basic principles and philosophy of child-centered education the Maria Montessori advocated a hundred years ago.

Dancing Moose does not seek out every detail of instruction exactly as it applied a hundred years ago. To do so would ignore the many brilliant educational scholars who have researched and practiced education during this century. Nevertheless, the insightful methods, materials, and prepared environment that Maria Montessori advocated are just as essential today as they were a century ago. It is critical that a Montessori classroom is a calm and peaceful place where children are honored by their teachers and peers. It is a place where they are heard and acknowledged; a place where they have some choices in how much time and concentration they will devote to a selected activity. The teacher is certainly the guide and facilitator; and at Dancing Moose, core academic standards are presented regularly to small groups of students as well as individual students. Yet children are never herded along by a teacher and expected to complete each activity at the same time and pace as every other child in the class. Appealing to children’s interests and abilities is the central focus of the Montessori teacher.

Dancing Moose is devoted to the whole child as the curriculum focuses on academics, movement, healthy food, and ample opportunities for social and emotional development. Not only is each classroom a prepared Montessori environment, but the entire school is committed to appealing to the myriad of needs and interests that each child brings to the classroom.   Cultural and society are ever changing, which indicates a need for a dynamic curriculum that remains current with best practices. Maria Montessori exemplified this process of research and the scientific method wherein hypotheses are proven or negated. She identified powerful principles of effective teaching and learning, and these are the same core concepts of Montessori curriculum, which must also incorporate current best practices and research. Dancing Moose is delighted to bear the Montessori name and adhere to the admirable principles developed by Maria Montessori in the 1900s; it is also proud to incorporate research and practices of contemporary scholars.

Multi-age Classrooms Provide Multiple Benefits

When the goal of education is efficiency, it is important to teach to one standard and keep every child on track. Assembly lines are a perfect example of efficiency for business—they may bore the workers, and the products may be of questionable quality, but the process is efficient. Multi-age classrooms are the antithesis of this business model of efficiency.

 

In a multi-age classroom, teachers must know every individual, understand each individual’s developmental level through a variety of continual assessment processes, and have tools available to challenge each individual at an appropriate level. To manage this environment successfully, ratios need to be small enough to individualize instruction. When all the requisite pieces are in place, multi-age classrooms run beautifully, and children learn to learn from each other. Older children assist younger children and model behaviors that younger children can aspire to. Younger children enjoy positive attention from older peers, and learning is engaging for everyone. As this process moves forward in a thoughtfully prepared environment, teachers are able provide ample assistance as needed. They can challenge advanced learners and provide accommodations for those who may be struggling. As a result, the classroom is a safe and comfortable environment that supports a community of learners.

 

The goal for a multi-age classroom is not to produce an efficient product; rather, it is an effective, engaging, intriguing, and growth-promoting process. Children’s progress is not monitored by a single assessment; it is gauged by an array of assessments designed and adjusted to meet individuals’ developmental needs. In other words, children experience a sense of achievement no matter how quickly they grasp a concept. They are nudged, not pushed or restricted, as teachers present state core standards through a variety of activities and learning tools.

 

With the arrival of 2010, I’m ready to jump into cyberspace with some of my thoughts about early childhood education and our mission at Dancing Moose Montessori School. I’ve discovered that many families have been attracted Dancing Moose because they have heard good things from one of our enrolled families, they have noted our award for Best of State, or they simply found us under private school listings on the Internet. We are delighted to have interested families come to Dancing Moose for any reason, but we are most proud of our Montessori academic program that individualizes educational development for each child while maintaining adherence to state and national core standards for early childhood education.

I would like to utilize this opportunity to blog about some Montessori goals and achievements and report about academic projects that are helping our children excel in all areas of development: social, emotional, academic, and physical.childsafety_foot_2

In order to achieve our goals, it is essential to provide a safe and welcoming environment. To facilitate this environment, we have installed a state-of-the-art security system from Stone Security. This system includes two monitors at the front of the school, which allow parents to see their children in action in any part of the school and/ or playground. Parents often watch their child adjusting to the class from the camera at drop-off or just prior to pick-up. Sometimes parents stop by at lunchtime to view their child interacting in the classroom. Our secured facility requires a finger print recognition and code for entry. We also sponsor DigiKids safety system that maintains children’s personal information electronically for parents and school personnel in case of a possible emergency.

We also have incredible menu items that Chef Rene prepares each day in our well-equipped kitchen. Healthy meals coupled with daily gym time that includes Karate, free movement, and Yoga are all features of our commitment to healthy physical development.

Academics are complex and continually evolving, and I will devote most of my attention on this blog to the amazing talents of dedicated teachers who are committed to helping children develop intellectually. I hope that any of you who visit this blog site will learn more about why the commitment to educating the whole child is essential to quality early childhood education.