Just another site

What Moms Can Do ~ 2016 poems May 9, 2016

Putting together community poems is one of my favorite activities of all.  All you need to do is give the children a good prompt and a moment or two to think. You can remind the children to use flexible thinking.  “If someone says just what you were going to say, you can think of something else to add to the poem.  Moms can do more than one thing.”

Older children could be given each of the different contributions on notecards, and they could play around with the order of the lines, maybe focusing on rhythm and flow, or contrast or what sounds good to their ear.  It would be interesting to hear the different versions the children put together.  Another tip is to suggest that the children try to be as specific and concrete as possible, and you can give a prompt.  If the child says that Mom is a good cook, you might ask, “What does she cook best?”

Here are this year’s poems from three of our classrooms.  I love how similar yet different they are.  I’ve combined these with some special photos of the very early moments of some of our teachers as Moms.  Just look at the love!  There is also a photo of one of our teachers with her daughter from a previous Moms’ Day tea.  Taking photos, like writing poems, is part of our tradition and celebration.  Enjoy!

What Moms can do . . . by Willow class

Put on their shoes without any help

Put on their ear-rings all by themselves


Ride a lawnmower

Ride a mountain-bike

Help me learn to ride my bike

Help me wash my bike and our car

Fill up cars and change the oil


Drive me to school

Take me horse-riding

to Disneyland

to Alaska

to Hawaii

Drive me to the Space Needle in Seattle

Work at home

Work in lunchbunch

Go to work

Work hard

Give me a haircut

Play toys with me

Paint monsters

Get me in and out of trouble

Take care of me

Love me with all her heart!


What Moms Can do . . . By Aspen Room

Cook dinner

Bake chicken

Make lunch

Get pizza for her kids

Moms are good at cooking food


Work and do jobs

Sew things back together

Take care of me

Take care of me when I am sick

Pick me up and hug me when I am cold

Help me go to bed and fall asleep

Moms are there when you need them

Moms give us strength and love

Moms are good at taking care of kids


Moms can play

Read a story

Help me paint a picture

Take me on a walk

Tie shoes

Mountain bike

Help me learn

Moms are good at teaching kids


What Moms can do . . . by Maple Room kids

cook breakfast

make lunch for me

cook dinner

make the best soup ever

play with me

snuggle me

sleep with me

give me a big warm hug

watch me play my violin

play duets with me on the piano

sing with me

take me to Art class

grow a garden

read a book

read Harry Potter aloud to us

help me do my school work

Mom can be a teacher

Mom can love me

And protect me

Moms are awesome!


Right from the start – helping develop your child’s early literacy skills January 30, 2015

WEBPRINTDSC_0059 copy reading 5 reading 2Reading1  reading 4

This month at our school in communications with parents we are focusing on literacy development. I would like to share some memories, ideas and thoughts on literacy development for the prereader.
One of my earliest memories of literacy development with my first born, Anna, is from April 30, 1981. April 30 is my birthday. On this day in 1981 my mother, Florence, was staying with us. I woke late, in a panic because Anna had not woken us, as she usually did. Her baby bed was empty – more panic. I found Anna, then aged three months, in bed with my mam. They were looking at my birthday cards together, and had been doing so for a long time. My mam would show Anna a card, and she would focus on the picture. Then my mam would read the words and greetings. Anna was so happy tucked into bed with her Nana, sharing special time. The birthday cards were like one of her first books. This reminds me that it is never too early to begin sharing stories with your child. Even before your babies are born, you can sing songs and tell them nursery rhymes. They hear you! In a few days Anna will be thirty – four and she still loves stories, and books!
All of my children had favorite books that we read over and over again. Later I would hear them ‘reading’ these books to themselves. They had memorized the words, but they were also developing an understanding of how books and stories worked. They were developing their sight vocabulary. They were learning to use the pictures as clues and prompts to tell the story.
We took books everywhere we went, and would visit the library at least once a week, and struggle home with as many books as we could. (No car, and hardback books are heavy!)
So we read, memorized, looked at pictures, and played games to learn about sounds. We played ‘I spy’ with a small selection of objects that began with different sounds – e.g. hat, sock, mitten, boot, cup. First we named the objects, and then played ‘I spy something that begins with ‘s’ . . . sock!
Around the dinner table, we played “I spy someone whose name begins with J . . . Johnjoe!”
At bath time, we played “I’m going to wash a part of your body that starts with ‘t’ . . . tummy!” Sometimes I would trace a letter on their backs and ask them to imagine what it was. “That was ‘S’.”
We noticed environmental print – name cards and names on cubbies at school, stop signs, names of their favorite stores and restaurants, fire exit.
When I was reading to my children, I looked for opportunities to ask:
“What do you think will happen next?” (making predictions)
What do you already know about . . . (front loading the brain, making connections with their already existing knowledge. E.g. A book about snakes – snakes slither, some rattle, they can bite . . .)
We looked through the whole book and talked about all of the pictures before we began the story. (Taking a picture walk – a great support for beginning readers before they read a book.)
I acknowledged my children’s contributions to the storytelling experience. “That’s a good question.” “I wonder about that, too.” “Oh, I never noticed that in the picture.”
My husband and I let our children see us reading every day – newspapers, books, magazines.
We made simple shopping lists for our children, with words/pictures, so that they could help us shop. Their lists might have words/pictures for cheerios, milk, juice, yogurt and bananas. (I’m no artist, so I looked for items that were easy to draw!) Activities like this really teach the usefulness of reading, and it made shopping with kids more fun.
We slipped notes, with simple pictures, into their lunchboxes.
I looked for rhyming books that helped my children join in the telling of the story. I looked for books with predictable text, where my kids had a good chance of guessing what words might be. I looked for books without words, where the pictures told the story.
And I read, and I read and I read . . . knowing that at some point in the not too distant future my children would be reading independently, and I would miss the reading together times.
But let me tell you, when they are teenagers, a new joy emerges, the joy of a child saying, “Mom, have you read . . . . This is an awesome book!”


The Absorbent Mind December 3, 2014



If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

These are some of the qualities I hope surround our children at school ~ kindness, consideration, security and friendliness!

Babies are amazing!  They are born without culture or language, but with a built in sensitivity to faces, language and a mind that is able to absorb through sensory impressions.  Montessori called this ‘the absorbent mind.’   The absorbent mind allows the baby to adapt and fit in to whatever environment surrounds the baby.

Babies are born with the capacity to make all sounds of all languages, but through repetition and feedback, the sounds of the baby’s mother tongue are strengthened, and sounds that the baby does not hear, are repeated less and soon fall out of the infant’s regular babbling.  If the baby hears ‘ba, ba, ba’, or ‘ma, ma, ma’ or ‘da, da, da’, those are the sounds the baby repeats.  When these sounds get a response, then the baby repeats them again.  This is how the baby builds his or her ability to make the sounds of his or her mother tongue, and then is able to form words and simple sentences.

Similarly, through absorbing what goes on around him or her, the baby picks up appropriate body language and facial expressions for his or her culture.  Food preferences, musical tastes, favorite activities, use of eating utensils, such as forks or chopsticks, are all picked up from the baby’s environment.

The absorbent mind is such a wonderful tool for survival and adaptation, and allows babies to learn so much and at such a rapid pace.  Just think what a child learns in the first five years of life.  Yet, it also comes at a price.  Because babies learn, rather than rely on instinct, they are far more dependent on their parents for a longer period of time.  Their environments play such a big role in their development, too.  Babies and children learn what they live!

This poem says it so well!

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte






Learning from our mistakes! November 10, 2014

20140213_181529 538050_10151577514871774_256301780_n 560812_10151807003321774_1529832368_n 558994_10151577516591774_807178508_n

Montessori learning materials are sometimes referred to as ‘didactic materials.’ This is just a fancy way of saying ‘self-teaching.’ There is a ‘control of error’ built into the materials so that the children know when they have made a mistake and will persevere until they correct their mistakes, and in this way teach themselves. This is how we learn from our own mistakes, by working to correct them.

So what is the job of the teacher, if he or she is not pointing out and correcting mistakes, as is more common in a public school setting? First of all, the teacher is observing the child, and noticing the errors the child is making, and watching to see that the child is gaining mastery over the errors. She might think of another work that will help the child. The teacher is often called a ‘guide’ in a Montessori school, so she is guiding the child to work on activities that offer the right amount of challenge, so that with perseverance the child can be successful. It’s not important to always get it right the first time. The child will be able to work with the materials and repeat the activity over and over again, until the skill is mastered.

So why don’t we just point out the mistake? Would that not be quicker and easier, than watching the child repeat the same activity again and again? Yes, but that’s not the most effective way for the children to see themselves as agents of their own learning, of being capable of independent thought and action, rather than dependent on someone else for their learning.

And what happens as the child moves into the kindergarten and elementary years? The teacher works with her students to help them correct their mistakes using tools such as control charts. As examples, a child reversing letters will be asked to check their writing against a correct model of the alphabet, and correct any mistakes he or she finds. The same goes for numbers. When a child is working on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, there are again charts to help them check their work. A child will be taught to use the reverse operation to check their work. As an example, when a child works out with the division board and beads that 30 divided by 6 is equal to 5, he or she can check their answer by multiplying 5 by 6, and seeing if that answer is, indeed, 30.

After teaching elementary and first grade for many years, I feel this is even more important in developing literacy skills. Rather than pointing out every mistake a child made when reading, I taught them to ask, “Did that word make sense? Does it match the picture? Does it match the letters I see on the page? If not, can I read the sentence again and try another word that might make sense?” This is also true of early writing, if I expected correct spelling, I would have children not taking risks and writing stuff like:

‘I like cats. I like dogs. I like my Mom. I like my Dad.’

I would never get: ‘An albatross is a bird that is extinct. That means there are no more albatrosses left alive in the whole world.’

An albtrs iz a brd that iz extnkt. Tat menz thr r no mr albtrsz lft aliv in the hol wrld.

That was so much more interesting to read and write. And as a teacher, I noticed that work on vowels and vowel blends might help, such as work on the ‘ir’ blend, as in bird. I could also introduce some sight words to practice and memorize, such as ‘is’ and ‘there’ and ‘are.’

Throughout the year, the children’s reading and writing would get closer and closer to the correct form. At the end of the year, the children would look back on their earlier work, and easily spot their mistakes. They would laugh and say, “Look at how I used to spell the word ‘is’?” “Can you remember when I always wrote the number 6 backwards?”

There was no shame. The children owned the mistakes they had worked so hard to correct. They had done the hard work, rather than expecting me to always be there, pointing out their errors. That’s too easy for a Montessori child. It is so much more meaningful and productive when children correct their own errors. And then, they have the satisfaction of saying, “I did it!”

My daughter, Anna, a former Montessori student and now a professor of English uses a similar approach for her college students. She meets with every individual student in her composition class for a revision workshop, and asks each student to let her know what he or she wants to focus on ~ structure and organization, thesis statement, conclusion, sentence structure, transitions . . . They can’t do it all in one composition, but by focusing on what the student wants to work on, rather than Anna pointing all of the errors she notices (e.g. she does all of the work) the students are more invested in the process, and more likely to learn from their mistakes. When they receive their grade on the essays, she allows them to work some more on the essays, if they so desire, and make some more corrections and so improve their essays again, and gain a higher grade. She encourages her students to own their own mistakes and work to make improvements, but she does not do the work for them.

During my own education, my own writing was handed back to me covered in red pen. What did I learn? My teacher was smarter than me? I made a lot of mistakes? There was no incentive for me to go back and correct any errors, and so no opportunity for me to learn from my mistakes.

It’s so important to remember that mistakes are part of learning and an invitation to learn, but the process does take time and patience.



When will my child read? April 15, 2014

When will my child begin reading Books by Bob?

DSCN4753 DSCN4760 DSCN4768 DSCN4797Recently our teachers focused on ‘sensitive periods’ for our newsletter. This is what Ms. Jamey wrote about sensitive periods:

A sensitive period is a period of sensitivity to a specific stimulus in which a child will be able to form an ability or characteristic, such as language or writing. This can also be seen as a window of opportunity where growth is guided by periodic instincts (Donohue Shortridge). The period of sensitivity is short and intense and with the child usually focusing on one specific area of development. Sensitive periods can end abruptly and once it has passed it is over forever. This does not mean that it is impossible for a child to learn the ability once they have passed the sensitive period; it is simply easier and comes more naturally for them to learn the specific ability during that period (O’Neill).

Reading also has a distinct sensitive period, when a child is really driven to learn the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, how to blend the sounds together to form words and how to crack the code of reading. If the child is not ready, reading is a chore and a struggle. If you miss the opportunity and wait too long, cracking the code of reading is not as exciting or enough of a challenge. However, if you catch your children at the right moment, when the sight of the sandpaper letters, the moveable alphabet, and a new book excite them, when they can’t stop spotting letters, words and signs all around them, then reading is a joy. Please be patient, and wait for that sweet spot of opportunity! At that moment, in our school, your child will begin bringing home Bob Books. You won’t regret the wait!