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Cornerstone Monthly Highlights - January 2020 - English
Posted On:
Thursday, January 23, 2020
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Dear Families,

By the middle of January, life at Cornerstone has achieved a steady rhythm.  Children and staff know what to expect from each day and are most comfortable when patterns unfold as predicted.  As the guides describe in this newsletter, routine and schedules are so important for children, especially in the early years.  They are important for adults as well, of course; we thrive knowing what is waiting for us and patterns helps us orient ourselves in the world around us.  

At this time of year there are annual events that provide these patterns:  Stone Soup, coming up on February 1, is a reminder that winter is more than half over, and the AMI Refresher Course a few weeks later allows us to reflect on our work with the children and bring new ideas back for the last half of the school year.  We hope that you will all join us for Stone Soup.  And, please note that we will be closed on February 14 and February 17, for staff in-service and travel to the Refresher Course in Seattle.

Wishing you all warmth this month,

Alyssa

  

Toddler Community

Children, just as adults do, go through various routines at different times of the day.  Routines give the children knowledge, raising expectations of what comes next, giving them more confidence and a sense of security.  This potentially lowers the possibility of tantrums and allows the children to transition more smoothly from one activity to the next.  Joyful independence can be observed daily!

Here’s a small look at some of the afternoon routines in the Toddler Community:

Toddler 1

Toddler 2

Toddler 3

Toddler 4

  

Children’s House 1 and 2

Our routine in Children’s House is the framework that holds the room together. The consistency of all adults simultaneously following the same routine is one thing which allows the community to operate without one adult dictating the schedule. I often speak about routine when helping someone understand how Montessori works and how, contrary to popular belief, children don’t just do whatever they want. There are freedoms to move, communicate, choose, and repeat within a framework of routine, expectations and, as we wrote about last month, ritual. 

Just as the children benefit from adults’ consistency, children also benefit from the consistency of their peers. When children see their friends all following the same routine, they have an easier time transitioning into and out of their day. What may seem like a small change to the schedule, such as staying up a few hours later, or arriving to school a couple of hours late, can yield strong reactions from children, as their sense of order is disrupted. This is one reason we emphasize consistent arrival and departure windows each day at school. 

Children in their first plane of development are particularly affected by change in routines. A change in their evening or morning routine could affect the entire following day. In the Children’s House we have seen how a consistent routine leads to independence. If you were to think about dismantling an entire room and setting it up to eat lunch, and then putting it back together an hour later, it would seem much too daunting a task for young children. However, when we move tables, chairs, and cots to the same place in the same way each day, the children internalize the order of the system. 

 

Lower Elementary – Garden

Dr. Montessori spoke at length about human tendencies and observed how, though manifested differently in each stage of life, the tendencies that make us uniquely human do not change. Two of those human tendencies are the natural inclination toward order and orientation. We humans seek out order and set out to understand, or be oriented to, our environments. Perhaps that is why we tend to thrive on routine and ritual. At any stage of life an established routine can bring peace and calm to our lives and we will often find ourselves creating routine with or without intention.

Elementary children, of course, are no exception to these human tendencies and the importance of routine in the classroom cannot be ignored. Many children will seek out routine naturally in the classroom and create a pattern of work that supports their need for order and orientation. 

In the Garden classroom we have several established routines to serve the community and the individual children. Each morning the children begin the day by logging into their personal work journal and decide what their first work choice will be that day. They are encouraged to choose work that will offer them a “strong start” and set them up for success. It is not surprise that many children choose to begin each day in a similar way. Another daily routine that we have established is to pause at the end of the morning work cycle and reflect on the day’s choices. Before lunch we gather together and consider the work that was completed that morning and make a plan for how to spend the afternoon work time. We have found that this daily ritual sets the children up for a more peaceful and productive afternoon. There are of course many daily and weekly rituals that become part of the classroom culture. The way we respond to a bell ring, how we share ideas in collective, the way we join together in song at the end of the day, etc. 

What are the routines that your family has established at home? Do you have daily rituals before bed? Does your family eat breakfast or dinner together? Perhaps you could create a new routine or ritual together. 

 

Lower Elementary – Pond

Welcome back from our holiday break. We have begun our second half of the school year and are diligently working to reestablish our routines in the classroom. It is through routine that we create consistency for the children in both our expectations and in our daily practice. Routine offers the children a sense of security and sets up each child with good habits that will carry into their daily lives both inside and outside of school. Studies have shown that establishing routine allows an individual to create their own expectations about what is to come and helps to alleviate anxiety about the unknown.  Routine is a tool that is also useful to help establish and maintain boundaries. It is an essential piece of the work that is done in the classroom.

Whenever there is an extended break there is a period of time that we spend focusing on reestablishing routine and expectations in the classroom. Each day the children are given a 3 hour uninterrupted work cycle that is part of their daily routine. This offers the child a consistent time in which to practice and explore, and reinforces the importance of extended focus in the Montessori environment. During these 3 hours the children are tasked with 10 – 14 math problems that reflect the lessons they are receiving, as well as 1 – 3 vocabulary words to look up and define. Once this practice is complete the children are encouraged to choose works of interest and explore the environment. To ensure each child is working diligently on their responsibilities, and respectfully within the framework provided, the teachers check in periodically to check each child’s work for correctness and appropriateness. If a child is not following through with focused work and responsible choice the adult will step in and choose for the child until the child begins choosing for themselves. This routine is one of many that we use in the Pond daily and is essential in developing positive, responsible choice. 

Routine carries through each of our daily lives and we try hard to support a routine that builds in each child a level of independence and responsibility. If we can successfully connect each child to routine that encourages these traits we will prepare each child for a future where they are in charge of their own direction. Ultimately, it is my hope that we can create a better world for us all to live in peace and harmony, and it is through our children that I believe that we can make the most profound impact. Thank you for your trust and support as we build each of our children into individuals with the tools necessary to make positive choice and instill in them the importance of hard work and dedication.

 

Upper Elementary – Marsh and Forest

At all ages, routine is an important foundation for learning and growth. A predictable routine and clear structure help children feel comfortable, safe, and ready to work and take risks. 

In Upper Elementary, children are responsible for many aspects of their own routines. As guides, we introduce routines and support them by being consistent and teaching skills to be successful with the routine. This is done with the intent and understanding that, when children are able to take them over for themselves, they can be independent. 

We have a morning routine. Children enter the classroom environment, greet their guide and check in, and log into their work journal.  The work journal is a prime example of a tool that supports the routine and structure of the Montessori classroom. This important tool is introduced and supported in Lower Elementary and that work continues in Upper Elementary. They become a natural part of the morning routine and a tool for time management and planning. As children get older, they log in with specific start and end times, they experiment with writing goal lists, or writing a particular task on the next three days so it isn’t forgotten. All these things support the routine and structure of the classroom and the work expectations.  

We also have transition routines. These might involve checking work journals, songs, group collectives, number talks, read-aloud books, games, or birthday interviews. Whatever the routine is, we work to make it consistent and successful so that children know what’s coming and can participate confidently and joyfully. Routines and structures are gifts for children that allow for them to learn freely, knowing they have a plan and are safe and well-supported.

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