The teen beads and boards are such awesome materials. Here’s how they work:

Up to now, the child has worked with the number rods, spindle boxes, and numbers and counters. All of these materials teach him the symbols and quantities from 0-10. Now he’s ready to learn the teens.

We start by introducing the short bead stair. Isn’t it lovely?

Once the child can build the short bead stair and recognize the different numbers, we start counting. We place a 10-bar down — children know this is 10 because they might have worked with the decimal materials before this work –then we add one and say, “This is 11.” then we count all the way to 11. Simple! We continue to teach the rest of the teens in this way, using three period lessons.

Earlier this week I introduced the red rods to one of my students for the very first time. I think my favorite thing about being a Montessori teacher is stepping back and watching a child work with a material by himself right after a presentation. To an adult, it is so easy to reproduce something that has been built right in front of us, seconds before. But it’s such a struggle for little ones! It’s real work. And they keep at it until they get it right.

Here is his first attempt right after the presentation.
Round two! See how quickly he’s caught on! He started building at the top of the mat and fewer rods are out of place.

Round Three! The next day he made sure to line up the edges of the rods on the left.

Round Four! He is so close! Only one rod is out of place.
Today after he finished a piece of work, he ran over to me and said, “I almost forgot! I have to build the red rods today!” And off he went.

We started back at school a little less than a week ago and it seems like we never took a break. On our first day back I had prepared myself for nothing less than chaos. Last year it felt like I had to start from scratch after Christmas break. But to my surprise, everyone waltzed into school and picked up right where they left off. Today was also the first day back for one of my students who, between the holidays and being sick, had missed over a month of school. He was completely comfortable and ready to get back to work. Dare I say that my class might be on the verge of normalization!?

Seeing the children flourish in this environment has been so encouraging. It’s true that the spiritual as well as physical qualities of the Montessori classroom speak directly to the souls of the children. Here is a place where there is order and consistency. They know that it will be the same day in and day out. Not only will the physical environment be consistent, but the expectations for behavior and rules will be as well. I also strive to maintain consistent behavior with the children all the time. Even if I’m having a bad day or I didn’t get enough sleep, I sort of have to turn myself off so that I can serve the children better. Montessori paraphrased the disciple John when she said: I must decrease so that he must increase.

My sister introduced us to another lovely winter-time poem. When I first introduced my students to this one they burst out laughing at the end. Sometimes their sense of humor goes right over my head. : )
January opens
The box of the year
And brings out days
That are bright and clear.
And brings out days
That are cold and gray,
And shouts, “Come see
What I brought today!”

I love when I am witness to a good Montessori moment! I never want to take them for granted. Earlier today one of my students was practicing writing letters with chalk. But she stopped working and was piling the pieces of chalk into one hand. I was about to go over and direct her attention back to her work, but I thought better of it and watched her instead.

She was counting the pieces of chalk one by one and seeing how many she could fit into her hand. This is just the way we count when we work with the spindle boxes. Soon, she stopped counting, put the chalk down, and resumed her writing.

Later on, when she had finished her work and was wandering, I suggested that she work with the spindle boxes. She was so enthusiastic! She repeated the exercise three times and focused intently on her work the whole time.

It is easy to miss these moments in our rush to make sure the children stay on task. The secret to our work is really to follow them! If we pay attention to what they are showing us (both directly and indirectly) we will be able to offer them the right materials at the right time. I think that is the genius behind Dr. Montessori’s method.

We learned this poem the week before we broke for Christmas break. I hope my students were able to delight grandparents and aunts and uncles with their recitations!

```Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.```

Oh, the Detective Adjective game. I can’t begin to explain how fun this game is. You have to play it yourself! The whole point of the game is to show the child the function of the adjective; namely that an adjective  (or adjectives) can help us find one specific thing from huge group of similar things.

We begin with 63 triangles (acute, obtuse, and right angles, isosceles, scalene, and equilateral, and all different colors and sizes) and we tell the child that we are going to find one specific triangle out of all of the different triangles on the mat. We are detectives!

So with much ado, the teacher writes the first clue. “The Triangle.” The child will bring a triangle, but it’s not the one you wanted, so you need to write another clue. And that’s only the beginning!

Then you keep adding clues, until the child finds the triangle you were thinking of all along.
By the end of the game, the child is thrilled to have solved the mystery! Today my presentation to one of my students attracted a lot of attention. The children were hanging onto every word. And every time I said, “That’s not the one I was thinking of!” they groaned and said “Write another CLUE!!!”

As always, bravo, Dr. Montessori!

Oh and please excuse the scratches all over that table. Apparently we have a graffiti artist in our midst.

We’ve been hit by Fall fever. Every morning my students unload their pockets and dump leaves and acorns into our tiny little nature basket. We’re going to have to get a bigger one. It’s been so cool to see the children get leaf crazy.

Yesterday, two of them made a chart showing different kinds of leaf shapes. And today we went out and found some still-green Ginko Biloba leaves. When we got back to school they compared the leaf to their chart — they decided that it was closest to a reniform.

Dr. Montessori wrote about how over time a directress would bond so closely with her students.  (I can’t remember exactly where, but I’ll find it and report back.) But this bond would be so tight and so deep, that a true friendship would form that could never be broken.

I truly love my students. To me they are way more than just children I teach, and I hope that to them I am way more than their teacher. There are some moments when I realize the depth of our friendship and it is so amazing to realize that these discerning, sensitive, amazing people have chosen to let me into their lives.

Anyway, here’s a moment that made me really happy this week. The other day we went to look for Pin Oak trees in the park. We found one and the discovery was so exciting that everyone decided to dog pile me. Leaf hunting is a perfect opportunity for a spontaneous display of affection.

photo via Thomas ♫ on flickr.

There seem to be so many amazing poems about Spring, but I’ve had a bit of a hard time finding good Fall poems. I went to the library last week and found Favorite Poems: Old and New, and it is full of awesome poems about all sorts of things.

Here’s one we’re learning this week. I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

AUTUMN
Emily Dickinson

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.