Positive Discipline

Blog: Positive Discipline Workshop

Positive disciplineThanks to generous support from the TMS Annual Fund, I was able to attend a two-day workshop last month in New York City on Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom. It was held at the Westside Montessori School and led by renowned facilitator, Chip DeLorenzo, along with other Montessorians around the country. We had the opportunity to participate in many discussion-based sessions from which I gained valuable knowledge and insight about effective teaching tools. These tools build responsibility, independence, motivation and empathy within classroom communities. I would like to share some of these with our TMS community (notes from the workshop have been used).

Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs (20th century psychiatrists and educators) who believed that children could become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their community. Positive Discipline teaches adults to use both kindness and firmness that is neither punitive nor permissive.

Children who feel secure and trustworthy can learn to cooperate rather than be manipulative, especially when they know they can trust adults who mean what they say and who follow-through with respect.

Adults often use consequences to control or punish, which can be one reason why children see consequences as punishment. Follow-through is an effective and alternative way to avoid this dilemma. With younger children, non-verbal follow-through is more effective. This tool works best with repeated behaviors.

Steps for Follow-Through

  1. Find a time when you and the child can give the matter your full attention.
  2. Have a friendly discussion and share information about what is going on for both the parent/teacher and the child regarding the problem.
  3. Make a decision (with the child, if appropriate) about what you will do in the future.
  4. When the issue arises again, the parent/teacher simply follows through with a brief statement of fact, such as, “We had an agreement,” or “It’s time to go inside.”

Suggestions for Effective Follow-Through

  1. Agreed-upon solutions or consequences should be logical, respectful and helpful long-term.
  2. When appropriate, be specific about deadlines and consequences.
  3. Keep comments very concise. (“I notice you didn’t_______. Would you please do that now.”)
  4. In response to objections ask, “What was our agreement?”
  5. In response to further objections, be quiet and use nonverbal communication to follow through: point to the item that needs to be picked up; smile knowingly; take the child kindly by hand and lead them to/away from the issue.
  6. When the child concedes to the agreement, express honest appreciation. (“Thank you for keeping our agreement.”)

Traps that Defeat Follow-Through

  1. Wanting children or teens to have the same priorities as adults.
  2. Getting into judgements and criticism instead of sticking to the issue.
  3. Not getting agreements in advance (including specified time deadlines when applicable, for instance).
  4. Discussing the issue right after it happens. (The positive solution: Find a time to relax, and then discuss it with your child in order to come to an agreement.)

Follow-through simply means acting upon what you said, without using lecture, constant reminders (nagging) or punishment. By using this tool, in a kind and firm manner, parents/teachers find it possible to meet the needs of the situation while maintaining dignity and respect for all concerned, and for the situation.

Acting, rather than talking, helps students understand that for every opportunity or freedom they have, there is a responsibility attached. For example, a child has the opportunity to play with a toy or work with a material respectfully. If the child’s behavior is disrespectful then he/she would lose the privilege to use the toy or the material. This agreement is only effective if the consequence is enforced with kind and firm follow-through. The child will have another opportunity to use the toy or the material again upon demonstrating the responsible behavior needed to use it with respect.

For reading materials on Positive Discipline, please contact Mrs Sutapa Bakshi, TMS Children’s House Guide.

Music and Montessori

Montessori musical bells

The natural urge to sing, dance, to make and listen to music wells up from the depths of each person, from birth to death. It can be stamped out at an early age or it can be fostered to enrich all of life. In this article you will find ways that music is important to us at every stage of life.  What is music? What words can accurately describe it? We might as easily try to capture all the most poignant sights, sounds, and smells of childhood holiday celebrations into a single black and white collection of letters on a piece of paper! We may not know how to fully describe music but we do know that we don’t want our children to miss out on it.

Read more about this phenomenon of music by artist, author and educator, Susan Mayclin Stephenson:

The Music Environment, from the Beginning to the End

Land and Water

A Montessori education is a spiraling curriculum – one where students see the same topics throughout their school career, with each encounter increasing in complexity and reinforcing previous learning. An example is found in the land and water forms that students study from Children’s House through Elementary.

Land and water forms
Students working with land and water cards

The youngest students study eight land and water forms that are opposites; lake (water surrounded by land) vs island (land surrounded by water), for instance. These are studied by filling plastic models with water and learning the language to define them. This meets the needs of three to five year old children for gross motor activity, control of movement (taking care to carry and pour water carefully) and their receptivity for language and acquisition.

Creating land shapes
Forming shapes

In Elementary, these eight forms are compared side by side to their two dimensional counterparts (painted cards) and students are now introduced to thirty additional land water forms.

Representation of exploding volcano
At the art table

They are told compelling stories about these features as they occur across the globe. The children model them, write definitions to accompany their sculptures, and research where they occur in the world. Third year students create land and water form systems sculpturally after sketching them on paper.

Working with shapes
Working on land and water forms

Eventually the cards are combined to represent a coastline and students design an imaginary island which involves locating their island on the globe with the appropriate latitude and longitude for their features. They create the topography of their island, and decide on the population (human, animal and plant), what the economy of the island will revolve around, and what kind of government there will be.

Putting the land and water shapes on a firm board

We make a “glacier”, dragging it through sand “mountains” to create a “valley”, and notice the deposition left when the “glacier” melts. A stream table shows how a “river”, making its way down a “mountain”, carves out a bed and ultimately deposits debris, creating a “delta”. Experimentation allows students to see how the velocity and volume of the “river” impacts erosion, transportation and deposition.

Representation of a glacier
Erosion by water

Math Materials We Use

The use of the didactic math materials developed by Maria Montessori is one of the most recognizable hallmarks of a Montessori education.

This system in which a child is constantly moving objects with his hands and actively exercising his senses, also takes into account a child’s special aptitude for mathematics. When they leave the material, the children very easily reach the point where they wish to write out the operation. They thus carry out an abstract mental operation and acquire a kind of natural and spontaneous inclination for mental calculations. (Montessori, 1967, p. 279)

These materials are distinct in that they guide students to explore mathematical principles independently in a concrete and experiential way. This allows students to utilize all of their senses to internalize math concepts, and ultimately allow them to achieve abstraction. The materials are developmentally appropriate, carefully designed to meet the needs characteristic of the plane of development of the child intended to use them. The materials appear time and again, within the spiraling math curriculum. Upon each appearance, students revisit what they already know, and are provided a reference point for where the new information now ascertained from the material is to be organized.

Golden beads used for introductory lessons in the primary classroom, such as the introduction to place value, are later used by the upper elementary student to understand more complex lessons, such as the first square root lesson. The golden beads are familiar, isolating the difficulty to understanding the new, more advanced concept of what square root means.

The same holds true for the binomial cube; through use of this familiar material, difficulty is isolated when it is used to later demonstrate more complex concepts. In this way, work done at the primary level scaffolds the work done at the upper elementary level. “Children can create mental structures from previously learned material into which new carefully designed material can be assimilated” (Lillard, 2005, p. 236). This is the elegance of the use of the didactic math materials within the Montessori spiralling curriculum and the genius of its design.

References:

Lillard, A.S. (2005). Montessori: The science behind the genius. New York: Oxford University Press.

Montessori, M. (1967). The discovery of the child. New York: Ballantine Books.

Math materials
Math materials
Math materials
Math materials
Math materials

Homework

Homework in Lower Elementary is an important part of your child’s academic work. We believe in a modest amount of time spent on homework as the children work hard in school all day and need family/down time in the evenings.

The homework we require helps students build on the skills they are acquiring in the classroom. For example, the rote memorization of math facts supports their (more interesting) conceptual classroom work.

Having this homework expectation also allows you to be familiar with your child’s progress in mastering math facts and becoming a better reader.

How can you help?

Provide your child with appropriately leveled reading materials. Children at this age go through books very quickly, so we highly recommend making use of your local public library.

Make sure to listen to your child read aloud a few times a week to help you gauge if the book is the appropriate level. We teach the children to use the five finger rule.

five finger rules

Discussing what you have heard and asking questions can help you check their comprehension.

Many times children at this age are interested in the stories of books which are too difficult for them to read themselves, so continue to read aloud to your child!

Math facts need to be memorized; this can seem tedious, but mastery of these facts makes the calculation of math problems much less frustrating and much quicker to accomplish.

Flash cards, workbooks, games…whatever your child finds the least painful way to practice these facts is the way to go! Start with addition facts, move to subtraction and then multiplication and division.

Lower Elementary

Once your children have spent time practicing you can encourage them to earn a math badge in school. A teacher will “test” them with flash cards and if all facts have been memorized they earn their badges. This extremely official document (!!) will be created on an index card and decorated with colored pencil.

Counting money and telling time are also useful skills that often require additional practice. A trip to the dollar store and a bag full of change can be a valuable learning experience.

We thank you in advance for all you do to support your children’s academic growth and development.