Pandora’s Socks

Who doesn’t love to try on a different persona? To be someone completely different, with a completely different personality, qualities, attitudes, capabilities and problems; to be funny, angry ridiculous, serious, sad or distraught. Every year, Upper Elementary students become someone else in a different time period, in a different setting, and with a unique set of circumstances through their involvement in a school play.

Preparation is a full team effort

Mrs. Beck chooses plays early in the school year according to what the students will be studying in Culture. After a final decision is made, Mrs. Cooper and I meet in October to brainstorm about a setting and props that need to be made, and in November, we do a read-through of the play. I then begin to prepare students for auditions. From that point to the final show, the Upper El classroom buzzes with excitement, anticipation and maybe a little bit of anxiety. Their heads spin with ideas about their character’s actions and words, phrases or the lines they want to add to make their scene more humorous. (We often go with their ideas, because they really are funny!)

Here is the story of Pandora’s Socks and Other Fractured Greek Myths. 

Exercises determine acting roles

In the past, students would prepare for a role by trying to memorize some lines or by simply reading from the play with inflection. This is often an unreliable way to predict a student’s performance as a character. So this year, I prepared made-up scenarios for students to role-play. Various scenarios were printed out, cut apart and placed in a basket for students to pick from, such as: You just got home and discovered that your little sister completely messed up your room while you were at school, and now you’re in trouble and YOU have to clean up your room before you can go out to play. OR, Your best friend let loose the news that you have a crush on someone.

There was only one stipulation in the exercise: the role-plays had to be convincing. Not surprisingly, we saw a range of reactions from each scenario. The exercise was voluntary, but eventually, even as shy students watched their classmates, they too wanted to give it a try. It was a lot of fun and a great way to practice “acting”!

Next, students signed up for their top three character choices in the play. They practiced monologues of each of these characters and were able to demonstrate their acting abilities. Once auditions were finished and roles were assigned, students received their scripts to take home over winter break. When everyone returned in January, teamwork was in action.

Rehearsals involved working on one scene at a time, often in small groups, to develop and hone the students’ characters. Students enjoyed getting to see their friends rehearse their scenes and provided positive feedback or ideas to help develop the scene. In music class, Mr. Sherick guided students with music for the play.

From research to set-making

In art class, Mrs. Cooper organized and rotated students in groups to work on props and the set backdrop. Since the play backdrop featured constellations, students researched Greek mythological characters and their constellations, and traced and painted them on the backdrop. More tech savvy students worked on designing the program and creating it on the computer.

From October through to the final dress rehearsal, Mrs. Struck and I designed, created costumes, and also recycled current costuming. There is always a need to have something newer and fresher, and we have learned to become very creative with improvising.

By late February, the stage, the sound system, mics and lights were all in place. Then began the process of “blocking” where we worked out entrances and exits, placement of props, who will be responsible for the props, and figuring out where the play needed better flow. We brainstormed ideas and even new dialogue where necessary. Students with natural “stage manager” abilities initiated guidelines to help smooth out behind-the-scenes disorganization. After each complete run-through of the play, we gathered as a group to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. We took time to make sure everyone was acknowledged for what they did well.

It’s showtime!

And then . . . the magic happens, and the characters come to life before an enthused audience. The energy is high, but the students are confident in their abilities because of all the hard work put into rehearsing.

Bravo! Encore!

The whole process of preparing for the play develops a multitude of skills and enrichment for the students. Their creativity flows, their input is valued, their responsibility for their part of the play becomes heightened, and they become more mindful of how they communicate with others. They work as a team in a non athletic way, problem-solve, and design a performance around a script. They develop a character, and figure out effective character interaction with other characters in the play. The students get to know each other in completely different ways, and develop new, better or strengthened friendships through the process. But most of all, they get to have fun.

Dee Hosaisy, Director, Pandora’s Socks and Other Fractured Greek Myths

Pandora's Socks play prep
Pandora's Socks play prep
Prepping for UE play
Pandora's Socks Upper El

Spanish at TMS

Spanish is taught at TMS in the Elementary classes. Depending on the occasion, classes are centered around holidays that lend themselves to learning the Spanish language, vocabulary and conversation. This video features a couple of days that were spent on the Mexican celebration of the “Day of the Dead.”

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

Peace Education

“Dr. Maria Montessori is universally known for her contribution to the cause of peace and the brotherhood of nations to which she has dedicated the best years of her long and active life, laying the foundations of a true science of peace by means of her innovative form of education.”

Maria Montessori saw with great clarity the huge potential of freedom not in the manifestation of the adult, but rather in that of a child. This is why her classrooms are so different.

Upper Elementary classroom
Upper Elementary

The Montessori classroom is a prepared environment with mixed ages as in real life. It is where the students are allowed the freedom to make good choices as in real life. It is where the students are able to select an activity and work at it for as long as they like. It is a place where knowledge is not just passed down, but most importantly, it is a microcosm in which the student is guided to what is good and what is just.

It is a place where the children can play out their roles and interact with their peers and move about freely. Where they can experiment with what happens when they conduct themselves selfishly or generously, explore what happens when they show impatience or tolerance, and live with the outcome when they demonstrate meanness of spirit or empathy.

Upper Elementary Peace class

It is an environment where the “invisible curriculum” of Grace and Courtesy plays a significant role in the modeling of PEACE. For example:

  • How to ask for help from a teacher or a friend.
  • What if someone says “You’re not my friend.”?
  • How to watch someone do work.
  • How to do clean up.
  • How to agree or disagree.
Upper Elementary class meeting

These rehearsed social scenarios are great tools for the construction of a peaceful life. The Montessori classroom is an ideal place for children to gain confidence and to satisfy the child’s need to function independently.

Upper Elementary discussion

Montessori said, “Establishing lasting peace is the real work of education…”

Upper Elementary outdoors

To rephrase this: Establishing lasting peace is the real work of the child.

Upper elementary math work