Poem in Your Pocket Day Inspires Joyful Learning


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IMG_7629Last year at around this time, National Poetry Month led to an impromptu celebration of Poem in Your Pocket Day. Students throughout the school were encouraged to share a poem, listen to poems and revel in the delight that is poetry. Many adults consider poems inaccessible and may have some less than favorable memories from their own school experiences related to poetry. However, when the purpose is to delight in a poem, the words carefully chosen and arranged in poetic fashion, smiles and joy prevail.

This year, for this particular day, one student woke at 2 a.m. to write poems in celebration of the day ahead. Now, that may not necessary be a desired outcome in your house, but sleeplessness aside, isn’t that unbridled enthusiasm something every school wants to inspire? As she delivered her poems and read them to the delighted recipients, it was clear that this day, a day that isn’t noted on our school calendar and doesn’t require anything from anyone other than to share a poem, meant a great deal to this child. And, as we embark on one of the busiest times of year in the school year cycle, I hope you find inspiration in the joy that is learning.


Connected Learning


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“Self-education is the only kind of education there is.” – Mark Twain

Photo - Zoe - Big Numbers.JPGToday, as I was going through the process I use to recall the amount I spend on gas each time I visit the pump, I took a moment to consider why it just about always works.

I don’t set out to memorize the cost but rather to find a mathematical way to recall it later. For example, today I spent $31.26 on gas. I could try to memorize that amount, which would be relatively simple for a short while, but instead I considered this: “3-1=2; 3×2=6; I spent $31.26.” I only have to remember the 3 and the 1 to pull the number from my memory. If I recall it as 31 instead of two individual numbers, my chances of
recalling the full number later are reduced.
Continue reading

How to Raise an Adult


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practical life - web68538.pngWhen most of us embark on the journey of parenthood, we don’t typically consider the end game, adulthood. We imagine a precious baby, a wobbly toddler and perhaps even a cute elementary student learning to read and write. Rarely do parents envision the adult their child will become, yet everything parents do ultimately prepares children for life as adults.

This brief video shares information from Julie Lythcott-Haims’ work with undergraduate students at Stanford University and in her book How To Raise an Adult. You may be put off by the title of her video or the subtitle of her book, but don’t let it dissuade you from the importance of her message. It is one almost every parent will agree with; parents work to put themselves out of a job. We want to raise healthy educated productive adults.

She states her message quickly and succinctly. She breaks parenting into four steps:

  1. We do things for children.
  2. We do things with children.
  3. We watch them do it.
  4. They do it independently.

Lythcott-Haims’ analysis aligns with Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education. Teachers show them by presenting a lesson, observe them using the materials, and finally, they do the work independently. They are building the skills needed to recover from mistakes and have the confidence that they can pick themselves up, learn from the mistake and keep going.

Raising children is difficult work and one of the hardest things about it is watching our children make mistakes that might be avoided. We need to let them attempt to do things for themselves, letting them know we are there for them and have confidence in their ability to manage without our interference. Allowing independence in childhood creates adults who can make mistakes and be accountable for the outcomes of their actions. Dr. Montessori has shared this in her proven method of educating children and Lythcott-Haims restates it to help parents incorporate it in their everyday lives with their children. How have you promoted independence in your children?

Mythbuster: Theories of Learning Styles


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learning modalities (1)Are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner? Do you prefer to listen, see or move to gain the most from a learning experience? Most of us will say we think we know how we learn best. However, in the past few years research has debunked the idea of preferential learning styles.

Research has shown that we actually learn and retain information equally well through any of these paths. Evidence suggests that we may prefer one type of learning over another but that, in practice, that preference doesn’t improve our performance. Once study strategies are taught, we have the ability to do as well through any of the modes of learning. Reading this information made me question my own preference for visual learning. I prefer to see and take notes to learn rather than to attend a lecture where listening is the main pathway to attain information. Maybe I placed too much emphasis on my note taking as a kinesthetic way to learn? Or perhaps I overrated my need to see the information that is being discussed along with hearing it?

We don’t learn in isolation, nor do we retain isolated facts for any length of time. Taking notes in a lecture may help you focus. Moving might support attention and interest for some people. Now that research has proven we can learn in various ways, does that mean that we don’t have a preference? Probably not. But it does mean that we don’t need to rely solely on that preference. We can learn in new ways and need to open our minds to the possibilities.

Where in the world?


This year, travel guru Rick Steves was one of the keynote speakers at the American Montessori Society’s annual conference in Denver. I entered the room thinking this was going to be a litany of his travel ideas including the best things to pack for a trip abroad; my expectations were quite low. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, he began by sharing how he came to love travel and what his trips entail. However, he moved far from that topic, sharing insights about why travel is important. He regaled us with personal experiences in Europe, Asia and Africa. He has been to many countries throughout the world and has positive stories about each.   Continue reading

Learn, Unlearn, Relearn


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Illiteracy used to mean not being able to read and write. No longer. As Alvin Toffler says above, it means much more. Its definition has broadened while also becoming much less specific.

Over 30 years ago, my father-in-law decided to retire. He had worked for more than 30 years as a draftsman and loved his work. He enjoyed the precision and creativity that his job allowed. Throughout his time as a draftsman, he moved from pencil and paper to learning to do his drawings using a computer program. As T-squares, pencils and papers were moved further and further away from his work life, his desire to retire became stronger and stronger. He finally made the decision to retire and never looked back. When asked how he knew it was time to retire, he said quite clearly, “I didn’t want to learn another way to do my job. I loved my work, but I didn’t want to learn anything new.” In other words, he didn’t want to unlearn and relearn. For him the timing lined up. He was old enough to retire and had a good life ahead of him with lots to look forward to. For others, things don’t line up quite as nicely.

In education – as in most other fields – learning, unlearning and relearning are constant states of being. Many times the barrier is one of mindset rather than difficulty with the skill or concept. It’s one thing to decide at retirement age that you’ve learned enough and it’s time to move on; that’s not so easy for most of your work and school life. How literate are you? What have you unlearned and learning recently?  

Raising Happy Children


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clockRecently, I was having dinner with a friend and her children, and the topic of bedtimes came up.  I explained that my daughter and I would argue about bedtime when she was their age. She insisted that everyone in her school stayed up until after 10 p.m., and I unreasonably insisted she be in bed by 8:30. As many parents have experienced, she wore me down, so I said that I would no longer be in charge of her bedtime. She could stay up as late as she wanted as long as she could get herself up and ready for school and have the energy and positive attitude needed to not only make it through her school day but would also return home and be a pleasant member of our family. She stayed up until 11 p.m. the first night… and that was the end of the experiment. She discovered what I knew from years of watching her; she needed more sleep than many of her peers. She wasn’t rested unless she slept at least 9 or 10 hours each night. We no longer fought about bedtimes; she was in charge. I let her decide and honored her choice. We agreed on the limitations of the choices and I stepped out. As you can imagine, the boys with whom I shared this story were delighted to hear this (the parents not as much) and asked their parents to institute “Lisa bedtime” at their house.   Continue reading

Words Matter


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BOMBOGENESIS_1515164658160_11448321_ver1.0_1280_720.pngLast week, I sat and watched the bombogenesis blow huge snowflakes across the playground at our school. Bombogenesis… really? What a surprise to learn the word is real. A Google search reveals a definition and everything that comes with any other real word; yet, it is not listed on dictionary.com. So, is it a word? NOAA says it is. Whether it is “officially” a word or not, it sure is fun to say, even if we don’t exactly know its meaning (unless we happen to be meteorologists, of course).

I love wordplay. I make words up constantly, complete with definitions. Several years ago, in an effort to share my enthusiasm for words (or “wordthusiasm”) with students, we studied the origin of words and made our own dictionary, creating new words whose meanings were based on their origin. It was great fun and supported students’ continued vocabulary development. Continue reading

You Know Something I Don’t Know


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Bill Nye QuoteThat just about says it all. We can never know everything about everything. It is simply not possible. Schools teach a body of knowledge striving to ensure that children evolve into literate and educated adults. No matter what is included in that body of knowledge, no matter what electives students choose as they move through school, and no matter how long they are in school, they will leave not knowing things. That is the paradox of education. We are in school to learn; we leave with more knowledge than we started with and even more things we don’t know.

Education’s purpose is not to fill young minds with information. It’s true purpose is to promote thinking, questioning and understanding. Children aren’t containers to be filled. Bill Nye the Science Guy says it all in the above quote. Everyone has something to teach us. We may not know what it is or what to expect, but we do know that we will learn something from each and every person we encounter if we are open to the learning. And if that is what we learn in school we will be held in good stead during our school years and beyond. What have you learned from someone today?

Oh, what fun!


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Heather Siple-writing museum-013.JPGSchools are interesting places. When I was in school, students remained many steps removed from the adults in the community. A distance was set by the adults, and it was not crossed. Not so today. Research shows time and again that building relationships between teachers, families and students is the best way to support learning.

Last week, I spent time in a number of classrooms. I raced children on a typing app, seeing who was the fastest typist. Phew! It was so much fun! Then I had the chance to work individually with a student, administering an assessment and sharing reading. I joined a current events discussion, listening to students’ ideas about the happenings in our world. Later that same day, I was invited to participate in a hands-on “museum” of writing. Children used various communication tools to write: a typewriter, feather pen and ink, small letter tiles, clay and stamps. They experienced the communication of yesterday and loved the experience. All of this happened, and it wasn’t even lunch time!

At Wilmington Montessori School, relationships are at our foundation. No matter the age of the students, they are building connections with each other and the adults in our community on a daily basis. These relationships are the foundation of what motivates students to learn more, encourage others and wonder about possibilities. What connections have you built today?