Thursday, May 5, 2016

Outdoor Elementary Games: Australian Dodgeball and Kickball!

by Greg MacDonald






Games outside are a wonderful way to build community, and to build each child’s physical fitness.  In some regions, only a qualified physical education instructor is permitted to supervise games, so ensure that you know the regulations that apply to you and to your school.  If you are not permitted to share these games with the children personally, consider sharing them with your PE instructor, who may then pass them on to the children.

The following two games come from Australia – I have played them with mixed age-range children in traditional education settings, including at my rural school where children from Grade 1 through Grade 6 often played together.  I have also played them in Montessori schools, where children from all elementary levels were joined by extended day children.

… For those of you with less than fond memories of the “Dodge Ball” game played in America, the Australian version may prove to be a pleasant surprise.


Australian Dodgeball

Preparation


Establish a rectangular area in which the game is to be played, using cones.  The size of the area will depend upon the number and ages (sizes) of children.  There should be enough space for every child to run and to move freely about without danger of collision.  Ensure that the surface of the play area is free from snags and debris that might cause children to trip or otherwise injure themselves.  Also ensure that the area immediately outside this play area is free from sharp objects, debris, corners etc.  A soft, rubber play ball approximately volley-ball size is needed for this game.

Before beginning the game, remind the children to take care not to bump into each other, etc.


Game


  • The Guide stands at one end of the rectangle (at a shorter side).  The assistant or another child stands at the other end of the rectangle, opposite the Guide.  
  • The object of the Guide and his/her partner is to roll or to gently throw the ball so that it strikes one or more children BELOW THE WAIST.  (Above the waist does not count.) 
  • If a child makes contact with the ball, he/she must move out of the play area and form a line, in order of elimination.
  • The children may move in any safe way to avoid contact with the ball.

Rules

  • Even if the ball strikes first one child, then another, then a third or even a fourth, ALL are eliminated.
  • If a child steps out of the play area to avoid the ball, he/she is "out".
  • If a child still in the game catches the ball before it bounces once, the first child in line (so was first "out") is free to re-enter the game.  Each time there is a catch like this, another child re-enters the game.   (The guide may throw some "catches", varying the challenge of the throw to the skills of the children involved.)
  • If a child in the game attempts a catch but drops the ball, he/she (despite the heroic effort) is out, and must go to the end of the "out" line.
  • The Guide and assistant may throw "catches" to one another.  If one of these two makes a successful catch, they then yell, "Freeze!", and the children must all freeze their feet into position.  The Guide/assistant may then take his/her time, carefully aiming before releasing a throw.  The children may move any body parts but their feet, which must stay attached to the ground.  (They're out if they move their feet before the ball has moved past them!)  If the ball strikes them, even after bouncing off someone else, they are out, and join the line.  
  • Periodically, announce, "Everybody in!" and restart the game with all children.  In this way, all are active and having fun for the maximum amount of time, rather than standing on the sidelines, wishing that they were active and having fun. 


Australian Kickball  


This is a team game.  It can be played by all ages from 5-12+ years.  The Guide is the "pitcher" and so pitches can be varied according to the skills of the receiver.  When the adult controls the ball in any game, there is more possibility for a wide range of ages to take part with enjoyment and with success, because the Guide can "pitch" with varying degrees of difficulty, according to the skills of each child.  


 Preparation


  • The playing area should be large-- Limits should be approximately the distance that the large (~8 inch diameter volleyball size) soft play ball can be kicked before bouncing.
  • A large trash can or cardboard crate/box ~2 feet wide and ~3 feet high is home base.
  • A cone is set up 10-15+ feet away (distance according to the age of children playing-- If a large age range, set it for the middle age group-- There are ways to compensate for smaller and larger children.)
  • The guide marks a line 10-15+ feet away from home base.  He/she may only pitch when behind the line. 
  • Select two teams.  One team fields and one team "bats" ("kicks" in this case).
  • The "batting team" sits to one side of and behind home base.  They line up in batting order, and must be close enough to make a quick dash to home base, but far enough away so as not to interfere with the "fielding" team.
  • One of more members of the fielding team position themselves behind home base, so that missed balls may be quickly intercepted.  



Game

Note:  We use the term "batter" even though no bat is involved.  In reality, the "batter" uses feet to kick the ball.  


  • The Guide pitches the ball towards the batter, trying to strike home base.
  • The “batter” protects home base, as he/she either kicks the ball, allows it to hit him/her, or allows it to pass by because it has no chance of hitting home base.
  • Every time a “batter” kicks or comes into contact with the ball, he/she MUST run around the cone, then back to the home base.  This counts as one run.  (The guide keeps score.  The children may assist.)  More than one lap can be made if the batter wishes – Each successfully completed circuit constitutes another “run”.
  • Once the ball has been kicked, has bounced off the batter’s body, or has rolled past home base, the fielding team must scramble to stop it, then return it to the pitcher.
  • The pitcher may pitch the ball the minute it is in his/her possession and he/she is behind the pitching line.  The pitch may be made even if the batter is running around the cone, well away from the home plate.  (The batter’s judgment of when to run a second or third time, and when to stay is important here.)
  • When the ball hits home base and the present batter is “out”, the next batter in line must run quickly to defend home base.  If the pitcher receives the ball before the new batter arrives, he/she may pitch immediately without waiting, and the new batter may be out before he/she even arrives at home base!  (Kind pitchers delay a little, or pitch badly, when younger batters are playing.  This may need to be done convincingly if older eagle-eyed children are involved.)

Rules

  • If the batter successfully kicks the ball, even if the kick does not go far, the batter MUST attempt one run.  (He/she may attempt more than one run if desired.)
  • If the ball strikes the batter’s leg/s, this is considered to be a “kick”, and he/she MUST attempt one run (no matter how inconvenient this is.)
  • If the ball at any time strikes home base, the batter is out.
  • If the ball strikes the batter, or is kicked by the batter, and then strikes home base, the batter is out.
  • If the ball is caught before it bounces once, after being kicked or after bouncing off the batter’s body, the batter is out.
  • If the ball is kicked, then it strikes one or more objects before hitting the ground for the first time, it may be caught and the batter is “out”.
  • If the pitcher catches the ball before it strikes the ground, the batter who kicked it is out.  (The Guide may fumble if appropriate.)
  • “Batters” who miss a pitch or a kick, or who elect not to try to kick a particular pitch, may still run if they wish.  A “backstop” child on the fielding team is therefore important.
  • Depending upon the playing area, if a kicked ball bounces outside the agreed boundary it scores 4 runs automatically, and the batter need not run.  (This is called a “four”.)
  • Depending upon the playing area, if a kicked ball lands outside the agreed boundary before it strikes the ground it scores 6 runs automatically, and the batter need not run.   (This is called a “six”.)




    Variations


    • A set number of pitches per batter will shorten the length of the game and the waiting period for each batter. 
    • If this is not instituted and is seems to be impossible to get a particular batter out, the Guide may "retire" the batter.  This may be the official end of that batter's turn, or he/she may return as a final batter, according to the rules established for the class.  


    Notes

    • Just gently roll the ball towards younger children. They need not even more-- Aim for their legs and counsel them to let the ball tap their legs.  This counts as a kick and the child may then be encouraged to run. 
    • If the younger child runs slowly, the Guide may "fumble" the ball when it is returned by the fielding team, and/or aim badly so that home base is not struck too soon. 
    • The guide may use fast balls, top spin, and side spin to challenges the children whose kicking skills are more developed. 
    ©Greg MacDonald

    *****************************************************************
    Upcoming Webinar

    Did you know you can connect with Greg MacDonald from anywhere in the world?  Join this upcoming free LIVE webinar to ask your questions and learn more about his training programs in 2016.



    Greg MacDonald is a seasoned Elementary trainer who has led courses in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico for the past 20 years. He holds AMI 3-6 and 6-12 diplomas, a teaching diploma from his native Australia, and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland, where he worked as an AMI Elementary trainer with Dr. Kay Baker from 1998-2008. He is also an AMI-USA consultant and a regular speaker at Montessori workshops, parent evenings and conferences. Greg is known for his hands-on, practical approach to training, focusing on the specific skills, techniques, and systems that support success in a Montessori elementary environment. His work is informed by 19 years of teaching experience as a public school elementary teacher, AMI primary and elementary teacher, and principal of both mainstream and Montessori schools.


    DEAR READERS:  What are your favorite outdoor games to play with elementary children?  





    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    Transitions in Montessori: The Natural Approach

    by Greg MacDonald




    During my last MISD Q&A Webinar, we received a number of queries that focused upon the same basic question:  "What are the indicators that tell us when a child is ready to transition from the Casa dei Bambini to the elementary?"

    What follows here, which focuses specifically upon transition from Casa dei Bambini to elementary (6-9 or 6-12 class), can be applied equally to transition from toddler class to a Casa dei Bambini, from Casa dei Bambini to 6-9 class, from 6-9 to to 9-12 class (if this, rather than 6-12, is the configuration of a school’s elementary program), or from elementary to adolescent program.

    The fundamental question of transition can be addressed from a number of perspectives.  Let’s start with the ideal situation



    Natural Transition


    Maria Montessori wrote about the ideal Montessori school classroom configuration.  She recommended that there be open doors between the environments prepared for different age groups, and that the children be permitted free passage between these environments.  In practice, children typically remain in the environment that best matches their characteristics and needs, but they also have the freedom to move to other environments.

    There are many advantages to this approach, and one is that children who are transitioning between the first and second plane are in a position to leave their Casa dei Bambini and to visit an elementary class freely, whenever they choose.  (In fact, they may at first position themselves in the doorway between the two environments, observing the elementary environment from the “safety” of their Casa environment.)

    These visits become progressively longer and more frequent as the children’s second plane characteristics and needs become more pronounced, and as simultaneously, their first plane characteristics and needs gradually fade.  The day comes when these children enter the elementary class as class begins, and they stay all day.  The same thing happens in the days that follows, and the child’s name is removed from the Casa dei Bambini attendance register and entered into the elementary attendance register … A natural transition from first to second plane environments has occurred.

    This ideal transition model does involve some administrative considerations … When do tuition fees change from Casa level to elementary level, for example?  These issues are typically not insurmountable, and they are well worth dealing with given the natural, effortless and painless transition that the children experience.

    If your school is working towards this model, or if it for some reason is unable to implement this approach, what then?  How is “readiness” for transition determined? 



    Is a Child Ready to Transition?


    Let’s start with how transition should not be determined:

    • Transition does not occur on some adult-selected date.  “On this day, all children transition from their current class to their next class.”

    • Transition does not occur when a child reaches an adult-specified age.  “Now that you are (e.g.) “6” years old, it’s time for you to move to the next class.”

    In both of these examples, transition is not linked to the developmental needs of the child.  A particular date, arbitrarily chosen by adults, has the deciding vote.

    • Transition is not linked to the child’s attainment of particular academic milestones either.  “You don’t know your number facts and you can’t read to the level required for you to move to the next class, so you must stay here, in the Casa dei Bambini.”

    We must ask ourselves, if we are contemplating this approach to transition, how long a child may have to remain in the Casa dei Bambini.  I know adults who don’t have much of a grasp of their number facts and/or whose ability to read is very rudimentary.  I wonder (if they’d been attending a Montessori school where academic standards were transition’s deciding factor) if they might still be squeezing themselves into tiny chairs in the same Casa dei Bambini class they’ve been attending for the past 25 years, rather than flourishing as successful, contributing adults in the career that they love...

    So what tells us that a child is ready to transition? 

    One and only one factor is important:  The child’s manifestation of characteristics that are typical of the plane he/she is poised to enter.

    For a Casa dei Bambini child, we will see second plane characteristics begin to manifest.  Examples include:

    • The child is drawn to working with others.  (Instincto gregario)
    • The child is excited by large projects. (Great work)
    • The child is less willing to bid fond, prolonged farewells to a parent, and expresses a preference for making his/her own way to class.  (Separation from family)
    • The child becomes louder and more energetic.  (Physical stamina)  This characteristic can stand out in a Casa dei Bambini community (and it can sometimes drive the Directress to distraction).
    • There is a focus on issues of right and wrong.  (Moral development)
    • The child asks “How?” and “Why” questions.

    Once this begins to happen-- and we must understand that the child’s first plane characteristics will also be present-- it is time to consider a move to the elementary.


    Making Natural Transition Work-- Some Thoughts


    If it is not possible to provide open doors between classrooms, then practical provisions that support the children's visits between classes must be put into place.  Perhaps this will require an elementary child or two who are responsible for escorting visitors to and from the elementary.  Once the visits begin, that same, individually paced transition, can begin.

    “But what if a child enters the elementary without literacy/numeracy skills?” 

    Same answer for a child entering a class (Montessori or other, for that matter) at any level:  The Guide ascertains the skill and knowledge level of the child, and proceeds to help that child to advance.  That’s what teachers do.

    “But if children enter the elementary in the middle of the year, they’ll have missed the Great Stories!” 

    Well, they may have missed the first telling, at the beginning of the year.  To minimize this problem, elementary and Casa teachers should work together to ensure that these children visited the elementary class as the stories were told...There’s no reason, however, that these stories can’t be told again during the year (and a new crop of future transitioning children can be invited to these tellings also).  Worst case scenario?  It may happen that a child will not have heard some of the Great Stories.  In such a case, the elementary Guide just proceeds to move the child through the full gamut of Cosmic Education presentations, and at the first opportunity, the child is invited to the next telling of each of these stories.


    Final Thoughts

    It is only when we gauge a child’s readiness to transition according to the observed behaviors of the child, with our attention focused squarely upon the identification of characteristics that are typical of that next plane, that we have an opportunity to make a prediction as to the child’s readiness to transition.

    It is only when a child is allowed to transition when he/she is ready that we are “following the child”.

    To link transition to anything other than the child’s developmental characteristics, and to the child’s own decision to physically move to a new class, is to substitute the adult's needs for those of the child. 

    No matter the obstacles, if we have as our objective the realization of Montessori’s vision, we have to find a way to empower the child to transition as nature intended.

    *****************************************************************
    Upcoming Webinars

    Did you know you can connect with Greg MacDonald from anywhere in the world?  Join these upcoming free LIVE webinars to ask your questions and learn more about his training programs in 2016.

    ©Greg MacDonald

    Greg MacDonald is a seasoned Elementary trainer who has led courses in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico for the past 20 years. He holds AMI 3-6 and 6-12 diplomas, a teaching diploma from his native Australia, and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland, where he worked as an AMI Elementary trainer with Dr. Kay Baker from 1998-2008. He is also an AMI-USA consultant and a regular speaker at Montessori workshops, parent evenings and conferences. Greg is known for his hands-on, practical approach to training, focusing on the specific skills, techniques, and systems that support success in a Montessori elementary environment. His work is informed by 19 years of teaching experience as a public school elementary teacher, AMI primary and elementary teacher, and principal of both mainstream and Montessori schools.


    *****
    DEAR READERS:  What is your experience with transitions?  What has worked for you?







    Friday, March 11, 2016

    3/16 FREE LIVE WEBINAR: Elementary Q&A with Greg MacDonald






    Last month we took the most popular part of our webinars, the Question & Answer Period, and built an entire LIVE webinar around it...  This month, we're doing it again.  

    Join us this Wednesday, March 16th for "Montessori Elementary Q&A with Greg MacDonald".  This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to consult with an internationally renowned AMI Elementary expert  with over 40 years of experience.  Suitable for teachers, assistants, administrators, prospective trainees, and others.  All are welcome.   

    This webinar will be held at 5:00 p.m.  PDT (California time), and it is accessible online from anywhere in the world.  Find your local time equivalent with this handy time zone converter

    Our lively discussion will be guided by YOUR QUESTIONS.  Last month, you asked about:
    • Teaching a second language
    • Too much time spent on crafts?
    • How do I know if a child is ready to transition to Elementary?
    • How can I increase the number of presentations I am giving?
    • How to handle pressure to test the children
    • Is homework helpful?  How do I get the children to do it?
    • Is Montessori compatible with the Common Core Standards?
    • Recommendations for record keeping
    • Concerns about reading a mature novel to a 6-12 classroom
    • And more!

    You won't want to miss this LIVE conversation with Greg MacDonald!  Space is limited.


    Friday, March 4, 2016

    Group Work in the Montessori Elementary: Why, When, and How?

    by Greg MacDonald


    ·      
    I spoke about group work at last year's AMI Refresher Course, and always spend some time with my students covering this critical topic.  Here are some general thoughts which may help you in the classroom:


    Why Group Children?

    You can group children for many purposes.  These include:


    • Ability Grouping (Particularly for Numeracy & Literacy)
    • Friendship Grouping
    • Hero Grouping
    • Random Grouping (for many presentations outside Numeracy/Literacy)
    • Interest Grouping
    • Targeted Grouping (Social/Emotional etc. purpose, such as helping specific children to find a friend)


    Two Fundamental Laws for Working with Groups

    1. Children are NEVER grouped according to age or grade level.  Their individual needs are all that is considered.  Sometimes they will be the same age or in the same "grade", but other group members will be older/younger and/or in different "grades".  
    2. Groups are changed and the individual children within them are "regrouped" as often as is needed.


    Regrouping During a Presentation

    • You start with five children and during the initial presentation find that two have already and independently reached the conclusion that you're headed for, so you quickly work out a problem/activity with material for them that confirms this for you, and then get them started.
    • The other three are a little uncertain, so work with them a little longer.  
    • Two of them soon are ready to move into follow-up work.  You get them started. 
    • Then you check in with the first group of two briefly, for whom (if they're finished with the initial piece of work) you provide a new challenge or you start into the next presentation, leaving them for a moment with some piece of this presentation to carry out. 
    • Then you turn to the fifth child and go into the original presentation again, from a different angle.
    • You have three sub-groups now, and you work with each as is needed.  They may need to wait for a few moments for your attention, but you work to split your time and attention across all three.  
    • Ultimately, you leave all three subgroups at work on challenges that suit them, and you go onto the next presentation with the next group.

    ... This is a typical pattern in the classroom, and it has as many variations as the children have needs and you have creativity.

    When planning groups, every day and every presentation can conceivably involve new groups.  The above scenario, for example, means that the next time you work with these five children, you'll have three new groups!  To each of these you may add new children whose needs match the needs of children already in the group.

    Factors to Consider

    To determine groups, look at:
    • The needs of the children
    • Their skills/knowledge
    • Their interests
    • Their requests for presentation
    • Your records
    • The children's records (Learning Journals)
    • The children's work
    ...Groups fall out from this approach.


    Final Thoughts

    • Children you believe to be close in skills/knowledge can be grouped together as you see fit, because some will have moved forward independently, some will have regressed a little, and some will be where you are.
    • The initial orientation conversation and orientation as you begin a presentation (first level of "test") and the presentation itself will guide you in the formation of any sub-groups that arise (as above).  

    ©Greg MacDonald


    Greg MacDonald is a seasoned Elementary trainer who has led courses in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico for the past 20 years. He holds AMI 3-6 and 6-12 diplomas, a teaching diploma from his native Australia, and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland, where he worked as an AMI Elementary trainer with Dr. Kay Baker from 1998-2008. He is also an AMI-USA consultant and a regular speaker at Montessori workshops, parent evenings and conferences. Greg is known for his hands-on, practical approach to training, focusing on the specific skills, techniques, and systems that support success in a Montessori elementary environment. His work is informed by 19 years of teaching experience as a public school elementary teacher, AMI primary and elementary teacher, and principal of both mainstream and Montessori schools.


    *****
    DEAR READERS:  What is your experience with grouping children in elementary classrooms?  What has worked for you?






    Friday, February 12, 2016

    Conflict Resolution in the Elementary Classroom

    by Greg MacDonald



    "We must be the change we wish to see in others."  - Mahatma Gandhi


    Whenever human beings come together, there will be conflict.  Differences of opinion and different perspectives add texture and richness to the social environment.  It is the Guide’s responsibility to ensure that conflict in the Montessori elementary environment is not overwhelming for any child, and that it is handled in such a way that the children’s ability to deal with conflict peacefully, respectfully, positively and independently is continually developed.

    Montessori is a philosophy of peace.  It is not enough, however, to install a “peace table” or a “peace bench” in the environment.  If the USE of such a device is not modeled, then this location can just become “the place we go to continue our fight”. 

    Montessori elementary Guides should present real and practical approaches to the resolution of conflicts, modeling the approaches and providing direct instruction when appropriate, until they enter the fabric of the class and become a “tradition” that is passed from senior to junior children from that time forward.

    Conflict Resolution may occur in three different ways:

    1. Independent negotiation:  The individuals in conflict sit down together and work out a win-win resolution together, independently.  (This is the highest level of conflict resolution, and the outcome to which the Guide is working with individuals and the total elementary community.)

    2. Mediation:  An objective, uninvolved and uninvested third party assists the individuals in conflict to identify a win-win solution to the conflict.  (This is a process modeled by the Guide, which is designed to provide the children with the skills to undertake independent negotiation.  It also empowers members of the elementary community to take up the role of mediator.  There is more to be said about this level of conflict resolution, which may in some cases be the highest level possible … That is a story for another day.)

    3. Arbitration:  When negotiation and mediation have both failed, the individuals in conflict agree to take their case to an arbitrator, whose decision, it is agreed, will be respected as final, and the conflict will be considered to be ended.  (This is a worst-case scenario, but it will sometimes be necessary even in a mature class.  The Guide will initially act as arbitrator, but with the intention that members of the elementary community will take over this role as soon as possible.)  The Guide arbitrates more so in the early days of a developing class, until higher level skills are acquired by the community of children. 

    A Soft Start Up is Critical for Successful Conflict Resolution


    The words that begin a conflict resolution conversation are critical.  A harsh start up generally leads to escalation and argument.  In adult interactions, only 4% of conversations that commenced with a harsh start up turned around into productive, constructive exchanges (John Gottman, Ph.D.). 

    Conflict resolution conversations should utilize a soft start up.  Adults seeking to implement a soft start up should use the same level of courtesy and consideration that they would use if they were talking to a guest in their home.

    • A soft start up utilizes “I” messages rather than “you” messages, avoiding any sense of blaming.  “I” messages that express how the individual feels about a situation are best.  (And the speaker must take care that the “I” message isn’t really just a lightly camouflaged “you” message, dripping with accusation:  “I feel that you’re just a nasty, unreasonable person!”
    • Soft start ups describe rather than evaluate or judge“You always break things on purpose”, can become: “Things are being broken.”  (Think in terms of passive rather than active voice too!)
    • Soft start ups express needs in positive terms“It would be great if you could be gentle with the other children.” is better than:  “Don’t hit other children.”
    • Soft start ups are courteous:  They begin with phrases such as: “I’d really appreciate it if …”  And they end with “… please.”
    • Soft start ups are appreciative.  They identify examples of positive/desired behavior, state appreciation and they acknowledge the beneficial outcomes that this behavior produced.

    Soft start ups:

    • Require modeling on the part of the Guide, and they take practice.
    • Should be planned and rehearsed until they become habit.
    • Should not be blurted out – The speaker should pause, think and plan before attempting a soft start up.
    • Take the recipient’s worldview into account.  The power of a soft start up is enhanced enormously when the recipient’s point of view is incorporated.

     Introduce the Children to Other Conflict Resolution Skills and Strategies


    Examples of Conflict Resolution skills and strategies include:

    • Some people find it helpful to make notes after an event that scared them or made them angry.  They describe the situation briefly, their response/s, and how effective those responses were.  They also add changes that they would make if they had to respond to a similar situation in the future.  Children for whom this is a valuable exercise might use their Learning Journal for such a purpose.
    • When upset, it is often best to withdraw from the situation, suggesting to everyone involved that they take a little time to cool down.  Then they will be in a better position to work out a solution.
    • It is useful to observe people having a conflict and imagine what they are feeling and why they are reacting as they are.  Think about how you would deal with the situation, first from the point of view of one person, then from the point of view of the other, then from the point of view of a mediator.
    • Deep breaths, in which inhalation and exhalation is slow and deliberate, can be very calming in a stressful situation. 
    • Focusing the eyes/attention on a distant point during the breathing exercise can be supportive of the breathing itself.
    • Some people need to do something to cool down – read, play/listen to music, tidy up, take a walk, run to burn off some energy, look at a beautiful picture, etc.


    Next month I’ll share a “general” Conflict Resolution script that is a work in progress – It includes the many possible steps through which a conflict resolution process may pass.  This general script is intended to serve as a resource from which the adult may extract particular steps that might best serve the situation at hand.

    ©Greg MacDonald


    Greg MacDonald is a seasoned Elementary trainer who has led courses in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico for the past 20 years. He holds AMI 3-6 and 6-12 diplomas, a teaching diploma from his native Australia, and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland, where he worked as an AMI Elementary trainer with Dr. Kay Baker from 1998-2008. He is also an AMI-USA consultant and a regular speaker at Montessori workshops, parent evenings and conferences. Greg is known for his hands-on, practical approach to training, focusing on the specific skills, techniques, and systems that support success in a Montessori elementary environment. His work is informed by 19 years of teaching experience as a public school elementary teacher, AMI primary and elementary teacher, and principal of both mainstream and Montessori schools. To learn more about Greg's upcoming AMI Montessori Elementary teacher training course at MISD starting in fall 2016, visit http://misdami.org/montessori-teacher-training-california/ami-montessori-courses/certification-elementary-training/.



    *****

    DEAR READER:  What is your experience with conflict resolution for elementary children?  We would love to hear about what has worked for you in the comments below.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

    FREE WEBINAR "Montessori and Neuroscience: The Importance of the First Three Years of Life"






    This month, we are thrilled to bring you a highly requested webinar featuring Dr. Silvia C. Dubovoy, Founder and Director of Training at MISD. 

    Join us on Thursday, October 29th for "Montessori and Neuroscience: The Importance of the First Three Years of Life".  

    This webinar will be held at 5:00 p.m.  PDT (California time), and it is accessible online from anywhere in the world.  Find your local time equivalent with this handy time zone converter

    Our lively discussion will include the following topics:

    • How neuroscience is confirming what Dr. Montessori intuited about young children a century ago.
    • Why are the first three years of life so crucial?
    • Creating rich environments that stimulate a child's highest development
    • Q&A with Dr. Dubovoy

    You won't want to miss this LIVE conversation with one of the world's leading experts on the intersection between Montessori and Neuroscience!  Space is limited, and almost 600 people registered for our last webinar...




    Why Focus on the First Three Years of Life?








    Wednesday, October 14, 2015

    Computers in the Classroom, Part II: "To Those Who Cannot Remember the Past..."



    by Greg MacDonald



    Recently, as I was writing an article on technology in the Montessori classroom (soon to be published by AMI USA Journal), I came across the following research: 

    • A 2014 study published in Pediatrics and entitled Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals at Fast Food Restaurants observed caregivers with children.  Of the 55 care givers observed, 40 used a mobile device during the meal.  The researchers refrain from reaching any conclusions regarding these behaviors, noting that their descriptive study utilized anthropological observation techniques rather than any form of coding or frequency approach that would lend itself to statistical analysis.

    • In Time 2 tlk 2nite: Use of Electronic Media by Adolescents During Family Meals and Associations with Demographic Characteristics, Family Characteristics, and Foods Served, frequent use of mealtime media was associated with lower family communication scores, as well as with a reduced likelihood of salads and fruits being served.

    Question:  How often have I observed a family at a restaurant, with all or at least some members buried in their hand-held devices rather than carrying on a conversation? 

    Answer:  Too many to count! 

    (Question:  What are your observations?)

    … And although I hesitate to reach any conclusions, given the anecdotal nature of my own data, it always does seem to me that those families are losing something very precious as they each devote their attention to an electronic device rather than to their loved ones.


    The Advent of the Bicycle


    The partial quotation that forms the title of this little post comes from George Santayana, whose work, The Life of Reason, contains the complete quote:  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    At first glance, an 1896 discussion in the London Spectator, when linked to the above research, would tend to support Santayana’s pronouncement.  The article denounced the bicycle, claiming that it would have a profound and damaging impact upon social life in British society.  In fact, the article claimed that the popularity of the bicycle would lead to:

    The abolition of dinner and the advent of lunch … If people can pedal away ten miles or so in the middle of the day to a lunch for which they need no dress, where the talk is haphazard, varied, light, and only too easy; and then glide back in the cool of the afternoon to dine quietly and get early to bed…conversation of the more serious type will tend to go out.    (Source: A Salute to the Wheel)

    Here’s my question:  Was the advent of the bicycle a good thing or a bad thing, or was it both? 

    It seems to me that bicycles are a boon to our sedentary society.  Of course, at the same time, the frequency of bicycle riding accidents increased the minute that bicycles became an acceptable mode of transport.  (I believe there were no reported bicycle-related injuries before the invention of the bicycle, although I have to admit that I haven’t gone looking for research to the contrary.) 

    Did bicycles actually destroy the fabric of British society by abolishing dinner?  I don’t think so … My sources tell me that the British still eat dinner.

    Was the bicycle actually responsible for the invention of a relaxed lunch?  I don’t know, but I must say that personally, I like the lunch tradition, minus what was apparently once upon a time (in late nineteenth century England) the need to dress formally and to converse in what I suppose would have to be a focused, unvaried, heavy and difficult manner, so if I have the bicycle to thank for this, please warn your own two-wheeler that a card is en-route!


    Video Games                                     


    Other research also came to my attention:

    • Researchers who published their findings in The Hitman study: Violent Video Game Exposure Effects on Aggressive Behavior, Hostile Feelings, and Depression reported that regular players of violent video games felt less depressed and less hostile 45 minutes after a frustrating experience than their peers who didn't play such games.  Who’d have thought that?  A positive finding on violent video games!
    • In Games and Simulations: A New Approach in Education? the author’s research indicates that video games can increase scores in measures of critical thinking, problem solving and working memory.

    Are we forgetting history, and dooming ourselves to repeat it in the most painful fashion, as we seek to deal with the proliferation of all sorts of electronic gadgets?

    Or are we presently gathering the evidence that will point out both the benefits and the dangers of those gadgets?

    There’s a great deal of research out there that indicates that screen time can be hazardous.  There’s also an increasing body of research indicating that screen time, properly managed and in the right circumstances, can have striking positive effects.


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    At this point in time, I lean very strongly towards protecting our children from the known harmful effects ofelectronic devices.  At the same time, I don’t think that we should throw the bicycle out with the bath water.  (I know: A mixed metaphor… But this is a subject that mixes me up the more I read the research!)  I think that we have to withhold a blanket judgment until more evidence is in.  We should also consider that those same devices which are a part of our children’s life (and which seem destined to accompany those same children into adulthood), might offer some benefits also.

    References

    Akilli, G. K. (2007) Games and Simulations: A New Approach in Education? In D. Gibson, C. Aldrich, & M. Prensky (Eds.), Games and Simulations in Online Learning: Research and Development Frameworks. Hershey, PA: Information Science.

    Ferguson, C., & Rueda, S. M. (2010). The Hitman study: Violent Video Game Exposure Effects on Aggressive Behavior, Hostile Feelings, and Depression. European Psychologist

    Fulkerson JA, Loth K, Bruening M, Berge J, Eisenberg ME, Neumark-Sztainer. D  (2013) Time 2 tlk 2nite: Use of Electronic Media by Adolescents During Family Meals and Associations with Demographic Characteristics, Family Characteristics, and Foods Served,  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

    Radesky, J, Kistin, C, Zuckerman, B, Nitzberg, K, Gross, J, Sanoff, M, Augustyn, M, Silverstein, M.  (2014)  Patterns of Mobile Device Use by Caregivers and Children During Meals at Fast Food Restaurants.  Pediatrics

    ©Greg MacDonald


    Greg MacDonald is a seasoned Elementary trainer who has led courses in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico for the past 20 years. He holds AMI 3-6 and 6-12 diplomas, a teaching diploma from his native Australia, and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland, where he worked as an AMI Elementary trainer with Dr. Kay Baker from 1998-2008. He is also an AMI-USA consultant and a regular speaker at Montessori workshops, parent evenings and conferences. Greg is known for his hands-on, practical approach to training, focusing on the specific skills, techniques, and systems that support success in a Montessori elementary environment. His work is informed by 19 years of teaching experience as a public school elementary teacher, AMI primary and elementary teacher, and principal of both mainstream and Montessori schools.


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    DEAR READERS:  Have you made up your mind about the value of computers in the classroom?  How can educators make a judgement call when they are still waiting on the research?