Courtyard Courier A Few Words Shelagh Powell

Courtyard Courier
Volume 56, Term 1 2014
A Few Words
Shelagh Powell
For those families who will leave us at the end of the term, we bid you farewell and hope the next stepping-stone in
your child’s education is as rewarding as the time spent at the Courtyard.
A very warm welcome to everyone at the Courtyard and a special
welcome to new parents/whanau caregivers joining us since our last
Courier went out in November. The early years of your child’s life
are a critical influence on lifelong learning and development and our
community at the Courtyard recognise and respond to this.
School photos took place on Monday, so we look forward to seeing
the outcome of those. The photos were taken of individual children
and of each class. Des Ellery consistently produces some great
work so I am sure everyone will be keen to buy these to add to the
family photo album.
For those families who will leave us at the end of the term, we bid
you farewell and hope the next stepping-stone in your child’s
education is as rewarding as the time spent at the Courtyard. A big
thank you for your support and the contributions you have made to
the preschool during your time with us.
Next event will be the AGM and this year we have decided to
circulate the reports a few days prior to the meeting and hold the
AGM first thing on Thursday 27 March in the Saffroom at 9.00am.
We have slipped into 2014 nice and easily after the summer holiday
break. The preschool underwent a face lift of sorts, as our
insurance work post-earthquake was carried out.
There is
continuing work to be done, especially on the stone wall around the
perimeter of the school however it is expected that this will cause
only minor disruption to the outdoor environment, with some of the
playground being cordoned off to accommodate the work. We are
also installing a new sink unit into Room 1 within the Practical Life
area to enable children to more easily wash their plate and cup and
wash other utensils associated with this area. The existing sink unit
will be completely used for art related activities. We are also
replacing the existing deck outside the Room 1 foyer with the same
material as the front deck to offer a more consistent look. The area
surrounding the sandpit where we currently have compacted quarry
dust will be replaced with pavers; John Allen will complete this work.
Our Parent Education Evening focused on the Montessori
Philosophy and how we in turn interpret this in to our classroom.
This evening was primarily geared toward new families joining our
community and we thank those who attended this evening and hope
you took away one piece of information.
A friendly reminder to those who have re-joined the preschool after
the summer break and to new families recently started, please be
careful when parking your car in the morning and at pickup time.
Somerfield and Selwyn Streets are very busy and we encourage
patience and caution. The car park is for staff only, simply because
it is too small to accommodate cars successfully manoeuvring in
and out. The gate leading in to the school via the car park is a no
go area too for obvious health and safety reasons.
Ka Kite
Shelagh Powell
What is the Montessori Method of
Education? Shelagh Powell
Montessori education is both a philosophy of child development and
a rationale for guiding such growth:
The environment is carefully prepared and provides many and
varied opportunities to pursue interests through exposure to
materials and experiences.
The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr Maria
Montessori, is a child-centred educational approach based on
scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.
Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of
success in diverse cultures throughout the world.
It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge
and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully
prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the
human spirit and the development of the whole child-physical,
social, emotional, cognitive. The Montessori Method of education is
designed to take full advantage of children’s desire to learn and their
unique ability to develop their own capabilities. Children need
adults to expose them to the possibilities of their lives, but the
children determine their response to all the possibilities.
Children are to be respected as different from adults and as
individuals who differ from each other. Children possess an unusual
sensitivity and intellectual ability to absorb and learn from their
environment that is unlike those of the adult both in quality and
capacity. The most important years of children’s growth are the first
six years of life when unconscious learning is gradually brought to
the conscious level. Children love to be involved in purposeful work,
for example sweeping up the leaves, peeling the carrots for tea,
folding the washing etc. They work, not as an adult for the
completion of a job, but the sake of an activity itself. It is this activity
which enables them to accomplish their most important goal: the
development of their individual selves.
Montessori spoke of the purpose of long, uninterrupted blocks of
work time that allows children to select work freely, eventually
becoming absorbed in work that has a particular fascination for
them at a specific point in their development. Interruptions, no
matter how valuable the alternative activity might seem to be,
disturbs the fragile development of children’s focus, concentration,
and intellectual exploration on his or her own.
Montessori observed that children experience sensitive periods, or
to define what this actually looks like, windows of opportunity, as
they grow.
As children develop, we match appropriate
demonstrations and materials to these sensitive periods when
learning is most naturally absorbed and internalised.
In early
childhood, Montessori children learn through sensory-motor
activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers
through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling,
touching, and movement. When children turn five and onwards,
they continue to organize their thinking through work with the
Montessori learning materials and an interdisciplinary curriculum as
they pass from the concrete to the abstract. They begin the
application of knowledge to real-world experiences.
Encouraged to focus their attention on one particular activity at a
time, children work at their own optimum level – in an environment
where a full complement of specifically designed Montessori
learning materials are meticulously arranged and available for the
child to choose in an aesthetically pleasing and ordered
environment; this is particularly emphasised and appreciated. A
spontaneous love of "work" is revealed as the child is given the
freedom (within boundaries) to make choices.
Montessori teachers are trained teachers in the classroom, always
ready to assist and direct. Their purpose is to stimulate children’s
enthusiasm for learning and to guide it, without interfering with their
natural desire to teach themselves and become independent.
Children work through the individual cycle of activities, and learn to
truly understand according to their own unique needs and
capabilities. This might mean that some children need more
practice of an activity, or time to internalise the skill and concept for
longer – each child is different.
Everything in a Montessori classroom has a specific use or purpose.
There is nothing in the prepared environment that children cannot
see or touch. All of the furniture and equipment is scaled down to
the child's size and is within easy reach.
A quality Montessori classroom has a busy, productive atmosphere
where happiness, purposefulness and respect abound. Within such
an enriched environment, freedom, responsibility, and social and
intellectual development spontaneously flourish!
A mixed age range is a hallmark of the Montessori Method: younger
children learn from older children; older children reinforce their
learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered. This
arrangement also mirrors the real world, where individuals work and
socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.
This works beautifully at the Courtyard and we continually strive to
offer an authentic Montessori Education to all children who attend.
Extended and Full Day Programmes
Maree Hawtin-Morrow
Just as in the Montessori classroom in the mornings, the mixed age groups mean that older children
get to scaffold the learning of the younger ones giving them a chance to take on leadership roles
with their peers.
As we have so many new families in the system, we thought it was
timely to explain how the Courtyard works the Extended Day and
Full Day programmes.
When your child starts at the Courtyard at around three years old,
you are welcome to enrol them in the Full Day programme for
one-four afternoons per week. Many parents do this as it allows for
more flexibility with their working hours. Children stay in the
Full Day group until the age of four years two months old.
The Full Day group has a teacher all to themselves. The activities
they do are varied and exciting, aimed at developing skills such as
cutting, pencil grips and also delving into the early Montessori
didactic materials of the Sensorial, Environmental, Language and
Maths curriculum areas. Other popular activities are interactive
music and story times, art and baking, just to name a few. We are
also very fortunate to have the team from Playball come in two
terms per year, one day per week, teaching the Extended and
Full Day children fundamental ball skills. At certain times of the
year, the two groups meet together to do other activities too, as we
are this term, doing gardening and other associated activities.
Children in the Full Day programme learn alongside their peers.
The ages of the children in the group will vary as I mentioned above
and this is advantageous to all of the children. Just as in the
Montessori classroom in the mornings, the mixed age groups mean
that older children get to scaffold the learning of the younger ones
giving them a chance to take on leadership roles with their peers.
Younger children learn the most through observation and the
learning will be more meaningful having older children role
modelling correct classroom behaviour and activities to them
alongside the teacher.
The skills of persistence and focus learnt in the Practical Life area of
the classroom are expanded upon in the Full Day programme. As
these skills become engrained in the child, all sorts of extension
materials can be used in order to build on growing knowledge.
Children then move in to the Extended Day programme at the age
of four years two months. At this point, we stipulate they must stay
for at least one Extended Day per week and at four years six
months this moves to two Extended Days per week.
The Extended Day afternoon consists of some of the more
challenging pieces of Montessori equipment. The activities in the
Maths and Language curriculum areas of the classroom that the
children will be working on during the morning session are again
extended upon. For example, if the children are working with the
numbers up to ten, we will do a group demonstration of the Sequin
A Board, which looks at the teen numbers which is a natural
progression. Or if they are already working with teen numbers, we
would show the group the Sequin B Board which deals with
counting up to 100 in 10’s.
As with all Montessori materials, everything is set up from left to
right, simple to complex, and all activities have a prerequisite. The
teachers devise a programme plan that will sit somewhere in the
middle of the abilities, strengths and interests of the children
enrolled. If any of the children are struggling with the content of a
certain plan, the teacher will always provide an activity to those
children that may be a step before or a prerequisite.
In the past and probably again this year, the Extended Day children
have been able to walk with the teachers down to a Pottery Studio
in the immediate vicinity, to take pottery lessons, one day per week
for a whole term. Having said this though, for the last couple of
terms, the pottery teacher has come to us and this has worked
beautifully too. This has always been a very popular attraction and
the Full Day children always talk about aspiring to be an Extended
Dayer to do this very exciting activity!
The Extended Day group has bussed to the A&P Show, as well as
small trips to the local libraries and different community events.
Because they are older and able to walk further, excursions in to the
community happen more often.
We have plans for the Extended Day and Full Day groups for next
term and beyond and we hope they will really enjoy the challenges
and fun ahead.
The Timeline of Children’s Written
Assessments Helen Westrupp
dispositions, along with the usual reflection on learning , and where
to next.
At the Courtyard we offer a more individualised parent/teacher
interview process. These are written from the teacher’s perspective
based on observations and working alongside your child. The
assessment includes activities you child is enjoying, how we are
extending and challenging them, possibly any areas of concern and
just generally how they are developing in the preschool
The following interview, Planning for Learning 3 , takes place
approximately six months from a child’s fifth Birthday. This interview
gives opportunity to discuss options in regard to remaining at
preschool to complete our three year programme. We will also
provide you with a Beyond Five pack to take home and read at your
leisure. It describes all the benefits of staying in this environment
after the age of five.
There are six interview templates and each interview has different
headings that correspond with where your child fits in their journey
at preschool. The headings in the templates dictate what content is
written under that particular heading. For example one heading is
titled Developing Interests from the Montessori Curriculum so we
cover what your child is showing interest in.
Recently we developed a Beyond Five interview as a lovely way for
the teachers and parents to touch base about your child’s learning,
aspirations and how we can support them in their final year at
When teachers are beginning to write the interview you will receive
a Parent’s Planning for Learning form. There are three boxes for
you to comment on. These are Strengths, Interests and General
Comments. We love receiving these as they offer a snippet of what
your child is up to in the home environment and this information can
be woven into the interview. It is great finding out little interests that
have emerged on the home front that they might not be showing us
yet. This way we can observe the child for signs of interest here
and then present them with any materials accordingly. We really
encourage you to return your form to us so we can discover any
untapped interests or concerns.
The final written document is a Transition to School Letter. This
document is written from the teacher’s perspective, taking into
account observations and professional knowledge. This letter is
written covering the primary school key competencies. The primary
school teachers really appreciate these letters as they can provide
valuable insight into the child and help with settling in and
preparation of their class.
We will always give you the option for a meeting after you have
received the assessment via email. Some parents do not feel that a
meeting is required, however if you want to touch base and have a
chat regarding the interview then that is fine too. We offer times to
meet at usually 8.15am all week and after session at 2.45pm or
3.45pm Monday-Thursday. Teachers do book in the catch-up, so if
you are wanting to meet and secure a time, please approach the
teacher as soon as you can. These catch ups are allocated for a 20
minute timeframe and it is essential that we adhere to this in order
for us to complete our class work.
The first interview we write is called a First Term Interview and as
the name describes, it is written after a child has completed their
first term with us. This interview focuses on how your child has
settled in, social and emotional development, developing little
routines and working within the expectations of their new preschool
The second interview is six months after the first and is called a
Planning for Learning 1.
Below is a visual time line of our interview process based on a child
commencing preschool at three. 
Six months on, we hold a Planning for Learning 2. This is more
in-depth and covers perceptual motor development, work skills and
First Term
Learning 1
Learning 2
Learning 3
to School
Montessori Maths Curriculum –
In The Classroom Kim Gardener
To start a child off on their journey in maths, it is important for them to develop a base knowledge of
Maths in the Montessori classroom is a well thought out curriculum
which follows a structured progression of activities from simple to
complex. It is much more than just learning about numbers. Our
maths curriculum can cover a vast range of activities from simple
counting to working with large numbers in the thousands.
The purpose of the Montessori maths curriculum is two-fold. One is
to aid children in developing their mathematical mind. The other, to
aid the child in developing skills necessary for mathematical work,
such as the knowledge and understanding of quantity, symbols and
sequence. The way we deliver the maths equipment follows
Maria Montessori’s practice of presenting concrete such as beads
first then moving on to abstract such as number cards before
combining the two.
It is important to note, not all children will work with each piece of
maths equipment before heading off to primary school as there must
first be interest from the child in doing so.
Our role and
responsibility as teachers is to foster, build on and expand a child’s
Montessori is not about ensuring children know a
prescribed set of ‘performed activities’.
Once we notice a child is interested in numbers we begin by
introducing them to some simple didactic materials. These include
sandpaper numerals, number rods and simple number card and
counter matching activities. The purpose of these activities is to
teach the child to recognise and learn the names of the numbers,
learn quantity from 1-10 and to form a tactile impression of the
number in their mind. These learning goals are not made obvious to
the children as they work with the activities.
Next, the child will begin to explore activities which contain ‘unfixed’
aspects such as the spindle boxes. This activity has ‘fixed’
numerals with the ‘unfixed’ aspect of the spindles. The child then
has the challenge of matching the correct amount of spindles to the
corresponding numeral. We have a range of similar activities for the
child to explore and consolidate their knowledge of associating
quantity with number. These activities support the child to become
confident with one to one counting, recognising numerals, placing
them in order and associating quantities to them.
After the child has consolidated their knowledge of these activities
by repeating them, there are a few different routes they could take.
These include learning about the decimal system, working with
teens or groups of ten and different number combinations. The path
the child takes depends on our observations of their current
interests or passion for a particular activity. If the child is interested
in the decimal system, they will look at working with the golden
beads and the hierarchy, or large number cards. This is what we
use when introducing the place values of ones, tens, hundreds and
thousands. The golden beads are the concrete representation of
this system as the child can feel and see what a number looks like,
and the number cards provide the symbolic representation of the
numbers. Finally, we combine the two and when the child is
working at this stage the possibilities of number combinations are
If the child was interested in learning about teens and tens, they
would be introduced to the Seguin Boards. These materials are
focused on learning the names, symbols and names of numbers
from 10 to 99. Also featured in this part of the maths curriculum is
the 100 board which provides the symbolic aspect, and the 100 and
1000 chains, which provide the concrete aspect. By working with
these materials, the child can practice counting from one to one
hundred. Naturally, the child may begin to recognise pattern and
sequence within their work while exploring these activities.
When a child understands the concept of number combinations,
they can have a lot of fun with their work. To foster learning
addition, multiplication, subtraction and division, we can offer a
range of activities in a multitude of ways. The child may initially
return to the number rods and short bead stair to consolidate their
learning and further develop their understanding of these concepts.
They may then move onto the addition strip board as a way to learn
further addition combinations and the golden beads are used for all
four operations.
To start a child off on their journey in maths, it is important for them
to develop a base knowledge of numbers. This can be done at
home by singing songs containing numbers, reading numbers on
letterboxes on your walk to preschool or by pointing out numbers on
price signs at the supermarket. Mathematical language such as
describing bigger and smaller or thickest and thinnest also provide
children with an early understanding of mathematical concepts. The
materials in the sensorial area of the curriculum also provide
children with an experience of volume, length and width. They are
specifically designed to provide an indirect preparation for a journey
into the maths curriculum as materials such as the pink tower range
from one centimetre cubed up to ten centimetres cubed. The red
rods range from 10 centimetres in length to 100 centimetres.
It may be important to note, children only in a sensitive period for
maths are going to receive the full benefits from this area of the
curriculum. This curriculum is designed to be used at the child’s
pace, so if they wish to remain working on a particular area to
consolidate their learning this is fine. They move onto the next
concept when they have developed confidence, mastery and feel
ready. It is recommended children complete the full three to six year
Montessori programme as they need time to consolidate their
learning from their journey through the Practical Life and Sensorial
areas. Children may not be interested in maths until after four to
four and a half years of age, so leaving may mean they miss out on
a great mathematical foundation, development of confidence
working with numbers and a passion for learning that will support
them greatly at primary school. Children learn when they are ready
and have developed an interest so together, let’s keep an eye on
what your child is interested in.
Language Within Our Environment
Debbie Cocks
Regardless of the challenges in life, children learn that ‘when I try I can succeed’.
The beauty of the Montessori classroom is that it does not only
prepare the child for school but for LIFE!
Maria Montessori’s
educational philosophy is one of the clearest paths to allow children
to recognise that they can learn. Regardless of the challenges in
life, children learn that ‘when I try I can succeed’. As educators
within the Courtyard Montessori Preschool we prepare and arrange
an environment that enables each child to be calm, alert and
Maria observed that children between the ages of zero to six years
are in a period that she called ‘the absorbent mind’. She stated that
a child unconsciously absorbs information from their environment
between the ages of zero to three years, listening to language within
their home and consciously selects from the environment
information that further develops the senses during the following
three to six years. Maria also believed that children at this age were
in a ‘sensitive period’ for language at a much earlier age than
previously assumed. She stated that during this time, sentence
structure, pronunciation, parts of speech, and grammar ‘knowledge’
can be more easily acquired when taught in a step by step activity
A ‘sensitive period’ for learning is when a child is passionately
interested in a certain subject.
Maria deemed that it was very
important for experiences to be provided at this time as the child will
learn in an almost effortless fashion.
This is where within our
environment we as educators are able to recognise and detect the
sensitive period through observation and capitalise on this by
providing the optimum learning setting. After an introduction or
‘demonstration’ of materials, the child is able to independently
educate themselves, revisiting the materials whenever desired.
Our classroom environment is arranged in a variety of curriculum
areas, beginning with the Practical Life area which encourages
motor education, concentration and task perseverance.
Sensory materials are for training of the senses, which then leads
on to the academic materials for teaching writing and reading.
The two main aspects of language are receptive and expressive.
Receptive involves listening and reading, while expressive entails
speaking and writing. As part of our classroom ‘mat times’, we
teach the ‘letter of the week’ by teaching the sound of each letter
which is where the phonetic process begins. Within the Montessori
environment there are four main curriculum areas of language
presented on the shelves moving from simple to complex;
Handwriting, Spelling, Reading and Grammar, and each contains a
logical purpose and sequence.
For Handwriting, we begin with the geometric metal drawing frames
and insets which encourage the muscular control of a pencil, the
sandpaper letters which teach the form and the large moveable
alphabet for classification of letters.
In preparation for Spelling, the large moveable alphabet is again
used, this time for analysing spoken phonetic words and matching
the letters, and the small moveable alphabet which teaches
common phonograms.
Preparation for Reading encompasses introduction to phonetic
reading using three and then four lettered phonetic words. This
introduces the decoding of words and matching with objects.
Phonogram reading is also covered within this area. We always use
the ‘sound’ of each letter, instead of the name. Our reading
programme also enhances the early stages of reading, as they too
begin at the simple ‘Lettergetter’ stage of associating sounds with
words and follows through to a more advanced book, where children
are actually ‘reading’ for meaning and they have good knowledge of
sight words by now.
The final stage is preparation for Grammar which gives experience
of each part of speech using fun oral games and then reading the
same. Singular and plural and masculine and feminine word
change activities are also included. The ‘farm’ activity is a model
collection that enables practice with articles, nouns, adjectives,
prepositions and conjunction.
It is important to point out that language activities, like any other, are
introduced when children show an interest and enter in to a
sensitive period. Often some of our more complex activities are
designed for children in their fifth year, thus highlighting the
importance of our three-six year programme.
Grace and Courtesy
Nicki Sullivan
The various lessons presented to the children during ‘Grace and Courtesy’ time encourage children
to be respectful of others and things around them.
Some of you, particularly parents new to Montessori, may be
wondering exactly what our ‘Grace and Courtesy’ time in the
beginning of our mornings entails. The title certainly nods towards
good manners and you wouldn’t be wrong in that summation,
however it encompasses a lot more than children simply minding
their ‘ps and qs’ (good manners). Let me explain further.
The Montessori classroom is a carefully prepared environment
created specifically to meet the needs of the child both physically
and emotionally; it is about educating the ‘whole child’. Montessori
introduced lessons in ‘Grace and Courtesy’ in response to the
young child’s need for order and understanding, and to build on their
knowledge of social structures in order to be more comfortable in
their learning environment. The Montessori philosophy provides a
base from which children learn and develop the notions of caring,
respect and consideration for others.
The various lessons
presented to the children during ‘Grace and Courtesy’ time
encourage children to be respectful of others and things around
them. The notion of being respectful is demonstrated by teachers
through modelling and practice, whereby children learn appropriate
social behaviour, reflecting in a more pleasant environment in the
classroom and beyond.
One example we recently reflected on during our ‘Grace and
Courtesy’ time was shaking hands. This is an action we undertake
when welcoming the children into the classroom and then when
saying goodbye at the end of their day. It is not merely the shaking
of the hand, but the spoken reply and eye-contact involved too.
This combined ‘whole package’ allows for/determines more refined
social skills, confidence and independence.
As the colder months approach, the teachers may look at how the
children can catch their sneeze or cough more hygienically, to help
prevent it being passed to others. Other reflective practices may be
promoting the careful and mindful carrying of scissors or knives,
passing through a narrow space, politely interrupting someone or
asking for their help, effective communication skills, or how to wash
and dry hands effectively to help rid them of germs. Other times we
may focus on how to mindfully or correctly do an activity. The list
goes on….!!
Montessori also emphasised the relationship of these lessons to the
general happiness and wellbeing of the child. “A child who
becomes a master of his acts through… repeated exercises [of
Grace and Courtesy], and who has been encouraged by the
pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is
a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness
and discipline” (Montessori, 2007, p.93).
Ultimately, from the lessons learnt in ‘Grace and Courtesy’, the child
begins to set the foundation for a dignified and respectful living for
themselves and others, preparing a strong and positive foothold into
Perhaps the proof is in the pudding! 
Nā te moa I takahi te rātā ~ Early influences will last throughout life,
take care of the young.
A New ‘Courtyard Courier’ Feature:
Exploring Some of the Sensorial Materials
Direct purpose of the cylinder blocks:
visual discriminations of dimensions.
Preparation for the pink tower.
Direct purpose of the pink tower: visual discrimination of volume associated with muscular discrimination
– preparation of the mathematical mind.
Keys words for children: biggest and smallest.
Direct purpose of the broad stair: visual discrimination of thickness - again in preparation of the mathematical mind.
Key words for children: thickest and thinnest.
Through working with the pink tower and broad stair children learn strategies
for active exploration, thinking and reasoning either working by themselves or
alongside friends.
“The senses, being explorers of the
world, open the way to knowledge.
Our apparatus for educating the
senses offers the child a key to guide
his explorations of the world.”
Maria Montessori (The Absorbent Mind)