Welcome to Agnes' Class
Welcome to our classroom! I am looking forward to another year of learning and growing together. With great joy I will share with you the stories about what we have been working on in the classroom. I encourage you to visit our observation room as much as possible and witness what's going on through your own eyes.
Agnes Woynarowski, Guide
B.S. Krakow University, economics
M.A. Krakow University, business administration
AMS Primary Certification, Midwest Montessori Center, Evanston
AMS Infant-Toddler Certification, MECA, Chicago
The Children's House experience (2010- present)
Young Children's Community Support
Young Children's Community Guide
April 13, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, we made bread in a bread machine. It was ready while we were eating lunch (usually bread is done during the nap and I am always trying to turn the machine off before the it starts beeping). Everyone was startled by a sound similar to the fire alarm. Someone said that we need to go outside. I explained that it was the machine letting us know that the bread was ready to come out. The sight and smell of the bread convinced children that it was safe to stay in the classroom.
Last Friday we had opportunity to practice a fire drill and the children are still talking about loud fire alarm. They started to notice fire alarm boxes in the hall. It is amazing how much young child can understand and observe. “What's going on? What's happened?” became a favorite question among the children. When they ask you this at home, please observe if they really want to know the answer or is it just a way of getting your attention. When the child repeats the question over and over and tunes out our response, this is a way of getting attention. In this case I do not provide a ready answer. Instead I ask the child: “What do you see happening? What do you think happened?” This helps the child understand that he or she are capable of finding the answer for themselves.
We are starting to work on our gala project soon. My husband build a table for serving tea, which the children will paint using the chalk paint. Everyone in our classroom had experience with painting so I am very hopeful about this project, even the youngest children can do it.
March 23, 2017
Christy wrote down the lyrics of the Spanish song that she sings with children during the group time. I will share them with you via email. I heard many "bailo, bailo, bailo" at lunch table today.
We shave tarted to practice patience as a little bit of cabin fever has entered with the slow to warm temperatures. Meals are the best opportunity to practice waiting for your turn. Each child serves himself as much as his skills allow. It happens often that the very young child start screaming at the table when they see me putting the crackers into a serving bowl. In this situation, I explain to the child that the crackers are coming but I am not serving them to the screaming child. I will serve them to a child who is waiting calmly and who is sitting in a farther distance from the child who demands the food. I will say: "The bowl with crackers is coming around. It is Kolette's turn to serve, then it will be Everett's turn, then it will be your turn". If the child is still screaming for crackers and it is her turn to serve, I will pause and say: "When you stop screaming you can serve yourself some crackers". Practicing waiting for turns develops patience. It is important to expect it from your child. They are able to sit 20 minutes at the table, when involved in serving themselves, conversation and cleaning after themselves.
We finished our project of learning about shearing sheep, washing the fleece, carding the clean wool and spinning it into yarn. Susan, who presented spinning wool to children, left us some yarn and the oldest friends used it for making necklaces. Leland washed the raw wool from the brown sheep and stuffed it into a pillow which we now have in our classroom.
March 9, 2017
The children show great interest in language. They constantly ask: “What is this?” and repeat new words. In our classroom we have three shelves with material dedicated to language development. These include nomenclature objects, objects that are matched to the cards and cards with interesting pictures. The children play with the tool box and at the same time learn the names of objects found there. We started to learn the names of the male and female animals and their babies. Now, when I say “This is a ewe”, the children understand that it is a name for a female sheep. They do not ask “where am I?” anymore.
We started to sing the song with sounds of the letters. The children are so focused on our mouth and observe how the single sounds are made: h, m, k, p...We are going to start a language - cultural project, which will introduce the children to the process of making wool from shearing the sheep to the sweater. I was inspired by Ellie who constantly asks me about one picture in the book, where the shepherd shears the sheep. We are going to read the book “Pele’s new suit” by Elsa Beskov, look at cards explaining the shearing process, touch and smell the raw fleece, wash wool, card it and make a pillow. Susan Holmes – Glazier will demonstrate the spinning wool into a yarn. Don't be surprised when your child comes home and starts talking about wool and sheep.
Carole and the children baked and prepared many delicious snacks during last two weeks. They made hummus, smoothies, buttermilk and cranberry pound cake, oatmeal, and garlic cream cheese spread for the freshly baked bread in our bread machine. The children also started to practice yoga with Carole.
February 23, 2017
“What are we making today? This question is asked everyday by older children, who are eager to prepare food for snacks. The younger children are watching, as one day it will be their turn to bake muffins or cut cheese. We were turning a lot of grapefruit into a juice using our manual vegetable/ fruit juice extractor. Even the youngest children take turns moving the crank, but only the oldest children understand that you need to make circular movement of the arm in order to extract some juice. They also learn how to coordinate left hand pushing down the flesh of the grapefruit with the plunger and the right hand to move the crank in circular pattern. When left to themselves they master these skills and the reward is the juice, which the children often share between themselves.
The last few weeks were the times of vacation for some of you, now everyone is back and we have a full classroom. The children are busy with purposeful work, moving smoothly through the room. Sometimes we create a big mess, but the older children who have such a strong sense of order always fix it, move the compost bucket, where it belongs, grab the mop to dry the floor.
Christy was teaching the children the Spanish song. They dance and copy the movements of the hands and arms. She promised to share the lyrics and a youtube video so you could sing it at home. I heard many of the children singing the song after the group was over.
Our conferences are coming next week. I am excited about the opportunity to meet with you and talk about your children. I will be happy to answer all your questions.
February 9, 2017
February brought changes to our classroom. Ella left for primary and two new children joined our community: Ariel and Hayes. Warm welcome to new friends and their families! Ian, Ellie's little brother started his visits to our classroom and will move very soon. It is wonderful to watch how the children naturally take on new roles.
We all seem to be very tired recently during the morning. Last week we made smoothies with spinach, banana, orange juice, and pineapple to boost our energy. We also made hummus which was enjoyed by everyone. This time it was Leland who poured and spooned hummus ingredients into a food processor, but Kollete, Sean, Elias, Juliana and Jeremiah took turns with pushing the buttons of the food processor. I hope that we will be able to make waffles soon. Our youngest children are getting more patient with watching food being prepared in front of them.
The children have opportunities of preparing food for themselves or for our community. Each day, one child can spread jam on the rice cake, cut carrots or juice oranges. Youngest children start with cutting banana. Please, invite your child to prepare food with you.
January 26, 2017
The children have been enjoying the warmer weather. They are busy digging in the sandbox, pushing trucks, sliding down on the slide that earlier was covered by the snow, and exploring the area walking around on their little feet. The movement is so important for them. The child from birth to three years old is
going through a sensitive period for movement. Maria Montessori used the term “sensitive period” which nowadays is also defined as a window of opportunity, during which the child grasps the new skill easily. If the window of opportunity is missed, the child has a harder time to catch up and may even never develop the skill, language is an excellent example. When we look at a young child we think that the movement is necessary for them to get his energy out. There is some truth in that, but mostly he need to move in order to organize his brain and help it develop. At the beginning the movement is accidental, without the purpose. I have observed that the children who are very young and not allowed opportunity for free movement usually have a harder time with developing concentration in the classroom. When the need for movement is satisfied, the action becomes more purposeful, and the child starts planning and eventually the concentration develops. Now the real learning can take place.
January 12, 2017
I hope you all had nice holidays! We welcomed new friend Alexandra, who moved up from our Nido Community. A warm welcome to Aleo family! We also said good bye to Tatum, who graduated into Alison’s Primary classroom. It makes us proud seeing Tatum walking with a big smile on his face among his new older friends.
Our cooking projects have decreased in duration lately as so many youngest children have not quite acquired the skill of observing food preparation activities without constant touching and eating what is being prepared! As they develop the skill of patience, will get back to baking in a couple of weeks. So far we managed to make smoothies, hummus, and applesauce.
I have been watching a lot of webinars recently and wanted to share with you information about how to teach children to listen. This topic was presented by Maren Schmidt from KidsTalk. In her presentation, Maren introduced three techniques that help children develop the skill of paying attention to our words. I would like to focus on her technique: Talk less, listen more. With toddlers it is important to show them that words are followed by action. It is important to give the verbal direction to a child only once (we tend to repeat our requests). For example: “Jack, it is time to come to the table and eat dinner”. When Jack does not follow our direction, it is time to take his hand and lead him to the table. This should be done without the words. It usually works for younger children, but if we are facing loud protest and resistance from Jack than it is time to listen more, which means really to observe more what is going on. First we say what we see: “I see by your face and tone of voice that you don't want to come to dinner”. Second, we ask for clarification: “Can you tell me why you don't want to come to dinner?” Third, we state what we understand: “Oh! You want to finish building your project”. After that we offer two choices: “You can finish your project now and miss dinner” or “You can eat dinner now and finish your project later” (offer your favorite solutions last; research shows that people more often choose the second option). If you still are meeting resistance ask for clarification: “Are you telling me your choice is to finish your project and miss dinner?” Then restate the choice: “Your choice is to miss dinner and be hungry? If you don't eat dinner now it's a long time until breakfast.” Always think through your choices before offering them so, that action can follow words. I started to use this technique in the classroom. As I mentioned earlier, on a level of the very young toddler, we are only following two first steps: giving verbal direction and wordlessly leading a child by the hand to accomplish requested action. I encourage you to start talking less and listening more and observe the results.
December 15, 2016
We have been working very hard on getting our snow gear on. Few of the children can dress themselves independently, some of the children are very close to the mastery and the youngest ones are learning by watching adults helping them and working together with an adult to put snow gear on. This is how we do it (for the very young child):
1. Ask the child to sit down on the floor and take off his/her shoes.
2. Line up the snow pants/snow suit in front of the child's feet. Fold the upper part of the snow pants/suit out so it would feel more like putting pants on. Show the child how to push their feet through the pants legs.
3. Ask the child to stand up and help them with the upper part of the pants/suit.
4. In order to put the boots on, I lay them out for the child by the wall, shelf, door frame. I teach them to hold to the wall and step into the boots.
5. Next I line up the coat on the floor with the upper part around the neck touching child's toes. The child puts arms into sleeves and flips the jacket over. This method is called “up-and-over”.
6. The hat and gloves go at the end.
I hope that you will have a lot of opportunities to practice the skill of putting the snow gear on during the winter break. Enjoy the walks with your child. Have a very cozy and peaceful holiday.
December 1, 2016
Thank you to all of you who purchased books for our classroom during Horizon Book Day. We enjoy reading them and looking at the pictures.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We had very delicious feast at school. The children served themselves and tried everything on their plates, choosing the favorite food. I hope that everyone of you takes time at home to eat with your children, at the same table. It is important for them to use the same dishes, cups, silverware as we adults are using. They just need to be the child-sized. The children pay attention to a neatly set table, they have opinions about tablecloths, and do not like when we forget to put napkins. They are learning the table manners, which we call grace and courtesy. Before we begin the meal, we take few deep breaths and sing the song about friends, which helps the children to grasp the idea of community. We pass serving dishes around the table and the children serve themselves according to their skills. Everyone is expected to sit at the table until the meal is over, which takes us usually 30 min. After we are done eating, we put the food left on the plate into a compost bucket and our dishes on the dish cart. The older children help with clearing the tables from the serving dishes, removing tablecloths and loading them into a washer and sometimes they even wash the tables using spray bottle with a little dish soap mixed with water. I would like to encourage you to start the similar routine at home and see how quickly the children become your helpers.
November 10, 2016
Thank you for our conversations during conferences. I really appreciate your trust and openness. I feel there is a partnership between us with one common goal: We both want the children to reach their higher potential. In some cases, I felt that the questions you asked about situations at home did not need to wait until conference. Please do not hesitate to email me any time, whenever you are struggling with disciplining your toddler or trying to find solution to the schedule of the busy days.
I also wanted to encourage you to come to the presentation on November 16th, during which both Marie and I will try to introduce the basic principals of how to prepare your home and yourself for living with toddler. Often during conferences you are surprised that we see a different picture of your child. Mostly it happens because of the advantage of the prepared environment, that sets up the children for success.
The Thanksgiving time is approaching in just a week. I am very excited about our feast. I look with pride at our community, where children welcome guests with a wonderful hosting skills. Whenever we have substitute person joining us for lunch, they offer a ladle of soup or scoop of salad greens. On days when Christy comes to school at noon, the children anticipate her arrival by checking first if her stool is in place, if she has a plate and a napkin. Then they listen to the clock ticking at 12:00 o'clock. They run to Christy with hugs, and when she eventually sits down, they make sure that she has food on her plate. I hope you will be able to see this joy of serving and sharing at your Thanksgiving dinners. A couple a years ago Carole taught us a song : “Friends, friends, one, two, three. All my friends are his with me. You're my friend, you're my friend....” It is simple and everybody is able to participate. What a joy to watch our new friends Gemma and Jeremiah singing happily with us. They already feel so strong attached to our community. From the joy of being together, sharing food, come the real understanding of carrying of each other. This is the best opportunity for a child to learn social responsibility.
On the sad note, our dear friend Avery is moving away with her family and two new baby brothers. We will miss her and wish her all the best. She will thrive whenever she goes, because she already has such a wonderful foundation for life.
October 27, 2016
Louisa and Oliver joined Melissa and Julie's primary classroom this week. Jacob is visiting primary and will join Melissa and Julie’s room soon. Conversations about primary are constantly in the air. We welcomed siblings Gemma and Jeremiah to our community last week. Welcome to Ballinger Family!
A highlight of the week included a visit from Long Lake and Metro Fire Departments. The children were able to see a fire truck and talk to the visiting firefighters who were here as part of fire prevention month. We also baked a delicious cinnamon Bundt cake and made our first hummus. The basil under the growing lamp is getting very tall and hopefully we will be able to transplant it to pots so your child could take it home and care for it. We all love pesto pasta, so it would be a wonderful lesson of showing your child the process of making it, from a plant to a dinner plate.
Some of you approached me with a question about how we celebrate Halloween at school. We celebrate Pumpkin Day, which this year will happen on Monday Oct. 31. We will make a Jack- o – Lantern and light the candle inside. We will bake Pumpkin Bundt Cake and make Pumpkin Smoothies. We will not dress up in costumes. Seeing other friends in costumes may be very scary and uncomfortable for a young child. They are witnessing Halloween with a little more awareness than when he/she was a baby. I do have language cards on the shelf with a fall theme and there is the card with children in costumes. We talk about Halloween and the custom of dressing up and going ”Trick or Treating.” One of the main responsibilities for adults is to help the child adapt to our time, culture and space, but at the same we also need to be respectful of the sensitive nature of the child.
Our conferences are coming up next week. You can sign up on line following the directions on the Compass.
October 13, 2016
It has been a pleasure to observe children settling in. They move happily through the room, choosing activities. We have been hammering golf tees into a large pumpkin, gluing pictures cut out from various catalogs, stringing noddles into necklaces, and arranging flowers.
We made waffles, oatmeal, baked banana bread, and carrot muffins. The children's skills are amazing. They can crack the eggs, peel vegetables, and spoon the batter into molds. Of course they do not do it at the same level as we. They still need to gain coordination and strength of muscles. They still accidentally spill and make a mess, but by allowing them to try, they gain experience, confidence and master their skills. They are so proud when they produced food for our snack table. We often share with Marie's class, and that is another important outcome of our work: baking to share.
The first and very important job that your child has to accomplish after arriving to school is hanging the backpack on the hook. Next they take their jacket off and look for the loop to put on the hook next to the backpack. Some of the jackets come nowadays without loops and children became very inventive. They figured out that they can use the tags as loop, or simply the hood. Frequently younger children leave their jackets in the middle of the floor, but after the reminder, “Oops, you forgot to hang your jacket.”, and they hurry up to the coat room to fix it. Please, provide the hook for your child, where he or she can hang the coat and the backpack after coming back home from school. They will be able to find it again in the morning in order to get ready for school. The hook needs to be easy to reach for a child and the best place for it would be a mudroom or hall that is close to the entrance door. Have the right coat ready in the evening (the weather changes everyday). You can explain: “It's going to be chilly tomorrow/today. This jacket will keep you warm.”
I have been circulating the dvd “Addison's Day” among the families of our classroom. It is a short 30 min. movie explaining how to prepare the home environment in order to meet the needs of a young child and allow him to be an active member of the family.
September 29, 2016
There is definitely a change in children with the fall arrival. One of our goals for the children is to teach them how to recognize how they feel and help themselves. When they are tired, we provide a place to rest, when they are hungry we provide the opportunity to cut fruit for themselves, when they are frustrated we give them the designated place where they can safely express their emotions. We also provide the ground rules and expectations. Maria Montessori talked about freedom with limits. What that means is that we prepare the environment for the children that gives them power to move freely (but not run in the classroom or climb on the shelves), choose the activities/works from the shelf freely (but the child is not free to misuse it in a manner that would break the material), express themselves freely (but they cannot make disturbing sounds during the meal or group time) The very young children need clear boundaries and guidance. They do not to mean to hurt us by their behavior, they are just testing our reaction. As adults we need to stay consistent and patient. By setting the rules and expectations we are teaching the children how to belong to community. The first example of community for them is your family. This is what they know from birth. The other community that the children are part of is their class. They provided here with a great opportunity to see how their behavior affects the others and become responsible for their actions.
In our language area we have figurines of wild birds, farm animals, vegetables, and cards with the signs of fall season. Ask your child what male and female sheep are called.
September 15, 2016
We had a joyful beginning of the school year. There were no tears, as most of the students attended our program through the summer. Everett is the only new friend who joined us this September. Welcome Everett and Hartman Family!
The weather suddenly changed, and the days became shorter. Our bodies need to adjust to new conditions. There are more adaptations waiting ahead of us. Louisa, Ollie, and Jacob will soon start their visits in Melissa and Julie's class. We will have to adapt to their absence. Ella, Tatum, and Everett will have to adapt to the role of the leaders. The life of the young child is very much about making adaptations and our role as adults is helping them in adapting the best as they can to our time, space and culture. We do it by giving them proper language, showing that objects have names, and words put together lead to communication. We model social interactions, about important holidays that are the part of our culture. We teach children how things are done, so they could carry on by themselves. This not only enhances their independence in doing things for themselves, but mostly it foster independence of thinking for themselves. With the words and corresponding action they can make connection in their brains. Instead of offering them water in non-spill cup we offer the glass carafe and an open plastic cup. They pour the water by themselves, gaining from that action valuable information: the water spills, it feels wet, the carafe may break if we are not holding it carefully, etc. The ability to observe these simple effects leads to the ability to learn in the future from own observation.
Thank you for your generosity and buying the food preparation items for our classroom. We are ready to cut pickles, spread jam, bake and make hummus.
We are so lucky to have Christie in our room. She already gained the trust and love of your children and she is teaching us new songs.