Montessori Matters

March 22, 2019

The Importance of Struggle

Something that we tend to shy away from as parents, students, and even teachers, is allowing ourselves and our students to struggle in their learning. We want our students be able to understand every topic as soon as it is taught. However, research shows that students gain a better conceptual understanding of topics when they learn with productive struggle. Productive struggle involves presenting an unfamiliar topic and allowing students to speculate and experiment with the solution. After the initial struggle and failed attempts, the teacher provides prompts and guidance that connects the topic to previously learned material, providing a scaffolding for learning. This helps reinforce the importance of prior topics while deepening the students’ understanding of the new material.

Toward the beginning of the year, students in 4th-9th grade technology classes were presented with a logic puzzle game website that involved lots of trial and error to learn the controls and solve the puzzles at first. Students were frustrated with their initial failures, but as they learned the logic behind the solutions and the Rubik’s Cube-esque algorithms required to navigate the puzzle spaces, they were able to build upon previous solutions to solve more difficult puzzles as they progressed.

At the end of the students’ initial playing time, Mr. Dabney asked the students for feedback on their experience. The students reported being frustrated and challenged and struggling at first, but they enjoyed it as they started to learn the patterns. Over the year, the students have frequently asked to play the game once they’ve finished their assignments in class or their work in study hall. Below is a word cloud generated from the students’ responses on the feedback form in which words that were frequently mentioned appear larger than other words.

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You may notice many of the students used words that initially appear negative, such as “confusing,” “stuck,” “guess,” “challenging,” “falling” (if you make a mistake in the puzzle you can fall off of the map), and “stressful.” However, knowing that productive struggling allows students to gain a deeper conceptual understanding makes words like “solving,” “worked,” “strategies”, “understand,” “engages,” “brain,” “methods,” “solutions,” “patterns,” “imagined,” and “smarter” alongside those seemingly negative words highlight the learning process the students went through during the activity and become really encouraging to see.

So, as students struggle to solve a problem on a homework assignment or with studying for a quiz or a test, be sure to encourage them to keep working at it and to attempt to connect the material to topics that they have already learned. Know that, in the end, the struggle encourages mastery.

Dates to Remember

March 25-29 - Spring parent conferences

March 30 - Spring Benefit at 6:30PM at the T. Ed Garrison Event Center

April 11 - Barbecue and Lower Elementary Play

April 15-22 - Spring Break -- see note about schedule below

April 23 - Annual Report*

* Please note, in the previous issue of Montessori Matters, the Annual Report was mistakenly listed on April 11. The correct date is April 23. We apologize for any confusion.

Spring Break Schedule

Spring Break falls on April 15-22 this year. On Monday-Thursday, April 15-18 and Monday, April 22, all programs will be closed, but extended day will be available. On Friday, April 19, all programs will be closed and no extended day will be available that day.

Parent Conferences

Parent Conferences are coming up in the next two weeks. Here are five ideas from a Montessori school in Montana to keep in mind as you prepare and listen during your conference time here at MSA.

  1. Keep an open mind—knowing your goal is to have a thriving, healthy, happy child in her classroom.

  2. Be ready to listen. There will be good news, and there may be areas of concern. This is not because you are a bad parent.

  3. Take notes. Likely, the teacher will provide some sort of report. However, you might want to jot down notes, e.g. things you can do at home to enhance where your child is in the classroom.

  4. Allow the Montessori teacher to explain what she is seeing in your child (behavior, skills, challenges, etc.)

  5. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher questions—e.g. describe a lesson you may not be familiar with, what interventions have been used for issues that may be going on, what strategies to use to work with your child, or how to incorporate where your child is with your home.

Age of Montessori, Bozeman, Montana

Lower Elementary Play

The Lower Elementary students are excited to announce their upcoming play based on the books, The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt. Please join us as we laugh our way through the antics and attitudes of some very overworked and indignant crayons! April 11 is the day! Come early and enjoy a BBQ plate before the play. Food starts at 5:30 pm and the play begins at 6:30 pm.

Lower Elementary needs donations of used and new crayons. If you have any that aren't being used, please send them our way. We have big work ahead of us in the task of designing and making our props beginning next week (March 25 - 29). We appreciate any crayon donations!

Alumni Catch-up: Jack Hill

Last year’s graduating class (2018) had many outstanding young people. One of them is Jack Hill. He just so happens to be the son of our very own Dr. Dana Hill. Having spent 17 years of his early life here, this is almost like a second home. Jack is currently a Freshman at Georgia Institute of Technology with a major in Computer Science.

Some of Jack’s favorite memories include: taking part in the “Walk around the Sun” birthday celebrations, being involved with a Middle School real-life archeological dig at Mesa Verde, Colorado, and going on the high school Model UN trips around the country.

Jack’s sage advice to students still at MSA: “Do not be envious of anyone that attends a larger school because there is no advantage socially. Additionally, in my experience individuals that attended much larger schools leave without the same sense of community.”

Recommendation to families of MSA: “Families are the foundation of the Montessori community. You get out of it what you put into it.”

Recommendation to the teachers: “Don’t forget to have fun with the students!”

The future is very bright for this young man with his intelligence of head and heart. We look forward to your continued “be-ing and be-coming.”

Toddler Two Photos

These toddlers from Toddler Two practiced their practical life skills and took a moment for a group portrait this week.

Toddler Three Photos

These Toddler Three students explored the works around the classroom and enjoyed sweet time together with their friends.
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Geometry and Biology

Dr. Mahajan's Geometry class has started their unit on 3D figures. Students are exploring the relationship between a 3D shape and its net structure in a class activity. In Dr. Mahajan's Biology class, the students are studying biodiversity and classification. To explain their understanding of the classification system, the students researched and prepared posters with different animal and plant kingdoms to explain some of the biodiversity seen on Earth.

Mileage Club

Some of our younger Mileage Club members posed for a group photo after their run this week.
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These Scouts also posed for a group shot during this week's meeting.
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High School March Peace Board

The High School has continued to use the conference room whiteboard as their peaceful escape activity similar to the lower school peace tables. The High School students are incredibly artistic! Here is the students' contributions for March and St. Patrick's Day.
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Spring Benefit Sponsor of the Week - Anderson Pediatric Dentistry

Thank you to our VIP Sponsor of the week for the Montessori School of Anderson Spring Benefit, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry! The Spring Benefit will take place starting at 6:30pm on March 30 at the T. Ed Garrison Arena; tickets are on sale now at MSA.
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Nurse's Notes

National Poison Prevention and Awareness Week is March 17-23. It serves as a great reminder to all, the need to child proof your home for medication safety. Consider saving the toll-free Poison Control Help number in your phone: 1-800-222-1212. Poison Control is not just for emergencies. You can access Poison Control to answer questions about how to take or give medication, concerns about plants, chemicals, carbon monoxide, bites, stings and more. I am including resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the topics of Poison Prevention and medication safety.

With safest regards,

Susanna Merriman, RN

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Montessori School of Anderson

Our mission is to nurture the whole child, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, preparing students for academic excellence, lifelong learning and responsible, caring lives.