Transition Techniques and Tips

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Imagine that you’re back in preschool. You arrive at school for the day, hang up your coat and back pack, and get settled into the morning routine. You decide to paint this morning, and begin gathering your supplies, which takes roughly 15 minutes or so. Before your brush touches the piece of paper, you’re interrupted by loud clapping. “Okay, everyone! Put your things away, it’s circle time!”. You’re frustrated. You barely had time to even start painting, and now you must put your things away. All that time put into the preparation, only to be interrupted and forced to do something else. Circle time begins, filled with sing-along songs and a few stories. After that, it’s music lessons, then outdoor time, lunch, nap, and then it’s on to afternoon extra curricular activities. Your day is filled with transition after transition, leaving little to no time to adjust to each new activity.

This rarely happens in a Montessori community. The children are given the freedom to work, uninterrupted for long periods at a time, with calm, comfortable transitions throughout their day. The Montessori Guide observes and understands when the appropriate time is to transition from the morning work cycle to outdoor playtime, or to lunch, and so forth. We observe the children to find out their needs. We look for signs of readiness for what comes next; signs that the child is ready for a new lesson, or for greater responsibility. We make the expectations for each transition very clear. We demonstrate and model how to carry oneself during a transition, and let the older students help the younger students practice.IMG_6431

If you’ve ever been in a Montessori classroom, and truly know the philosophy, you understand the necessary role that transitions play in the students’ daily routine. Transitioning from one period of the day to the next, can be quite challenging, for any age group. Guiding an entire group of children during a transition takes practice; both for the Guide, and for the children. Keep in mind that you need to have realistic, age-appropriate expectations for the children in your care, and expect them to struggle or make mistakes during the learning process.

The patterns and daily routines that we establish for our children help build the foundation for their ability to adapt. This, like many other skills, is something that has to be taught, and learned through repetition and consistency. A new student does not often come to school knowing how to transition, so we have to help them.

Whatever your technique may be, do so with the utmost respect for your children’s needs, and make sure their work is not interrupted abruptly, or unnecessarily. Over the years, I’ve witnessed many different transition techniques. A popular technique is to simply sit on the rug and sing, ever so softly, as to get the attention of the entire group. Another, has a small bell to ring when the work cycle is complete. This is usually done by a senior student. Lining up is also a lesson that needs to be taught. You cannot just expect a child to know how to stand quietly, or where to stand, what to do with their hands, or feet, can they talk to their neighbor in front or behind them, are they to remain quiet…there are lots of skills to be refined!
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Give your students advance warnings of an upcoming transition. Walk quietly from one child to then next, reminding them that “you have a few more minutes”, or play a quiet, familiar song. Give a set amount of time for actual clean-up. A child who’s been working on the world map all morning, and has lots of different materials, may want to leave their work out. Put it aside, with their name on it, for them to return to at a later time. Practice this “clean up” routine every day, be consistent, and encourage students to help one another. And as always, safety is of the utmost importance. Always make sure students respect one another’s space. One Guide can help clean up, while the other watch the students to make sure they are safe at all times.
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Most importantly, follow the child. The dynamics of your room will tell you how to conduct each transition, in a way that is beneficial for you, and your students.

Here are a few teacher resources, to help reference when planning transitions/daily routines:

Parent Resource: Managing Daily Transitions at Home:

PEN, Third Year Montesssori

Join us tomorrow for a special Primary Discovery Session…

“See. Experience. Believe. Third-Year Montessori”

5:00pm in the library

Hosted by Ms. Geetha and Ms. Patti

(lessons presented by children 5 years and older)

This parent workshop is applicable to ALL our HBMH Families! We encourage everyone to join us!

Our Primary program is structured in a way that the 3 year old child, or “first year” is a time for discovery. The “second year” is a time of solidification. The 5/6 year old, or “third year” is a time for application for all the child has learned since early infancy. Our goal is simply to enlighten you and help you experience what your 5 or 6 year old child will be doing during their “third primary year” in Montessori. You’ll have the opportunity to witness lessons being given by some of our older, third-year students. We don’t always offer an opportunity like this, so now is your chance!

**Not all children will be presenting lessons. Classes will combine in Apple for those not participating in the workshop. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

“Montessori children are encouraged to observe, explore, question, and investigate everything. They are allotted the freedom and time for the conception of a problem or situation and the discovery of its solution. This gives them the opportunity to produce ideas through flexibility which allows for the ability to switch from one perspective to another.” – Tami Kinna, Owner/Director HBMH

Hope to see you all there!

My Child’s Teacher is 6 Years Old

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No matter what side of the argument you stand on, there is concrete evidence and scientific proof that mixed ages in one classroom can be very beneficial. Starting in her earliest primary communities, Dr. Maria Montessori incorporated children as young as 2.5 years in a classroom with children as old as 6 years. This is a very common practice in many Montessori schools today, including our precious HBMH.

For many parents, putting their young 2.5 year old in a classroom with much older students (sometimes over the age of 6), can be quite intimidating. Especially if their child has never been in a daycare setting before. Children grow exponentially between 3 and 6 years of age. It’s quite impressive to see what the younger ones are capable of doing while learning and growing under the leadership and influence of students twice their age.

In Montessori, we want the materials to teach the children, allowing them to work independently. The same goes for their fellow peers; we want the older children to teach, guide, lead, influence, and motivate their younger friends. Through this structure, the younger students observe and imitate the older student’s actions, and the older students gain leadership skills as they guide and support their fellow classmates. They learn to be patient and compassionate for those who rely on them for help. Competition in the classroom is eliminated because every child is at a different stage of learning.

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Children learn more readily from other children than they do from adults…think of when you used to play “school” with your other childhood friends. It comes naturally to our little ones.

Maria Montessori observed that children are eager to learn, and she identified self-directed, observational learning as a central theme of childhood. Describing the phenomenon of observational learning in a multi-age group, Montessori wrote that the child “…suddenly becomes aware of his companions, and is almost as deeply interested as we are in the progress of their work.”

Through my observations in our primary community, I’ve witnessed multiple occasions of older students voluntarily helping their younger friends. I’ve witnessed lessons being given between the two, as if they themselves were the Guide. I’ve seen a 5 year old help a younger friend carry a full water pitcher to the hand washing basin, showing them how to walk with much precision while balancing the container, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. I’ve watched as older students volunteered their time to help roll up nap rolls for those who couldn’t yet do it themselves, tutoring them on each careful step. I have to restrain myself from interfering when I see a young child struggling to carry a full block of knobbed-cylinders, and watch as it tumbles to the floor, because I know that it will only take a few seconds for their older friends to rush over and help clean up the work. These opportunities are so precious to our older students, and play a large role in their growth and development.

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Angeline Stoll Lillard describes the Montessori multi-age setting this way, “Montessori encourages learning from peers in part by using three-year age groupings. This ensures that as children move through the classroom they will be exposed to older and younger peers, facilitating both imitative learning and peer tutoring… Dr. Montessori was quite clear about the need for this mix of ages.” (Montessori: The Schience Behind the Genius)

In conclusion, many parents look at a multi-age classroom and ask, “How does one teacher take care of so many students with such an age difference?”. The answer is simple…she doesn’t. The only way this is possible is with the help and participation from the older students. They know their expectations and roles in the community, and take on the role of being a leader, guiding and teaching their younger peers. Montessori is beautiful in this way; the children work together in a harmonious and peaceful learning environment, helping one another to achieve their full learning potential.