Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week 10: Birthday Gifts

DJ received this neat US map placemat for his birthday last week. It has images on the various states representing things you would find in that state. Then the border has some of the same images so you can play a game of finding which state each one belongs in. It also sparked questions like why the pig was in Iowa and the alligator in Florida.

That inspired him to pull out his US puzzle map. He placed all 49 states on the control map by himself! (It still irks me that Hawaii is not a puzzle piece on the US map). Then I had to coax him to put the pieces back in the frame. It's harder putting them back because he doesn't have the outlines to guide him. But he did it eventually with my help.

DJ also received this awesome little game, Rush Hour Jr. It's rated for ages 5+ so I was amazed when he was able to do the first 10 cards with very little help from me. He hasn't tried any others yet so I'm not sure how far he'll get. It is a basic logic puzzle. Each card has a layout of cars that DJ has to replicate with the plastic. Then he needs to figure out how to move the cars forwards or backwards, not sideways and not picking them up so that he can freely drive the white ice cream truck out the slot on the side of the frame. Aside from being an interesting logic puzzle this game hits the mark for DJ by being all about driving cars. Vrmmm!

DJ also received his first "real" Legos kit. So far he's only played with Mega Blox and larger Lego sets that were generic. This fire truck kit really inspired him to see the full potential of Legos. I walked through the instructions with him and guided him which pieces to put where, but his fine motor dexterity is really good so he was able to do most of the actual work himself. And it is a truly awesome truck!

And here is another birthday present he received from his Grandpa Dennis! This is the Brock Magiscope Basic Microscope that was reviewed and highly recommended by MBT at the WhatDidWeDoAllDay blog. This is a great starter microscope for preschoolers because it doesn't require electricity, doesn't have any confusing buttons and only has one moving part.

Grandpa also sent him a set of 25 prepared slides which will be awesome when he gets older but most of them were samples of cells, blood smears, slices of plant stems - nothing recognizable that a 4 year old would understand. Fortunately, I had purchased 2 sets of slides sometime in the past couple of years in anticipation of this gift. These sets include parts of insects - legs, wings, antennae, abdomen - and animal hair, feathers, scales and eggs. And I love that they have a drawing of the animal they represent right on the slide, perfect for a non-reader.

Just look at this honeybee leg that I was able to take a picture of with my iPhone! You can even make out the little hairs along the leg. Incredible! Ok. I admit I think I was more impressed than DJ was.

Now for a throw-back to a birthday present DJ received last year. When I wrote about this a year ago, DJ was frustrated and not able to do this activity himself. Oh what a difference a year makes. This year my 4 year old problem solver wanted to do all of the patterns at once but he ran out of green triangles on the fourth board when he needed 1 more. I told him it wasn't meant to do all of them so he couldn't do it. He said he'd figure it out. He decided to solve his problem by placing a blue rhombus where the last triangle was supposed to go (the piece he is pointing at in the picture). Then he started the fifth board with the flower pot which called for green triangles all around the flower. I said I didn't know what he was going to do and he said he'd make it work. He decided to complete the flower with orange squares instead of triangles. He was SO proud of himself that I was wrong. He COULD do it.

DJ did some more work with the Number Rods this week. He has basically mastered this work but in Montessori you leave activities on the shelf for kids to revisit as needed. For some they may just need to solidify what they learned from it. Others might need the confidence boost of discovering a previously challenging work is now easy. And some might just be fooling around and having fun. Whatever the reason, this is still important school work.

Here is another "easy work" that DJ still likes to do. If you look closely, he has the triangular prism on top of the rectangular prism which clearly makes a house. The cone on top of the cylinder might not be so clear until DJ demonstrates it for you. It is a space shuttle. The cylinder is the rocket that separates once it breaks through the atmosphere and then the cone is the space shuttle that continues on to the moon. Fun!

For continued practice with the vocabulary for ten through ninety (10-90) I made up this fun math game. We had played a variation of this before but this time I added the 10-bars. I placed the number cards for 10-90 face down randomly. Then DJ and I would take turns choosing a card. If he said the number correctly, he got to take that many 10-bars. So in this picture he chose 80, correctly said eighty and then counted out eights 10s. To keep it fair I had to guess the number before looking at it. Guessing is HARD! So our final score on this round was DJ: 290, Mom: 160. We played several rounds before DJ wanted to move on.

We then brought out the Hundred Board. For more practice reading numbers, I had DJ roll the place value dice for 10s & units. The tiles were on the board in order from 1 to 100. DJ had to roll the dice, find the matching number tile on the board and read the number (eighty-eight or sixty-seven). After removing about a dozen tiles he was done so I had him put the tiles back in their proper places which was another practice with reading the number and identifying its position on the board.

I also introduced the 4th (of 5) Constructive Triangle boxes to DJ this week. I read through the instructions on presenting it before bringing it downstairs. It seemed straightforward enough but I noticed it used the word "hexagon" so I prepared myself to remind DJ of the name of that shape. But when I brought the box down, my excited boy grabbed it from me and said "Hey! That's a hexagon!" Ok then. I guess he didn't need reminding.

I then began the presentation, reading the instructions as I went. (Yes, I'm supposed to practice by myself first but I'm impulsive so I just went with it). It starts by having the child align the two red triangles and identify the shape. DJ correctly answered "rhombus".

Next he was to align the two gray triangles to identify the shape. Again DJ said, "it's a rhombus". I looked at the instructions and said, "No it's a parallelogram." DJ said, "Ut-uh, it's a rhombus." I looked at the shape he made and it sure looked like a rhombus. I looked at the picture in the instructions and it looked like a parallelogram. Hmm. Weird. I scrolled through the pages in the instructions and suddenly realized my mistake. The 4th & 5th Constructive Triangle boxes are both hexagon shaped but one is larger than the other. I had brought down the wrong box!! I quickly ran up to get the correct one, DJ aligned the shapes and concurred, yes, the gray pieces in THIS box make a parallelogram. Whew! So I learned two things - 1: I really should practice these things BEFORE presenting them and 2: this boy is SMART!! Wow.

Anyway, we then continued exploring the rest of the box. This activity is to learn that the center of a hexagon is a triangle with three smaller triangles along the outside. And those 3 smaller triangles, if folded in, are the same size as 1/3rd of the inner large triangle. Also 1/3rd of the large triangle aligned with the outer triangle makes a rhombus, so a hexagon is made up of 3 rhombuses. Finally if you split a rhombus into 2 triangles and line up their short ends, you get a parallelogram! Did you learn that in preschool?! No? Neither did I!

We also did a little bit of language work. DJ is still avoiding this type of work. He only did it because I pulled it off the shelf. But he did write the words red, spit, sun & mom. I know he can do this work... He's just not interested in it.

He does still love to be read to though. DJ received some new books for his birthday from his Grandma Phyllis, including Set One of Miss Rhonda's Readers. Written by a Montessori teacher, these early reader books have cute pictures and adorable little stories. I was really impressed. DJ had me read them all several times. For each book, I chose a word in the title and had him identify each letter, then I sounded out each letter several times, gradually saying them faster until I was saying the word. So p-i-g became pig. DJ was definitely intrigued.

In Montessori, children start with writing before reading so the child comes up with a word (such as sun), works out the sounds and chooses the corresponding letters. Reading doesn't come until later because that involves decoding the letters to figure out a word (like pig) that someone else thought up. Also, even once a child starts reading the teacher is not supposed to ask them to read out loud. Early reading is checked by having them place written words next to objects or reading command cards such as "jump up" and then performing the action. Asking a child to read out loud adds an additional complication to the task (verbalizing the words as they are decoded) which could slow down the desired process of getting them reading.

I say this because I am uncertain about whether DJ is able to read or not. As I was reading "The Pink Pig" book to DJ, I suggested to him that he say "pig" every time I pointed to the word. I didn't expect him to read the word, I was just impressing on him that the story comes from me reading the words, not from making them up based on the pictures. Later that night, DJ's dad tells me that DJ read The Pink Pig to him! He might have been doing it from memory using the pictures to remind him, but he also said all the words correctly as they were written. So. Hmm.


  1. Maybe time for some phonetic commands - a good test to see if he is actually reading (and if he's not, he does something "Wrong" and whatever, the command goes back in the basket for another pull-out).

  2. Constructive triangles - we all do it ;) I have done such things too!