03 May 2016

Navi Class Goes Montessori: Ch. 4

Yesterday it rained, which in this climate always throws the students off. The sky turns grey, the air pressure climbs, and suddenly half the school is in the office asking to have its temperature taken because the students just do not know what hit them, only that everything is wrong somehow.

Navi class started off accordingly. Class was ok but the Disney animators took the day off.

The problem with the new program, which is also one of its strengths, is that the way I have it set up there is no escaping it: the students are literally surrounded by work; they can’t escape while they wait for the teacher to call on someone else. Some of the students work diligently for all 40 minutes and get their recreation in the Navi, which is what I want them all to learn to do; but I may have to build in some break time. We’ll see.

The other thing I have to evaluate is whether the activities have enough scaffolding for the youngest member of the class. My instinct is always to write for the highest grade in a group.

One thing I definitely should have done when I introduced the program was to go over the procedures six times and made them say it all back to me. I suspect that some are having trouble switching tack from waiting to be told what to do.

Today it didn’t rain and everything was fine. One of my administrators said she asked a girl what on earth is going on in Mrs. ---‘s class and the girl said it is cool and they like it.

The plan is to keep the program up until Pesach and then evaluate whether to continue to the end of the year. My principal was concerned that the program wouldn’t have enough momentum on its own and recommended that I introduce it as something special, a discreet unit: we are going to make a book about the next couple of perakim; you will do all this work and then we will comb-bind it and have a contest to see who has done the nicest job.

I was confident enough that the program was exciting that I did not bring up the contest idea; and one student already said she doesn’t want her work comb-bound; but the discreet-unit aspect means that we are trying to get through five perakim before Pesach, because to make a book about just the next two perakim was entirely arbitrary – it was perakim 11 and 12 in Shmuel Alef, a battle and a speech – I just couldn’t see it and I didn’t think the girls would either. So we are chugging along at a perek a day (!), every day starts with ten minutes of Storytime; and then they’ll have a couple of days to just work.

The urgent pace may be a boon rather than otherwise. I think the main challenge with this program is going to be creating enough energy in the classroom given how many girls, in an already small and relatively low-energy group, are sitting and working quietly on their own. I may start suggesting the social activities to the others.

One of the girls asked today whether I have seen the Totoro film and reminisced about how much she likes it, and I proposed that she go for the activity behind it and write up perek 14 as a graphic novel, and put Totoro in it if she likes. She elaborated on the scene, Totoro vs. the Philistines, and almost talked herself into it. I will be intrigued to see whether she takes up that idea – not only because I would love to read that manga but also because this is the girl who likes questions with a right answer, not creative exercises, and one of my challenges this year is getting her to see that even school subjects can be colorful and dramatic.

At any rate, the lesson for me in this exchange was that good things can come of having student-friendly pictures on the envelopes. We should have a higher proportion of Totoros to Renoirs. The pictures are what they are because it is not always easy to figure out what the students find absorbing; it is a question they will never answer directly (food! sleep! myself! sleep!) – it might serve well to have the students pose and take the pictures.

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