Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never."

I'm not so good at whole group meetings. I admit it. Sometimes I get sidetracked, I hurry, I get anxious watching three year olds fidget (lie down, talk, wrestle), I call people's attention. I've been trying to get calm and still and quiet to my very core before these gatherings. To model the patience and posture that I want to see in them. To keep the gatherings short and fun. Still, they are a challenge for me. I have questions:

- What to do with constant interruptions?
- What to do with the little ones that can't seem to sit for longer than a minute?
- What to do with the ongoing conversations?

This is what I've tried so far:

- Assigned seating arrangement for the circle
- Scrapped the circle and done a wedge arrangement
- Grace and courtesy about raising hand
- Invited some children to sit out of the circle/wedge in chairs
- Positioned the assistant next to the children that have most trouble
- Kept gatherings short
- Grace and courtesy about how to sit
- Grace and courtesy about how to listen
- Calmed myself

What do you do to keep meetings sane?

Things I know I could do but don't do as much as I should:

- Include the children in decision making processes
- "Practice" a lot more with them how to sit for gatherings


Patty said...

I have tried it all. I am so glad that you posted about this. Today, was our first full day with new children and returning children. I am so relieved that I am not the only teacher that has these issues. I was starting to feel pretty discouraged after today. If I find the secret, I will certainly pass it on.

P.S. Montessori said...

Oh my gosh, I have issues with circle time too. I also do grace and courtesy for sitting and raising hands. I ask children to sit in chairs to watch circle time if they are distracting others. Still, I feel like I need to make circle time moreinteresting. Once in a while (if I can't bring in real objects), I use PowerPoint. I dont know if Maria would approve!

Kylie said...

I just found your blog. Thank you for sharing the files ou have created. I am just beginning to implement some Montessori into my homeschool and they will help greatly. I have tried a few times now but the link to the landmarks card is not working. Thanks again.

Annicles said...

we have 2 different strategies depending on what the meeting is for. If it is one where every-one gets a say, for instance at the end of a session and we're doing a presentation of the peace rose at the beginning of the term then we have a small stuffed toy (a gruffalo!) and you can only talk if you are holding the gruffalo! This focusses the kids minds on who to listen to and allows the one at a time scenario without too much nagging from the teacher.

The second type is when the teacher needs to be talking and the children listening. This hapens when we do a presentation or take the register or any number of things. When we do this the teacher sits on a low chair and we have a candle holder which has four children holding hands in a circle around the central holder bit. If this is in the middle then it means that it is listening time only. It cuts down on the interruptions because the children know it is thier time to listen, not talk. Sometimes we start with one and then go on to the other but usually we keep it as short as possible and these 2 techniques help enormously.

Montessori Beginnings said...

Hi Susanne. I love how your classroom is open to outside. That picture is so cool. As for circle time advice, the only thing I can think of which I used to do with my music groups before we started playing is to stand up and shake everything out. All of the energy that wants to come out before they sat down. Being a musician I think it is very important for children to practice sitting quietly and still. If I found concentration was starting to go I would just get them to do it again. Hope this helps.

Keri Tate said...

I don't teach in the Montessori philosophy, although I'm learning more about it all the time :)

I teach 3 year olds, and group meeting is not mandatory. We may all begin together, but like most things, we don't always end together, or we come back together if we need to. In other groups, I've divided my group and done group meeting twice. We typically all start out together on our "spots" (round pieces of denim with their name painted on) more or less in a circle. If they just can't handle it that day, children are free to remove themselves from the group and do something quiet nearby. We've practiced this beforehand, so they now how to remove themselves and find something to do (if I forget to put some choices out beforehand). This way they can still hear, but not be forced to participate.

I find it has made my group meetings much more participatory and interesting for the children, because I have to compete with other fun choices.

Most of the time, all but one of the children will remain in the circle for the entire time. One of my student is quite a bit younger, and it's just more difficult for him.

Thinking of group meeting as optional has really changed things for the better.

Anonymous said...

When a child speaks out of turn, I just smile and raise my hand and they stop talking and raise theirs. ((We do tons of grace/courtesy the first week of school to remind them of this) I also tell my older ones that they can remind their younger friends about how we sit in the circle, so they are the ones enforcing the rules. Also, I keep in mind that sitting with legs crossed is not a natural position and some children just can't handle it. Some children need to sit in an M-shaped position (supported by arms behind back, legs bent in front) so they can feel steady, and that's ok. If a child wants to roll on the ground or lay down, I show him where he can do that (away from the circle). The beginning of the year is always crazy in circle, so I try to keep it short, and I remind myself that it's a process, as with everything... Doing circle with just the older ones in the afternoon reminds me that the little ones will come around eventually. :)