Posts Categorized: Primary II

The Purpose of Praise

Research shows that telling children, “good job”, is ineffective.  Furthermore, it creates the opposite of our intention, which is to boost self esteem.

Let that settle.  How many times a day do you either say this to your child, or hear it being said to one?  On playgrounds, sports fields, in classrooms and living rooms, adults use this phrase as the most common form of praise thinking it is beneficial.

In order to explain how detrimental this phrase can be, a deeper understanding of praise is needed. Praise is a way to express approval or admiration, and the intention when using it is to encourage the child to repeat a behavior. Unfortunately, saying, “good job” has no value in that it does not help the child to understand why what he did was good, therefore the encouragement to repeat the behavior is not there. Saying, “good job” does not express approval as praise is intended to be.  Instead, this two word phrase fails to highlight a specific behavior that the adult wants a child to repeat.  It focuses only on the outcome and completely ignores the process that occurred. If the steps taken in order to be successful are not ever acknowledged, how is the child able to evolve and develop independence?   As parents, teachers, and coaches we should recognize that it is imperative to acknowledge the steps a child has taken to be successful at something in order to reach the goal of becoming independent.

Focusing on a specific behavior is where the statements of approval need to be.  In order to praise effectively, children should be told exactly what they did well so that they will be able to repeat the desired behavior.  If your child helps prepare dinner by cutting some vegetables, their effort should be the focus of the praise.  “It really helped our family when you cut the veggies for dinner.”  Or, “I noticed you being very careful when using the chopper and that made all the ones you cut stay on the cutting board!”  This kind of praise is thoughtful, encourages the effort, fosters independence, and promotes self value.

The boost of self esteem born from this type of appropriate praise would be immeasurable.  Upon hearing these messages, a child will try harder, become self motivated, and learn from his experiences.

Submitted by Ms. Monica & Ms. Sarah
Primary 2 Co-Lead Teachers

November 15, 2016 4:14 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off on The Purpose of Praise

Art with Dr. Hequembourg

As a brief introduction for those parents who do not know me: my name is Laticia Hequembourg, my daughter Harper attends kindergarten at MSH (she is in Shree and Leela’s class). Teaching and creating art are among my greatest passions in life. I hold a PhD in adult education from Auburn University. My dissertation explored creativity generation and the creative process in adult learners. I also hold a master’s of art education from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and a BA in studio art with a concentration in sculpture from The State University of New York in Potsdam, New York. I have taught for the last few years as an adjunct professor in the fine art departments at both Alabama A and M University and Calhoun Community College.

This year at MSH I teach two kindergarten art classes, and both the lower and upper elementary art classes. The kindergarten art curriculum explores the basics of creating art through the inspiration of a variety of art forms and disciplines. Thus far we have found inspiration for our paper cut outs through the literary work of Shel Silverstein. We have also concentrated on learning about the elements of art with the construction of a visual chart that highlights both color and texture. This week we will be weaving paper to create work mats and then moving along to watercolor.

Both lower and upper elementary have been concentrating on the fundamentals and basic compositional components of drawing. They are currently working on self- portraits in oil pastel. In the next few weeks to come we will be transitioning into painting and focusing on color theory.

Also, as a note to all parents: I wanted to take a moment to inform parents that I will be utilizing a website called Artsonia ( Artsonia is a free online digital portfolio and student art gallery dedicated to promoting the visual arts curriculum in schools worldwide. I will e-mail parents individually with a password so that you can log on and view your child’s work throughout the year (you can also upload artwork yourself). This is a great way to share work with friends and family, keep a digital record of creative development, and the website offers fun keepsakes (these make excellent personalized gifts) with your child’s work, with 20% of sales going directly to the participating school’s art program. Keep a look out for more information regarding log-in details.

Thanks in advance for all of your support, if you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Dr. Laticia Hequembourg

September 28, 2016 3:34 pm  |   Category: , , , , ,   |   Comments Off on Art with Dr. Hequembourg

Primary II Blog: The Montessori Birthday Celebration

The Montessori birthday celebration, referred to as the “Celebration of Life,” is one of the most moving traditions we come together for in our classroom and school community.  Parents are encouraged to attend this special event honoring their child, typically beginning when the child enters the Primary classroom.  The child who is being honored is tasked with the responsibility of setting up the months of the year around a candle (which represents the sun).  The child is encircled by her parents, teachers and friends as she begins her journey (walk) around the sun while holding a globe.  Each orbit around the sun represents 365 days, 12 months, or one year of that child’s life.  As we say the months of the year together, this ritual is a reminder that on a deeper level, the child is experiencing time and place, geography and even history.  The children listen intently as Mom and Dad show photos of their child and discuss major events and milestones that have occurred since the child entered the world.

Unique to a Montessori classroom, the mixed ages allow children to reflect on what they were like at three years old and envision what they will be like when they turn six years old.  Often, a child who was shy her first year, evolves into a confident second and third year student who proudly orbits the sun and even begins to interject her parents and tell her own story.  It is a time for the child to reminisce on her life, to engage in public speaking, and to be celebrated by friends and united by love.  The most beautiful aspect surrounding this occasion is the emphasis on being connected to the planet and share the miracle of human existence.

“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”
-Maria Montessori


December 10, 2015 6:10 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off on Primary II Blog: The Montessori Birthday Celebration

What is Practical Life and why is my child spooning, pouring and washing windows at school?

With so many new children and families entering Primary II this year, Monica and I realized that it would be beneficial for us to address the incredibly important area of the classroom known as Practical Life.  Perhaps your child has come home and told you she did pouring work, polishing work or even arranged flowers.  Maybe you have watched uneasily during drop-off as a child carried a tray full of glass objects and just were not sure what the point of all this was.

It is in the Practical Life area where children learn the foundation for all other areas of the classroom, what you may have heard us refer to as O-C-C-I, which stands for order, concentration, coordination and independence.  While the activities may appear simple, they are highly purposeful, and can be quite complicated with many steps.  It is in Practical Life children learn the basics of self-care, care of the environment, and activities that encompass everyday living, or “domestic curriculum.” These activities are meant to fill in the gaps of a child’s life because it is here she will learn to dress well, speak well, and become capable of taking care of her own hygiene.  Children begin to understand the importance of manners, what we call in a Montessori environment, “grace and courtesy”.  These skills when developed repetitively over time lead children to a greater sense of independence and accountability for their actions.  In Practical Life as in all areas of a Montessori classroom, it is critical that the environment is beautifully prepared, because when we use objects that are real and beautiful, and come from nature, items like glass and wood, and we provide work that imitates adult activities but are child-sized, children find tremendous value in their work.  They are called to the materials, and they become tuned in to the process of actually doing, and making mistakes along the way, as opposed to focusing on the final result.  

The independence and the pride children feel upon completing tasks, as individuals, will ultimately lead to interdependence in the classroom community and beyond.

Practical Life is also where children will learn principles that remain with them throughout their three-year cycle and in all areas of the classroom. They will learn that we always begin with the concrete before the abstract, and they will work from left to right, top to bottom (setting them up for pre-writing and reading).  

Each of the senses has to be developed before the intellect can develop.  Children learn in practical life how to control their physical bodies by first being able to navigate tactilely.   When a child is using a dropper, using a button frame or pouring, she is refining her muscular control.  The muscles in the hand need to be used and refined in order for a child to later be able to grasp a pencil and put the appropriate pressure on the pencil.  Practical Life also lays the foundation for how to go through a process until it is finished and put back on the shelf exactly how the child found it.  Upon completion of a practical life work, a child learns from the very beginning of her Montessori journey that confidence and self-esteem do not result from someone else proclaiming, “good job!”  Children beam with smiles and enthusiasm when they declare, “I can do it myself!”  A child may choose the same activity every day for weeks, but she will know when she has achieved mastery and are ready to move on.  This self-awareness and knowledge provide a sense of security, but it also becomes a model for future academic and personal achievement.

lainey practical life

October 28, 2015 1:35 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off on What is Practical Life and why is my child spooning, pouring and washing windows at school?

“Love holds the universe together because it is a real force, and not just an idea.” -Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was ahead of her time.  It was through her medical practice as the first female physician in Italy that she began observing children in a clinical sense.  Her passion for observing children led to her eventually leaving medicine and devoting her life to creating an educational pedagogy that is based in scientific research, known as Montessori education.  What is sometimes left out when we talk about Montessori education is her peace curriculum.  Maria Montessori lived through two world wars and traveled the world during turbulent times. To say she was an advocate for peace is an understatement.  She was adamant that educating children was fundamental to ensuring a peaceful future.  This is evident throughout her writings, lectures, and her three Nobel Peace Prize nominations.  She believed that in order for children to learn peace in their educational environment, it must be modeled by adults and be a consistent part of the daily curriculum.

In Primary II, we have begun our peace curriculum.  We have already witnessed incredibly touching moments amongst the children.  We will continue to do at least one lesson from our peace shelf per week throughout the month of August, and these lessons will evolve throughout the year.  During last week’s lesson we talked about our love lights.  We presented a silhouette of a person and talked about how despite our differences, we have one thing in common: a light that shines inside us.  At this point in the presentation a flashlight shined behind the silhouette to emit a glow.  We talked about how this light shines when we are happy and proud.  When we are sad or hurt, sometimes because of someone else, our light dims.  The flashlight was turned down so the light could barely be seen.   The children gave wonderful examples of what makes their light shine.  We are positive they would be happy to talk to you at home about this lesson and share what makes their love light shine!

We all need calm moments of peace in our lives.  To this end, we have begun our practice of morning meditation. Without time to rest our minds, we become irritable, frustrated and can even lose sleep.  Maria Montessori developed something called the “Silence Game.”  When this game is implemented in the environment, the children are making a choice to make silence.  We present the lesson by telling the children we will be creating silence together and hold up a card that reads silence.  When they see this very special card held up, it is their cue to be silent and still.   After a few moments, we whisper their names one by one to come out of their silence and stillness.  Throughout the months and throughout your child’s three year cycle, their meaning of meditation and the silence game will become deeper and their focus longer.  One additional intent of this activity is that it causes children to develop an awareness of their body and a sensitivity to the noise around them.

After two weeks together, we already see so much daily love and kindness between the Primary II children.  Ms. Monica and I are exceptionally proud to bear witness to their daily growth emotionally and academically and are looking forward to a year full of peace and learning.  

Harvard Unveils MRI Study Proving Meditation Literally Rebuilds the Brain’s Gray Matter

August 18, 2015 3:44 pm  |   Category:   |   Comments Off on “Love holds the universe together because it is a real force, and not just an idea.” -Maria Montessori