El’s piano teacher wants him to play Gallop Pony for the annual concert. She had sent me a video of him playing that song before. We were at my parents’ place and I got him to practise the song. Since I could remember it from memory (almost), I played for him and he played too. He could remember it and played from memory, with a little hiccup.
I tried to teach him to link the notes and use his wrist movement to make the notes sound better and not staccato-like.
Then, because he wanted to play Pearl in the C, he became very agitated. I did not remember this song, so I could not play it for him. I got my husband, who was at home, to take a photo of the song and send it to me.
He did, and we played the song, which was just a series of C notes an octave apart.
Then, he swiped through the whatsapp photos, and noticed a picture of Gar. Immediately, he put the phone down, and started playing a few notes.
B C B C |A… | B C B C |D…|
I started singing to the tune, Gar(x) Gar(x) Come, Gar(x) Come and Play, using Gar’s full name. He was amused by it, and I suggested writing it down.
We went to my old room, where there was a grey office table I used to work at. I could not find any manuscript paper, so I took a piece of blank paper and drew the stave (or staff in American English for 5 music lines) using a plastic clipper for bags and a pencil. He climbed up a red stool and sat down. He wrote ‘Gar Come To Play’ at the top of the stave.
The notes are right between two clefs, so I wanted him to write them an octave higher. He went ahead to draw the beautiful middle C on top of the stave. I had to change the treble clef to bass clef.
“Hey, your tune starts with B, not C,” I reminded him.
He got down from the red stool, and ran out to play the notes again. He ran back and said that it was okay to start with C.
He was unhappy with how the B looked like, saying it was too flat. I erased it and he drew over it again. Eventually, he had written C B C B A C B C B D, all in minim beats.
It was getting late, so we took the paper and left. I promised him I would buy manuscript paper for him. Music prodigy he is not, but at least he is showing more interest in piano now!
I went to a workshop on raising independent learners using the Montessori method. I have heard about the Montessori method, and tried to read a book on it, but I was not exactly sure what it is about, until after attending the talk. I came away with a better understanding of it.
I must thank Ting from Miracule for helping me to communicate with the organizer to get the free tickets I had won in her giveaway. My emails did not appear in my account and I had missed the deadline.
I was overwhelmed by my visit to Suntec City. So many changes had taken place and I nearly could not find my way.
When I finally managed to get into the room, the first speaker mentioned that the google founders went to Montessori schools when they were young and they credited the curriculum for divergent thinking.
He also talked about the Montessori founder, who was a female doctor that faced discrimination during her time. After earning the highest awards in medical school, she was sent to look after neglected children. She came up with an education system that reached children who had disadvantaged backgrounds.
The main thing Montessori teachers do is to observe the child to see what they are capable of and then make informed decisions on what they should do for the children. At the same time, they want children to make independent decisions. They would follow the children and take care of their emotional and physical needs.
Montessori schools prepare the environment to let the children feel at ease. The furniture is child size, and the children have freedom to move from stations to stations. All these take place within limits, so that the environment remain safe.
The speaker mentioned that in conventional schools, students like to ask the teachers whether the assignment is graded. That brought a wry smile to my face as my students had just asked me the day before whether the listening comprehension practice was graded.
In a short video we watched, the narrator mentioned that a parent who could not afford to continue sending her child to a Montessori school said the light in the eyes of her son diminished when he went to a conventional school. That is so sad.
In the classroom, teachers move around from children to children. Older children teach younger ones as they are grouped together. In elementary and middle schools, they group children in classes with three different ages. The best part is that children have ownership in learning as they take the initiative, and have self-discipline.
Lessons are driven by the students’ interest in multi-age groups. At home, children learn from siblings who are in different age groups. So why do we need to put them according to their chronological age? Schools turn them into competitors when students should actually cooperate with each other. I consider this to be quite a good concept. Most of us learn at different pace and why should we be forced to catch up or slow down with others?
In the classroom, there are a few types of freedom we can see.
Choice, movement, speech, growth, love, materials, environment and danger free, competition free, pressure free,
The speaker suggested getting the children to start looking after plants, insects, fish, small mammals, large mammals in that order. This encourages empathy.
They acquire life skills by learning how to tie lace and button their clothes.
To identify a real Montessori school, there should be 5 areas in Montessori schools and no walls. Spaces are demarcated by shelves.
A Montessori-trained teacher took over and shared about the different types of learning available. When she was talking about language learning, she said that phonics is more concrete than abstract letters. That is similar to zoophonics.
They make use of sandpaper letters, so that children can trace and acquire muscular memory through the sensory and tactile methods. Teachers have to choose words that can sound phonetically, such as ‘pan’.
For words such as ‘cow’ and ‘leek’, it is impossible to go phonetically, so we need to introduce phonogram, such as ‘ow’ and ‘ee’ sounds. Wait a minute, I finally realised what those Zoophonics cards were for.
I was amazed with how they teach maths. 4 year olds could do additions of 4-digit sums. They know the decimal system, which is about ones, tens, hundreds and thousands. They have different sizes of blocks and units, and get students to put them into columns. They add up the numbers, and then transition to numerical representation.
I like this method of teaching very much because it really allows children to advance at their own pace. El is really bored in his classroom and is not stretched at all.
Apart from language and maths, they have cultural studies which includes science zoology, botany, history and geography.
How do they learn the continents? By tracing the tiles and saying them aloud, so that the tactile experience helps them to have muscular memory.
How do they learn about landforms? By pouring water into a tray and the protruding area is dry and the sea is wet, they can feel it. They know whether it is an island or lake.
Unfortunately there is no such curriculum for mother tongue. The teacher admitted that they do conventional teaching.
Parents are curious about how to do extra coaching at home. The teacher said it was important to play with your children. Do not compare with other parents and let the teachers do the teaching.
Yet another selfie!
The only drawback of the Montessori system is the cost. It is expensive because of the additional training required, and the materials are expensive, as one set of material can only be used to teach a single concept.
I wish I could have explored more options before signing up my children for their preschool. Many of these Montessori children are bored when they go to primary school because they have already learnt them in preschool. Why is school so rigid? It is during times like this when I really question the wisdom of teaching at the same time to different levels.
More funny quips from Gar.
1. Touch Wood!
Gar: mummy die mummy die
Me and hubby: What?!
Gar: mummy die, mummy die
Seconds later… We figured he was saying mummy drive. I was driving the car instead of my husband.
2. Foul Language
Gar: Mummy f@&$ mummy f@&$
Me thinking: what?? Since when did anyone use bad words in front of him?
It turned out I was parking my car then and he was saying ‘park’.
3. Confused Boy
Gar: Mummy Pa Mummy Pa
Who are you calling?
Park.. Oh, I was parking the car then!
4. Counting Dracula
Yeye: how many steps are there? (pointing to a flight of stairs)
Yeye: No! Let’s count. One…
Gar: one, two, three … Eight, nine, ten!
Yeye: what happened to the numbers in between? Let’s try again.
Gar: One, two, three, four, five, six, eight, nine, ten!
Yeye: what about seven?
Gar: one, two, three, four, five, six, bear, eight, nine, ten!