Cultivating a beachcombing mindset

We can never bring home the entire beach. As we learn, we collect resources and then use them when needed. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but we always have to adapt it. A beachcombing mindset is one of curiosity and learning. Being awake to collect learnings that we transform, combine, and use when needed.



Golden, crunchy, and crisp sweet potato wedges

Original recipe from:

Overall evaluation (10 being the highest score): 9

Tiempo de cocina: 1 hr aprox. (LOTS OF TIME, specially for a hangry person like moi)

Comentarios: MUUUUUY ricas, fáciles de hacer. No es 10 por el tiempo que tarda cortarlas y que se horneen.

Advice for next time: Poner el horno en 550 en lugar de 450 F. Tal vez agujerear las sweet potatoes para que se cocinen más rápido. O, cortarlas más delgadas. Tener cuidado cuando se utiliza la pimienta. Chequear medidas, fijarse en que son tea y que son tablespoons. Tener cuidado el tiempo, para no arruinar esta delicia. Agregar ajo o sal de ajo, limón y TAJIN!

#PardonMySpanglish #ByAllMeansExcuseMySpanglish

Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments

Chapter 4: Conceptual change and student-centered learning environments
conceptual change: how learners change their knowledge.
Important questions to be addressed: how is knowledge constructed? how is existing knowledge changed?

Jean Piaget:
Schemas: cognitive structures consisting of organized patterns of knowledge or actions that humans develop to understand the world and cope with their surroundings”
Schemas are formed by assimilation (the process of incorporating new knowledge into existing schemas)
Accommodation: Process of restructuring existing schemas to provide better explanations for new knowledge and/or experiences that better fit reality.

Evolutionary Conceptual change:
Slower than Piaget’s
continuity: combining old ideas with new ones; functionality: perceived utility of new and old ideas.
“Thus, conceptual change gradually occurs over time in the context of new knowledge, utility of the new knowledge, and utility of prior knowledge.” pg. 97
Strike and Posner
Change involves the gradual process of identifying the roots of misconceptions and replacing or refuting them.
4 conditions to be present in order to change any misconception:
Dissatisfaction with current conceptions (I don’t really like this, something about this doesn’t make sense)
Presence of intelligible new conceptions (being presented to something new that could make sense)
Presence of plausible new conceptions (being presented to something new that makes some sense)
Potential of new conceptions being productive tools of thought (this is beneficial to me)

Radical Conceptual Change:
Gestalt or paradigm shifts.
Thomas Khun
When a currently held theory encounters things that are incompatible with it (can’t be explained by it), a new paradigm is required.
New paradigms are adopted by their greater explanatory accuracy.
Chi, Slotta, de Leeuw: Coceptual change is ontological, it occurs when concepts are reassigned to different brain categories.
Question: Do we make 100% rational decisions on concept change? That is, does conceptual change happen based on close examination of the facts only?

Hot Conceptual Change:
No, of course conceptual change is not a 100% rational.
“CAMCC proposes that cognitive processing mediates the change process, that motivation and affect mediate cognitive processing, and what gets noticed in the environment results from an individual’s attitudes, goals, and prior beliefs.”: This means that people’s conceptions of the world are shaped by an individual’s motivations and feelings. This reminds a bit about Polanyi.
Subject-matter change process: 1. An individual is presented with reform messages in a particular environment, 2. An individual evaluates if such reform implicates the self (if the answer is no, the individual stays neutral or positive about the message. On the contrary, if it does imply the self, a judgmental examination starts, looking for threats).
Both the characteristics of the learner and of the message influence cognitive change.

Concrete ways to initiate conceptual change:
Arguing for conceptual change: Dialectical arguments. Dialogue meant to resolve differences of opinions. Generating theories and arguments in order to explain stuff..
Model building for conceptual change: we learn by doing, by manipulating, by moving. Then, learners articulate their reasoning behind their actions. As new stuff is being encountered by someone, meaning and understanding is being constructed by the leaner. This results in the students owning their learning because they have constructed it themselves.
Testing simulations for conceptual change.

Chapter 5: Argumentation and Student-Centered Learning Environments ❤

Argumentation (Dialogue):
no winners or losers
collaborative exploration of ideas
People trying to build the best possible arguments.
Dialogue sets people in the mood and habits of trying to find the truth and of trying to understand more.

Why would engaging in argumentation (dialogue) produce strong learning?
1. It makes knowledge explicit and visible. It allows for misconceptions and conceptions to be clearly identified. Misconceptions are addressed as other students make counterarguments.
2. It can produce conceptual change. Students consider different facets and variables in their thinking as they are committed to understand new ideas.
3. Co-elaboration of new knowledge. Exploration of the pros and cons of ideas without commutative talk (building on ideas without ever disagreeing).
4. Articulation. The students are aware of their own questions and ideas. They are clear on whatever gaps they have that need to be addressed. They can organize their knowledge, recognize the key aspects of their arguments and negotiate meaning as they define words in dialogue.

Other cool things about argumentation (dialogue):
identity development
intrinsically motivating to students by giving them choice and agency.
Arouses curiosity
Builds intrinsic motivation

In order to have argumentation (dialogue) in an environment, the students need to *scaffolding is very likely needed* :
offer their ideas up for discussion
be articulate
think deeply and elaborate
provide evidence
be willing to disagree and evaluate various perspectives. (pg 117)
What kinds of scaffolding can be provided for the students to acquire these skills. lots of practice? what else? WRTING AND DIALOGUING

Collaborative Reasoning:
“have studnets engage in argumentative discourse where they take one another’s perspectives and where other students, not the teacher, provide feedback to students on their ideas in the form of supporting or opposing arguments.” pg. 127 *It caught my attention, that the only feedback that the authors are referring to in here is regarding to CONTENT, they are missing on the process feedback that helps people become aware of what they still need to work on and improve.
foster student independence from teacher prompting.
Builds on students’ skills and confidence
Learning how to talk to and relate to other people in a respectful way.
“Research indicates that CR enhances student participation, empathy, interest, vocabulary, use of evidence, and the complexity of student Reasoning (Clark)”. pg. 128

Role of the dialogue facilitator:
Coaching students on how to play the game: establish norms and ground rules for discussion, clarity and illustrate expectations.
Maintaining a safe environment where students can openly share their ideas an disagreements.
Prom students for a position, a reason, evidence, or evaluation.
Ask for clarification
Challenge students with ideas they have not thought of
Model behaviors
Provide counterarguments
Be silent: Don’t contribute too much to discussion, otherwise the students go back to an Initiate-Respond-Evaluate mode where the teacher initiates a question, the student responds, and the teacher evaluates. The students then talk to the teacher instead of to talking to the group.
Restate ideas instead of asking questions after someone has intervened.
Attach names to ideas: “what do people think about what Juanita argument?” *Michael does this a lot at KSI.

How to implement successful CR to “teach” subjects such as science?
With tons of content understanding scaffolding, such as: reciprocal teaching, jigsaw research groups (groups that are co-depending of the findings of the other), cross-talk between groups, occasional lectures, and benchmark lessons.

Chapter 7: Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning in Student-Centered Learning Environments

Student centered learning environments involve: cognition, metacognition, motivation and effective processes.
Learning in SCLE is hard and painful because it puts the students in charge of their own learning processes : “it requires students to motor and regulate several aspects of their learning. For example, regulating one’s learning involves analyzing and learning context, setting and managing meaningful learning golas, determining which learning and problem-solving strategies to use, assessing whether the strategies are effective in meeting the learning golas, monitoring and making accurate judgments regarding one’s emerging understating of the topic and contextual factors, and determining whether there are aspects of the learning context that could be used to facilitate learning. (pg, 171)

Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Introduction and connection to education

Parallels between designing a city and a learning environment: cities are learning environments.

The problem in education, as well as in city planning is more complex than what is commonly understood by decision makers in both areas. In order to properly plan to permit diversity and wealth to emerge, the needs of the people in the environment need to be understood. General principles can be learned by observing different cities and by finding relevant lessons out of their own special cases.

The problem that cities pose is that of handling organized complexity (pg. 14).

Some examples of bad city planning theories and theorists:
-Howard: Garden City: “He conceived of good planning as a series of static acts, in each case the plan must anticipate all that is needed d be protected, after it is built, against any but the most minor subsequent changes. He conceived of planning also as essentiall paternalistic, if not authoritarian.” pg. 19
-Le Corbusier: Decentrist: Lonely and quiet life. Robinson Crusoe style. No diversity. Lots of control.
-Daniel Burnham: City Beautiful: “Sorting out certain cultural or public functions and decontaminating their relationship with the workaday city… bringing order by repression of all plans but the planner’s” pg. 15

Chapter 2: The uses of sidewalks: safety

When city streets are safe from barbarism and fear, the entire city is safe from barbarism and fear.
Cities are by definition full of strangers.
People must feel safe and secure among strangers.

Recursive problem: The less people use the streets, the more unsafe these become.
It doesn’t take many incidents of violence to get people out of the streets. (PG. 30)

How is safety and public peace kept in the side walks -and therefore- in a city?
It isn’t kept by the police.
“It is kept primarily by an intricate unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.” pg. 32
“A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street.” pg. 34

Places smaller than city streets keep safety by: “reputation, gossip, approval, disapproval and sanctions”, this works well when everyone knows each other.

3 qualities city streets need to be equipped with to handle strangers:
1. Clear demarcation of what is public and what is private space
2. There must be eyes upon the streets, the eyes of the proprietors.
3. Sidewalks must continually have people using them (supports 1 and 2).
-Give people reasons to use the streets.
-Give people reasons to crisscross paths.
-Store keepers and small business owners fix their surroundings to attract more people.
-Errands, food and drink make people walk from one place to another. Commerce attracts people.
-These people attract other people by the rule of: “the site of people attracts still other people (pg.37)”

*Turf system: A gang appropriates a certain are (parks, housing, streets) and other people that are not a part of the turf are not allowed to get in.

Pg. 46
How to live in places that are insecure?
1. Let the danger hold sway and let unfortunate people pay the consequences
2. Take refuge in vehicles. Never walk down the streets
3. Turf: Gangs owning certain spaces that other gangs cannot enter.

Chapter 3: The uses of sidewalks: contact

People hanging around at corners, bars, candy stores, etc: “The point of both the testimonial banquet and the social life of city sidewalks is precisely that they are public. They bring together people who do not know each other in an intimate, private social fashion and in most cases do not care to know each other in that fashion.” pg. 55

People caring for other people: feeling of public identity, public respect and trust. pg. 56

Privacy is precious and indispensable in cities: You decide what to share and with whom to share it.

SubmitPublic life and figures
SubmitInteraction in public spaces
Submitx – Togetherness or nothing

Authentically togetherness vs. planned togetherness. The first one is a spontaneous happening among people pursuing their individual interests, while the latter is about planning and forcing something to happen. Such forceful act, kills togetherness.

Chapter 4: The uses of sidewalks: Assimilating children

Many people hold the wrong belief that children playing in the streets is something dangerous that shou be replaced by children playing in playgrounds.

Children enjoy walking down the streets and the same rules of safety that apply to adults, apply to children too. Just that children are more vulnerable to danger than adults. That said, often when children go to playgrounds, they move from the streets where lots of people watch them and walk (the public eye), into playgrounds where fewer people go and where darker, lonelier and hiding spaces are more common. pg. 77

Having children walk and play out in the street is beneficiary to them not only for safety reasons. “they need an uspecialized outdoor home base from which to play, to hang around in, and to help form their notions of the world.” pg. 81
Modeling: Only people rear children and assimilate them into civilized society.
It is by being in the streets that children learn the fundamentals of successful city life: “People must take a modicrum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other. This is a lesson nobody learns by being told. It is learned from the experience fo having other people without ties of kinship or close friendship or formal responsibility to you take a modicum of responsibility for you.” In other words, by having strangers care for you, you learn to care for other strangers too. pg. 82
People learn how to live in society, by living in a society; by being a part of it, by taking part of it, by actively engaging in it.
Children are always more interested in real life stuff than in game play, an this is no exception to such rule. Children of all times are drawn and keep on being drawn into the streets.
Rachel in the dialogue: Real life vs. contrived acts and experiences.

Places that have a mixture of uses, public contact and cross-use of people, is desired if one aims for public safety.

Part II:
Chapter 7: The Generators of Diversity

To learn about the behavior and values of people, it is necessary to look at the relationships between groups of people or between one person and another person. Just by looking and separating one aspect of it, just by looking at people in isolation from other people, very little can be learned about behavior and values. That is, we will have little to no understanding of the phenomena that we were trying to observe and to learn from in the first place.

Chapter 11: The need for concentration

comment: To me, it makes perfect sense that a naturally developed/growth city will have variety in every sense. Why? Because it has naturally and in a process over the time, has been developed by individuals trying to satiety their needs and by entrepreneurs willing to satisfy the real need of others.

It seems a good ratio, to have most of the land in a neighborhood already build when people start to populate it. Why? Because if there are lots of land available for construction, the most probable thing to happen is that people will be building lots of similar tall apartments; whereas in the first case, people will have to adjust already existing buildings and maybe build one or two tall apartments.

Why is diversity something valuable?
Is diversity necessary, is it indispensable?

Can real change happen in an individuals lifetime?

I have been pondering upon this question for a while now. Some time ago I started to arrive at the conclusion that real and sustainable change only happens after real learning, and real learning only happens after being exposed to a new way of seeing the world. This means that learning cannot be forced and therefore social and cultural change can’t be forced either.
If we want people in a society to value something, we can just share with them how we see the world and how we came to see it in that particular way.
This lead me into education and I’m grateful for that. But it also made me see the glass half empty regarding societal change. Why? Because I also concluded that my views on education can only be shared with a small number of people in comparison to all of the people in the world that I would like to reach. I am not scalable, therefore my views of the world were not scalable either.
Today during our dialogue on the book Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments, Rachel and I talked about the movie Amazing Grace and about how the main character, William Wilberforce strived to abolish slavery since he was young and ended seeing the culmination of his dreams at age eighty something when slavery was abolished in England.
Now I am starting to believe that maybe I will get to see some changes in how people see the world, in what they value and in how they live… I just have to get old enough.

The identification of the self through our relationship to others and to communities.

Human beings by nature form their identities based on the context where they learn and grow. We are making people believe that they are good or bad based on how they did on school. People are forming their identity based on this creation of humanity, which is schooling. That’s not even how the real world looks like and people are being formed with an identity influenced and determined in so many ways by their school experiences.

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Alfie Kohn – Beyond Discipline

Chapter 5: How not to get control of the classroom

But, the reader may think, why would a teacher not want to control his classroom? Truth is, it all depends on the goals you have for the learners in an environment. if your goals is to force compliance, kill creativity, productiveness and, authenticity, put to an end the voice of the students, mommies that sit around and wait until a bell rings so that they can stand up and sit again in a classroom that looks exactly the same as the first one.
Is your goal to make the students spill out the teacher’s values, or do you want them to explore and find meaning in their daily interactions with other people what’s right and wrong?
Is your goal to have compliant students or proactive, energetic and solution finder students?
If your goals are learning, exploration and discovery, give up control. If your goal is obedience and compliance that will very likely stay forever, control the students.
Caring, responsible, curious, life long learners, happy and creative are some of the buzzwords used by most educational institutions in their school’s mission and vision. I say buzzwords because there is a big abyss between said values and the actual practices that directors and teachers put into practice every single day of school.
Alfie Kohn argues that incentivizing students through rewards just so that they act in a certain way will work in the short run. Rewards will make a person do what we want them to do in that moment, but the same person will very likely feel no commitment to what she is doing, does not even understand the reasons for why she is acting in such way and therefore not probably wanting to act in the same way in the future.
“the more we ‘manage’ students’ behavior and try to make them do what we say, the more difficult it is for them to become morally sophisticated people who think for themselves and care about others.” pg. 62
Making moral meaning:
In order to develop morality, an individual must wrestle with questions, hear different perspective, evaluate them and act. This happens naturally and it happens many times until a person develops a sense of morality through context and experience.
A good teacher helps her students experience the value of learning and caring in context with the students’ concerns and interests.
More specifically, this can be achieved by:
1. By broadening the opportunity for students to choose, discover and learn for themselves.
2. By turning classrooms into caring communities where students have the chance to choose, discover and learn together.
Besides focusing on behavior, educators should focus on the person who behaves, specially on the reasons for why she does so.
A tip from Kohn on how to assist children in developing a good image of themselves:
-Point out to what you notice. Point out to the effects of a child’s actions in other people. E.g. After Maria shared a piece of her cake with Dan: “Maria, look at Dan’s face!”. Little by little the child will construct a positive image of herself.
Beyond rules
Rules can sometimes cut down on learning opportunities. When a problem arises in a community of learners, the trouble is something that the students try to solve together. Have deep conversations as you try to define the meaning of the rules that the student set and its importance. Instead of focusing on having specific rules and consequences for the people who break them, ask: “how can we as a community help Maria get over her present struggle to ’x’”.
“Student-generated rules that emerge from a deep and ongoing conversation are likely to be valuable not because of the rules themselves but because of the conversation that gave rise to them. The process is the point.” pg. 72
When the students make the rules, do not make a list of particular behaviors for the following reasons:
1. Students will become lawyers looking for loopholes in their list when problems arise. Students start to evaluate if personal gain is worth the loss they get if they get caught.
2. Rules turn the teacher into an enforcer of the law and into the source of order in the classroom.
3. Most of the rules have punishments as a consequence for breaking them, but offer no solution to the problems.
So, what do we have instead of a list of rules?
-Lots of conversations on how we want our class to be and how we can make that happen.
-Lots of space for students to problem solve and to find solutions to their own conflicts.
-Lots of collaboration on abstracting few principles that students value and practice.

Montessori Primary level language training

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  • Montessorians do not teach language; Montessorians give opportunities to learn it.
  • Language is one of the human tendencies.
  • The absorbent mind: The brain acquires language subconsciously
  • Language can only be learned in a significant and contextual setting. Language exchange has to be meaningful in order for someone to acquire it. That’s one of the reasons why language is not acquired through watching T.V.
  • The sounds of baby babbling between 3 to 7 months of age are universal. Every single baby around the world makes the same babbling noises at this age. After 7 months, the babbling noises become specialized or shaped by the region where the baby lives.
  • Children point to things because they want to hear the names of all of these things.
  • 18 months – 2 ½ years: Children learn 10 words per day. At this stage, their parents and teachers should be talking to them as much as they can, even if the child doesn’t answer, he will answer in the future with the words that you taught them.

Reading before writing:

In Montessori, children learn how to write before they learn how to read. Why should children learn to write first? Reading requires interpretation, while writing is just about what’s on one’s mind, without the complexity of reading and absorbing what inside of someone else’s mind. About 6 months after a child has learned to write, they acquire reading.

Question: What should I do when a child says something to me and I can’t understand him/her? Most of the times, children just want to express themselves. The most important thing is for them to feel valued and appreciated. Nod respectfully and if you can catch a word that they say cling on to that to ask them a question that will invite them to keep on expressing themselves.


Wording to invite a child for a lesson:

Maria, are you available now? I would like to give you a lesson on _____.

Would you like me to give you a lesson?

May I give you a lesson on _____?


Role of the teacher:

  • Source of language
  • Observer: Unlike most of the Montessori materials, the language materials have fewer control of error. Still, the children should not perceive the teacher as the source of their control of error.* The teacher does not correct spelling.  
  • The teacher does not correct; but models, shows and uses language in a correct way.


4 precepts or conditions to learn oral language:

  1. Self-confidence: The Montessori tradition of getting down to a child level to have a conversation with them fosters self-confidence in a child because it shows them that who they are and what they say is valuable.
  2. Constant exposition them to enriching experiences: Telling them a story, showing them art, or bringing in to class interesting objects from nature.
  3. Constant exposition to an enriching vocabulary: instead of speaking to children in easy language, expose them to new words and explain them to the child.
  4. Providing constant opportunities for expression: As long as the limits are clear, e.g. A child can communicate with other but can’t distract or interrupt the concentration of others. “I just want to remind you that we are talking in a soft voice tone, other people are concentrated working.”


Before learning how to write, students need to have a broad vocabulary and to have certain knowledge on orientation: they need to be able to distinguish and name different objects.


Materials that foster orientation and vocabulary:

  • A variety of little objects
  • A variety of laminated pictures of animals, nature, countries, humans, etc.

“Do you know how this animal is called?” “Do you know what the name of this is?”

“Do you recognized this?” “Do you know what this is?” “What do you know about it?”

“This is an x” Give them tons of info about x. “What colors do you see on this picture?” “What characteristics do you see on this animal?”


Lesson where a child is presented with animal cards:

The teacher presents each one of the cards to the child, asks questions about what the child knows or notices in the pictures and then gives the child more information. The cards with the animals that were new to the child were placed on the table, on a different pile. After she presented all of the cards inside that envelope, the teacher made a 3rd period lesson. She repeats the name of each animal twice and then asks the child more of a certain card or to put it somewhere else. The teacher can also give a description of the characteristics of the animal that she had previously discussed with the child for the child to figure out which animal she is talking about and then pointing to the respective card. Give them the hard clues first and end with the most obvious ones. E.g. -“I’m thinking about an animal, I will give you a description of it and you guess which animal I’m thinking about. I am thinking about a super fast animal, this animal eats meat, this animal has spots.” -”Cheetah!”


General principles Montessori teachers practice:

  • Voice tone is always super low and calm: while calling the kids, while having a conversation with them, while giving them a lesson.
  • The first child is always a model of behaviour. The most prepared or experienced student always goes first to set up a tone of seriousness and high standards: When a teacher asks the students to do something or when all of the students are presenting something, the teacher picks the most experienced and prepared students to start off.
  • Do as little activities as possible with the entire group of students, break them into small groups to keep the engagement of the children.
  • In your environment, set up a reading area:
    • Rotate books every 2 weeks, if you are exploring with the class a specific topic, display the themed books that you have on the topic. E.g. If you are exploring the life cycle of a butterfly, have all of your butterfly books on display.
    • Display 6-7 books at a time.
  • Make sure you give orientation to a child before he gives an exposition to the rest of the class. Before a child shares or shows something to the group, practice with him/her 1-1.
  • No cartoons are displayed in the classroom. Montessori is based on giving and showing the children reality. A picture is already an abstraction, a cartoon is an abstraction of that abstraction. A cartoon symbolized the symbol of a symbol. Peppa pig is an abstraction of a real pig or of a picture of a pig.
  • If a child is not using the material appropriately: “we don’t use the material that way, I’m gonna ask you to put the material away.”


Orientation games and opportunities for expression:

  • Give an oral command and if possible have follow up conversations:
    • Can you touch the tissue box?
    • Place your hand on the trash can.
    • Can you find a brush in the environment? -Compare different brushes in the environment, talk about their differences and similarities and about their uses.  
    • Have them express what they see.
    • Have them compare and contrast things.
  • Show them objects and have conversations about them.
    • Name the parts of the objects
    • Ask children what each part does
    • Allow the children to express themselves
    • E.g. show them a chair and name its parts.
  • Share what they did on the weekend:
    • Ask: who? what? where?
      • Try not asking when? or why? because time is too abstract for younger children to grasp.
  • Bringing objects to school:
  • Share information about yourselves (both students and teacher)
  • Oral art
    • Storytelling, books, poems (nature poems: Robert Frost), songs.


Reading to a group of children:

  • Try to have 3 children maximum.
  • Model reading: read it on your lap and not showing it up in the way that most traditional teacher do. Model for them how you actually read a book.
  • Don’t ask questions about the book. The teacher does not want to become the control of error.



Writing is the translation of words into symbols. Before doing any of this, a child should be very strong in oral language. In Montessori, writing is always thought on the child’s first language because sound recognition can only be done when one is very familiar with the sounds of the language.


Pre-requisites to writing:

Manual-motor prep:

  • Indirect preparations for writing in the Montessori environment include: practical life and sensorial which specifically develops control of movement, lightness of touch and grabing (pincers).
  • Direct preparation: Metal insets, white board, moveable alphabet, and Sandpaper letters.

Mental preparation:

  • Logical thinking: this is natural process that can be supported through indirect prep:
    • Let children solve problems by themselves: If there is a constant issue with something, the teacher can draw attention to some things, e.g. Showing a child who always struggles with zipping her sweater the parts parts of the zipper and the way to buckle one.
  • In Montessori, all of the material is presented in a structured and organized manner. The material is arranged in a logical sequenced and is always organized in the classroom.


Sound box (box with small objects inside):

Pick 3 objects whose names have sound contrast out of the sound box.

Objective: develop identification and differentiation of sounds before exposing them to letters.

In this order, present the following:

  • Initial sounds:
    • Name the objects pronouncing with great emphasis the initial letter sound.
      • “Turtle, ttttttt urtle, TTTTTTTTTT urtle, ttttttt urtle.
  • Last sounds:
    • Name the objects pronouncing with great emphasis the last sounds.
      • Do ggggggg, Dog ends with a gggggg sound, ggg, ggg, ggg, dogggg.
  • Middle sounds


2nd period lessons for the sound box:

“I spy with my little eye, an object that ends with a ggggg sound”


3rd period lessons:

“Do you remember our “a” sound, give me words that have the “a” sound.”



  • There is no independent work with the sound games. They can work with other kids as one of them models to the rest. It is mostly worked through individual lessons with the teacher.
  • The teacher needs to put a lot of emphasis on her mouth movements.
  • Break the sounds to their simplest forms. it’s not “pu”, it’s p,p,p,p.
  • It’s okay if a child echoes the sounds, but the purpose of this lesson is not echoing but rather sound identification.


Sand paper letters presentation:

Choose 2-3 visually and sound contrasting letters. Present vowels and other frequently used letters first.

Make sure that children are already familiar with identifying the sounds of the letters you are going to present.

“Do you remember the “a” sound? Think of words that have the “a” sound”

“Do you want to see how ‘a” looks like?”

Show the child the sandpaper letter: Outline it with two finders (index and middle fingers then make the phonetic sound of the letter.

Ask the child if he/she would like to try.

2nd period lesson:

“Trace the MMMMMM”, “move the aaa”, point with your finger to a spot in the table while you pronounce a letter.

Further work with the sandpaper letters:

Get a rug out, pick about 3 sandpaper letters and then find cards with pictures and objects and then classify their initial sounds underneath their respective sandpaper letters.

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Moveable alphabet:

Grab the letters that the child already knows from the sandpaper letters. Make the sounds of them and put them back on their place.


Metal insets:

Objective: practice grabbing a pencil and free hand movement. It is not about tracing but about the shapes and forms that children print on their papers.

*This and the moveable alphabet can be done at the same time.


Whiteboard presentation/ Sandbox:

After having had a lesson on the sandpaper letters, a child can then practice his handwriting on a whiteboard. After the child freely practices to write letters on the whiteboard, the teacher can use tape to ask the child to try to write the letter on a more restricted space. This is preparation for writing straight and on lined paper. Children can also write different letters on a sand box.


Writing on paper: Always have the following available: strips of plain white paper, strips of paper with one line, strips of paper with two lines, lined paper.

1st. Write on a strip of paper

2nd. Write on a strip of paper with only one line (“now try to write on one line”)

3rd. Write on a stripe of paper with two lines.

4th. Write on an entire piece of lined paper (not only a stripe, but an entire paper).

More on Writing: Give children opportunities for writing. Children can have a journal with observations of their science experiments. Adults should give the child rich experiences and then ask them to write about them: “Would you iike to write about your trip to the zoo?” “Would you like to write about the shape of your last drawing?”

Reading normally starts 6 months after a child has been working on the moveable alphabet. Teachers should check with the students every 3 weeks because sometimes children can read before the 6 months.

Montessori has the concept of a “whole reader”, a child who not only reads but also comprehends what he reads.


Phonetical commands

Phonogram box


Phonetic box:
Small box with a pouch with written words and 5-6 objects.

*The teacher’s writing tray is needed.

Get the objects out, grab each object and ask the child to name it and then put the object on the side of the rug or table. Tell the child: “I’m thinking about a word, I’ll write it and you tell me which object it is” The teacher uses the utensils on the writing tray to write the word on a piece of paper. After she is finished, she cuts the paper from the paper stripe and then matches it with each object.

Invite the child to use the material on his own, the pouches contains the written names of the objects for him to match. Let the child know that you will be changing the object and pouches every once in a while.


Single phonetic box:

The teacher writes down commands using the materials on her writing box.

E.g. Jump, get a mat, sing a song.

Show the the box with written commands for further independent work.


Phonetic box phonograms:

Introduce objects

Write down their names

Leave the phonograms (1-2 objects) for last: “This is called a phonogram” (phonogram: two letters together make a different sound).

The same day or a day after take the child to the moveable alphabet to practice phonograms.


Phonogram cards:

Get a group of 2-3 students, give each a set of phonogram cards, pick one yourself and share with them your phonogram and the example words you found on your cards. Ask if everyone knows the meaning of the words. Make sentences with each one of the words, ask the rest of the children to go around sharing one word and sentence at a time, and keep on going until no one has words left.

When children make sentences such as: “I have a __”, “I like ______”, ask: “What do you like about ___”, “How does ____ look like?” Make sure that everyone understand what a word means.


Printing resources:

Montessori print shop

Observations and feedback – School visit

Learning Environment: Private preschool: Liceo Montessori Santa Lucia

Location: Santa Lucia Cotz, Escuintla, Guatemala

Date: August 21, 2015

Time: 7:00 AM – 12:30 PM


Things they could improve:

  • Do a bit of research on the planes of development and on the different needs of people according to their planes of development.
    • Implement mixed aged classrooms.
    • Importance of manual work and repetition for concentration.
    • Practical life and sensorial materials.
    • Order and orientation: It is very important in the first plane of development to have a fixed routine that offers safety to the children as it gives children the opportunity to know what to expect and where to expect it.
  • Praise:
    • Replace praise for verbal acknowledgments (as in feedback) of what the teacher sees and let children make their own judgments about what is good and beautiful and about what isn´t.
  • Physical Environment:
    • Childproof: the place where children learn needs to be safe.
    • Delimited space: Have specific rooms or places where children work. This way everyone can see each other working, which is encouraging for children and teachers. Children can also learn by watching other kids work. The teachers can be more aware of the student’s needs if they are all in the a space where they can see all of them.
    • You could use the wooden book shelves that you have in your rooms to display your work materials.  

You can´t help a child if you don´t know what his/her needs are.


Guatemala – A poor vision of what children are capable of doing

I visited a rural public school in the coast of Guatemala. I was greeted by a teacher who told me she was sorry I came in today because Tuesday is the day when she is in charge of the food shop (along with other teachers) to celebrate Children´s Day which was almost 2 months away from the day I visited.

Children were doing inadequate work for their plane of development, they were still treated as very young children. The activity was not engaging for most of the classroom, except for the manual work. This meant that the teacher had to control and boss the students around so that they would work. This was supposed to be an art project, but the teacher dictaded how each child should use their materials in order to form a specific animal. This left very little room for creativity.  

Many adults have the idea that children are only happy and can only have fun when they are playing soccer or outdoors on a playground. Actually, both children and adults benefit from doing meaningful work that is challenging enough for them to keep them engaged and concentrated for long periods of time (Flow). Doing meaningful work builds up a real sense of self esteem as by working more one improves and expands the limits to our actions, one knows what one is capable and what one is worth because by constant work we prove ourselves that we are capable of doing and achieving things. We only know we have the capacity to do something because we have done it before (Nathaniel Branden).

The problem that Guatemala faces is a very complex problem that has no quick fix, it is a cultural problem. To my eyes, the issue is rooted in the culture, that is, in people’s values and theories of themselves, others and the world where we live in.

However, I am positive about changes occurring. We´ve all seen older cultures move from violence and power into more peaceful ways of living (Pinker). People used to live in fortes, and now people can peacuefuly walk down the streets without fear of being attacked.

There is hope because human beings are learners. Whatever it is that we do now we acquired -learned- from our culture and surroundings. No matter how difficult, human beings can also unlearn and change old ways of thinking for new ones. We can make connections, analyze, and most importantly we can choose. Once we are exposed to a different view of the world, to different paradigms and ideas, we can choose to little by little reflect on and then change how we see the world and therefore how we act.
I certainly do this to a small scale in my daily interactions with people, but how can I escale this up? How can I share this with the world? How can I give people the opportunity to experience transformative education? How can I show them that there is an alternative?