How We Know Your Child by Sue Pritzker
Inside the Hive
How we Know Your Child
By Sue Pritzker
(Updated: March 2023 with edits by Program Directors)
The Montessori Guide is not only adept at preparing a complete and inviting prepared environment but also at tracking each student as they move through progressively complex activities. At times, it may seem mysterious how the Guide knows what every child is doing and what next step to take. But in all of the classes, at all levels, the “art” of observation, notation, record keeping and assessment takes place. The Guides employ refined observation as they work with and watch the children over many years--- as they work independently with materials, work collaboratively with other students and respond to direct instruction from the Guide. Collection of the observational data begins the process of record keeping that parents may not be aware is happening throughout the day, weeks, months and years of the child/student’s time in the Montessori classroom.
This part of our “curriculum”, observing, recording and assessing, can be slightly different in each Montessori school, as the process is developed through staff collaboration. At Childpeace, the Montessori Guides have developed a system that allows us to know your child as a person and a student, at the highest level. It also helps us pass the information about how your child adapts to the class environment and to share the special traits of each child with the next Guide as the child moves upward in the school.
In every Toddler and Children’s House classroom the Guide and Assistant chronicle a child’s day on an observation sheet. The child’s lessons are noted: initial presentation, repetition, and mastery of an exercise. The Guide monitors the child’s individual and group lessons each day and those are recorded as well. The assistant may be given the task of writing down the lessons that are given or the task of observing a particular situation or child. Our TC and CH Guides do most of their observation notations manually and they transfer their classroom data weekly to a notebook that has files for each child. Those notebooks are formatted with all of the basic and essential lessons and materials that could be given, offering the Guide a good “picture” of the areas of interest and engagement with materials. From these individual records, the Guide plans the next lessons and also their parent conference reports. Each Guide also retains all written notes and significant email communication with parents and other staff who work with the child. When the child leaves the Children’s House program and moves to the Childpeace Elementary, the Guide will send along a complete transition summary of their progress called a Summary of Observations.
In our elementary classes, these procedures are expanded with the use of a record keeping system called Transparent Classroom. This system is used by Montessori schools nationwide and offers enough flexibility within the system to track all elementary lessons. Transparent Classroom allows us to pass classroom records for each child from Lower Elementary to Upper Elementary. In the Elementary years, children begin to participate in the planning and recording of their learning work using a learning journal. The learning journal is the planning and reflection tool the Guide uses with the child to collaborate on their individualized daily activity. By the time children reach Upper Elementary, they are setting daily work goals and narrating their learning progress in their learning journal, while also selecting portfolio samples that demonstrate their mastery of skills. engagement and mastery continues in the elementary years. National standards are shared with children as a resource they use to guide their work choices and lessons. Journals, work samples, child and teacher conference forms, and art expressions are gathered to round out the picture of the child’s strengths and challenges, and the parent-Guide conference is a time to celebrate each child’s progress with you.
The Montessori materials, upon which the curriculum is based at each level, are a continuum, being seen again in new and different ways and making notation and record keeping more coordinated.
Moving from Elementary to Metro sees a more dramatic transition for both student and parent. In addition to the cumulative progress reports, portfolio work and conference information, the Metro student experiences an interview and an abundance of conversation with now six Guides, one of which is the Advisor. The Metro student learns to be an active partner in the record keeping and evaluation system in different subjects. Each student at Metro leads their own conference. Goal setting becomes an active part of the student’s self-assessment. The Metro Guide team prepares narrative records that will pass on with each student to a high school program. The student is involved in the process of knowing what they need to know for high school and through continued practice in the Metro years, becomes adept at articulating what they know.
Additionally, we have a system of peer observation in place across all levels that offers our program staff and Guides an opportunity to use their honed observation skills in other classrooms. These visits are essential for the Montessori teacher in having an objective view of their class. The Guide may ask that the teacher-observer focus on a particular child or on how procedures are working or on how lessons lead to follow-up work. The possibilities are endless. The observation notes are shared in written form so that they become part of the entire process of recording and knowing our students well.
Adele Diamond, a leading researcher in the area of brain development, suggests that across the educational landscape the most essential component of student success is the teacher-student relationship. When students are “known” by their teachers with great depth and when the student believes they can access their teacher as a resource, a strong pattern of learning and growing happens that creates a platform for future success as a life-long learner.
"This decade was the first that I read Zen in the Art of Archery, from 1948. My time this Saturday began with the book, where the German professor goes to Japan in the 1920s to teach and picks up archery, and comes away with a deeper understanding of philosophy, spirituality, the universe, and himself. But my Saturday did not begin with archery, rather, with another activity in Japan, only casually mentioned once or twice in the book, where the author referenced his wife's passionate undertaking: flower arranging."