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Review: Ready to Learn by Martyn Rawson and Michael Rose

cover of Ready to Learn

This review by Barbara Isaacs appeared in issue 121, Spring 2017 Montessori International, and were absolutely delighted to receive it. It is always so lovely when one of our older books get attention like this – thank you!

It is hard to believe that this book is now ten years old; it offers much wisdom and deep insights into children’s learning and development in the first seven years of life. It primarily follows the Waldorf Steiner approach to children’s development whilst offering practical insights into children’s learning, and clearly explains the stages of the child’s development and the importance of family and other relationships as the child grows in independence and capacity to play and learn with others.

Each chapter offers a very useful checklist of key points discussed and practical considerations. For this reason and its very accessible style it is eminently suited for sharing with parents. The individual chapters would serve well as a focus for staff meeting discussions where both more experienced and newly qualified staff would be given an opportunity to reflect on their content.

The book includes a really interesting chapter on storytelling which is one of the key strategies of the Steiner early years pedagogy. It also considers how boys and girls learn and provides a view on the use of computers – it is interesting to read the 1999 and 1997 passages from newspaper articles which the authors have chosen to share with readers and consider how far and fast we have moved in the last twenty years.

The question of school readiness is now on the political agenda and practitioners know that many children would benefit from spending their early years foundation stage years in the nursery rather than experience the final year of this important developmental stage in the reception class of a primary school. This book will equip you with a sound rationale for children’s continued nursery experience, even though you may not agree with all the arguments presented in its pages.

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Review: History Through Stories by Chris Smith, Adam Guillain and Nanette Noonan

History Through Stories - Teaching Primary History Through Stories; Chris Smith, Adam Guillain & Nanette Noonan; 9781907359774

This warm and heartfelt review was written by Sue Briggs for Montessori International, issue 120 Winter 16/17. Many thanks for their wholehearted enthusiasm!

Teachers in the 100 storytelling primary schools in England who have already wholeheartedly embraced the Storytelling Schools cross-curricular topic-based approach will rejoice at this latest volume, which this time focuses on teaching primary history. Using the tried and tested HMSS method – hear, map, step and speak – the authors have compiled 37 hand-picked stories designed to engage young learners in the exciting world of  history. Their enthusiasm for encouraging children to work together and find ways to tell and retell a story, helping them use their imagination to put themselves ‘into the shoes’ of people living at a particular time in history, shines through this whole volume. Each story forms a launchpad for creative ideas throughout the curriculum, linking subject areas in surprisingly effective ways. The grace, courage and unselfishness of significant individuals whose actions changed the course of world history – Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and Sir Tim Berners Lee being examples – together with the stories of the likes of Boudicca, Henry VIII and Blackbeard, whose motives may have been less honourable but still reflective of their personal beliefs.

Stories of life in Stone, Bronze and Iron ages showing how humans have impacted on the natural environment would be useful to Montessori teachers working with the Timeline of Man as the cross-curricular resources listed demonstrate perfectly how each subject area can be integrated and explored using the story as a creative springboard.

Ancient civilisations are also well represented with stories and legends showing how legal systems, the concept of democracy and mathematical fundamentals originated, together with the Islamic legend about the invention of chess, all designed to pique the curiosity of primary students.

This is history as it needs to be taught – inspiring children with stories of individuals and events to get them thinking and imagining. The only dates in this book are contained in the clear and comprehensive chart of  the stories and topics in chronological order at the beginning of the book.

More please.

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Review: Making Woodland Crafts by Patrick Harrison

This review by Philip Davies appeared in issue 119 of Montessori International over the summer. Read more about Montessori International here…

Front Cover Making Woodland Crafts

The author is an outdoor learning educator and Forest School practitioner and trainer. His aim with this book is to provide some basic knowledge and skills for both simple and advanced woodland craft, and what he has included comes from many hours “messing about in the woods”. He intends it for “…anyone, of any age, with a modicum of interest…”, and it will certainly be useful for both parents and their children and teachers and their pupils.

Divided into sections that the author intends to make the book as useful as possible, he also provides an introduction, a brief note on how to use the book and a two page spread detailing some basic “useful tools”.

The first section is “Choosing your wood”, which briefly introduces the readers/user to four types of woodland – hazel, willow, birch and elder – illustrated by black-and-white photos and with notes on past uses of each type of wood and how to identify them and, with the exception of birch, how to coppice them. This is followed by a section of “useful knots and lashings”.

There are pages on creating things like a hazel mask, a night torch and a staff, and sections on making frames and simple structures or fashioning a triangle, the latter going on to show hos basic triangles can be combined to make things like a tetrahedral step ladder or lantern.

The author’s illustrations are commendably clear and well-drawn, giving a good sense of the possibilities of the woodland activities you can get the children involved in. Furthermore the book has a good stout hardcover that should help preserve it as it is taken around outside.

Dead Hedging - making woodland crafts

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Review: Science Through Stories

science through stories

This wonderful review appeared in the fantastic Montessori International Spring 2016 edition. Many thanks to them.

Science Through Stories: Teaching Primary Science with Storytelling by Chris Smith and Jules Pottle – Reviewed by Sue Briggs 

This is another magical title in ‘Storytelling Schools’ series, this time using stories as springboards for primary science projects. Chris Smith, the founding director of Storytelling Schools co-authors this title with Jules Pottle, who is an experienced primary science co-ordinator and specialist science teacher (and also a keen actor and director).

Together they have collected a range of fascinating stories – a mix of traditional tales, poetry and real life histories – to be used to launch biology, chemistry and physics topics for primary children. Each story is carefully adapted and retold to provide a fictional backdrop to give context to scientific themes.

The stories are grouped in topics and graded in difficulty, giving teachers easy access to the level of interest and skill of their group.

Biology themes include habitats, ‘Mummy, Can I Have a Penguin?’, caring for the environment; a traditional tale ‘The Drop of Honey’ and ‘The Birds and the Forest Fire’ and the life story of Edward Jenner for health and germs.

Chemistry stories include ‘The Children of the Water God’ for the water cycle, ‘The Trojan Horse’ for properties of materials, and Mary Anning’s story for fossils and geology.

Physics themes include ‘The Giant and the Turnip’ for Forces, the beguiling ‘The Bat who learned to Click’  for sound, echolocation and adaptation through evolution, and the story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission for space travel, orbits, gravity and the moon.

Montessori teachers used to working with an interconnected curriculum will see immediately how these stories would enhance activities and offer a route into scientific exploration for those children more comfortable with a literacy approach.

Ways to work with each story to inspire imagination, additional scientific facts, additional reading and links to other curriculum areas are included after each story. Amplified source notes and a comprehensive index make this a tremendously useful and effective resource for busy teachers.

There is a detailed reminder of the authors’ favourite and recommended way of telling and improvising stories together, ‘Hear Map Step and Speak’ (HMSS), which neatly incorporates different learning styles and helps children remember the process. Most stories have repeated sequences and although devising actions for some of the more tricky scientific processes would be challenging this is undoubtedly an effective mechanism to capture children’s interest and ensure learning is understood, embedded and fun.

I’ll leave the last words to the fabulous Pie Corbett: ‘Without science we are lost. Without story we are trapped alone in the darkness of ourselves. For too long, these companions have travelled on different tracks. This book takes one positive step forwards to bringing them together as travelling companions.’

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