Practical Life is the foundation of the Montessori classroom. It meets the basic needs of the child to create order, to perfect his/her coordination, to lengthen his/her attention span and to gain independence. Dr. Montessori wrote, “No one can be free unless she is independent. Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence (Montessori, The Montessori Method, pg. 95-96).”
The Practical Life area is where the child is allowed to participate in the daily work they see going on around them. It is the area where the child learns to care for themselves, others and the environment. It is made up of three main areas. The first is Grace and Courtesy. This area is where the child learns to move gracefully, walk gracefully, carry materials, and say please and thank you. The child learns everyday kindness and respect and comes to understand that we have responsibilities to other people. The second is Care of Self. This is where the child learns many necessary skills to help in keeping themselves neat and clean. Hand washing; hand and nail care; dressing frames; tooth brushing; etc. are just a few examples of the skills learned here. The third area is Care of the Environment. This area teaches the child how to clean, sweep, and set a table. These are a few of the skills learned to keep the child’s environment neat and orderly. Through these skills of everyday living the child gains independence and learns to do for themselves.
The skills learned in the Practical Life area help the child develop an inner sense of order and concentration and the ability to follow a complex sequence of steps. Time spent in the Practical Life area helps the child learn to concentrate on the task at hand. During this process of concentration, the child works solely for internal satisfaction, which allows them to become a calm, self-disciplined child.
In the Language area we begin with simple concepts, such as rhyming, opposites, same/different, and sequencing, upon mastery of these skills we begin introducing the sandpaper letters individually. The sandpaper letters allow the child to feel, see and hear each letter. The next lesson isolates the beginning, ending and middle sounds of words. By bringing in small manipulatives that go hand in hand with the sandpaper letters, it reinforces the child’s knowledge of the letter sounds. Once the child has mastered the letter sounds, they then move on to blending three letter words using, first, the sandpaper letter then movable alphabet. The movable alphabet is the most frequently used material in this area. Here is the sequence used with the movable alphabet:
We begin with the spelling of three-letter words; move to more complex words using simple blends such as bl, br, cr, st, str, ect; on to phrase building and sentence writing; an introduction to digraphs (oo, ee, ch, sh, th, ai, etc.); silent e with long vowels; capitalization and punctuation of sentences; and ending with story writing.
We go from the known (concrete) to the unknown (abstract) so the frustration level of the child is kept at a minimum; hence all of the reviewing. Should the child reach completion of this sequence, they then continue into the elementary curriculum for language. Inventive spelling (spelling words by sound and phonetics) is corrected and helps to clarify the abstract terms when they meet them again and again in future learning situation. The whole purpose of the Montessori curriculum is to make the abstract concrete until the child can close they eyes and visualize mathematical process at work. Step by step the materials become less concrete and more symbolic.
Another benefit of the Montessori method is that no child is ever left behind or left to plateau. We continue moving onward and upward for those children who have mastered all of the materials in each area of the classroom. Also, we will continuously review for those children who need more time mastering particular skills. It was and is Dr. Montessori’s belief that the object of teaching a child is to enable the child to get along without the teacher. Because of the method she created, this belief is reality.
Hindi, Spanish, & Sign Language:
Introducing children to foreign languages should begin as early as possible. For a child, the advantages of learning multiple languages at an early age are extremely valuable and continue long into adulthood. When children learn a second language at an early age, they will achieve a more native grasp of both grammar and pronunciation in the second language, their ability in English is enhanced and they develop a greater appreciation for diversity.
A child interacts with the world around them through their senses. They will look, listen, touch, taste, and smell almost anything they come into contact with. The Sensorial materials in the classroom isolates one characteristic such as height, length, width, color, sound, temperature, smell, texture or weight. Each material has a built-in control of error to help the child check its own work. The Sensorial materials also provide the child with lessons in vocabulary as they learn the names of the figures and dimensional differences. The Sensorial materials help the child to pay attention to detail by observing and relating new information to what they already know. The following are a few examples of the Sensorial materials and the skills they teach:
The Pink Tower is composed of a series of ten wooden cubes graded in size from the largest at 10 cubic centimeters to the smallest at 1 cubic centimeter. The child constructs a tower, one cube at a time, beginning with the largest cube and ending with the smallest. This work allows the child to view objects changing in a three-dimensional manner.
The Brown Stair is composed of 10 rectangular prisms whose width and height change one centimeter each time. The child constructs a stair-like structure beginning with the thickest prism on down to the thinnest prism. This work shows objects changing in two-dimensions (height and thickness).
The Red Rods are a series of 10 rectangular rods that change in length only. The child arranges the rods in order from the longest to the shortest. This work shows objects changing one-dimensionally (length only).
The Knobbed Cylinders are a series of four rectangular blocks each with ten cylinder shaped inserts that vary in regular sequence by either, diameter, height or both. Not only is this an exercise in visual discrimination, but it also helps strengthen the fine motor muscles used in grasping a pencil for writing.
The Knobless Cylinders Correspond to the four Knobbed Cylinder set, but each set of knobless is colored one of the following; red, yellow, green or blue. This work enhances the child’s visual discrimination skills while arranging the cylinders using the senses of sight or touch alone.
The Color Tablets are used to help the child learn colors by sight and name first, while distinguishing between various shades of color next. They begin by matching pairs of primary colors followed by pairs of the secondary colors. Upon mastery of the primary and secondary colors, the child will then learn to distinguish between seven shades of each color arranging them from darkest to lightest.
The Science part of the Montessori curriculum is concerned with helping the child learn about the world around them by observing, experimenting and recording what they have learned. We teach the child traits of a scientist such as being objective and organized.
As they work together, children will begin to observe, compare, measure classify, communicate, infer, make a model, predict, investigate and draws conclusions.
Some of the topics we will cover this year are the weather, solar system, the 5 senses, eating healthy food, recycling, exploring matter, and animals amongst other things.
The science curriculum is very important because it helps the students develop the ability to ask their own questions by seeking information from reliable sources and from their own observations and investigation.
The Social Studies/Geography part of the Montessori program introduces the students to the areas of this world. The children are taught about different parts of the world and are exposed to that area’s food, artwork and culture. Children learn to make choices and share their ideas on group tasks.
Some of the topics include learning how to use a map, continents, different cultures, community, government and history.
Art is another part of our Montessori curriculum and one that the students greatly enjoy. Students are taught about concepts such as primary colors and secondary colors. They are also taught skills such as cutting, tearing and folding. Students love exploring mixing colors and making shapes using play dough and clay.
Children are naturally flexible, but can benefit from doing yoga. Yoga can build their confidence and self esteem, improve their powers of concentration and focus, develop their brain and intellect, and promote balance, flexibility, coordination and strength. It is excellent for their bodies and health and can help them cope with stress and difficult emotions. It also helps develop their creativity and imagination, sharpen and expand their awareness and helps them develop calmness.