AREAS OF STUDY IN A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM
The practical life section is the most important area in a Montessori classroom. It is through these materials that the child develops the self-confidence, control and concentration essential for mastery of the other more advanced area of a Montessori class.
Children will be naturally drawn to this area because these materials are most familiar to them. This familiarity also serves to provide the children with a feeling of security and well-being. The activities will contain objects and materials that are normally encountered in the everyday living experiences of the children’s culture. Many of them are fundamental activities that children need to master to be able to live comfortably in the real adult world. Most of the activities of practical life will fall into four main categories: grace and courtesy, care of self, control of movement, and care of the environment.
PURPOSES OF PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES:
To develop and perfect muscle control and coordination through organization of movement.
To develop a sense of physical and mental order through exactness in use of objects and working in definite sequence.
To develop understanding through control of the environment resulting in a sense of dignity and self-confidence, joy in completing tasks, and generation of social feeling among children.
To develop concentration and persistence through focusing of attention on work, thus allowing independence and self-reliance to be achieved.
To establish the procedure for choosing work after a lesson has been placed on the shelf and returning materials to their proper place on the shelves.
To establish respect for other’s work by learning that materials are never taken from another child but only from the shelves.
The sensorial materials help the child to become aware of detail. Each of the activities isolate one defining quality, such as colour, weight, shape, texture, size, sound and smell. It is in this area that math concepts are first introduced and internalized.
The primary purpose of the sensorial activities is to help the child in his/her effort to sort out the many and varied impressions given by the senses. They help to do this in four ways: they are specifically designed to develop, order, broaden and refine sense perception. The activities identify a single quality, reveal a range of small differences in the quality and explore patterns in those differences. The child’s understanding of the world is “broadened” when the sensorial activities awaken certain sense experiences that were previously unexplored, such as the feel of shapes or the smell of spices. They allow the child to experience and concentrate on particular qualities in perfect clarity and isolation.
The sensorial activities also provide the child with basic skills needed for mathematics work, including, calculation of amount or degree, exactness in perception and dexterity, discrimination among similarities, repetition, set recognition, algebraic analysis, and recognition of progression in a series. Most of the sensorial materials provide the child with experiences in more than one of these skills
Resource: Gettman, D., 1987. Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives St. Martin’s Press, New York. P. 65 and 160.
The language area contains many learning opportunities such as:
Learning the shapes and sounds of the letters
Perfecting the fine motor skills for writing
Matching of words and pictures
Reading development-reading word lists, sentences, stories
Parts of speech-word games with nouns, verbs and adjectives
The development of language in early-childhood classrooms is an umbrella for the entire Montessori curriculum. Language learning occurs most profoundly in the moment-to-moment life of interactions within the classroom. Children learn to listen, speak, and later to write and read. A balanced environment, one that is open yet not chaotic or inappropriate, is the most conducive to language learning. Activities related to the development of early-literacy skills greet young children when they visit the language area of a Montessori classroom. These activities include opportunities for young children to expand vocabulary, listen carefully to common sounds, and look carefully to find likenesses and differences among objects and pictures. Matching sets of objects, learning the names of household tools, unusual fruits and vegetables and geometric shapes are other activities which build language and early literacy skills and will be found in a Montessori classroom. Dr. Maria Montessori personally developed only three language materials for the early childhood classroom: the metal insets, the sandpaper letters, and the moveable alphabet. However, they have proven astoundingly effective. In fact, educators outside of Montessori have recognized the effectiveness of these materials and have created similar activities now being used in a variety of early-childhood settings.
In Montessori classrooms, teachers incorporate both phonetic and whole-word strategies. To meet the needs of all children, teachers need to use a variety of strategies.
Key concepts of Montessori teachers are:
Provision of an array of print activities
Recognition that there is more than one way that children learn to read, so a variety of approaches will be used
Demonstration of literacy often
Writing meaningfully in front of children and reading back what is written
Providing opportunities for auditory and visual discrimination activities
Demonstration of an appreciation of words, by playing funny, nonsense games, commenting on the way new words sound
Reading award-winning books to the children on a variety of subjects
Read, read, read aloud to children and encouraging the same at home. (Not only to the whole class but in small groups and one on one)
Resource: Epstein, A., “Montessori Early Childhood Language Lifelong Literacy”, Tomorrow’s Child, 4:1, 13-17.
By using concrete materials during the early years, the child can learn the basic concepts of mathematics. Montessori education provides many materials to develop mathematical skills. Not only will the child be able to know quantities and systems but will understand the process as well-a KERA requirement.
Through the early sensorial activities an understanding of qualities foundation has been laid for the child. In addition, the Montessori child is introduced to the required skills for mathematics by many aspects of both the practical life activities and the sensorial activities.
Mathematics activities are organized into five groups: introduction to numbers, introduction to the Decimal System, introduction to tens, teens and counting, arithmetic tables, and abstraction. The preschool classroom activities will typically be activities found under group one through group four. Group one introduces units of quantity and illustrates their use in exercises that count up to ten. The mathematics work proceeds as in all Montessori learning, from the most concrete to abstract, as the child is ready.
Montessori students use hands-on learning materials that make abstract concepts clear and concrete. This approach to learning offers a clear and logical strategy for helping students understand and develop a sound foundation in mathematics and geometry.
Resource: Gettman, D., 1987. Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 159.
Science is an integral element of the Montessori curriculum. The program is designed to cultivate the child’s curiosity and determination to discover the truth for themselves. They learn how to observe patiently, analyze, and work at each problem. Students engage in field trips and hands-on experiments and typically respond with enthusiasm to the process of carefully measuring, gathering data, classifying and predicting the outcome. One goal of Montessori science is to cultivate a lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about the world in which we live. Some science activities you could see in a Montessori classroom are activities of magnetism, weights, growing plants and classification of plants and animals.
Montessori preschools offer many opportunities for the child to expand knowledge of the world during the early years when they are motivated by spontaneous interest. The materials provided in the social studies area spark this interest. Some of the materials in this area are: Land and Water Globe, Continent Globe, World Map Puzzle, picture packets of animals and people in other countries and career exploration.
The classroom offers children a concrete representation of history by letting them work timelines. Some examples of study through the use of timelines are: prehistoric life, presidents, the student’s own life timeline or the teacher’s life timeline and the child’s day. Other cultures as well as our own are explored. Important figures from the past are discussed.
Resource: Seldin, T., “Montessori’s Integrated Spiral Curriculum, ” Tomorrow’s Child. 4:1,5-11.