Overview of Practical Life Work and Studies"Considering the method as a whole, we must begin our work by preparing the child for forms of social life and we must attract his attention to these forms...At a given moment it happens that a child becomes keenly interested in a piece of work, showing it by the expression in his face, by his intense attention, by his perseverance in the same exercise. That child has set foot upon the road leading to discipline...The exercises of Practical Life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment and efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education."
The Practical Life exercises are important elements in Montessori education. They provide the fundamental building blocks on which the entire Montessori method is constructed. The Practical Life exercises are those first presented to the young child entering a Montessori school.
The aims of these exercises are both developmental and environmental in nature. By developing the child's coordination and concentration, enhancing his natural sensitivity to order, the child accumulates successful interactions with his environment. This grants the child ever greater self-sufficiency and independence. Practical Life exercises are simply various kinds of everyday domestic activities such as pouring water, scrubbing a table, polishing silver, etc.
The Practical Life Area also includes the integration of graceful movements with graceful behavior and courtesy. Opportunities are provided for the continuous physical, psychological and moral growth of the child, and as such, builds a foundation for behavior upon which all the more "academic" achievements of a Montessori program are set.
The Practical Life Lessons consist of:
Sensorial Work" The education of the senses has, as its aim, the refinement of the differential perception of stimuli by means of repeated exercises...The sense exercises constitute a species of auto-education, which, if these exercises be many times repeated, leads to a perfecting of the child's psycho sensory processes."
The Sensorial Area of the classroom is designed to heighten the child's senses by isolating each sense and exploring it to the fullest. This helps the child with observation, comparison, judgement, reasoning, and decision-making skills needed for later academic areas. The Practical Life Area is the foundation of the Montessori experience and the Sensorial Area is the heart. The Sensorial Area helps a student to order his sensory impressions and the senses are the keys to knowledge.
The Sensorial Lessons consist of:
Mathematics Studies"Children show a great attachment to the abstract subjects when they arrive at them through manual activity. They proceed to fields of knowledge hitherto held inaccessible to them, as grammar and mathematics."
Sensorial learning is viewed as the foundation for all later learning throughout life. The power of order is basic when considering math for the 3-6 classroom. Order links the impressions of a student's outer world with his inner world. The child does not consider his math as "work". Instead, he is drawn to it by an internal drive to bring order and form to his world--to classify and to understand.
The purpose of math materials in the Montessori preschool curriculum is not to teach math at an early age, but rather to assist each child in developing their own process and personality.
The Mathematics Lessons consist of:
- Numeration counting numerals 1-9 recognition of numerals
- The Decimal System decimal introduction association of place values understanding the concept of 10
- Linear Counting visual recognition of 1-1000 teens, tens, and 100 identification counting with materials
- Four Operations decimal system: introduces concepts of four operations golden beads: units, tens, hundreds, thousands addition, multiplication, subtraction, division
- Abstraction: The Bridge after manipulating the golden beads for operations work, the child becomes ready to recognize the symbolic value of the stamp material
- Memorization actual memorization of the complete tables does not begin until the elementary level - these activities are intended to provide exploration of numbers/quantities while also providing numerous opportunities for repetition and engaging the mind for memory
Language Studies"Language is one of the characteristics which distinguish man from the animals. It is a gift of nature bestowed on him alone. It is an expression of his intelligence...Written language can be acquired much more easily by children of four years than by those of six years of age--the time at which compulsory education starts. While children of six years of age need at least two years to learn how to write, and do so with much difficulty and against nature, children of four years learn this 'second language' within a few months."
Language is the method of communication between people through speech and the written word. Montessori brings the child from speech to printing and then to reading and comprehending the words which he has written. It was the spontaneous writing, which four year old children demonstrated in Dr.. Montessori's first Children's House that made her method world-famous. The activities of Practical Life and the Sensorial materials prepared the children in that early classroom so as to naturally develop the writing of words and phrases as four year olds.
The Language Lessons Consist of:
- Auditory Preparation conversation with children storytelling (sequencing) poetry (rhymes and finger plays) auditory discrimination listening skills identifying sounds
- Visual Preparation recognizing patterns matching and sorting
- Motor Preparation eye to hand coordination strengthening of the hand manuscript writing
- Analysis phonogram sounds blends
- Reading on Word Level phonics reading in context
- Correct Expression vocabulary of objects, attributes, and actions
- Function of Words beginning writing noun and verb identification (introduced)
Elementary Language StudiesThe world of reading is expanded upon, and most children are capable readers by the time they are in first grade. It must be noted here that children are not forced into reading. They are encouraged to go at their own pace and continue on as they feel comfortable, for no one who is forced to do something against their will, will be a success at it. Writing is also developed more and children are encouraged to write daily in their journals. Spelling is a big part of the curriculum at this time, and children will have weekly spelling quizzes. It must be noted that children are not forced to go on if they are not comfortable with their words. Children in one class are not given the same list of words to learn. Each child gets a spelling list that is exactly at the level of where he or she is, and will move on only when comfortable.
In a Montessori school, children of this age are not given homework as much as children in a traditional school. Montessori Academy gives their elementary students reading assignments and their weekly spelling lists to learn. The rest of the subjects require the students to handle the materials in the classroom; therefore, it is not possible to do many of the things required by the curriculum at home. What they can do at home comes in a folder with directions and explanations. Parents can include notes to the teachers. The folder is returned in the morning.
Elementary ScienceThe study of science continues to expand science being brought into the classroom. They will bring back with them items such as leaves, fossils, rocks, or any other interesting finds that will help them in their exploration of how things work.
Studies begun at the Lower Elementary level will continue to expand from the concrete to the abstract in a-hands-on way that will make the understanding of science complete. Children will construct models and charts; explore astronomy, botany and zoology. They will measure, experiment, analyze and observe all aspects of science that traditional students may not study until high school.
Elementary MathematicsThe study of mathematics grows more complex, yet the students are still captivated by the unique Montessori method of learning. Again, the children are in a prepared environment which moves from the concrete to the abstract. The understanding of mathematics comes very easily to a Montessori child. The child is not pushed to go beyond his/her level of comfort, and a thorough understanding of the area being studied is reached before the child moves on.
The mathematics curriculum continues to work from the concrete to the abstract to create a greater understanding of the mathematical concepts. The strength of the Montessori math curriculum is in the practical application of mathematical concepts in solving real problems in areas such as science, engineering, technology, and economics.
The Elementary ArtsThe arts cover many other areas. Children will learn to play musical instruments, sing songs from different cultures, and continue the study of classical and modern artists that was begun at the primary level. It is not unusual to find a six-year-old Montessori student who is familiar with the work of Chopin and names Renoir as his favorite artist.
Elementary Foreign Language
Foreign Language continues to be presented to the children. There is at least one Teacher or Assistant who is fully bilingual and is there to help in teaching children Spanish. It is believed that the younger a child is when he/she is exposed to a new language; the easier it will be for them to understand, thus making the acquisition of a new language more achievable.
To sum up the Montessori elementary education easily - the love of learning continues.
The upper elementary students of a Montessori school are aged 9-12. Again, as in all the previous stages, there is an expansion upon what has already been learned in the areas of care of self, the environment, animals and others.
In the lower elementary, the child learned to develop responsibility and time management in their work cycle. Reading and Mathematics are firmly established, and we are now ready to take on the more substantial curriculum of learning culture, and the arts and sciences to a greater degree than is found in other more traditional schools. Children at this age will find their studies to be more in depth, but nonetheless challenging, stimulating and fun.