The Montessori method is an approach to teaching and learning that recognizes the capacity of very young children to explore and absorb the world around them. The classroom environment is prepared so that children can experience the satisfaction of concentration and independent work and develop the intellectual, social and physical skills which make life engaging.
The room and the materials, the children and the teacher are all part of the experience. Everything is sized and arranged to allow even the smallest children to be independent. It is a comfortable and stimulating place for the children and the teachers. Each class has children of mixed ages. The new children can learn by watching older children, while older children can teach and be models for the younger children. The children will always be at different stages of maturity and composure, allowing everyone to experience the give and take of life in a diverse group. This also allows the children and the teacher to be together for at least 3 years.
The teacher, in addition to setting up the environment to be rich and engaging, must be observant. The teacher uses those observations to know which activities to present to individual children or small groups, to know when to interrupt, when to stand back, when to offer help, when to let mistakes play out, when to encourage, when to insist, when to help settle disagreements and when to let children settle disagreements themselves.
Exercises of Practical Life
Children are fascinated by the activities of daily life which adults do automatically and they want to increase their independence and physical skill. The classroom provides a range of activities from pouring to dishwashing to chopping apples to fixing snack to washing a baby – all arranged to allow the children to work inde- pendently and repeatedly to increase their skill.
The pleasure of concentration which a child experiences while learning to pour without spilling or sweep up paper scraps or arrange flowers is the foundation of a love of learning.
Sensorial materials are used to develop the child’s five senses. They allow the children the opportunity to sort things by size, shape, color, touch, sound, temperature, and weight. For instance they can grade materials from dark to light, and from large to small.
Montessori sensorial apparatus teaches children to classify their sensorial impressions in an organized, orderly, and scientific manner.
An example of Sensorial Materials include the Cylinder Blocks, which provide the first stage of experiences in visual discrimination of size; there are four types of Cylinder Blocks for the child to arrange varying in one, two or three dimensions. The work is self- correcting promoting independence in the child’s work.
The first step in developing language skills is learning to hear individual sounds and see and feel their shapes. This makes it possible for a child to put those sounds together to make words. The idea is that making words of your own comes first—reading another’s words will follow. Reading activities start with short vowel words; long vowel sounds, double vowels, silent ‘e’ and other idiosyncrasies of English spelling and pronunciation follow. Writing and reading can be parallel processes. A child may be confidently reading “dog” and “sun” and writing “jraf” and “lfnt”, but would not yet be reading “giraffe” and “elephant”. Eventually writing the snack list or a page for the Daily News becomes a natural part of daily life, as does reading books for practice and pleasure.
With the mathematical apparatus, every piece of material isolates one concept and these isolated concepts integrate to form the basis for further development of the child’s mathematical understanding. The first activities introduce counting and the quantities and names for the numbers 1 to 10. A child can use a variety of materials that represent numbers as quantities and sizes: putting apples on trees or grading segmented rods. Later the child is presented with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using single numbers and using units, tens, hundreds and thousands. They can literally carry and borrow and change the quantities involved. As they put them together and take them apart, they perceive and internalize the interplay of the numbers. This allows them to work with increasingly abstract concepts and gives a foundation for memorization which comes later. “I just did it in my head.”
Science & Nature At King’s Wood we aim to bring to life a child’s inherent curiosity about the natural world. Science and nature study materials are always available, and they change throughout the year. There may be activities focused on the qualities of water, magnets or electricity. We may study weather, bodies, ocean animals, birds, trees and each year we hatch eggs and butterflies.
Geography & Cultural Studies
The geography activities include materials that represent the physical qualities of the earth—land, water, mountains, valleys, forests, deserts—and its man-made divisions—countries, states, distinctive places and ways of daily life. Each class also chooses a particular country to focus on for part of the year. We try the food, wear some of the clothes, learn some songs and dances, read stories and play games of our chosen country.
Art & Music
Art and music are an integral part of the life of the class. Materials for “making things”—paints, markers, paper, scissors, glue, wood and tools—are always available and always in use. While there may be some activities suggested by teachers, children often spark each other’s interests. Teachers often highlight a particular artist whose work is engaging to children. There are music activities for the whole group each day—singing, moving freely to music, dancing with specific moves, using rhythm instruments—and celebrations always include music.
We encourage you to come and visit our classroom and watch our classes in progress.