The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.
-Dr. Maria Montessori
To assist the child in their natural development our programs offer well-maintained, orderly “prepared environments” which invite a child to move and investigate. The child has free choice in the selection and length of tasks, which are structured for independent and successful activity. The Montessori materials are designed to isolate a single new concept to be grasped by the child and are self-correcting. They also follow a sequential progression permitting the child to master one task and then proceed to a further challenge.
The curriculum is organized into the following areas with a focus on particular content. All these areas support the development of large and fine motor skills, sustained concentration, a sense of order, individual choice and decision-making, self-regulation, self-confidence, independence, responsibility, and cooperation.
The ultimate goal of each child is to achieve concentration, self-regulated behavior, independence, respect for oneself, the classroom, and others, self-confidence, and an interest in learning.
- Working and learning in a community
- Using language to express feelings
- Accepting consequences
- Putting materials away and getting space and work ready for the next person
- Practicing problem-solving and conflict resolution
- Understanding rules and guidelines
- Developing friendships
- Interacting in socially appropriate ways with peers
- Respecting oneself, others, and the environment
The practical life area is the foundation of the Montessori philosophy. The activities in this area not only assist the child in the development of a long list of practical life skills, but they also help the child lengthen concentration and focus, increase hand-eye coordination, contribute to a greater society, increase socialization skills, gain a sense of personal independence, develop logical thought, and gain a sense of order. The precise movements of the practical life materials challenge the child to concentrate, work at his/her own pace uninterrupted, and complete a full work cycle which results in feelings of satisfaction and self-confidence. These real-life experiences are a physical and mental preparation for the other areas of the curriculum, as well as an ongoing contribution to the classroom community.
Categories of practical life:
- Care of Oneself: dressing/undressing, handwashing, hygiene, food preparation, sewing
- Care of the Environment: washing and setting a table, carrying a chair, folding napkins, dusting, polishing, flower arranging
- Grace and Courtesy: greeting another person, learning how to ask for help, learning how to work with others, social interactions, problem-solving, and care for the community
- Control of Movement: walking the line and making Silence
Specialized Montessori materials are designed to engage the child in matching and grading exercises that demand the use of a single isolated sense (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) to consciously discriminate qualities, similarities, and differences of size, length, shape, weight, color, sound, tone, smells, and flavors and to organize materials accordingly. The sensorial materials help the child to understand and manipulate the properties of the world, to learn to make distinctions amongst objects and materials, and to achieve precision. These materials help children notice differences, make observations, compare concrete objects, and sensually come to understand the ideas that adults talk about in abstract ways. These experiences with provide an introduction to pattern recognition and classification, and validate the child’s ability to make decisions based on the evidence of the senses, laying the foundation for learning in other academic curricular areas.
Sensorial activities focus on and include:
- Visual activities that help a child make a visual discrimination of dimension through form and color, through block manipulatives, geometric shapes, and color tablets.
- Tactile activities that help a child discriminate texture, temperature, and weight through sorting, matching, and measuring.
- Auditory activities which allow a child to discriminate volume and pitch.
- Tasting activities such as food preparation and specific lessons help the child discriminate different tastes.
- Smelling activities help the child discriminate smell.
Through sensorial experiences, the child has seen the distinctions of distance, dimension, gradation, identity, similarity, and sequence and is introduced to the functions and operations of numbers. The child’s introduction to mathematics begins with concrete manipulatives that allow for hands-on exploration of a concept. Numerals are introduced after the child has experienced the qualitative differences of quantities from 1 to 10. Early exploration of numbers includes odd and even numbers, and number sets. Place value up to 9,999 is demonstrated using golden bead materials that represent thousands, hundreds, tens, and units, allowing children to trade and perform operations with large quantities. Colored bead bars and chains representing the squares and cubes of all the numbers from 1 to 10 offer experiences in linear counting from 1 to 1,000. The goals of the math curriculum begin with an understanding of quantity and symbols and then progress to place value and experiences with the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. This then leads the child to abstract mathematical ideas and relationships.
- One-to-one correspondence, quantity, symbol, and sequencing of numbers 1-10 are practiced using rods, spindles, count and sort lessons, and cards/counters
- Teens are introduced through the manipulation of gold beads, colored beads, and cards
- Teens are explored with an emphasis on nine to the next ten by building the numbers with beads and cards
- Bead chains provide concrete activities in counting and recognizing numbers and patterns
- Categories of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands are introduced with bead materials
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are practiced using hands-on manipulatives
- The exploration of math facts occurs through a series of beads and board works.
- Fractions are introduced using manipulatives and allowing children to explore the relationship of one fraction to another.
The language curriculum supports a child’s development in many aspects of both expressive and receptive communication: speaking, listening, writing, and reading. All areas of the classroom are language-rich. Classrooms provide an immersion for the child in language development and offer many opportunities for the development of communication skills. Muscular movement and fine motor activities are developed to aid with the preparation of writing. Tracing a variety of simple metal insets and making designs offers children multiple opportunities to develop pencil control before attempting to even form letters. Sandpaper letters are then used to introduce the child to trace the outline of the letter and simultaneously vocalize the most common phonetic sound represented by that letter. The child then moves into the moveable alphabet work where they can handle and manipulate the letters to create words, phrases, sentences, and stories. At the same time, whole-word reading is developed by exercises such as attaching labels to items from a box of objects or to furnishings in the room. A small classroom library and carefully selected phonetic readers offer additional reading practice and enjoyment. The child grows to appreciate the power of language and communication.
Spoken Language – The spoken language curriculum helps the child perfect his ability to communicate and express himself appropriately with others. Spoken language activities include:
- Vocabulary lessons – learning new names of objects and classifying them through objects and picture cards
- Stories, songs, and poems open the children up to new vocabulary and an appreciation for words
- Lessons to practice social situations
- Oral sound games
Written Language – The written language curriculum goals are to develop a child’s ability to analyze sounds, recall their associated symbols, and formulate words. Written language activities include:
- Preparation of the hand for writing – metal insets, chalkboards, unlined/line paper, sentence strips (many practical life and sensory materials help prepare the child’s hand for writing)
- Moveable alphabet to form words for communication
- Sandpaper letters, beginning with consonant and vowel sounds and then progressing to blends and digraphs
- Written sound games
- Constructing words with letters, then phrases and sentences
- Journal writing
Reading – The goals of the reading curriculum are to break down the symbols into sounds and find meaning and context in words, sentences, and stories. Our classrooms utilize the Waseca Reading Program. It is structured to provide a systematic and sequential presentation of the phonetic elements used in the English language. The program uses a four-step approach in which the children spell the word depicted on the card with a moveable alphabet, a process that involves encoding or using the phonetic principle introduced to make a word. In the next step, the child lays out all of the cards and matches the label cards, thereby decoding the phonetic information. Additional practice in decoding involves writing the words and reading words that follow the same phonetic principle in a booklet.
Reading activities include:
- Sandpaper letters
- Initial and ending sound works
- Word Building
- Moveable alphabet
- Sight word activities
- Word study: compound words, rhyming?
- Phonetic lessons
- Decodable texts
- Waseca Reading Program
Listening – The goals of listening help children work and live in a community, engage in conversations, and follow multi-step directions.
- Following directions
- Listening to songs
- Listening on the line
Engaging in conversations with other learners and teachers
Our history curriculum focuses on developing an awareness and understanding of the concept of “passing time.”
- Calendar work
- Changes in Seasons
- Clock study
- Introduction to the past/present/future
- Experience of personal history via birthday celebrations
The cultural curriculum introduces fields of human knowledge and lays a foundation of appreciation and respect for the interdependence of all things, living and non-living. The goal of geography is to bring an awareness to the child of the physical features of the earth, as well as to bring an awareness of other cultures around the world. Geography topics start with demonstrations of the differences between land, water, and air. Then a variety of land/water forms and simplified globes are used to show the areas of water and land, as well as to introduce the continents on Earth. Puzzle maps for each continent and some countries are used extensively by the children. Further activities introduce flags, artifacts, animals, and pictures from different parts of the world, as well as the solar system.
- Naming and distinguishing shapes and placement of continents, countries, states, and oceans using puzzles
- Making maps and books
- Study of land and water forms (such as lakes, islands, peninsulas, gulfs, straits and isthmuses) through concrete materials
- Connections with other cultures around the world are made through pictures, materials, objects, arts, food, and plants
The goals of science are to offer concrete exploration of the physical, life, and natural sciences to further classify the child’s understanding of the world.
- Children classify/sort: plants/animals, vertebrate/invertebrates, nonliving/living, animal groups
- Units of study include: animal groups, solar system, human body, weather, transportation, habitats
- Botany, naming parts of a plant and leaf
We believe children at this age level are developing skills critical to healthy brain development, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, memory, and understanding of non-verbal cues. All of these skills are mastered best through real and concrete learning experiences. Furthermore, the young child learns best when all senses are engaged in learning and real learning experiences are occurring. For all of these reasons, we provide children with a screen-free learning environment.
Our outdoor environment is just as important as our indoor environment. We believe so much learning and development occurs in the outdoors. Children develop skills in independence, friendship-building, problem-solving, and collaborative learning. Children build a meaningful connection with the natural world and have hands-on experiences throughout outside learning.
- The outside area includes…
- A soft wood-chip area and a concrete area
- A playground area
- A garden area
- A library area
- Tables and chairs for working
- Life-size Lincoln logs and organized storage for creating
- A basketball net
- Necessary tools: buckets, shovels, rakes, brooms, balls, blocks, etc.
Music education is a daily experience, as children sing and dance together during group times. Recorded classical music often accompanies transition times and the children are told or read stories about the life and work of the music/composer. A formal introduction to musical scales and auditory awareness is provided by the bell material and other musical instruments in the Sensorial area.
Art is encouraged through the presentation of a variety of tools and media, including pencils, crayons, paintbrushes, watercolors, easel painting, and clay or playdough.
Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action Learning:
Children learn their own identity, value the differences of others, and understand fairness. This is taught throughout the classroom in all the different areas. We focus on these four categories:
Identity – The child understands their own identity – feelings, family, likes, interests, differences from, and similarities to others.
- Books, poems, self-portraits, kindergarten lessons
Diversity – The children understand how to work and play with people who are like them and who are different from them. They understand how to be a friend to everyone. They want to know about other people’s lives and experiences. They know that everyone has different feelings.
- Working and learning in a diverse classroom community
- Being aware of other children’s need
- Talking about one another’s families, lives, and interests
- Teacher role modeling for being a good friend
- Role-playing being a good friend situations
- Books, music, poetry
Justice – Children understand when people are treated unfairly or unkindly.
- Conversations about fair versus equal
- Role-playing situations of unkindness
Action – The children care about those who are treated unfairly or unkindly. They know they can and will do something when they see this. They know to say something to an adult. They know how to speak up for friends. They know how to speak up for themselves.
- Problem/conflict resolution
- Standing up for people
- Taking action
Children walk along a line on the floor in the classroom. This is an exercise of balance and self-control and may be accompanied by music. With increasing skill levels, the children are invited to carry an object such as a flag or a bell as they walk. Silence games are done on the line together. Montessori tells many anecdotes about the fascination of young children for “making silence” together. This exercise in self-control is enhanced by the experience of a communal effort, and by the awareness of other sounds in the environment that are usually unnoticed. Group Time is also done on the line where there is an opportunity for announcements by the teacher(s) or by individual children, for group singing, sharing, and reading aloud. The amount of whole group time is very limited, in order to maximize the length of the uninterrupted work period
Our teachers use Transparent Classroom, an online record-keeping system, to track students’ progress. Please find more information about this Montessori record-keeping system here.