THE AREAS OF FOCUS
For young children, there is something special about the tasks that an adult considers ordinary: washing dishes, paring vegetables, polishing shoes, etc. These activities are exciting to children because they allow them to imitate adults. Imitation is one of the strongest urges during the child’s early years.
Within the practical life area of the classroom children perfect their coordination and become absorbed in an activity. They gradually lengthen their span of concentration. They also learn to pay attention to details as they follow a regular sequence of actions. Finally, they learn good work habits as they finish each task and put away the materials before beginning another activity.
Sensorial materials refine the use of the senses, helping the child to distinguish, to categorize, and to relate new information to what they already know. Dr. Montessori believed that this process is the beginning of conscious knowledge.
Dr. Montessori demonstrated that if children have access to mathematical equipment in their early years, they could easily and joyfully assimilate many facts and skills of arithmetic both at a young age and later in life. On the other hand, these same facts and skills may require long hours of drudgery and drill if they are introduced to them in an abstract form at a later age. As such, Dr. Montessori designed concrete mathematical materials after she observed that combining this equipment, separating it, sharing it, counting it, and comparing it, children can demonstrate to themselves the basic operations of mathematics.
Children in a Montessori class never sit down to memorize addition and subtraction facts. They never simply memorize multiplication tables; rather they learn these facts by actually performing the operations with concrete materials.
When the children do arithmetic, they are given a sheet of paper containing simple problems. They work the problems with appropriate materials and record their result. Similar operations can be performed with a variety of materials. This variety maintains children’s interest while giving them many opportunities for necessary repetition. As they commit the addition facts and multiplication tables to memory, they gain a real understanding of what each operation means. In a Montessori classroom, there are many materials that can be used for counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
The individual presentation of language materials in a Montessori classroom allows the teacher to take advantage of each child’s greatest period of interest. Reading instruction begins on the day when the child wants to know what a word says, or when a child shows an interest in using the sandpaper letters. In order to simplify the child’s first experience with letters, the children are first introduced to the phonetic sounds of the alphabet, rather than the names of the letters. After a child has begun to successfully sound out phonetic words, she may be introduced to books, which emphasize a phonetic approach to reading and writing. The construction of words with the moveable alphabet is a favorite exercise for children of this age. The moveable alphabet is the “missing link” and the backbone of the language area. It brings language alive.
Gradually, by doing a variety of reading exercises, the children begin to learn irregular (non-phonetic) words, and words with two and three syllables. Proceeding at their own pace, the children are encouraged to read from a variety of books about things which are of interest to them. The children’s interest in reading is never stifled by monotony; rather it is cultivated as their most important key to future learning. They are encouraged to explore books for answers to their own questions, whether they are about frogs, rockets, stars, or fire engines.
When children celebrate their birthdays at school, we encourage them to donate a book to the classroom. This allows them to learn the value of giving, rather than receiving. Parents wishing to participate should inscribe the book with the child’s name, date, and birthdate. Please consult teachers as to the choice of books for the classroom.
In a Montessori classroom, the children are introduced to grammar through games that show them that nouns are the names of things, that adjectives describe nouns, and that verbs are action words.
The large wooden puzzle maps are among the most popular activities in the classroom. At first, the children use the maps simply as puzzles. As they become more familiar with the maps, they are introduced to the concepts of landmasses, oceans, peninsulas, islands, etc. They also begin to learn about weather and climate. Additional activities help to reinforce these concepts. The older children use the puzzle maps to learn the name of continents, countries, and states.
Montessori offers the children a concrete presentation of history by letting them work with time lines. Time lines are very long strips of paper that can be unrolled and stretched along the floor of the classroom. The line is marked off in segments that represent constructive periods of history.
As an introduction to the idea of history, the children begin by making a time line of their own lives, starting with their baby pictures.
Cultural Awareness Program
The children gain an awareness of the world around them by exploring other countries, their customs, food, music, climate, language and animals. This helps raise their consciousness about other people, to gain an understanding and tolerance and therefore compassion for people around the world. A multicultural perspective is brought to the classroom on a daily basis through respect for individuality and diversity. Knowledge breeds understanding, tolerance, and acceptance.
The experience for the primary students consists of experimentation with various developmentally appropriate mediums (chalk, watercolor, tempera, play dough, clay, collage, etc.). The purpose is to expose the children to sensory experiences through art by hand and with tools. Art activities are authentic and representational of the child’s perception and expression rather than the pre-ordained, superficial aspects of generating a product. Authentic art experiences emphasize the process, value and originality, allowing the child to preserve ownership of her work.
Art projects are natural extensions of the early childhood classroom work. The primary classroom has an open-ended art area with different papers, drawing materials, and mediums including chalk, crayon, marker, watercolors, collage and clay. All of these projects reinforce and expand academic and artistic skills. Creativity is not curtailed by an imposed curriculum but rather compliments the child’s sensory explorations with each medium. Art also exposes the child to the all-important benefits of crossing the mid-line, which brings together the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
At Desert Sky Montessori School, each class enjoys time singing and dancing. Music extends into our classroom through tapes, games, and musical instrument studies. The music program offers each child the opportunity to sing, dance, play simple musical instruments and learn chants and rhymes. The curriculum, which is based on the multi-sensory approach, is structured to emphasize both the acquisition of the basic skills and an appreciation of music and movement. The songs are centered around the natural pitch of a child’s voice and are generally simple melodies to give the children the rewarding experience of being able to sing along.
The children play outside every day, weather permitting. Outdoor play is a very important part of our day. Outdoor play helps children develop their imagination, their muscular coordination, and allows them to better focus in the classroom.