About the Primary Curriculum
Dr. Montessori believed that no human being is educated by another person. Each person must do it them self. A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years he or she spends in the classroom because that person is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt, therefore, that the goal of early childhood education should be not to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn.
In the Montessori classroom this objective is approached in two ways. First, by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his or her own choice, rather than being forced and second, by helping the child perfect his or her natural tools for learning so that the child’s abilities will be maximized for future learning situations. The Montessori materials have this dual, long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child.
A Montessori 3-6 environment is truly a House of Children. Children are free to choose their tasks. They are invited, but never required, to carry out a number of tasks. The adult is constantly observing and striving to meet their physical, mental, and emotional needs. And, once they have begun to concentrate on a piece of work, the adult respects this choice and concentration and does not interrupt.
At this age we give the child, who is voraciously devouring experiences, the basic elements of all future studies - biology, art, geography, geometry, math, music, and language.
Practical Life Exercises
Practical Life Exercises are exercises to help the child develop concentration, coordination and life skills. Children in the Primary classes may be observed polishing shoes, wood and silver, paring vegetables, preparing their own snack, arranging flowers, scrubbing tables, and sweeping and mopping floors. All these exercises provide the children with the tools for mastering their environment as well as giving them knowledge of the tools for independence. These exercises are also crucial to the development of the child’s attention span, social skills and development of small motor skills. It is advisable for parents to pay close attention to the children performing these exercises when observing the class. These are exercises that are easily incorporated into the daily routines of the home environment.
In 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 detail as they follow a regular sequence of actions. Finally, they learn good working habits as they finish each task and put away all the materials before beginning another activity.
The Montessori Sensorial apparatus is designed to make the child aware and to refine and elevate his or her senses. The Sensorial Material increases the child’s awareness and helps him classify his impressions, which brings order and knowledge and allows him to relate new information to what he already knows. The sensorial materials help with the child’s perception of the world and impressions around him. These materials are also preparation for language and math concepts. They offer the ground work for further learning. 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 can easily and joyfully assimilate many facts and skills of arithmetic. On the other hand, these same facts and skills may require long hours of drudgery and drill if they are introduced to them later in the abstract form. Dr. Montessori designed concrete materials to represent all types of quantities, after she observed that children who become interested in counting like to touch or move the items as they enumerate them. By combining this equipment, separating it, sharing it, counting it and comparing it, they 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 want to do arithmetic, they are given a sheet of paper containing simple problems. They work the problems with appropriate materials and record their results. Similar operations can be performed with a variety of materials. This variety maintains a child’s interest while giving them many opportunities for the necessary repetition. As they commit the addition facts and the 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 numeration, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
In a Montessori classroom children learn the phonetic sounds of the letters before they learn the alphabetical names in a sequence. The phonetic sounds are given first because these are the sounds they hear in words that they need to be able to read. The children first become aware of these phonetic sounds when the teacher introduces the consonants with the Sandpaper Letters.
The individual presentation of language materials in a Montessori classroom allows the teacher to take advantage of each child’s greatest periods of interest.
Writing, or the construction of words with the Moveable Alphabet, (both cursive and print), nearly always precedes reading in a Montessori environment.
Gradually, the children learn the irregular words and words with two and three syllables by doing many reading exercises that offer variety rather than monotonous repetition. Also available in the Montessori classroom are many attractive books using a large number of phonetic words. Proceeding at their own pace, children are encouraged to read about things, which interest them. Their skills in phonics give them the means of attacking almost any new word so that they are not limited to a specific number of words which they have been trained to recognize by sight.
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 about frogs, rockets, stars or fire engines.
In a Montessori class, the children are introduced to grammar by games that show them that nouns are the names of things, adjectives describe nouns and verbs are action words. The activity becomes most enjoyable.
The large wooden puzzle maps are among the most popular activities in the classroom. At first the children use the maps simply as puzzles. Gradually they learn the names of many of the countries as well as information about climate and products. The maps illustrate many geographical facts concretely. Children also learn the common land formations such as islands and peninsulas by making them.
Montessori offers the children a concrete presentation of history by letting them work with Time Lines. By learning about events in their daily routine then gradually learning about how time passes, the child is then offered the Time Line as an explanation of the Eras and how a sequence of events move toward present day.
The children gain an awareness of the world around them by exploring other countries, their customs, food, music, climate, language and animals. This helps to raise their consciousness about other people, to gain an understanding and tolerance and, therefore, compassion for all the people of the world.
Each teacher provides instruction in age-appropriate physical education activities that refine gross motor skills and provide another opportunity for socialization, practicing cooperation, and developing concentration.
Arts and Crafts
Art in the Primary environment strives to maintain the great joy the child finds in creating something of his or her own. The children have the freedom to explore their imaginations in a variety of mediums used for expression. The importance of the projects is stressed at this time, not the end product.
The music and creative movement program is an on-going, flexible process that integrates itself into the academic program of the St. Maarten Montessori School. The philosophy brings together music appreciation, rhythm, body movement, the study of great composers and singing. Students are able to play different percussion instruments from around the world and to express their natural rhythm through movement. Singing gives practice in language, new words, poetry and historical and other cultural information. Children hear stories of composers and about their lives as children. Their musical ear is developed daily through listening to all types of music.
Science and Nature
In science the child’s natural curiosity is stimulated through discovery projects and experiments, helping the child draw his or her own conclusions. The plant and animal kingdoms are studied in an orderly fashion to foster a love and appreciation for all living things. The child is given the understanding of Botany, Zoology, Earth Science and basic scientific facts through work and exercise designed to foster their natural curiosity.