“Within the child lies the fate of the future.” -Maria Montessori
The Montessori Method
The Montessori methodology was founded by the Italian educator and physician, Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. The Montessori Method of learning focuses specifically on the total development of the child, and provides a prepared atmosphere where they can learn through self-directed learning under the
guidance of a trained Montessori teacher.
Wheatley Montessori responds to the individual needs of each child. The curriculum is driven by a three hour
uninterrupted work period in the morning where children actively participate and engage in learning experiences provided by the classroom’s five learning centers: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural. An afternoon program is also provided for children between the ages of four and five.
Wheatley School adheres to the guidelines of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI/USA). Dr. Montessori founded AMI in 1929, to insure that her approach to educate children would be carried out as she intended.
Unlike traditional teaching methods, the Montessori style provides students with an interactive approach to learning that focuses on independent problem solving, self-discovery, and nature intensive learning.
The Primary classroom is an atmosphere of calm, order and joy, as children ages 3 through 6 learn together. The younger children are guided by the teacher and by observing and working with older students. Primary students literally absorb information, experiences, and life around them. The older children learn leadership and compassion in this mixed-aged setting. Children learn to work at a task from beginning to end and develop their self-discipline and the capacity for deep concentration. Respect for others and good manners develop naturally as the children grow within the Montessori environment.
Practical Life: Primary students, have a natural urge to partake in the activities of daily living and be a participating member of family life. Simple chores adults may take for granted fascinate the child, engaging them in the meaningful learning of life skills. Practical life activities help children develop and coordinate movement, awareness of the environment, orderly thought patterns, independent work habits, and responsibility. The lessons in Practical Life include:
Preliminary Exercises - preparing the fine motor skills for more challenging activities (spooning, pouring, stringing, etc.)
Care of the Environment- learning to respect and care for the tools in the space where the child lives and learns (food preparation, sweeping, dusting, washing, polishing, etc.)
Care of the Person- learning the basics of self-care skills (hand washing, nose blowing, dressing, nutrition, etc.)
Grace and Courtesy - learning social skills (walking carefully, communication, manners, table setting, hosting a guest, etc.)
Sensorial: The materials and activities at the Primary level are iconic Montessori. They allow children to pursue their natural tendency to classify sensorial impressions and sort by size, shape, color, touch, sound, and weight. The sensorial materials isolate specific qualities, have a built in control of error, allow for repetition, and make abstract qualities concrete. Sensorial activities lay a foundation for math, geometry, geography, botany, art, and music.
Math: At the Primary level, children’s mathematical sense is built on the strong foundation of the sensorial materials where many fundamental concepts, such as length, volume, gradation, sequencing, grouping and so on, have been already experienced via the senses. These activities make the abstract concepts of mathematics concrete for hands on learning. Each activity isolates a particular concept and integrates with other activities to form a strong foundation for further exploration.
Beginning Primary math activities include 1 to 10 (sequences, quantity, numeral names, combinations of ten, basic arithmetic), tens, introduction to the decimal system, and the operations of addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. Children explore fractional equivalences and the fractional names with manipulative materials. They use a wide variety of two and three-dimensional geometry materials and learn the basics of geometric nomenclature. They see and explore binomial and trinomial patterns in
certain materials and gain a visual and tactile impression for later work when they will use such patterns to explore the concepts of squaring, square root, cubing, and cube root during the elementary years. The emphasis is always on examining patterns and sequences and the connections between arithmetic and geometry in order to help children develop their mathematical minds from an early age.
Language: Primary children are immersed in language the moment they enter the classroom. Spoken language is encouraged as children communicate with each other individually, in small groups, and in large groups. A library of books is available for enjoyment and information. Stories are read and told individually, in small and large groups.
At the Primary level, phonemic awareness is taught through hands on activities and games. The alphabet is learned with fun and interesting sorting and matching word activities. Handwriting is practiced through tracing shapes, sandpaper letters, and using chalkboards, moveable alphabet letters are used for writing words, and labels are used all over for word recognition. Reading for
4 or 5 year olds in a Montessori program usually follows an immersion in writing activities, mostly done using the moveable alphabets. The children spontaneously synthesize all of the phonemes they have learned and the sight words they have been given and often discover that one day they can now read. In addition to a wide range of suitable fiction and non-fiction books in each classroom, there are vocabulary cards in relation to every subject area (nomenclature of everyday objects, geometry, science, world cultures, etc.). Enrichment of vocabulary across the curriculum is a constant focus in the Primary classroom. Another daily occurrence is reading aloud to the children as a group. Introductory activities in areas of grammar, syntax and word study form a part of the early language work.
Science: Primary level sensorial exploration and experimentation is key as children learn about the natural world. For example, sand and water tables allow for open-ended work while other activities isolate individual concepts such as sink and float, magnets, botany, etc. Care for plants and animals overlap with practical life activities and teach science as well as responsibility.
At the Primary level, basic skills of science, such as measuring, comparing, classifying, and keen observing, are carefully prepared and practiced. This work is accompanied by extensive classified nomenclature. For example, Primary age children learn the scientific nomenclature of the parts of a flower, such as the calyx and corolla. Classification systems such as living/non-living, and vertebrate/invertebrate are also taught. Children study the basic characteristics and nomenclature of plants and animals. They learn to name common domestic and wild plants and animals, and they work with materials to learn fundamental classifications such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Children are also introduced to some basic concepts of physical science, such as floating/sinking, magnetic/non-magnetic. Non-fiction books related to science are read aloud to the children,
and they have classroom responsibilities for the care of indoor plants, as well as feeding the birds outside. The children also plant, tend to, and harvest their own classroom gardens.
History and Cultural Studies: Primary students celebrate diversity of our world through language, music, art, traditions, food, stories, and history. A variety of cultural themes are integrated into all curriculum areas. Peace education is an integral part of the Montessori classroom and begins with respect for, understanding, and acceptance of differences as well as the celebration of the unifying aspects that connect us all.
Geography: These materials help the child learn about the facts of the material world. Working with the sensorial, language and cultural materials related to geography is an important part of the work of a Montessori Primary classroom. The very young children are introduced early to a sandpaper globe where they can have a visual and tactile experience of the Earth. Other sensorial materials and puzzle maps are used by the children to explore the continents of our world, the countries of each continent, and the states of our own country. They also create key land and water forms such as lake, island, and peninsula. Geography vocabulary is given both orally and with prepared nomenclature cards that are used by the children as an integrated part of their language work. The children are introduced to the diversity of international cultures by means of stories, songs, celebrations, pictures, and artifacts.
Spanish: At the Primary level the main goal is to create enthusiasm about speaking and learning Spanish. Many songs, rhymes and games are used. New vocabulary and expressions are presented in categories such as colors, foods, school, etc. By using a wide variety of resources in a creative way, we generate the interest and desire to communicate in the language. The class room aid is a natural speaker of the Spanish language. She will communicate with students in Spanish during instructional and play activities.
Physical Development: At all levels, care of the body is equally as important as challenging the mind. At Primary level, movement is built into all Montessori activities allowing the child to develop gross motor as well as fine motor skills. Yoga and other types of more formal exercise are built into daily group times. There are at least two periods of gross motor activity time each day with activities that include running, skipping, swinging, and navigating an obstacle course, ball play, group games, and activities using other props such as parachutes and ribbons.
Universal Values and Global Perspective: Montessori deliberately teaches children not only appropriate patterns of polite behavior, but seeks to instill basic universal values within the core of the child’s personality. These values include self -respect, acceptance of the uniqueness and dignity of each person we meet, kindness, peacefulness, compassion, empathy, honor, individual responsibility, and the courage to speak from our hearts. The Montessori philosophy is international in its heritage and consciously seeks to promote a global perspective.