In the Montessori method there are traditionally nine areas of classroom study. Each involves a different set of skills, challenges and learning experience.
The sensorial area of the Montessori classroom helps children develop three main skills that are used in math concepts:
- perception of difference
- perception of similarities
- experience with a graded series
Teachers use several beautiful materials to help children learn to discriminate for differences. The activities isolate difficulty so only one characteristic of the materials is different in each piece of the activity. The potential differences include thickness, length, texture, and shape. Some of the activities are knobbed and knob-less cylinders, prisms, cubes, rods, the geometric cabinet, and geometric solids.
Matching activities develop the perception of similarities. Here, groups of objects have identical pairs, and the child searches through comparing and contrasting. These activities involve the first two color boxes, baric tablets, sound cylinders, smelling bottles, fabric matching and the bells. These activities help the children find characteristics that are the same within a set.
The third set of activities in the sensorial area involves working with things in a series. Grading a set of objects by size or shape is a challenging and advanced activity. Many of the same materials used in the previous two sections are used here, however, instead of matching and sorting, the objects are graded. Things are graded from heavy to light, hot to cold, loud to quiet, large to small, and thick to thin.
Geometry is introduced in a hands-on way in sensorial work. Activities include the triangle boxes and cube puzzles. The cube puzzles–monomial, binomial and trinomial–teach basic algebraic equations in a concrete way. The triangle boxes develop knowledge of two-dimensional shapes.
Practical life is the area of the classroom where children learn coordination, confidence, cooperation, independence, and order. These activities include care of self, care of the environment, and physical skills.
Care-of-self activities include hand washing, snack preparation, and dressing activities. These activities help the young child gain confidence in him or herself.
Care-of-the-environment activities can include plant and animal care, as well as cleaning activities. Sweeping, scrubbing, and polishing all help children learn the importance of order. If steps are done incorrectly, the results are visible.
The area of practical life called “physical skills” incorporates numerous activities. Here children work on pouring, scooping, twisting, lacing, squeezing and pounding– just to name a few of the activities. These activities are great for learning coordination skills. The small motor skills are a prerequisite for developing strong capable hands that will be needed for writing activities. The activities in physical skills will vary and meet all abilities and age levels.
All children gain valuable skills in the practical life area of the classroom regardless of age and ability. Many of these skills set up the basic foundation to all the other areas of the classroom.
Work in this area stresses the process and not the product. These include:
• Exercises designed to improve hand control
• Table and chair washing
• Grace and courtesy lessons
• Polishing of silver, glass, wood and shoes
• Sewing and braiding
• Use of scissors
• Vegetable and fruit peeling and cutting
• Flower arranging
• Frames for buttoning, zipping, snapping, buckling and tying
• Care of plants and pets
• Sweeping, dusting and mopping
• Use of screwdriver, nuts, bolts, etc.
Math is a large part of the Montessori preschool, beginning with pre-math activities that teach one to one correspondence and the relationship of symbol and quantity. Numeration activities include the numerical rods, sandpaper numerals, and spindle box, which is the first introduction to the concept of zero. The “counters game” introduces odds and evens. Sets, baskets, memory game, mystery number, and tabletop rods are other numeration activities. All these activities deal with the numbers 1-10 and demonstrate a concrete example to associate number with symbol. The child is introduced to the colored bead stair. The colored beads are a very large part of linear counting in Montessori.
Most linear counting activities use the colored bead materials. Here the children learn that things in math are linear, and follow a definite pattern. Children work with the colored bead stair, the snake game, teens and tens boards, the hundred board, and finally the squaring and cubing chains. These activities show patterns that run through different numbers, they also encourage skip counting and other mathematical relationships.
Children work with the decimal system simultaneously. The teacher introduces the child to place value through unit beads, ten bars, hundred squares, and thousand cubes. The decimal material is used to show quantities and symbols from 1 to 9000, as well as the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). The child works with static and dynamic problems. Children enjoy working with the bank game where they compose their own four-digit numbers. The “45 Layout” shows how the numbers grow from 1 to 9000. This portion of the curriculum introduces the concept of exchanging and equivalencies. The stamp game is a more abstract material used to move students into a higher level of work. The same four operations are used with this material as with the golden bead material. The small bead frame and dot boards are introduced to older children.
Other areas covered in math include fractions, which are introduced using the cones and skittle. We also introduce money symbols and quantities.
The memorization of math facts begins in the Primary classroom with strip board materials. Strips are used to help find a solution to a simple equation, which will become memorized with practice. Finger charts for the different operations help the child become less dependent on the materials. The multiplication and division dot boards are introduced as an introduction to these types of facts.
The children work with a wide range of materials designed to clearly and easily present the concept of numbers and their relationships.
- Identification and understanding of numbers 1 to 10,000
- The decimal system
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
- Squaring and cubing
- Telling Time
- Measuring and estimating
Before one learns to read, one must learn to listen. Listening activities are the first language activities in the preschool classroom. The silence game, rhyming, verbal labeling, listening to books, and “I-Spy” games all stress listening. Children at this level need to be able to hear the differences in sounds, words, and phrases. Many of these activities take place during group time– without the child being aware they are having a lesson. This is often referred to as “ear training.”
Next we must prepare the eyes for reading. To do this we use visual activities, such as puzzles, matching, classification, sequencing and sorting activities. Here we pick up where sensorial left off. We find the subtle differences that are needed to distinguish the difference between “n” and “m.”
After many activities with the previously mentioned materials, the child is ready to start integrating his or her skills for the continuing journey to reading. The child uses the sandpaper letters to learn the relationship with a sound and the symbol it represents. Through these activities children see that blending sounds together makes a combination of sounds–or words. The movable alphabet is used for beginning or phonetic spelling activities.
The second part of language is writing. We begin with motor preparation in order to get the hand ready to write. Children have gained coordination skills through practical life activities. Sensorial activities have introduced the pincer grip used in holding a pencil. These, with other prewriting activities, have prepared the hand for the specific skill of handwriting. Activities such as rock painting, the sand tray and the chalkboard help children learn the flow of shapes that lead to drawing letters. These activities are very forgiving and can easily be redone if the child is not satisfied with his or her own work. Tracing, hole punching, and cutting activities use different muscles in the hand to develop the muscles needed for penmanship.
The metal insets are one of the first experiences of pencil-to-paper work. Children will trace a frame or inset while they gain control of the pencil. We teach cursive as the flows of these letters are easier than the stop and go of printing. Cursive strokes are the first steps in forming letters. These strokes are similar to those used in making cursive letters, and they break writing into smaller steps. Once strokes have been established, letters are formed, then connecting letters, and finally the formation of words. These letters are created freely on paper, then in a more controlled box, and finally on lined paper. Advanced language activities may include parts of speech, such as compound words, plurals, nouns and verbs. Here phonograms and phonemes are introduced along with sight words and diagraphs.
The materials and curriculum include:
- Exercises for learning the sounds of letters, including sandpaper letters
- Metal inset to aid in the development of writing
- Material for relating words to objects
- Exercises for phonetic reading
- Special reading books
- Phonogram object boxes
- Material for sight reading
- Library and reading corner
- Grammar units
- Vocabulary development exercises
- Journal writing
- Use of dictionary
- Cultural subjects
The theme of the basic unity of humanity is the main purpose of geography and history at this level. The framework is always people’s relationship to the earth and how people meet their basic needs under varying conditions.
The geography activities at the preschool level are enriching and exciting to children. An introduction to the parts of the earth leads to the discussion of the three parts of the world–land, air, and water. Activities in sorting objects, pictures, and vehicles encourage children to think about the world around them.
The teacher introduces the solar system and planets, as well as the specific landforms of lake and island, bay and peninsula, straight and isthmus, and gulf and cape. The teacher introduces the planisphere and all the continents. Eventually the child will have the opportunity to work with each individual continent map learning about countries through stories, food experiences and special activities. Children are introduced to history through the calendars and the concept of time. Clock activities teach us about the past, present, and future.
Early science activities include experiments with magnetic/non-magnetic and sink/float activities. Science experiments are used to teach the children about cause and effect, as well as about the simple responses of items such as water, electricity, matter, and machines. Other activities involve sorting things into groups such as living/nonliving, plant/animal, and organic/inorganic.
Children examine animals and plants in more depth. Plant activities include learning the parts of a tree, root and flower as well as leaf studies with the botany cabinet. Animal work includes activities with the five classes of animals (fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals), sorting animals, and learning the parts and characteristic of each individual class of animal. Children practice sequencing using the life cycle of animals. Study of humans is also introduced.
The work focuses on the child’s natural interests in the changing world around them; the seasons, the weather, the world of plants, animals and the human body.
The children work with:
- Puzzles, books and materials on plants, animals and minerals
- Various activities on dinosaurs
- Visitors from the animal kingdom
- The Solar System and major constellations
- The garden
Other activities in the preschool curriculum include Art which is open-ended and emphasizes process and not product. These activities include crayons, colored pencils, easel activities, clay and cutting.
• Painting with instructions and exercises on color mixing and brush strokes
• Crafts, with emphasis on the use of natural materials and recycled materials
• Instructions in the fundamentals of drawing
• Books on famous artists and their paintings
• Student Art Shows
• Monthly Art Program at the Aldrich Museum
The teacher brings music into the classroom each day through songs, finger play and dance. She introduces musical instruments, rhythm sticks and other simple hand instruments. Music in the classroom includes CDs, a rhythm band and books and music of famous composers. The children enjoy giving a concert for their parents at the end of the school year.
In addition to daily music in the classroom, we have two music teachers.
Miss Lisa provides a bi-monthly program that includes movement, rhythm and singing. The program also includes international and musical styles. Miss Lisa brings in many different instruments to play for the students which includes both acoustic and electric guitars.
Mr. K shares his unique African Drum Program. His West African culture, traditions and folklore are introduces through music, song and dance. Mr. K provides a monthly program for all students in which they learn rhythm and beat by playing the beautiful drums that he creates. This is a very special program offered to our students at RMS.
The Montessori Geography curriculum is two-fold: physical and cultural. Physical geography discusses the formation of the universe, the creation of the earth, and all its physical properties. Cultural geography is the study of human society and culture. The two together show the child that we are all members of the human race who must co-exist peacefully in order to survive.
The need to define and “find” oneself; the need to understand one’s place in the world. These fundamental human questions of self and the world are inherent in all of us. The youngest of children have a need to belong, to know they are safe, to understand their place in their immediate community – the family. It is within the confines of the family where the infant first learns about her place in the universe. The rituals and routines of the family are absorbed unconsciously, allowing her to later learn about and identify with other cultures. Using her senses, she expands beyond the family to discover the natural world.