Part II: A Day in the Montessori Toddler Classroom

This is the second of three posts about the Montessori Toddler Classroom at Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield.  Scroll down to see photos of a typical day in our toddler room.

This post discusses the work period during the school day as well as the various sections of the Montessori Toddler Classroom.

Our toddler environment (Ages 18 months – 2 ½ years) is specially prepared to provide toddlers many opportunities to explore the natural world, acquire language, and develop socially and independently.   The Montessori Method teaches children learn to care for their environment, themselves, and one another with love and respect.

The work period is a time for children to exert their independence.  Toddlers select their own activities and conduct their work in a defined space, demarcated by a rug.

A student will take a rug, unroll it, select her work, and then take it back to her rug.  That space is sacred in a Montessori classroom – no other student may interfere in that space.  Work activities range from practice in mathematics, language acquisition, and practical life skills.  Let’s take a look at the various sections of the Montessori Toddler Classroom to better understand the  available work activities.

Mathematics

Mathematics practice is essential for success in the primary classroom and beyond.  Toddlers practice counting (ordinal numbers), recognition of figures, as well as how to associate quantity with a figure.  For example, four counters are associated with the figure “4″.  Constant practice, using a variety of Montessori manipulatives, reinforce these concepts.

One material is the Spindle Boxes, wooden trays divided into 10 separate sections – like drawer compartments – from numbers 0 to 9.  The child then takes wooden rods and places them in each compartment with its corresponding quantity.  A challenge in this exercise is recognizing the figure “0″ and that it means “none” (i.e. no spindles are placed in the “0″ compartment).

Language

Language materials in the Montessori Toddler Classroom range from matching exercises to learning the sounds of letters.  Matching exercises – such as matching 3D objects or matching similar pictures – help a child practice their vocabulary skills as well as practice order, organization, and neatness.    When a child matches one card with another, he must place the card in a specific order, arranged neatly on his rug for his teacher to correct.  The teacher will then ask questions about the card, such as the type of animal represented on the card, encouraging the child to use his vocabulary and create logical sentences.

In the Montessori philosophy, the building blocks of reading and writing is rooted in the sounds of a language.  Merely learning the visual figure of a letter and its name is not enough and proves an impediment to reading in the future.  Toddlers are introduced to basic sounds like “a” in apple or “c” in cat.  Using the object boxes, the children match the corresponding first sound of an object with its appropriate sound written on a card.

Practical Life

One of  the tenets of the Montessori philosophy is to inculcate a sense of independence in the child.  More importantly, Dr. Montessori commented on the joy of doing daily chores and observed how children delightfully helped set the table or eagerly asked to help adults with sewing and polishing.  In the Montessori Toddler Classroom, various activities from daily life have been designed into independent work activities.  For example, children spoon objects from one bowl to another – and then find that the same skill of spooning is useful during lunch when they must feed themselves yogurt or pudding.  Aside from the skill of spooning, children are challenged to master concentration by not spilling.

Another common practical life activity is threading and sewing.  In the Montessori Primary Classroom, Children are given a needle and thread and are asked to sew a button or cross stitch.  In the Montessori Toddler Classroom, children practice threading using large wooden needles, carefully passing a large ribbon through holes in foam.

The Role of the Montessori Directress

The teacher, known as the Montessori Directress, is a facilitator in the Montessori Classroom.  In other words, the teacher has a special relationship with each child in the classroom, knowledgeable of each child’s strengths and areas of improvement.   If a teacher finds the child particularly gifted or interested in a certain area, the teacher will accelerate the learning process by introducing more challenging work.   If a child needs more time to strengthen certain skills, the teacher will find alternative exercises to engage the child.  Most importantly, the teacher guides the child through the learning process – helping the child make self-discoveries in math, science, language, and geography – as opposed to presenting lessons in large groups, at the cost of ignoring individual talents and abilities.

Socializing

Throughout the work day, the Toddlers are interacting with each other.  As they select work, they comment on their prior experiences with an activity.  Sometimes, an older Toddler might help their young peer with an activity, such as gluing or crafts.

Read Parts I and III

Read Part I

Read Part III

© 2011 Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield

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