A Day in the Montessori Primary Classroom: Part II

This is the second of four posts about the Montessori Primary Classroom at Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield.

Part II discusses the Montessori Work Period and learning activities in Practical Life, Sensorial, and Language.

Our primary environment (ages 2 ½ – 6 years) is specially prepared to provide children opportunities to explore the natural world, acquire language, and develop socially and independently.   The Montessori Method teaches children 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.  Primary students 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.  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 Primary Classroom:

Practical Life

When a child enters the Montessori Primary Classroom, the Directress introduces her to Practical Life – a collection of activities that develop independence, concentration, and care for self and the environment.  On the surface, many activities look overly simple – child size pitchers/jugs with colorful grains to pour.  Beans to spoon.  Snaps to put together.  However, the Practical Life area develops character traits fundamental to math, reading, and writing success.  Don’t you need concentration when thinking through a complex calculus problem?  Don’t you need dexterity when holding a pencil and writing your name?

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 set the table or eagerly asked to help adults with sewing and polishing.  In the Montessori Primary Classroom, various activities from daily life have been designed into independent work activities.  For example, children spoon objects from one bowl to another – and find that same skill is useful during lunch when they must feed themselves.  Aside from the skill of spooning, children are challenged to master concentration by not spilling.

In the above images, you will note a variety of activities: sponging water from one bowl to another; spooning individual items into a large dish; and buttoning two piece of cloth together.

Sensorial

Sensorial materials are designed to hone the child’s senses – to develop keen perception for the world around her.  For example, a popular material is the Color Tablets – brightly colored wooded planes that are used for matching colors.

However, this is not a simple exercise.  The child is taught discipline and concentration by placing the tablets in an organized way in their defined space.  The child also trains her eyes to distinguish the infinite colors around her.

It’s common for children’s manipulatives to show a simplistic view of the world – a world that is red or blue, large or small.  However, the Montessori Method offers an alternative view –  materials are designed to show the complexities of the world we live in – reds and blues come in many different hues and size is often relative based on a comparison.

Another classic exercise is the Constructive Triangles.  The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate that plane figures can be constructed from triangles.  In the above photos, you will find the student examining how an equilateral triangle is constructed of several triangles – from halves to fifths.  He further examines how the equilateral triangle is split in half across its midpoint, eyeing black lines as his guide

Geometry is further explored using the senses – especially touch.  The child feels various shaped solids and associates their textures with a 2D representation.  These constant exercises trains the mind in the art of observation and critical thinking – helpful preparation for the abstraction of advanced mathematics and science.

Language

Language materials in the Montessori Primary Classroom start with phonics (the letters’ sounds) as opposed to the names of letters.  Children use objects and their corresponding names to associate with each sound.

In the Montessori philosophy, the building blocks of reading and writing are 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.  Students 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.

Once students master this – they migrate to card materials using pictures as opposed to 3D objects.  And little by little – as they master concepts at their own pace – students migrate to reading, grammar, and writing their own imaginative stories.  With a foundation in our unique language program, one of our students became a published author by Grade 7, several others read at a 2nd grade level by age 6, and several others compete and win in spelling bees.

Stay tuned for Part III, which discusses learning activities in Math, Geography, and Science.

Read Part I

Read Part III

Read Part IV

© 2012 Post and Photos by Montessori Preschool @ Copperfield

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