In honor of my favorite teaching style I have decided to start a weekly post to share some of our favorite Montessori activities. Each monday I will highlight a different activity, website, article, etc. Any and all things Montessori.
For those of you not familiar with Montessori, here is a little excerpt that I got from wikipedia.
The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following:
That children are capable of self-directed learning.
That it is critically important for the teacher to be an "observer" of the child instead of a lecturer. This observation of the child interacting with his or her environment is the basis for the continuing presentation of new material and avenues of learning.
Presentation of subsequent exercises for skill development and information accumulation are based on the teacher's observation that the child has mastered the current exercise(s).
That there are numerous "sensitive periods" of development (periods of a few weeks or even months), during which a child's mind is particularly open to learning specific skills or knowledge such as crawling, sitting, walking, talking, reading, counting, and various levels of social interaction. These skills are learned effortlessly and joyfully. Learning one of these skills outside of its corresponding sensitive period is certainly possible, but can be difficult and frustrating.
That children have an "absorbent mind" from birth to around age 6, possessing limitless motivation to achieve competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understandings. This phenomenon is characterized by the young child's capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories, such as exhaustive babbling as language practice leading to language competence.
That children are masters of their school room environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to be academic, comfortable, and to encourage independence by giving them the tools and responsibility to manage its upkeep.
That children learn through discovery, so didactic materials with a control for error are used. Through the use of these materials, which are specific to Montessori schools (sets of letters, blocks and science experiments) children learn to correct their own mistakes instead of relying on a teacher to give them the correct answer.
That children most often learn alone during periods of intense concentration. During these self-chosen and spontaneous periods, the child is not to be interrupted by the teacher.
That the hand is intimately connected to the developing brain in children. Children must actually touch the shapes, letters, temperatures, etc. that they are learning about--not just watch a teacher or TV screen tell them about these discoveries.
Traditional Montessori classroom have 'open shelves.' This is where the child can find activities and learning tools. There are no lesson plans in Montessori, it is all child lead. There are 6 subjects or 'areas of the classroom' that children can learn from.
This area is designed to help students develop a care for themselves, the environment, and each other. In the Primary years (ages 3–6), children learn how to do things such as: pouring and scooping, using kitchen utensils, washing dishes, polishing objects, scrubbing tables, and cleaning-up. They also learn how to dress themselves, tie their shoes, wash their hands, and other self-care practices. They learn these practical skills through a wide variety of materials and activities.
Although caring for one-self and for one’s environment is an important part of Montessori Practical Life education in these years, it also presumes to prepare the child for more: The activities might build a child’s concentration as well as being designed, in many cases, to prepare the child for writing. For the first three years of life, children absorb a sense of order in their environment. They learn how to naturally act a certain way, by absorbing it. In these ages, 3–6, the children are learning how to both build their own order and to discover, understand, and refine the order they already know. The practical life area teaches language in many forms. Fine motor skills used in the pencil-grip help the child develop that particular grip, in order to later more easily use a pencil.
Strong concentration and attention to detail are typical traits of Montessori-schooled children. Practical life schooling in the elementary years and in the high school years involves many of the same skills, but also begins asserting a greater drive towards community-service-oriented activities.
All learning first comes through the senses. By isolating something that is being taught, the child can more easily focus on it. There are many different Montessori sensorial materials designed to help the child refine the tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory senses. For example, colors are taught with color tablets. The color tablets are all alike, except for one detail — the color in the middle. It helps avoid confusion for the child, and helps him and her focus specifically on: What is “blue”?
Exact phrasing of identifying terms is important, thus, an oval is not an “egg shape”, a sphere is not a “ball”. The Montessori method greatly emphasises using the correct terminology for naming what we see. This is readily apparent in the sensorial area, because, it regularly overlaps into the mathematics area.
The red rods used in the sensorial area schooling are a direct link to the segmented rods used in mathematics taught to one-through-ten year-olds. The pink tower has a connection to units and thousands that the child learns later, in the 3-6 curriculum. Even the trinomial cube will be used in the elementary years to figure out complex mathematical formulae.
This includes studies of the world and other cultures. Montessori children achieve early understanding of the concepts of continent, country, and state, and the names of many countries of the world. Montessori method schooling implements include colored maps, to assist the children in remembering continents, countries, and states. More important, the goal is acquiring an understanding of the world’s other cultures and what they offer. When a student learns the map of Asia, pictures, stories, and facts about Asian countries, open many learning opportunities to the child, providing a real sense of the world, and how it is different — even in the same area.
For the elementary years, an in-depth cultural curriculum is implemented. Children begin learning the capital cities of the different states, and begin learning about governments. The Montessori teacher is present as a guide — to help draw-in different aspects for the child to explore and research — rather being the source of all the information. A focus on appreciating and enjoying other cultures is a core part of the cultural curriculum.
The child is free to direct his and her interest in geography, and to expand it via the many other opportunities for learning in different areas of the subject. For example, a boy might decide to study the history of his city, which might begin with early settlers. People might have settled the area because it was near a river. That information might lead the boy to widen his study to include the natural life surrounding the river, and how that might have helped the settlers. The growth rate of the area, in different times, might also be included and presented as a graph. In one cultural lesson, the child, therefore, might include mathematics, science, history, and geography in one study.
The science curriculum takes advantage of the child’s natural questioning and draws a curriculum for the 3–6 age range. Early-childhood age children are very detail-oriented. They know what a bird is. At that age, they want to know the body parts of a bird. They want to know the life cycles of different animals. They begin to observe the parts of a plant, and ask: What are those long things coming out the middle of a flower?
The language curriculum, especially in the early years, includes everything — from vocabulary development to writing to reading. Children learn basic letter-sounds through the use of sandpaper letters; the letters are cut from sandpaper and glued to a wooden board. The child’s tracing the letter implements tactile learning of how the letter feels. The children can also feel if a mistake was made, because of the different texture of the sandpaper from the wooden board. They begin constructing words with a moveable alphabet of wood or plastic letters, before they can actually read words.
Composition, grammar, story-writing, and reports are focused upon in the elementary years. Grammar is taught with hands-on materials. In a 6–9 age range classroom, the child learns about nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, and interjections. The children use grammar symbols for each part of speech. They place the symbols upon a particular part of speech in a sentence. They are:
Noun — large black triangle. A triangle is used because it represents a very sturdy object and something that is concrete.
Article — small, light blue triangle.
Adjective — medium-size, dark-blue triangle. The triangles are used with articles and adjectives because they are part of the noun family.
Verb — Red Circle. The red circle is used because it represents action.
Conjunction — pink line. A pink line represents a ribbon that ties the ideas together.
Preposition — green bridge. A green bridge is used because a preposition connects two nouns, bridging their relationship.
Adverb — smaller orange circle. Since the adverb is related to the verb, it also is a circle.
Interjection — a golden object, like an exclamation point or key hole.
In the 9–12 age range classroom, focus is also placed on learning gerunds, abstract nouns, and advanced grammar concepts. The materials are similar to the parts of speech symbols used in the 6–9 age range classroom, but there are additions to them.
Children go from a concrete understanding of mathematics to an abstract understanding of mathematics via mathematical concepts. For example, telling the difference between 1, 10, 100, and 1000, because they have felt it many times. Originally, they felt it in the pink tower, when they were three-year-olds, and, later, in the mathematics materials. The concepts of squares and cubes become concrete in their use of the Montessori Bead Cabinet.
As mentioned, the sensorial area leads very well in to the mathematics area. A girl who attended a 3–6 age range Montessori classroom, likely worked with the educational material named the trinomial cube. Having worked much with it for several years, when she was 3–6, then extensively in the 6–9 classroom, she might be ready to assume another, abstract phase of the trinomial cube. So, rather than working with it as a concrete sensorial material (matching colors, shapes), the girl might be intellectually ready to use it as an abstract material, from the mathematics area, for understanding that: (a+b+c)³ = a³+3a²b+3a²c+b³+3ab²+3b²c+c³+3ac²+3bc²+6abc Later, she then could solve the mathematical equation to learn the cube of a+b+c with different variables, an example of how sensorial area materials overlap into the mathematics area.
My daughter is only 2 (almost 3) so I will be highlighting the most basic Montessori activities. All these activities will be with household items or items that you can find inexpensively. Before we begin I would like share some basic Montessori rules.
-Most activities are done on a tray. This is to define the workspace for your child. Get a plain, simple tray so it is not distracting.
-When you present an activity to your child for the first time, sit down with them to the left of you, right of you if they are left-handed.
-Thoroughly demonstrate the activity to the child before they begin to do it.
We'll start with
Learning to transfer
What you'll need:
2 small bowls
rice to fill one bowl about half way
Set out the two bowls on the tray with the spoon on the right. Put the rice in the bowl on the left.
Pick up the spoon and begin to transfer the rice from the left bowl to the right bowl, until the bowl is empty.
Remember to always work from left to right as this helps prepare your child for reading.
Reverse the bowls so the bowl with the rice is back on the left. Now pass the tray to your child and let them try.
Remember to let your child do this activity freely. As tempting as it may be don't help them if they seem to struggle. If they get frustrated or upset, simply put the activity away and re-introduce it at a later time.