3 to 6 years
“The hands,” wrote Dr. Maria Montessori, “are the instrument of man’s intelligence.” From ages three to six, the child is in the period referred to as the Absorbent Mind. During this time, he literally absorbs everything in his environment through sensorial exploration. By sensorially absorbing the surroundings, a child forms his personality and himself. He constructs his mind: his memory, power to understand, and ability to think through impressions gained from the environment.
In addition to sensorially absorbing his surroundings the primary-aged child is more responsive to certain learning experiences at particular times. Montessori calls these times Sensitive Periods, after which the opportunity for maximizing development is lost. Montessori identified Sensitive Periods for language acquisition, order, detail, sensorial exploration, writing, words, numbers, manners and courtesy, and precise movement. The Primary classroom is designed to accommodate the child in each of these areas as he is ready.
By the time a child has reached preschool age, his actions have become purposeful and willful, and his focus turns to his peers. Exploration of the environment is of the child’s own volition. He explores the people, relationships, and new society of which he has become a member – his school. The child must be allowed to construct his mind in this way, for these are the pillars on which future learning is built.
The classroom is designed to appeal to the child. Everything is custom-sized to facilitate the child’s independence and development. The Montessori teacher links the child to the materials and guides the child toward constructive activity, so that he may gleam from it all that he needs.
The core of the Montessori Primary Curriculum is made up of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Science, Geography and Art.
This includes daily living tasks, such as pouring juice, polishing shoes, sweeping, and buttoning a shirt. To the child, these are meaningful activities that involve caring for himself, other people, and the environment. They also help the child concentrate, expand his attention span, and improve hand-eye coordination.
These materials isolate a defining quality, such as color, size, sound, texture, or shape. They help to develop the child’s visual, auditory, and tactile senses. Some Montessori materials, such as the binomial cubes, are concrete representations of mathematical concepts that appear in later schooling.
Language The language materials include objects and pictures to be named, matched, labeled, and classified to aid vocabulary development. Textured letters allow the child to feel and see the alphabet, while the moveable alphabet leads the child towards reading. Once the child begins to blend sounds to make words, a variety of materials are available, ranging from simple three-letter, short-vowel words to read, to materials designed to teach long-vowel sounds, phonograms, and parts of speech. A wide variety of reading materials are used to gain proficiency and a love of reading.
Math is a concrete experience in the Montessori classroom. The children are constantly manipulating objects in their efforts to understand number concepts. The early materials are designed to teach the very basics, such as the quantity and symbols of the numbers one to ten. Spindle boxes allow the child to see what “nothing” or zero looks like. Moving toward the more advanced materials, bead bars teach concepts ranging from units, tens, hundreds, and thousands, to addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. These traditional materials are supplemented with teacher-made games and materials for learning a variety of simple concepts, such as time, money, and fractions.
Science activities are nature-based, and include the study of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, a variety of plant types, and environments around the world that support this wide range of flora and fauna. Love and respect for all life are emphasized.
Geography Children are given an introduction to physical and cultural geography through the use of wooden puzzle maps, activities with objects from other countries, and international celebrations and snacks throughout the year. Songs, stories and games are incorporated into daily routines as we “travel” the globe visiting a different continent each month.
Art Painting, color mixing, collage, and printmaking are just some of the activities provided to show the care and use of art materials, to encourage creativity, and just to have fun!
In the primary program children participate in a music class once a week. The weekly lessons provide an opportunity for singing, movement, listening, exploring musical instruments, and exploring musical concepts. Each lesson concludes with a demonstration on a musical instrument. Kindergarten students are introduced to reading and “writing” musical notation and are taught to play several simple musical instruments.
After spending the morning in their regular Montessori classrooms, the Kindergarten children gather together for more intense studies from 1 – 3 p.m.
The afternoon begins with a group lesson on one of a variety of special topics. These topics are explored in several ways, including stories, songs, sewing and craft projects, graphing, child-made books, and murals.
In zoology lessons, the children study the five classes of vertebrate animals, as well as insects, arachnids, and ocean invertebrates. In botany lessons, topics include trees and leaves, seeds, and flowers. An in-depth look at each of the seven continents is covered in our geography lessons. Several field trips to the National Zoo bring these subject areas together.
Our art curriculum, “Mommy, It’s a Renoir,” introduces art appreciation to the children. In addition, major periods of art and some famous artists are studied through stories, games, and reproductions of famous works of art. Two field trips each year to the National Gallery of Art enable the children to view the “real thing.”
Other field trips to various museums supplement the curriculum. A creative-writing activity concludes each field trip.
An “Artist and Authors” reception in June for Kindergarten students and their families ends our year-long program.
*Children in the Kindergarten class must be five years old by September 30