A Montessori environment for 3 to 6 year olds is designed to entice children to activity. Each carefully prepared material is considered a “motive for activity”, through which a child develops confidence, self-esteem, and consideration for others, as well as basic cognitive understandings. Our Montessori school is divided into seven areas of work – Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Science, Geography and History,.
The foundation of your child’s education at Dancing Pines Montessori begins in our carefully prepared environment, children are active explorers who gain mastery over their surroundings and the materials in them.
Montessori materials are specially designed to help children internalize their natural sense of order. Practical life exercises offer the child self-help skills and the development of motor coordination with materials that mimic simple household tasksâ€”pouring, sorting, washing, etc. Sensorial materials, aesthetic and mathematic in nature, assist children in developing precision of movement, sharpening their already heightened sensorial abilities.
The classroom is arranged according to subject area, and children are always free to move around the room. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. Children are introduced to the world at large through geography, nature studies, mathematics, cultural diversity, and language. Other parts of the classroom are dedicated to art, and music.
At any one time in a day, all subject areas are being studied by children of all levels in one classroom. The Primary teacher is trained to present lessons to one child at a time while overseeing the many children who are working on a broad array of tasks. The teacher, through extensive observation and record keeping, plans individual lessons that enable each child to flourish, follow an interest and move to a new level within the three-year curriculum.
Read below to find out more details about each area:
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Practical Life, which is filled with activities designed to help young children learn how to successfully manage their environment. Practical life materials and exercises respond to the young child’s natural interests to develop physical coordination, care of self and care of the environment. Specific materials, for example, provide opportunities for self-help dressing activities, using various devices to practice buttoning, bow tying, and lacing. Other practical life materials include pouring, scooping and sorting activities, as well as washing a table and food preparation to develop hand-eye coordination. These activities also provide a useful opportunity for children to concentrate bringing about their normalization. Other practical life activities include lessons in polite manners, such as folding hands, sitting in a chair, and walking on a line.
The Sensorial Area, which contains carefully designed materials each of which introduces a particular physical quality perceived by the senses, and used to describe and categorize the world, such as color, dimension, and weight. The sensorial materials provide a range of activities and exercises for children to experience the natural order of the physical environment, including such attributes as size, color, shape and dimension. Many of these materials were originally suggested and developed by Seguin in his prior research with scientific education.
Examples of these materials are; the pink tower (series of ten sequential cubes, varying in volume); the knobbed cylinders (wooden blocks with 10 depressions to fit variable sized cylinders); the broad stairs (ten wooden blocks, sequentially varying in two dimensions); color tablets (colored objects for matching pairs or grading shapes of color), the bells (two sets of a chromatic C scale, used to match and grade using aural skills)
The Language Area, which capitalizes on young children’s natural sensitivity to the human language which surrounds them. Teachers expose children to all kinds of rich oral language, as well as introducing them to materials designed to give them the tools for developing and practicing writing and reading.
In the first plane of development (0-6), the Montessori language materials provide experiences to develop use of a writing instrument and the basic skills of reading a written language. For writing skill development, the metal insets provide essential exercises to guide the child’s hand in following different outline shapes while using a pencil or pen. For reading, a set of individual letters, commonly known as sandpaper letters, provide the basic means for associating the individual letter symbols with their corresponding phonetic sounds. Displaying several letters, a lesson, known as the Seguin three-period lesson, guides children to learn the letter sounds, which finally blend together to make certain simple phonetic words like “up” and “cat”. The aim of these nomenclature lessons is to show the child that letters make sounds, which can be blended together to make words. For children ages five to six, Montessori language materials have been developed to help children learn grammar, including parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, and interjections.
The Math Area, which is filled with materials which give children years of practice working with concrete manifestations of abstract mathematical concepts, like linear counting, the decimal system, geometric shapes, and mathematical functions. The math materials build on the child’s experience in the Sensorial Area. In this area, materials are provided to show such basic concepts as numeration, place value, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. For numeration, there is a set of ten rods, with segments colored red and blue and “spindle boxes”, which consist of placing sets of objects in groups, 1-10, into separate compartments. For learning the numeral symbols, there is a set of sandpaper numerals, 1-9. For learning addition, subtraction, and place value, materials provide decimal representation of 1, 10, 100, etc., in various shapes made of glass beads, or wood. Beyond the basic math materials, there are materials to show the concept of fractions, geometrical relationships and algebra, such as the binomial and trinomial theorems
Botany: Students explore plants in their natural setting by going on a “leaf walk” or a “flower walk” and they learn about the parts of plants and corresponding nomenclature using puzzles, art, picture cards and booklets. They then create their own parts-of-a-flower, or parts-of-a-leaf, or part-of-a-tree artwork and booklets to further reinforce the knowledge.
They study the plant, flower, leaf, root, stem, seeds and their parts; dissect flowers; learn Latin names of leaf shapes; use a magnifying glass to study roots, sprout seeds and grow plants.
Zoology: Zoology studies begin with the very youngest children learning to name animals and sort them into appropriate environments (land, air, water). Students build on their sorting skills practiced in Practical Life by sorting model animals into vertebrate or invertebrate; studying 5 classes of vertebrates represented by the fish, frog, turtle, bird and horse; learning about life cycles of butterflies (we actually have live studies on this). Students begin to understand the concept of habitats, and how we all have fundamental needs. We care for our eight chickens, guinea pig, and pet tortoise on a daily basis.
Geography: Young cartographers work with puzzle maps in a specific sequence and may make maps of the two Hemispheres, North America, the United States, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Antarctica. With the development of writing skills, students label continents, countries, states and provinces.
When we study land forms, the young child receives a sensorial demonstration of simple land and water formations such as the lake and island, isthmus and strait, cape and bay, gulf and peninsula, archipelago and a system of lakes by pouring water into trays with pre-formed land forms to create these forms or by using clay or gravel to make their own.
History: We teach the child the concept of time with the first lesson of three sand-timers that are 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes. We show them clocks and they learn how to make their own. As they progress, they begin making calendars, and learning about days of the week, and months of the year. They learn about timelines, and the concept of BC, and AD. The Kindergarteners through elementary begin learning about centuries, and millenia by using our timeline in many different ways. The students learn about the formation of our Universe and Earth, the coming of life, the coming of man, ancient civilizations, the coming of mathematics and writing, and much much more.
Music and Art are also involved in various ways. We use our complete set of Montessori Bells to teach pitch-matching, and grading by auditory means. We use the Bell materials to teach notation. We also have a rhythm matching work, a zither, a glockenspiel, and we sing on a daily basis. Maria Montessori discovered that musical education would greatly benefit children during their developmental years. Infant brains are sensitive and responsive to musical sounds, preferring them over other types of sounds. A child’s musical receptiveness remains especially strong through the preschool years until about the age of six. That is why parents speak to their infants in a high-pitched, “sing-song” type of voice. Educators, scientist, researchers and doctors are confirming that musical training can significantly enhance child development. Several studies
indicate that exposure to music (listening, learning and playing) does have beneficial effects for preschoolers. Active musical training can improve their problem-solving skills, physical coordination, poise, concentration, memory, visual, aural and language skills, self discipline. It fosters self confidence and improves the ability to learn. Our head of school at Dancing Pines Montessori is a trained musician and played for many years in a Symphony Orchestra. She employs music in many ways here at our school.
The mixed-age primary classrooms contain children ranging in age from 3 to 6 years of age. Primary children may either attend the morning or the afternoon session. The morning session begins at 9:00 and ends at 12:00, and the afternoon program is from 12:30 to 3:30pm.