Monday, March 19, 2012

UNDERSTANDING MONTESSORI: IN A NUTSHELL

Montessori as a Foreign Language.  You have heard about it, know the basics, but really aren’t quite sure what it means.  It reminds me of a trip with my little sister to France.  I thought I knew the language, yet every time I simply tried to order tap water, I was served with a bottle of sparkling water and a bill for 6 Euros.  Confusing.  Truth is, while I knew the language, understanding it, was another story.

 

 And then we met a man.


He introduced us to 'His Paris'.  As we slowly strolled through the famed fashion district, I studied him and his interactions with his fellow Parisians.  That is when I came to understand, that knowing how to speak French and understanding the French are not the same thing.

The same holds true for the World of Montessori.  What you may think you know about Montessori may be vastly different from what children actually experience as Montessori Students. 

Allow me to give you a simple, yet comprehensive tour of Montessori.  After gaining a better understanding of what makes a Montessori classroom, I invite you to schedule a visit, and experience it, as intimately as I experience Paris, for a day.


Montessori Preschools (3 - 6 years)


Children in the primary program possess what Dr. Montessori called the absorbent mind, the ability to absorb all aspects of one's culture and environment without effort or fatigue. The primary classroom is made up of children varying from ages 3 to 6 years old. These young children are exposed to various lessons found in four main areas of the classroom - Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math.

As an aid to this period of the child's self-construction, individual work is encouraged. The following areas of activity cultivate the children's adaptation and ability to express and think with clarity:

·      Practical Life exercises instill care for self, for others, and for the environment. Through the Practical Life exercises, the children gain OCCI order, coordination, concentration, independence and the will to learn more while completing purposeful daily activities. Activities include many of the tasks children see as part of the daily routine in their home, such as preparing food and washing dishes, along with exercises of grace and courtesy. They learn to work at a task from beginning to end, and develop their powers of control and concentration.

      In a nutshell?  Practical life looks like they are pouring water, but they are getting ready to dive into Math and Reading, with success.

·      Sensorial materials serve as tools for development. Children build cognitive skills, and learn to order and classify impressions by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening, and exploring the physical properties of their environment. All of the child's senses are enhanced and sharpened through the exposure to the Sensorial materials. It is through the isolation of each sense and the work with the Montessori materials that this is made possible. 

      In a nutshell? Sensorial work prepares the senses and entices the children into Math and Language, with a greater understanding of the vastness of their possibilities.
·      Language development is vital to human development. Throughout the classroom language is heard and expressed constantly. The Montessori environment is rich in oral language opportunities, allowing the child to experience conversations, stories and poetry. The primary teachers take note of each child's state of language and will then fill the inadequacies and deficiencies, correct mispronunciations and wrong usages of words and will enlarge the vocabulary already learned. The sandpaper letters and moveable alphabet help children link sound and symbol effortlessly, encouraging the development of written expression and reading skills. 

      In a nutshell? Language happens while the kids play, and they learn to read, "All by Myself!!!"

·      Geography; Biology; Botany; Zoology; Art and Music are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language activities. Children learn about people and cultures in other countries with an attitude of respect and admiration. Through familiarity, children come to feel connected to the global human family. Lessons and experiences with nature inspire a reverence for all life. The comprehensive art and music programs give children every opportunity to enjoy a variety of creative activities, as well as gain knowledge of the great masters. 

      In a nutshell? The children have fun, while exploring all that the world has to offer!
·      Mathematics activities motivate children to learn and understand the concepts of math by manipulating concrete materials. In Montessori, the children work from the visual to intellectual, from the concrete to the abstract. They begin by handling and manipulating "real qualities" in different ways until the abstraction is reached. This work gives children a solid understanding of basic mathematical principles, prepares them for later abstract reasoning, and helps to develop problem-solving capabilities. This joyful process is part of the child's inner development and creation of him or her self.

      In a nutshell?  Children love a challenge, and every math problem is a problem they are able to solve!!!     

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