Kindergarten: The Leadership YearDuring the first 2 years in an Early Childhood classroom, Montessori students look forward to their turn to be a leader. In their third year—often known as Kindergarten—children get their turn and take pride in being the oldest. They serve as role models for younger students; they demonstrate leadership and citizenship skills. They reinforce and consolidate their own learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered to their peers. In their Kindergarten year, they express confidence, develop self-esteem and self-sufficiency, and show responsibility. Kindergarteners are introduced to progressively more advanced Montessori materials and sophisticated, fascinating lessons. And they experience an important period in which their previous learning from working with concrete Montessori materials begins to become permanent knowledge. A Montessori Kindergarten student sees and feels their personal growth as they watch others learn information they have mastered themselves. Kindergarten is the culmination of the Early Childhood program. Children exhibit the independence, critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership that they have been practicing during their previous years in the Early Childhood classroom, exercising them independently as they prepare to transition into an Elementary program.
What Your Child Will Learn Rigorously trained teachers carefully observe their children in the Early Childhood environment, identifying their interests and abilities and developing personalized learning plans tailored to each child’s needs. They guide the learning, introducing new lessons and levels of difficulty as appropriate. The teacher offers the encouragement, time, and tools needed to allow children’s natural curiosities to drive learning, and provides choices that help them learn, grow, and succeed. After participating in a demonstration of a material from a teacher, your child is free to choose activities and to work on her own or with a partner for as long as she wishes. Since there is usually only one of each material, your child will develop patience and self-control as she waits for a material to become available. The Montessori Early Childhood curriculum follows a 3-year sequence. Because the teacher guides your child through learning at her own pace, her individualized learning plan may exceed the concepts she would be taught in a classroom environment in which all children learn the same concept at the same time. As children move forward, they develop the ability to concentrate and make decisions, along with developing self-control, courtesy, and a sense of community responsibility
The Curriculum The Early Childhood classroom offers your child 5 areas of study: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, and Cultural Studies. What are the lessons in these areas?
Practical LifeChildren learn daily-life skills, such as how to get dressed, prepare snacks, set the table, and care for plants and animals. They also learn appropriate social interactions, such as saying please and thank-you, being kind and helpful, listening without interrupting, and resolving conflicts peacefully. In addition to teaching specific skills, Practical Life activities promote independence, and fine- and gross-motor coordination.
SensorialChildren refine skills in perceiving the world through their different senses, and learn how to describe and name their experiences—for example, rough and smooth, perceived through touch. Sensorial learning helps children classify their surroundings and create order. It lays the foundation for learning by developing the ability to classify, sort, and discriminate—skills necessary in math, geometry, and language.
MathThrough hands-on activities, children learn to identify numerals and match them to their quantity, understand place-value and the base-10 system, and practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They also explore patterns in the numbering system. With an exploratory approach, children do more than just memorize math facts; they gain a firm understanding of the meaning behind them.
LanguageActivities throughout the Early Childhood classroom teach language, help children acquire vocabulary, and develop skills needed for writing and reading. The ability to write, a precursor to reading, is taught first. Using hands-on materials, children learn letter sounds, how to combine sounds to make words, how to build sentences, and how to use a pencil. Once these skills are acquired, children spontaneously learn to read.
Cultural StudiesA wide range of subjects, including history, geography, science, art, and music, are integrated in lessons in the cultural area of the curriculum. Children learn about their own community and the world around them. Discovering similarities and differences among people and places helps them develop an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our world, and a respect for all living things. Montessori Learning MaterialsMontessori materials are not only beautiful and inviting, but ingenious. They teach only 1 skill at a time to allow the child to work independently and master the intended concept. The materials are also “self-correcting.” This means the child is able to identify if they have done an activity accurately and try again without intervention from a teacher. For example, if a large block is stacked atop a tower of shorter blocks, the tower will fall down. Working with self-correcting materials helps children develop confidence and self-sufficiency and promotes critical thinking. In a sense, they become their own teachers—a skill that will last for life.
Here are some of the many learning materials you will see in a typical Montessori Early Childhood classroom: Early Childhood Learning Materials; The Binomial CubeThe Binomial Cube is an advanced puzzle that allows the exploration of patterns and relationships with 3-dimensional shapes. Through manipulating it, your child will develop an appreciation of mathematical concepts that they will revisit as an Elementary student when exploring algebra.
Golden BeadsThe Golden Bead Material introduces the child to the decimal system with concrete representations of place value. Children are able to see the transition that takes place when a number gets to 10 and an exchange is necessary. Quantity and place value are explored through equations in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
The Pink TowerThe Pink Tower consists of 10 pink cubes that are all the same color and texture. The only difference is their size. The preschool-aged child constructs a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on top. This material isolates the concept of size and is used to introduce vocabulary such as “largest” and “smallest.”
Metal InsetsMetal Insets prepare a child’s hand for writing by strengthening the pincer grip (appropriate grasp of a writing tool), developing the necessary wrist movement for writing, and teaching lightness of touch and evenness of pressure with a writing instrument through tracing geometric shapes.
Sandpaper LettersSandpaper Letters introduce the child to sound-symbol association and proper letter formation. The child traces the outlines of letters made of sandpaper, experiencing each letter through touch while repeating the sound that the letter makes. Consonants in pink and vowels in blue draw the child’s attention to this important distinction.
For returning Montessori students, the Montessori Elementary program expands upon the learning fostered in an Early Childhood program. For students new to Montessori, it orients them to the joys of responsible participation. Teachers guide children through a rigorous curriculum individually tailored to their own interests, needs, and abilities. Teachers monitor progress against established benchmarks and expectations for student learning, including: academic preparedness, independence, confidence, autonomy, intrinsic motivation, social responsibility, and global citizenship. Curricular Areas The Montessori Elementary curriculum contains the following areas of learning: Practical LifeWithin the Elementary program, the Practical Life curriculum expands from the foundation laid in Early Childhood. Practical Life at the Elementary level shifts from a focus on self-care and fine motor skills, to skills that help children connect with their interests in the outside world, organize their time, and take part in their community. While self-care and appropriate social interactions continue to be supported, lessons that teach responsibility are the focus. Use of tools, such as work plans, to support organization and time management skills, are incorporated into the daily routine. Teachers and students often work together to post reminders about assignments, projects, and ideas. Using these, children make independent work choices, prioritize activities, and meet deadlines. MathThe ideas of number concepts, place value, numerals, and related quantities are reinforced and expanded upon within the Elementary program. Newfound purposes for familiar math materials provide children with the means to consider number concepts, mathematical operations, and more complex functions, helping to expand advanced mathematical knowledge and understanding. LanguageReading and writing are integral to all subjects in Montessori Elementary, as children express their interests and satisfy their curiosity. Students master conventions with thorough studies of grammar, spelling, and mechanics. They produce final copies with careful penmanship and keyboarding. They read, analyze, think critically, and compare and contrast literature to support personal opinion and perspective. Using these reading and writing skills, they present ideas through formal and informal presentations. Cultural studiesCultural studies are interdisciplinary and integrate zoology, botany, anthropology, geography, geology, physical and life sciences, and anthropology. Through these lessons, children explore the interconnectedness of all living things. Additionally, in-depth studies of history, physical and political world geography, civics, economics, peace and justice, the arts, world language, and physical education are introduced. Science and Social StudiesInterdisciplinary and integrated studies of geology, geography, physical and life sciences, anthropology, and history are built around “Great Lessons,” a series of dramatic stories that explore the origins of the universe, our planet, and the continuous development of human advancement. The laws of physics and chemistry reveal the interdependency of all living things. Beginning with a study of civilization, students explore the contributions of history and what it means to be a responsible citizen and to seek ways to make the world a better, more peaceful place. Montessori Learning MaterialsMontessori students don’t just memorize facts and figures. They also learn the “hows,” “whens,” and “whys,” ensuring that learning takes place on a deep and fundamental level. Specially designed learning materials that use real objects and actions to translate abstract ideas into concrete form support them in this learning. Teachers introduce materials to students according to their level of development and readiness. Students then work with the materials to make exciting discoveries—such as why, when dividing fractions, we invert and multiply. Inherent in the use of Montessori materials is the understanding of the power of discovering answers on one’s own.