What makes Montessori Learning so effective??
Toddler Montessori Curriculum
Montessori Scholars Academy offers the Montessori curriculum during the Toddler Years (approximately 18 and 36 months of age). Children in this level form a community and have ample opportunities for social experience with peers younger and older than them. The pillars of the Toddler Curriculum are the strong link between physical activities and intellectual development, as well as the pursuit of independence, all within a nurturing, safe and loving environment.
The classroom offers opportunities in the following areas:
Practical Life: Great emphasis is placed on the development of the child’s practical life skills. This portion of the curriculum includes activities such as lacing, spooning, pouring, food preparation and scooping. The child is offered work with wet and dry ingredients, as well as with different textures. The Practical Life area is designed to help develop their attention span and focus, gross motor skills, spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. The activities shared in the Practical Life area are also opportunities for development of a child’s social skills due to the constant interaction with their peers.
Although at this stage children are perfecting their gross motor skills, many of the Practical Life area work materials allow for growth and refinement of fine motor skills as well. Parents will notice that their children will start caring for self and the environment, by trying to clean up, dress and preparing food by themselves.
Language: Montessori Scholars Academy’s Toddler curriculum understands that language acquisition happens everywhere in the environment, and this is why language development for children in the toddler classroom is not limited only to the Language area. Guides read to the children often through the day. In this classroom, the toddler is introduced to the Sand Paper letters, one letter at any given time associated with an object from the shelf. This way, there is always a strong reinforcement between the sound, the symbol and the tangible object. Conversation skills are developed by the use of other materials such as the Globe and the Barn with animals. Children gain knowledge, vocabulary and language components. Growth and development of language is achieved by repetition of activities, so toddler children often use and reuse the same materials many times. In the repetition, they seek mastery of the skill, and at the same time build their confidence.
Sensorial: The Toddler Community is offered basin and simple materials, such as the color tablets, stairs, knobbed cylinder blocks, geometric tray and solids, brown stairs and the pink tower. The brown stairs and the pink tower allow the toddler to classify from thickest to thinnest and from smallest to biggest. The geometric tray and solids helps the child learn the basic shapes. The color tablets help the child identify the different colors, while also teaching him/her how to match. The knobbed cylinder blocks help the child develop his/her pincer grip while learning to sort based on size.
Math: The sand paper numbers are presented in the toddler environment with the purpose of developing numeral recognition. This is done in progressive sequence, so only a few sand paper numbers will be available on the shelves at the beginning, to allow for mastery before advancement to other numbers. Counting, numeral and quantity recognition are basic math skills developed in this classroom by practicing counting activities, in which concrete objects are used to match with the numbers being counted.
Art: Objects and themes from nature are the focus of art in the Toddler Montessori room. Children are allowed to experiment with paint and sculpture using objects from nature wither as models or as tools. Children can collect leaves or flowers and utilize them in their works of art, or use them as inspiration. In a specific holiday or season, natural elements such as pumpkins, fall-colored leaves, hollies or fresh spring flowers, are options toddlers have to do art.
Free Play: Weather permitting, children in this community play outside every day. This is crucial for the development of reflexes and muscle tone. When there is bad weather, children plan organized games with the guides inside, allowing ample opportunity for movement.
Grace and Courtesy: Good manners and positive behaviors are learned since the time of birth. In the toddler years, the Guides in the class model courtesy and grace, and expect good behavior from them. There are no punishments for misbehavior, but will be gently reinforced with the consequences of their actions. Their behavior is then redirected to something appropriate for the current frame of mind. Proper communication used by the teacher models the expected language. Children understand the expectation and learn respect through the limits set by their Guides. The teacher also gently insists upon the use of kind words such as “sorry”, “please” and “thank you”.
Early Childhood Program (Ages 3 – 6)
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” – Maria Montessori
The Primary Education Program at Montessori Scholars’ Academy nurtures the child’s quest for independence. In this program, he learns to refine his gross and fine motor skills, as well as control himself physically. In this classroom, he has the opportunity to experiment and learn using a broad range Montessori materials, and especially those that will become the foundation for future abilities, such as reading, writing and mathematics. In this level, they experience being part of a community, make friends, and develop positive socialization skills.
The Primary classroom at MSA is multi-age for children 3, 4 and 5 years of age. The third year is called “Kindergarten” when the child is 5 and will be turning 6, and it is a very important year that completes a three-year cycle. In this classroom, the child is able to advance at his own rhythm, and will experience being the “learner” first (when he is 3 and 4 years old) and, later on in the cycle, the “teacher” (5 and 6 years old).
The classrooms are ample, beautiful, bright, and transmit a sense of calm and order, which are qualities needed by the children to concentrate in their work and respect the work being done by others. Each Primary classroom has one-full time AMI certified lead teacher, as well as a full time assistant, who work with the children from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm. The children have two 3-hour periods of uninterrupted work: one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
Research demonstrates that the period of life between birth and six years of life is the most influential to define a child’s personality and ability to learn. During this period of time, life-long patterns are established and the skills acquired become the foundation that will be the basis for her future independence. Dr. Montessori calls this the “absorbent mind”.
The Primary classrooms are divided into four areas of learning and those are: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics.
The Practical Life area of a Montessori classroom allows the child to learn to take care of himself and of his physical surroundings. The child learns how to set the table, prepare his own snacks, clear and clean the table, wash dishes, tie their shoes, zip and hang jackets, and clean up after themselves. A child in this age group desires to be independent and learn how to do these things for himself. This section of the classroom was designed with the specific purpose of helping the child gain the independence he so much desires. The environment is safe and conducive to exploring helping him grow in self-confidence.
In the Primary classroom, the child will learn to assimilate, understand, classify and comprehend the world that surrounds them. The sensorial area materials uses all the senses: Smell, sound, taste, sight and touch to put the student in direct contact with their environment, and to transform abstract concepts into concrete realities. The manipulatives found in the sensorial area are the foundation for the future development of skill.
The materials in the language area provide a full range of language-acquisition opportunities, which include sight words, linguistic materials, hands-on learning experiences such as sandpaper letters, and phonics. The materials approach language acquisition from a variety of angles -visual, auditory and kinesthetic- making learning language attractive to the different learning styles of the child.
The mathematics area offers the child the opportunity to physically “experience” math through manipulative materials. The Mathematics area includes concrete materials, such as the counting beads for counting to 1,000 and the concept of place value, beginning addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fraction materials, as well as basic problem solving exercises. They start with concrete mathematics and this gives the child the foundation to progress to abstract concepts later in her educational life.
Cultural Studies is a key element of the Primary classroom, and it is here that the child covers material such as basic geography, physics, botany, anatomy and zoology. In this section of the classroom the child will learn about the solar system and earth, the animals, plants that live on earth, as well as different cultures of the world. This is done through puzzle maps, music, foods, song, flags for different countries, as part of their learning of Cultural Studies.
Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.
The Elementary Program at Montessori Scholars’ Academy is the continuation of the Primary curriculum and builds on the skills and information acquired on the child’s first years of Montessori experience.
Montessori Scholars’ Academy has one Elementary classroom, with one AMI-certified Montessori teacher and one full-time assistant. The classroom is serene, ample and bright, fully equipped for instruction to cover grades First to Sixth.
The Elementary Program in Montessori follows the “cosmic education” principle, in which the subjects are taught to children inter-connectedly, allowing for students to engage learning from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Instead of encouraging memorization, students are invited to utilize the knowledge acquired in the different fields: Science, literature, mathematics or history in practical projects or “work”. At this level, students are also encouraged to pursue their own interests and they receive from the teacher and the classroom the support they need to study in depth their topic of interest. Since first grade, students learn to research independently.
Sciences and Cultural Studies Curriculum
During the first three years of the Elementary Program, students are exposed to the cultural studies curriculum as complement of social studies and science. In these years, children are exposed to cultures first by taking a “macrocosmic” view of the universe, starting at the beginning of time. The teacher tells the story to the children, who from there will go and develop a timeline to organize their study, that will cover from the Big Bang theory, the formation of the earth, to the beginning of life, which will be first examined at the atomic and cellular levels. The study will proceed to other timelines, the second of which is the “Time Line of Life” that covers flowering plants and animals. As they work with the timelines, they learn about the history of different life forms, and the emergence and development of species until they reach the human being. The students are introduced to the information in a way that allows them to link the lessons and understand how the different aspects of science –history, geography, physics, chemistry, botany and zoology- fit together, and how those areas of science have developed inter-connectedly. The last three years of the Elementary experience build on the work of the Cosmic Education Curriculum. The students study the course of human history: from ancient civilizations to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, all the way to our current days and the age of technology, as well as the civilizations of our American continent. In the field of science, they study earth science, physical science, and then biology in years four, five and six, respectively.
Mathematics in the first three years of the Elementary classroom builds on the Primary hands-on materials. The more advanced manipulatives become a concrete foundation for the arithmetic operations: Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The acquisition of mathematics in such concrete manner allows the student to understand mathematics in a real-life context and develop refined problem-solving skills. The Elementary Classroom materials also cover the study of logic, estimation, and time and measurement.
In the last three years of the Elementary curriculum (ages 9 – 12), the Montessori mathematical and geometry materials provide the basis for the students’ advancement to higher-level thinking in this area of study. After the four operations are fully-mastered, students move on to study decimals, percentages and fractions, the metric system, different base systems, probability, problem solving, algebra, logic and graphing. In the area of Geometry, the Montessori materials provide a solid foundation in the study of plane figures, area and volume and formulas for computing each formula. Students are also introduced to the concepts of equivalence, similarity and congruence.
The Elementary classroom offers to the student an in depth comprehension and an appetite for reading and literature, punctuation and spelling, writing and grammar, root words, research homophones and antonyms. Then, in the last three years of Elementary, the curriculum expands the study of grammar and creative writing, including fiction, expository writing, playwriting songwriting, research, as well as writing of reviews and memoirs. These years also include an in-depth literature curriculum that introduces students to reading novels, and discussing them in literature seminars.
Practical Life Curriculum
MSA’s Elementary students take turns throughout the year in different jobs in the classroom, in order to take care of their environment as a group. These “jobs” range from caring for the class plants or pets, to preparing and setting up the daily snack, setting the table and cleaning up afterwards, cleaning the classroom, tending a garden, manage recycling, and cleaning the areas outside of their classroom. The curriculum encourages “going outs”, such as visits to supermarkets to make real selection and purchase of food items used later by the students to prepare meals. In the later years, Practical Life also includes lessons in how to raise money for charity and class trips; how to set-up a business or have a job and learn to make and manage money.
In the Elementary level at MSA, the key element for social development is the “class meeting.” The students prepare the agenda for this meeting and hold it entirely on their own. It is used to discuss and solve problems as a group, which can include how to make every student feel safe and included, solving classroom problems, setting rules for the classroom and respecting them, and learning how to speak honestly without projecting blame towards others. The social skills learned through these activities set them apart from other children of similar age, as the Montessori student learns early in life to deal with emotional and social issues with empathy and respect.
Learning to Serve
One of the cornerstones of the Elementary Curriculum is the “buddy system” by which an older Elementary child is paired with a new student transferring from one of the Primary classrooms or a different school. The older buddy helps her get acquainted with the new classroom and materials, and assists with homework if necessary. The incoming student looks up to the older buddy, and also looks forward to having to the opportunity of becoming a buddy herself to a future new student, when she is older and has been in Elementary for a couple of years. The older buddy learns how to provide support, help and guidance to others through this experience.
As the Elementary Montessori student becomes more conscious and independent, she learns to take part in community projects, and very often becomes involved in social justice and community issues, which are very close to her heart at this age. The older Elementary level student (9 – 12 years of age) is very capable of promoting and implementing projects of her own initiative with minimal or no adult intervention.
Montessori learning is based of a deep understanding of how children learn and develop. Through making their own choices, trying things out and doing it for themselves. - Montessori Method
Today's Montessori classroom is based off Maria Montessori's Casa de Bambini, "The Childrens' House"- an environment of calm, concentration, where you'll find children totally absorbed in activities they've chosen themselves.