Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The classroom


The Montessori environment is a "child size world". Whatever is in the world outside can be incorporated meaningfully in the Montessori classroom. To a child, the world is is too big, too complex and too confusing. By careful presentation of Montessori Material by the Directress, a special environment, a child-sized world, is created. The materials and activities in this environment are self-correcting and are designed to stimulate independent exploration on a level that the child can understand. He can proceed at his own pace from simple activities to more complex ones. Through this process, the child's natural curiosity is satisfied and he begins to experience the joy of discovering the world about him.

The Directress in a Montessori class assumes the role of the 'go-between' the child and the material. She maintains the environment, including stimulating activities and removing obstacles. She demonstrates the apparatus and encourages the child to experience it, thus allowing that child to teach himself through his own activity. Most of all, the Directress observes each and every child closely and carefully, in order to help overcome his difficulties, redirecting his interest when necessary, and enticing him with new and more challenging tasks when she sees there is a need for it.

In a Montessori classroom, a child has 'Freedom". Freedom is a goal, not a starting point. A free child is one who has developed his potential and prefers to work out problems for himself, but is capable of asking for, and receiving direction when needed. An undisciplined and unskilled child is not free, but is a slave to his immediate desires and is excessively dependant on others. The free child grows into a free adult. Doing what he wants to do does not make him free, doing what is right does. With all this freedom one might wonder if there is no confusion. The concept of 'Freedom' in the classroom is a freedom within limits. A child is allowed to work freely, as long as he does not disturb others. Children having the freedom to follow their interests are generally happy and are busily involved in their work.

Dr. Montessori observed, that at certain age periods, a child shows an unusual interest and sensitivity to acquire a particular skill or another. She called them, 'Sensitive periods'. The Montessori programme is a unique cycle of learning designed to take advantage of these 'Sensitive periods'. The child learns to talk during his 'Sensitive period for language'. This occurs during the first four years of his life and at no other time in his life will he be able to tackle this challenge with such persistence, energy, independence and intelligence. The child, at certain times in his life will show an equivalent passion for order, precise movement, for learning words and numbers and even socialising.

Children of different ages and abilities make up a Montessori classroom. They become used to working individually and in group situations. Socialising is very much a part of the Montessori method. In the room, you will notice children interacting continually, choosing to work on projects together and older children helping younger ones. Each day there is some group activity, singing and play as well.

We believe that the more the parents can understand the experiences of their child in the classroom, the better they are able to reinforce the learning at home. This provides a consistent environment in which to grow and develop. The child's activities at school can be reinforced by allowing him to be involved in household tasks; making it easier for him to take care of himself, slowing down occasionally to his rate of doing things, accepting the child for who he is, which all lead to learning for life, and inner discipline.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Introduction Sandpaper Letters

Placed in the curriculum as a parallel exercise to insets for design.


The letters of the alphabet cut out in the finest sandpaper (or the same effect gained commercially by another method) mounted on a strong background. The vowels are mounted on a pale blue card and the consonants on a pale pink background. The letters are mounted with sufficient space on either side to hold them steady. They can be used by either right-handed or left-handed children.

A simple cursive letter is used. The children learn to write simple cursive letters from the beginning. They write the letters separately at first. Later, when ready to join their letters, they can do so without difficulty. At the same time, as these are a simple cursive letter, the children will have no difficulty in recognizing the printed letters they will meet in books.


To learn the sound and shape of the letters of the alphabet. To gain a muscular memory of the shape of the letters as a prelude to writing.


4 and onwards.


With the sandpaper letters the teacher will introduce the phonetic sounds to the child. Centuries ago, the Phoenicians discovered that they could represent each of the sounds of language with a symbol. This was a great discovery since it meant that any word could be represented by a few symbols. No longer would a new symbol have to be invented for every word and idea. Written language would not be such a monumental task of memorization. Any new word could be figured out because it would be made up of symbols already known. And so, today, anyone who knows how to sound out words can decode any new word they confront. Eighty per cent of the time, letters use the phonetic sound. A child who can use this knowledge is far ahead of the child who is taught through a "Look/Say" approach. The child taught through a "Look/Say" approach is limited to the words he has been specifically taught and his ability to remember those words.
In the Montessori approach, the sounds of the letters are taught before the child is introduced to the names of the letters. Research has shown that it is best to learn one thing at a time. It is too much to have to remember both names and sounds. If the child is taught both the names and the sounds in the beginning, it has been found that the child gets confused when trying to sound out a word because it is difficult to remember which the letter represents. Therefore, to avoid the added difficulty, the phonetic sound of each letter is taught first, and the names of the letters are taught later. In addition, since some letters can represent more than one sound, the other sounds which are less frequently used than the phonetic sound are also taught later. In this way, the child only has to learn one sound for each letter in the beginning.
In addition, since sounds obviously occur in all parts of words, children are led to hear the sounds in the different parts of a word. It is a mistake to think that it is easier for children to listen to or identify just the beginning letter of a word. But more than this, it is an error to mislead children into thinking that they only have to listen for the first sound. Children need to hear sounds in all parts of a word. Therefore, in the Montessori approach, the children are led to hear how the sounds they are learning occur in different parts of words. With this practice they soon begin to realize the sequence of sounds in words.
The teaching of the sounds and letters is through a multi-sensory approach. The child will hear the sound, see its representation in the form of a letter, and feel the way it is written as the child feels the letter with his fingers. Since a motor pattern should be learned correctly the first time, it is very important that the child trace properly formed letters. This will help him develop a good pattern for handwriting. Therefore, a basic form of the cursive letter is used. In this way, when a child changes from writing the letters without connecting strokes to a connected cursive style, rather than change his motor pattern by changing from a ball and stick form of letter to a more flowing curvilinear letter, the child will only have to extend the pattern of writing he is already using by adding connecting strokes instead of also having to reform the letters. As a result, the only difference for the child between his "print" and his "cursive" writing will be the addition of the connecting strokes to complete the cursive style. So, the letters will be made as follows:

Capital letters will be introduced later. The teacher must be careful not to introduce too much at a time.

THE MONTESSORI "METHOD" of bringing up and educating children

After years of expression mainly in pre-schools, Montessori philosophy is finally being used as originally intended, as a method of seeing children as they really are and of creating environments which foster the fulfillment of their highest potential - spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual - as members of a family, the world community and the Cosmos.

Dr. Montessori gave the world a scientific method, practical and tested, for bringing forth the very best in young human beings. She taught adults how to respect individual differences, and to emphasize social interaction and the education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body of knowledge.

Montessori practice is always up-to-date and dynamic because observation and the meeting of needs is continual and specific for each child. When physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs are met children glow with excitement and a drive to play and work with enthusiasm, to learn, and to create. They exhibit a desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment.

The high level of academic achievement so common in Montessori schools is a natural outcome of experience in such a supportive environment. The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural, mixed-age group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults.

Today Montessori teacher training centers and schools exist on all continents. There are Montessori parenting classes, "Nidos" ("nests" for infants), infant communities, "children's houses" (for age 3-6), and classes for children up to age eighteen in public and private schools. Montessori works in gifted and talented programs, and for children with developmental disabilities of all kinds. Many parents are using Dr. Montessori's discoveries to raise/educate their children at home.

The discoveries of Maria Montessori are valuable for anyone living and working with children in any situation.

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