At Montessori Country Day, children choose their own activities and work independently at their own pace under the gentle guidance of the class teacher. In this way, they develop concentration, independence, self-motivation and a love of learning.
The classroom consists of interconnected areas of activities which allow for self-expression, exploration and competence:
- Practical Life
- Geography and Cultural Studies
- Music and Drama
- Peace Education
Practical life exercises help to satisfy the child’s need for meaningful activity and uses familiar objects which the child can recognize from his or her home experiences.
The activities are designed to strengthen the child’s fine motor skills and lengthen concentrated work time. They promote patience, orderliness and the love of focus work. This work gives the child instant success and prepares the child internally for the academic tasks that follow.
The sensorial materials allow children to pursue their natural tendency to classify sensorial impressions and sort by size, shape, color, touch, sound and weight.
The sensorial materials isolate specific qualities, have a built in control of error, allow for repetition and make abstract qualities concrete. Sensorial activities lay a foundation for math, geometry, geography, botany, art and music.
Young children typically begin their exploration of math concepts through the use of the sensorial materials, which give a sensory impression of quantity, dimension, shape, size and other physical qualities. Next come more abstract and formal math concepts. For example, children first explore number-symbol correspondence and place value with the use of number rods, counters, beads, bars, squares and cubes. Once the concepts of quantity and place value are established through the repeated activities with the math materials, the child begins work with numeric operations and will practice with increasingly abstract materials.
Language is taught in every area of the classroom and includes vocabulary building, listening skills, creative dramatics and children’s literature. Phonemic awareness is taught through hands-on activities and games. Labeling of the the alphabet is taught though sorting and matching works, puzzles and environmental labels.
Writing is practiced through tracing shapes and sandpaper letters. Children use chalkboards as well as art materials. Reading in a Montessori classroom begins with using the movable alphabet. The children spontaneously combine all of the phonemes they have learned and they soon discover that they can read!
Basic skills of science, such as measuring, comparing, classifying and observation skills are practiced in our classrooms. Classification systems such as living/non-living and vertebrate/invertebrate are taught along with parts of flowers, trees and life cycles. The children learn to name domestic and wild plants and animals. They work with materials to learn fundamental classifications such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
Our students are also introduced to basic concepts of physical science, such as floating/sinking and magnetic/non-magnetic. The care of indoor plants, feeding our pets and birds outdoors and planting and tending to our garden are all ways the children enjoy the introduction to science and our world.
Geography and Cultural Studies
The children celebrate diversity of our world through language, music, art, traditions, food, stories and history. Peace education is an integral part of the Montessori classroom and begins with respect for, understanding and acceptance of differences as well as the celebration of the unifying aspects that connect us all.
The children are introduced to a sandpaper globe where they can have a visual and tactile experience of the Earth. Many materials and puzzle maps are used by the children to explore the continents of our world and the states of our country. This inspires lessons on customs, foods, music, languages and animals from around the world.
Art cultivates the great joy of creating. Children are free to explore a variety of media such as crayons, pastels, charcoal, painting on an easel, watercolors, clay work and sewing.
There is a progression in the artwork as the child’s skills develop. Activities move from very simple to quite complex. Seasonal inspirations using different media are a prominent feature in our classrooms.
Music and Drama
Central to the classroom are activities that provide the children with early experience with music and drama. Classical, pop and children’s favorite tunes are often heard in our classrooms.
The children make instruments to accommodate their voices and use instruments from around the world to make joyful noise. They learn the name of different types of instruments, sing, make finger plays and recite poems and nursery rhymes to music. The children are introduced to elements of drama using poetry, games and role playing.
Using Grace and Courtesy Lessons within our classrooms helps us model peace in our school. Children are taught how to wait, how to observe, how to interrupt politely, how to take care of their belongings and how to solve conflicts peacefully.
When undesirable behavior occurs, the manner in which this is handled involves honoring the humanity of both the child who exhibits the behavior and any victims. Children are taken aside, spoken to in a calm manner, given an opportunity to reflect on what could have been done differently and then show compassion and kindness towards any who have been mistreated. Montessori teachers are role models of the expected behavior.
Along with our Grace and Courtesy Lessons, Montessori Country Day has Peace Tables in our classrooms. The Peace Table is used by the children to have a moment to themselves or to encourage conflict resolution through peaceful and respectful communication. When used for conflict resolution, it encourages children to talk about what is on their mind and gives them a specific place and method to achieve an agreeable solution.