The A to I Toddler Classroom
Our toddler community provides Montessori experiences to children aged 14 to 36 months. In this setting the children come to see the classroom as their own peaceful, special space where they play a meaningful role in their own care and the care of their classroom environment.
Taking advantage of the toddler’s natural drive to act autonomously, students learn to care for themselves – washing hands, putting on jackets, etc. Completing activities independently is an important part of the toddlers’ work. In this language-rich, bi-lingual environment (English/Spanish), teachers support and guide students as they explore order and disorder and refine their emerging motor skills.
Social interaction with other children, development of language skills, care of oneself, care of the classroom and outdoor environment, food preparation, music and movement activities are all integral to the Montessori toddler experience. Exercises and activities are designed around the notion that children, like adults, learn by doing. Classroom materials are always accessible, attractive, safe, and geared for a child’s success. Outdoor play is part of the daily routine. Activities are changed regularly in recognition of children’s intrinsic need for variety and challenge as they grow and learn.
Through careful observation of each child, the teacher is able to provide an individualized environment that will enhance the child’s physical, intellectual, psychological and social development at any given time. The teacher is constantly looking out for “sensitive periods,” when the child demonstrates an almost obsessive interest in a particular activity that is essential to his or her growth.
The adults in the environment are the children’s models. The teacher and assistant conduct themselves the way they expect the children to conduct themselves. Children at this age learn not only through individual lessons and independent practice, but also through their observations of the adults around them.
This safe, loving, and gentle atmosphere puts children and parents at ease and creates a trusting and spontaneous transition from home to school. An open, supportive relationship between teachers and parents is essential to providing optimal conditions for the toddler in the Montessori classroom. Daily communication, formal conferences, and parent education contribute to an atmosphere in which each child can realize his or her full potential.
The Primary Classroom
Everything in a primary classroom is child-sized, accessible and aesthetically pleasing. Everything from the shelves, tables, and chairs, to the brooms, garden tools, and serving pitchers is part of the “curriculum” and has been selected with great care to meet the needs of the young, developing child. All activities are part of the prepared environment and have their own container and their own place on the shelf. Everything large and small has a place.
The sensorial material allows the children to create order out of sensory impressions that they have absorbed since birth. By isolating the qualities of each sense, the material helps the children label and internalize their impressions. Sensorial experiences indirectly prepare children for the future of language, mathematics, geometry, art and music.
By perfecting buttoning and tying, pouring or scrubbing or practicing grace and courtesy, the child gains confidence and mastery over the environment. Specifically, these activities contribute to the control and coordination of movement; development of concentration skills through unlimited repetition; and the enhancement of self-esteem by contributing to the group.
Absorbing and perfecting language depends on human contact, but language is not taught. Montessori perceived the miracle of language development as “a treasure prepared in the unconscious, which is then handed over to consciousness, and the child, in full possession of his new power, talks and talks without cessation.”
The mathematics materials developed by Maria Montessori lead the child through progressive, sequenced activities, emphasizing concepts while preparing the child for abstractions.
The Elementary Classroom
The Montessori elementary curriculum was designed by Dr. Maria Montessori to give the child between the ages of six and twelve the opportunity to gain an understanding of how the universe came into being and the place of the human being in that great drama. This is begun through the presentation of five stories called “The Great Lessons” by the trained educator. These stories include the origin of the universe, the coming of life on earth, the coming of human beings, the story of oral and written communication, and the story of numbers. These stories are a spring-board from which the child begins to explore and appreciate how interesting and exciting learning can be. The Montessori curriculum does not present isolated subjects. Rather, the child is presented with the whole, from which the parts emerge in a natural fashion. The stories are then referred to again and again as the child gains more and more knowledge. The curriculum of Cosmic Education gives the child a clear picture of what has gone before, how the earth came to be, the preparation of the earth with plants and animals for the coming of human beings, and the many inventions and discoveries which human beings have made. This understanding leads the child to an appreciation of the gifts we have received from all who came before.
Our Elementary program has a vast curriculum covering all the Tennessee State’s Standards and goes far beyond the minimum levels in exposure to advanced concepts in all the subjects. Like Montessori Primary, Montessori Elementary is organized in three-year age groupings, lower elementary from ages 6 to 9 and upper elementary from ages 9 to 12. At both levels, the multi-age grouping provides children with opportunities for broad social development. The rooms are furnished with many hands-on materials, and abstract learning is introduced at this level. With the strong foundations that the students have based on their concrete experiences, the abstract concepts begin to fall in place by this age.
Montessori provides the elementary age child diverse and creative passages to understanding abstraction. Mathematics, for instance is presented through three-dimensional, manipulative materials that reveal simultaneously arithmetic, geometric, and algebraic correlations – each providing a concrete way to experience an abstract concept. Likewise, the grammar materials use symbols and visual patterns to help the child discover parts of speech and analyze the structure, style, and logic of sentences. These exercises refine reading and writing skills and lay the foundation for foreign language study. The materials for disciplines such as geometry present basic terminology as the groundwork for future in-depth study. In addition art and music are an integral part of Montessori Elementary. Children also participate in their own “going out” excursions according to their individual or small group interest in correlation to the material being studied.
The Montessori Elementary classroom is designed as an aid to the development of the whole human being. Facts are not presented in a random fashion to be learned and forgotten after the test. Children are given an image of the wonder and drama of how we have come to this place and time and the opportunity to develop a sense of gratitude to all who have come before. As the child is exposed to the unfolding of the universe, he or she is free to exercise his or her potential, and eventually to become a confident, knowledgeable citizen of the world.
In this mixed-age classroom, the children have freedom of movement and verbalization within boundaries of respect, which enhances not only their social development but also facilitates the free exchange of academic facts and discoveries. Younger children often learn from older children. The older children benefit by reinforcing their knowledge and gaining self-confidence. The children learn to work cooperatively with others in the classroom. Teamwork, conflict-resolution, and social skills, in addition to academic subjects such as mathematics, science and history, are all integral parts of the class curriculum.