Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Using Montessori at home

     The return on your investment in Montessori will be enhanced if there is a consistency between your home and your child's classroom. This does not mean putting Montessori materials in your living room. It means taking the Montessori perspective. With this perspective your attitudes, your pace, your expectations and the limits you establish for your child will be in keeping with the principles that came from her lifelong observation of the nature of children. To gain this perspective you can attend parent information sessions at your child's school, and read related books and articles such as Montessori Insights for Parents of Young Children by Aline D. Wolf.
What Happens After Montessori?
   Many parents ask how their child can make a successful transfer from Montessori to a traditional school. This is a very common parental concern whether the child transfers at age six, age nine or age twelve.
     To facilitate the transfer, good communications between the Montessori school to the traditional schools in a community must be maintained. Montessori parents and teachers can visit the traditional school and prepare the child for whether will be different. Teachers from traditional schools can be encouraged to visit the Montessori classes to observe the level of academic work.
    Any good teacher will meet a child at that child at that child's own level of development and make t necessary allowances for what has already been achieved. It is important for parents to monitor their child's work in the new academic situation and to keep in close contact with their child's teachers. Parents and teachers working together can insure that the child will continue the love of learning acquired in Montessori.
    The habits and skills that a child develops in a Montessori class are good for a lifetime. They will help him to work more efficiently, to observe more carefully and to concentrate more effectively, no matter where he goes. If he is in a stimulating environment, whether at home or at school, his self-education-which is the only real education-will continue.

The Elementary Program

    As Montessori pre-school programs have proliferated, there has been a great demand for Montessori elementary classes for both six to nine-year-old and nine to twelve-year-old. In these classes, children who have completed the Montessori program for three to six-year-old can continue learning individually or in small groups at their own pace. Long blocks of time encourage extended spans of concentration, uninterrupted by bells indicating a sudden change of subject.
     Compared to the period preceding it, and tat which follows it, Montessori believed that the second stage of development, ages six through twelve, is one of great stability. Growth without major change marks this period as the children exhibit fairly constant styles of learning and relatively even emotional behavior. During these more serene years, students are capable of accomplishing a great deal of mental work. As E.M. Standing writes, in Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, "It is their 'years of plenty;' and if given the right opportunity and the right means, they will lay up a great store of cultural information."
     The integrated curriculum of the Montessori elementary classes encourages children to see the critical relationship among all subjects and, indeed, among all aspects of life. The elementary teachers follow Dr. Montessori's plan for Cosmic Education-presenting the universe first and then reading subsequent learning to its place in the cosmos. For example, the history of the earth, beginning billions of year ago, is made vivid to the students when they work with a magnificent timeline on which the era of human beings is only a tiny segment at the end.
    The elementary curriculum more than covers the mathematics, language, science, history and geography taught in traditional schools. Drill in these basic subjects is replaced by a variety of creative activities, thus avoiding boredom that often leads children to withdrawal of interest or rebellion.
    No two elementary classes are alike. Each reflects the interests and strengths of teachers and students. In all these classrooms, however, you will find children working comfortably at tables or on the floor in a relaxed but mature manner. At any one time, you will see a variety of educational activities in process because each child will be working at his or her own level of interest and ability.
     In their individualized work the children learn to set goals, to manage time, to organize projects and to use a variety of resources. In addition to using the advanced Montessori materials for math, grammar and science they read and discuss children's classics, and express themselves in art, music, drama and poetry. Creative writing is a daily activity. A foreign language, physical education and field trips are also included.
    Montessori elementary programs give youngsters basic learning skills, confidence, self-esteem, and appreciation of other cultures and peaceful techniques for conflict resolution-qualities that will serve them well in any future learning situations.

The Toddler Program

     Many Montessori schools have initiated toddler classes for children 18 months to three years. The toddler classroom is simpler and slower paced than the classroom for three-to six-year-old. Tables and chairs are smaller and the teacher-child ratio is lower.
     However this program is neither a watered down version of the three to six program nor is it academic preparation for subsequent years of Montessori education. The toddler program offers very young children a unique year of self-development in a tender atmosphere of special understanding respect and support.
    Of fundamental importance is the gradual separation of each child from his or her primary caretaker, usually the mother. The Montessori toddler program protects this fragile stage of development by creating a very gentle and slow parting of each adult-child couple. As the toddlers gradually become comfortable in their new environment they learn to trust the teachers and the other children around them.
     Simple sensorial activities in the classroom respond to the toddlers'urge to use all their senses-indeed their whole bodies- to explore everything around them.
     The toddler program also appropriately accommodates the very young child's sensitive period for language by offering creative and intriguing concepts to expand their growing vocabularies. Joining conversations, listening to stories, classifying objects and learning songs and poems all nurture their budding language skills. To help smooth their initial social interactions, the toddlers also learn to use words for the feelings they experience in themselves and others.
     Many of the activities in the toddler program highlight the self-help skills that lead to independence. Children are gently urged to hang up their own coats and aprons and to problem-solve rather than sat,"I can'." Since this is and age of very strong imitation, the teachers constantly model appropriate social skills, good manners and consideration of others.
    Through song, dance and freedom of choice, the toddlers have access to a variety of large muscle activities that offer them opportunities to jump, climb, balance, crawl or skip. These exercises as well as creative art activities are offered for each child to choose. This freedom in a safe space is crucial to the toddler program. However, it is always tempered by two important limits that will be beneficial for a lifetime-respect for others and respect for the environment.

Group Activities and Art

     One of the group activities in a Montessori class is walking slowly around a circular or elliptical line taped on the floor. This exercise helps the children to develop balance and control as they carefully put one foot in front of the other, heel to toe. There are many ways of increasing the difficulty of the activity and challenging the children to perfect the control of their motions while walking. The children carry flags; they balance baskets on their heads; they carry glasses of water without spilling them; they carry little bells without ringing them as they walk. The activity helps them to develop coordination and grace.
     Another group activity in the Montessori classroom is the Silence Game. Dr. Montessori devised this exercise to help the youngsters develop self-control. The teacher begins the game by hanging up a card with the word "Silence"on it. As each child notices the card, he tries to be as quiet as possible. The children not only refrain from speaking but they also close their eyes and try to remain motionless so that there is no noise at all in the classroom. After the children have been quiet for some minutes, the teacher often whispers the names of the students one by one. As each child hears his name he tiptoes very quickly to the teacher's side. This exercise helps the children to listen attentively and to move noiselessly in the classroom. Their stillness during the Silence Game makes the children aware of sounds that they do not ordinarily hear in the environment. For a few minutes of the day they become intensely concious of the quality of silence.
     The materials described in this booklet are the basic ones used in Montessori classrooms for children ages 3 through 6. Some of the parallel exercises that reinforce these learning activities are not described here because of space limitations. The use of all these materials naturally depends on whether or not they are available in each individual school.
     Although equipment is similar, no two Montessori classrooms are exactly alike. Each reflects the individual characteristics of the teacher and children. Some teachers use only the materials that have been developed by Dr. Montessori. Others develop new materials themselves or adapt other educational equipment to the Montessori classroom. If this new equipment implements the Montessori principles of learning, it can enrich the classroom environment, but it should never supercede the Montessori materials.
     Individual work with the Montessori materials is nearly always supplemented with other activities. Group singing, music appreciation, creative art, crafts, a second language, poetry and games can all be coordinated with the Montessori program according to the interests and talents of the teacher.
     An example of material added to many Montessori classes is Art Cards. These enable a child to become familiar with the details of beautiful art while refining her visual discrimination. Eliminating the "Don't touch"admonition that usually accompanies a child's first experience with fine art, this cultural activity invites a child to hold postcard-size reproductions of beautiful paintings in her hands and to work with them. She can match identical paintings; pair two non-identical paintings by the same artist; and sort a group of paintings by forming rows of four paintings by each artist.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Geography, Grammar, Botany

     A Montessori classroom offers many opportunities for young children to expand their knowledge during the times when they are motivated by spontaneous interest. The large wooden puzzle maps are among the most popular activities in the classroom. The child can move each puzzle piece by grasping a little knob on its flat, shiny surface. The introductory map of the world has a separate puzzle piece for each continent. After working with the world map, the child can do one of six puzzle maps of continents in which each country is represented by a separate puzzle piece. Finally, there is a map of the United States with a separate piece for each state.
     At first the children use the maps simply as puzzles. Gradually they learn the names of many of the countries as well as information about climate and products. The maps illustrate many geographical facts concretely. The children can see the great size of Russia and the positions of Great Britain, Japan and Iceland as islands.
     The common land formations - island, peninsula, and isthmus - are made with floral clay and set in pans that are painted blue. The children can pour water around the island, on three sides of the peninsula, and on both sides of the isthmus. Other pans contain formations in which the land surrounds a lake, the land borders a gulf, and the land borders a strait. The children can pour water into the pans to actually form these bodies of water. They often put miniature trees or houses on the land and little boats on the water. As a follow-up, they locate similar bodies of land and water on a large map.
     In a Montessori class, children are introduced to grammar by little games with a piece of equipment called The Farm, complete with a barn, silo and animals. During the first lesson, the teacher says playfully to the child, "I am going to write something down that I want you to get from The Farm." She writes the horse, and the child eagerly brings her a horse. The teacher than says, "Oh! This is a very fine horse, but it is not the horse that I want. I will have to use an adjective." She writes the black horse and suddenly the child knows exactly which horse to bring her. In this way the child begins to understand the descriptive nature of the adjective.
     Because children are such sensorial learners, colors and shapes are introduced in written work to denote the different parts of speech. Black triangles are used for nouns. Adjectives and articles are also triangles, but smaller because their job is to modify the noun. Later, with The Farm, the child is introduced to conjunctions (pink rectangles) and prepositions (green crescents). Verbs-the action words- are denoted by red circles. The adverbs that modify the verbs are smaller orange circles. When verbs and adverbs are introduced the child can do the actions as the teacher writes them-sing softly or walk slowly. Later the children can continue grammatical work on their own with The Farm and other exercises that the teacher has prepared.
     To introduce young children to the concept that history is a series of sequential events that occurred before the present time, Montessori used Time Lines. In the three to six classroom a child begins with a short Time Line marked with the dates of the five or six years of her life. Beside the earliest date she places a picture taken shortly after she was born. Next, a picture when she was one year old. Then at two, perhaps with a favorite toy or pet. Then at three, possibly with a new sibling; then four perhaps with a photo taken at school, etc.
     After age six, children use other longer Time Lines on which they can place pictures or cards representing historical times or events
     Many Montessori classrooms have beautiful wooden puzzles or sets of nature cards that illustrate in color the parts of a tree, the shapes of leaves and the parts of a flower. The children match these illustrations with the corresponding names. Working with these cards or puzzles helps the youngsters to become more observant of the characteristics of things which grow in their own environment. They frequently have plants, flowers, or vegetables growing in the classroom; or they bring in samples that they can coordinate with the materials.
    Most of the Grammar and Science Materials in a Montessori classroom are made by the teacher or by persons working under her supervision. These materials vary from classroom to classroom, often reflecting the interests of the teacher and the level of work for which the children are ready. In general, however, these attractive materials demonstrate Dr. Montessori's theory that youngsters can learn all kinds of information if it is made accessible and inviting. Children are stimulated by natural curiosity; the materials are fun to manipulate, and learning by discovery rather than by being told gives children a particular satisfaction.
     You may wonder why Montessori introduces grammar, geography and geometry to children between the ages of three and six. At this age youngsters can joyfully absorb many abstract concepts- the usual stumbling blocks of the elementary grades - if they meet them in materials that they can manipulate. In a Montessori classroom children can hold units, cylinders, spheres, nouns, or fractions in their hands. When adding, they can actually carry beads to the next column; when subtracting they can take away beads with their hands; when dividing they can share the beads representing the dividend. It is fun for them to act out verbs; pour water around an island or on three sides of a peninsula. They like to form a square with five rows of five beads each or to put together fractions. The materials that demonstrate these concepts serve as touchstones in their memories for many years- touchstones that will clarify these difficult abstract terms whenever they meet them in future learning situations.


     Parallel activities for addition and/or subtraction are always ready for the child who is eager to use different material. These include the Strip Boards, the Snake Game, the Dot Game and the Stamp Game. Various boards are also available for square root and factoring whenever the child is ready and interested.
     The child can do simple addition with the Strip Board which features red and blue rulers of graduated lengths representing the quantities 1 through 9.
     And also to the large square board, a child can place the numbers 1 through 100 in sequential order.

Mathematical Operations

     A child in a Montessori class learns mathematical facts by actually performing the operations which concrete materials. When the child wants to do arithmetic, she is given a sheet of paper containing simple problems. She works these problems with appropriate materials and records her results. Similar operations can be performed with a variety of materials. This variety maintains can be performed with a variety of materials. This variety maintains the child's interest while giving her many opportunities for the necessary repetition. As she commits the addition facts and the multiplication tables to memory, she gains a real understanding of what each operation means. In a Montessori classroom there are many materials that can be used for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
     The Short Bead Stair represents the quantities One through Ten in easily recognized colors. A single red bead represents 1. A bar of two green beads represents 2. A bar of three pink beads represents 3, and so forth, with the bar of ten golden beads representing 10. If a child wishes to do the sum 4+6, she places the of four yellow beads beside the bar of six purple beads, counts the total number of beads and records her results; 4 + 6 = 10.
     This same color scheme is used for the beads that make up the squares and the cubes of the number 1 through 10. For example, 52 is represented by 25 blue beads fastened together in a square. 53 is made up of 125 blue beads fastened together as a cube. The square of 5 is also represented by a chain of five bars of 5 blue beads, the cube by a chain of twenty-five 5 bars. The chains are used for skip counting (in this case counting by fives) and for learning the squares and cubes of the numbers 1 through 10.
     The colored bead bars are also used for multiplication. If a child wants to multiply 3 x 5, he takes three of the blue bars with five beads on each and places them on a small mat. Then he counts the total number of beads and records his result: 3 x 5 = 15. Working with this equipment gives him a real understanding of what the term multiplication means; in this case the quantity of 5 is actually taken three times.
     The child can use Unit beads for simple subtraction. To do the problem 9 - 3, she puts nine Units on a small felt mat, and then removes three of the Units. She counts the remaining Units and records her result: 9 - 3 = 6.
     Quite often a child will learn subtraction facts by simply reversing the addition combinations 4 + 4 = 8; therefore 8 - 4 = 4.
     A square board with green skittles and beads is used for simple division. The skittles represent the divisor or the number of people who are sharing the quantity. To do the example 12 divided by 3,  the child puts three skittles at the top of the board. Then she carefully takes twelve beads and shares them one by one. Each skittles gets four beads. She records: 12 divided by 3 = 4, because each skittle has four beads.

The Golden Bead & Fraction Materials

     This activity shows the famous Golden Bead Material designed by Dr.Montessori to illustrate the decimal system. The single bead on the right represents a Unit. The bar made up of 10 Units in a row represents a Ten. Ten of the Ten Bars fastened together to form a square represent One Hundred, and a pile of 10 Hundred Squares forms the cube on the left which represents One Thousand. The children already know the terms square and cube from their work with the geometric materials.
     The teacher explains to the children that to count large quantities of Units is awkward and time consuming. Therefore, whenever they have 10 Units they exchange them for a Ten Bar. When they have 10 Ten Bars they replace them with a Hundred Square, and whenever they have 10 Hundred Squaes they exchange them for a Thousand Cube.
    The picture also shows the corresponding numerals cards printed in different colors to indicate the columns of the decimal system. The Units are printed in green again (because Thousands are actually Units of Thousands, followed by Tens of Thousands, etc.)
     The children are introduced to the decimal system with three basic exercises. First they build quantities with the bead materials. The teacher starts with simple numbers. She says, e.g., "Bring me 3 Units." Soon she can combine numbers in different columns: "Bring me 5 Tens and 7 Units."Eventually the children enjoy accumulating large quantities on a tray, such as 8 Thousands, 4 Hundreds, 3 Tens, and 7 Units.
    In the second exercise, the children find cads to represent the numbers the teacher gives them orally, such as 8 Tens and 3 Units. Finally they learn to combine the numerals on the cards with the corresponding quantity of bead materials. With the Seguuin Boards the children learn to translate the numbers, such as 7 Tens and 1 Units, into 71.
    The Numeral cards may be combined in an interesting way. When the figure 1 is placed on top of 10, it will be read 11. When the 11 is placed on top of the 100, it will be read 111, and 111 placed on top of 1000 reads 1111, the total quantity illustrated by the material in the preceding photograph.
     The Thousand Chain shows how the Thousand Cube would look if all its beads were laid in a single row. The chain, which is actually made up of 100 Ten Bars, is used as an exercise in counting by ten up to 1000. The numbers 10, 20, 30, etc. up to 990 and 1000, are written on small cards that the child in the photograph is placing in order beside the chain. Because the chain is 27 feet long, the child is impressed with the great size of 1000.
     Any exercise involving the exchange of the Golden Beads (or duplications of them) is usually called the Bank Game. The large quantity of material, that the children use as a source for the game, is referred to as The Bank. The children use The Bank whenever they want to change Units to Tens, Tens to Hundreds, Hundreds to Thousands, or vice versa. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing four place numbers can all be done with the quantities in the Bank.
     If two children wish to add, each one puts a quantity of bead material on a small tray and selects the corresponding cards to represent the quantity. They then combine the two quantities on a larger tray and select larger cards to represent their total.
     For subtraction, the teacher places a large quantity of bead material with the corresponding large cards on a large tray. She then gives the child a smaller tray with a number printed on a smaller card. The child "takes away"this quantity of bead materials from the larger tray is the answer. The child then finds the numeral cards to represent this remainder. With this process the children learn that subtraction is the breaking up of one large quantity into two smaller ones.
    When learning division, the child is taught that division means sharing and that the answer (quotient) is always what one person receives. If he has the problem 1294 divided by 3, he, serving as the Banker, asks three other children to get empty trays while he gets materials to represent the quantity 1294. He wants to share this amount equally among the three children, beginning with the One Thousand Cube.
     Since he obviously cannot divide the single cube, he changes it at The Bank for 10 Hundred Squares. He now has 12 Hundred Squares-these 10 plus the original 2 in the number 1294-and he begins to share them among the 3 children. Each child receives 4 Hundred Squares. Next he divides the 9 Ten Bars; each child receives 3. Then he divides the 4 units; each child receives 1. One unit remains which he cannot divide. The answer is what one person receives, 431, with a reminder of 1.
     Sometimes a child asks if the one remaining Unit can be divided. This is an ideal time to show him the Fraction Material that illustrates how the Unit can be broken down. There are 10 large red discs. The first is whole. The second disc is divided into two halves, the third disc into three thirds, and so forth, up to the last disc which is divided into ten tenths. Each fractional piece has a little knob so it can be manipulated easily.
     This material can show a child concretely that 1/4 is smaller than 1/2; or that 5/5 is the same as 10/10. If he takes the disc that is divided into two halves and removes one half, he can fit two 1/4 sections exactly into this space. He can now see that 2/4 = 1/2. Many more fraction facts can also be demonstrated. Whenever he is interested, the child learns how to write the fractions and how to do simple combinations.