The Montessori Method is based on years of patient observation of the nature of children and has proved itself of universal application. Race, color, nationality or social rank makes no difference to its successful application. The method is based on the child's imperious need to learn by doing and has a profound respect for the child's personality. It enables the teacher to deal with each child individually in each subject.
Each child works at his or her own pace and the child has the freedom of movement in the classroom. Children pursue their own self-paced curriculum and learning takes place individually or in small groups. The critical cognitive skills are developed before age six and a multi-sensorial more flexible writing and reading program is available in the Montessori classroom. The Montessori method develops the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellectual faculties, but also to become a self-directed, self-disciplined person.
The materials for mathematics introduce the concept of quantity and its symbols, the numbers 0 through 9. The quantity is introduced by a series of rods that the child can count and compare.
The child matches sets of symbol cards with the rods. Using a variety of beads and symbol cards, the child becomes familiar with the numbers as a decimal system, including concrete experiences with the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These exercises not only teach the child to calculate, but they provide a deep understanding of how numbers function.
The child learns oral language naturally. He automatically absorbs it from his environment. The work of the teacher is to expose him/her to the equivalent forms of written language, which he learns through the same general pattern of development. The Montessori child begins reading when he is ready and proceeds at his own pace. His experiences in practical life and sensorial education serve as a preparation for this.
The sandpaper letters provide a phonetic basis for reading. The child's desire and sensitivity to touch are utilized by these letters that are cut out of sandpaper and mounted for tracing. With cut out letters, the child builds his own words on a mat. The material frees him/her from the fatigue of his still developing writing skills and yet gives him/her the opportunity to pursue his interest in words. These activities serve as a preparation for the time when the child assimilates what he knows and explodes into writing.
The child is attracted to activities that give him/her independence and control of his/her own life. A most important need of the young child is to develop his muscles and coordinate his movement through such practical life exercises as sweeping polishing, carrying water, pouring and washing a table. Special Montessori materials enable him/her to tie, button and snap and use many other fastening devices.
The purpose of these exercises is to develop concentration and to pay attention to detail as the child follows a regular sequence of actions and to learn good working habits. These activities provide the very foundation on which the child approaches more intricate academic exercises.
One aspect of the Montessori Method taught at all Montessori schools is the Sensorial exercises. Sensorial Materials in the Montessori classroom are designed to sharpen the senses of the young child and enable the child to understand the many impressions he receives through them. Each of the Sensorial Materials isolates one defining quality such as color, weight, shape, texture, size, sound or smell. Sound boxes, for example, are all the same size, shape, color and texture; they differ only in the sounds that are made when the child shakes them.
The Montessori Sensorial Materials help the child to distinguish, to categorize and to relate new information to what he already knows. His intellect is trained to make order out of a multitude of experiences and to increase his perception of the world around him/her that is the learning process.
Sometimes parents worry that by having younger children in the same class as older ones, one group or the other will be shortchanged. They fear that the younger children will absorb the teachers’ time and attention, or that the importance of covering the kindergarten curriculum for the five-year-olds will prevent them from giving the three- and four-year-olds the emotional support and stimulation that they need. Both concerns are misguided.
At each level, Montessori programs are designed to address the developmental characteristics normal to children in that stage. Montessori classes areorganized to encompass a two- or three-year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. Each child learns at her own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in her own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. In a mixed-age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level. No child is “held back” when he or she is able to move ahead of the normal curriculum for his/her age level. If a child needs more time on a certain subject or concept, this is accommodated.
Children normally stay in the same class for three years. With two-thirds of the class normally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable. Working in one class for two or three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place.
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