“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself”
– GALILEO GALILEI
THE MONTESSORI CLASSROOM:
A BEAUTIFULLY PREPARED ENVIRONMENT
At Indiana Montessori Academy, the classroom is a place specifically designed for the child aged 3-6 years. Child-sized tables, chairs and shelves are built so the child can reach all of the materials without assistance. The child who enters the classroom instantly knows they are welcomed into a new home. There are familiar items ready to be explored and handled by young hands. The classroom is ascetically pleasing—real glass is used for trays, plates, drinking glasses and many other materials in the environment. We signal to the children we trust them to handle these beautiful objects, and they cannot wait to be able to carry them all by themselves.
The five (5) areas of curriculum in the Montessori classroom are:
- Practical Life
- Sensorial (Refinement of the Child’s Senses)
- Cultural (Geography, Science, Art, History and Music)
The Practical Life area of the classroom is based on the area culture where the school is located. The works and exercises are so critical because they are the foundation for all future learning in the classroom. Not only are the children building a foundation with these materials, but they also are helping the child become independent and care for himself in his immediate environment. These exercises help him to participate and take responsibility of himself and others. It gives him a feeling of comfort because he sees the same materials (or similar) from his own home environment. The materials are all real and can be handled by the child. The Grace and Courtesy Lessons from Practical Life also bring comfort to the child as he learns how to behave in social settings. The most significant purpose of the Practical Life exercises is to develop the child’s concentration, independence and coordination. They also lay the groundwork for all subsequent work in the classroom, and they prepare the child for the more challenging work that lies ahead.
The Sensorial area of the classroom uses the Sensorial Material to address the child’s Sensitive Period for the Refinement of the Senses. Dr. Montessori stated that the “Sensorial Materials are the keys to universe.” The first step for the child is to help him become aware of his senses. He uses his eyes to see; his ears to hear; his nose to smell; his hands to touch and feel; his tongue to taste. Once this is established, the second step helps to classify his impressions and refine his perceptions, for example, knowing large, larger and largest. The materials are the keys to the outside world, and they respond to the child’s need to explore and be active to gain understanding of his world around him. The quality of our senses not only helps us to orientate us to the world around, but also is a tool to aide us in building our knowledge. The development of the child’s senses is a natural process in which we, as educators, can help enrich its development. In that Dr. Montessori refers to the Sensorial materials as the ‘keys to the universe’ because they truly hold knowledge for everything. If we do not allow the children to experience the connection between the materials and their world, the child will not use them as keys to the universe.
Language is alive in the room within all areas of the environment as the child depends totally on his environment for his oral development. Through helping the child with his spoken language, we help him to develop his person. We help him in his quest for independence, and also cooperation. We strive to help the child become a verbal individual who can bring forth his ideas in a constructive way: aiding himself and society to grow in the process. It is also important to note that both written and read language adhere to the ability of spoken language. If one has a strong ability to read, than one can write. In turn, it is also easier to read and then interpret another author’s thoughts.
In the Montessori Classroom, we give the child:
- confidence to speak and to express his thoughts
- ideas to express and the knowledge of how to express these ideas
- an extended vocabulary
- logical expressions of thoughts and ideas
The Language materials help the child come to writing and reading. We want the children to experience the gift of total communication. Communication is not only teaching one to speak, read and write.
It is as follows:
- Let the child experience the material in concrete form, giving him the quantity of the material and naming it.
- The child’s own work (practice)—for a long time with or without his friends.
- When the quantity is firmly established, the written symbols are introduced.
- The child’s own work—when applicable, the child will then practice with the symbols only.
- The quantity and the symbol are combined, giving the association.
- The child’s own work—a lot of practice is done.
In the Mathematical area there are six groups and each deal with a separate concept. The six groups are:
- The Foundation—Numbers One to Ten
- The Decimal System: All 4 Mathematical Operations are Introduced
- Linear Counting
- Towards Abstraction
In addition to Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Mathematics, many cultural works are infused into the classroom. These include: Geography, Art, Science, Botany, Zoology, History and Music. Sometimes the simplest introductions help to build a foundation for the child’s learning. For example, with Zoology, we introduce names and parts of the 5 species on Earth: Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. In Geography, children are introduced to the world, naming continents first, and then working with puzzle maps of each of the continents as well as the USA. Language is introduced with any of the cultural areas thereby increasing your child’s vocabulary, too.