FIVE AREAS OF MONTESSORI
The Practical Life area of the classroom allows the child the opportunity to participate in activities that are simple everyday activities yet help the child to develop many important skills. Life is often hurried and we rarely as parents have the time to allow our children the opportunity to put on their own coats, tie their own shoes, arrange the flowers just the way they want etc. This area of the Montessori classroom allows the time for these skills to be learned and developed with no "rushing", "hurrying" or "consequence". Children learn to become confident, independent, precise, concentrated and focused in this area of the classroom. They learn to understand cause and effect, not from adults but from observation of their own actions. It may take many repeated tries to learn to button a coat however the success a child feels upon success leads the child to feeling a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of independence and self worth. A general goal in life is to feel a sense of purpose and this area of the classroom allows a child the opportunity to learn simple everyday tasks that help to develop self esteem, independence and confidence. Skills in this area include: care of self, care of the environment, grace and courtsey along with the development of concentration and independence.
In this area of the classroom children explore concepts using their senses. Each concept is isolated and explored using specific materials. Exploring is done through the use of movement - children arrange and organize materials based on the concept being explored - for example while using the long red rods the concept of length is isolated and children sort these rods according to one feature, later a second feature is introduced when using the broad stairs, children will need to recognize not only the length but also the width to put them in the right order. Much of the work in this area is an indirect preparation for later more advanced mathematical concepts. Concepts of big and small, long and short, colour differentiation, texture, patterning and sequencing are all explored in this area. Children are learning to use their senses to develop understanding.
The language area of the Montessori classroom is very well developed. At an early age children are exposed to precise vocabulary and vocabulary development. From here children begin what Montessori termed the writing road to reading. Unlike traditional educational systems Montessori classrooms begin with introducing children to the sounds letters make. Children trace specially made sandpaper letters using their fingers (using the senses and movement), learning the sound the letter makes while tracing it with their fingers, once children learn a few individual sounds they then put the sounds together to make small words. As more and more sounds are learned more words can be made - as children learn to make words they have the necessary "equipment" to begin to read. Reading is a natural development in this way, it is not forced and it is not taught abstractly, but comes to the child through a natural progression.
The Montessori mathematical materials are beautifully designed, sequential materials that guide the child from exploration of basic concepts using concrete materials to full internalization and abstraction of more difficult mathematical ideas. Initial activities explore the concepts of quantity, symbols, and then joining of the two concepts so children can form the connection of the symbol to the quantity. Children are introduced to the decimal system using the golden bead materials - a child can feel and see the difference between what 1 feels like and what 1000 feels like. From here the child is introduced to the four basic operations. Bead bars and the golden bead material are used to give the child the ability to explore the operations concretely. An emphasis is placed on understanding the "process" of the mathematical concept, using the materials to gain a full understanding of what the concept means.
The culture area of the Montessori classroom brings the outside world alive to the child. Montessori believed in beginning with the whole and from there we can understand how we as humans can impact our world. The child is taught about the world as a whole - beginning with the globe. From there different continents are explored and then finally the child's country and city. Montessori believed we are global citizens and thus should have a good understanding about our role from a global perspective. This is particularly important in today's world and our impact on the environment and in teaching children what we can do to make a difference. Echo Montessori has a strong environmental program in place for the children to learn how they can make a difference. All areas of culture such as geography, biology, ecology and history are introduced to the child during the preschool years.