This area of the curriculum lays the foundation for all other learning in the Montessori classroom. It prepares the child for more advanced academic lessons in Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture by developing the child’s concentration, fine motor skills, independence and responsibility. Everyday living skills such as spooning, pouring, washing, buttoning, tying laces, setting a table and preparing snack are just some of the wide range of activities in this area. While doing an activity such as folding napkins, the child is developing his concentration, fulfilling a need in the classroom, and building self-esteem by being independent and responsible. Exploring and creating with various mediums of art is included in this area as well.
An ancient quote says, “What enters the mind enters through the senses first.” In this area of the classroom, the child develops all five senses. There are activities that develop size, color and volume discrimination. This is direct preparation for geometry concepts. Students explore and learn the names of both two and three-dimensional shapes. They also explore the relationship between shapes (i.e. quadrilaterals are made up of two triangles). The other senses, namely hearing, smelling, tasting and touch are also refined. Developing auditory and visual discrimination skills prepare the student for learning to read.
This area of the classroom helps to develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. Speaking and listening skills are woven throughout the day. To develop speaking and listening skills, teachers take time to converse with student one on one, and in small and large group settings. Students also learn the proper formation of letters by using a variety of writing equipment and the Montessori metal insets. Once children learn to form a few letters, their passion for writing is stirred. They learn to write before they learn to read. Reading is taught using both a strong phonics program and whole language activities. Students are introduced to sounds that a letter makes as early as age 3 and often by the end of Kindergarten they are typically reading simple books.
The Montessori math materials are beautiful, inviting and functional. These hands on materials give children concrete experiences with numbers. Students begin by rote counting, or reciting the numbers to associating the number symbol to a quantity. They do this for numbers from zero to ten first. This leads to the introduction of the place value system. Research has shown that working with hands-on materials makes the learning last and concepts easier to grasp. Montessori children explore these concepts with very concrete, hands-on materials. This helps them internalize the correlation between number symbols and their value. Once the concept of place value is solidified, students are shown how to add, subtract, multiply and divide these quantities and they love doing it! As they become comfortable with the operations, they are then introduced to simple math facts. Montessori students even explore the concept of fractions before first grade!
(Science, Geography, History)
It is in the cultural area where you see a child’s natural love of learning come alive and blossom. In culture the students learn about the world, its physical geography and the corresponding cultures. Children learn about other countries, their flags, customs, clothing, music, art and of course the food. The cultural area provides a platform of interest for all of the other four areas of the Montessori classroom. In science the natural world is presented to the child as they learn the parts of various plants, animals and minerals. We explore in nature first hand as we plant gardens, take care of classroom pets and collect rocks. Children at this age are curious about the natural world around them and enjoy naming and classifying the elements.