“We carry a dual obligation: to follow the child and to prepare him for life.”
– Catherine McTamaney
Our Primary classroom is designed to allow children the freedom of movement and the choice of their own daily activities. Our materials are chosen to promote concentration, coordination, independence, and order, allowing children the opportunity to begin to make sense of the world around them. “Grace and Courtesy” lessons allow children to naturally develop a responsibility for themselves, the classroom, and others, through experiences with social skills and manners.
Through practice with our Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language, and Cultural Studies materials, children develop a foundation for learning and for life. Our guides are trained to observe students throughout independent and group work, to determine the needs of each child individually. This observation allows guides to know when to present new material, which aids a child in understanding their strengths and skills on their own.
The exercises, or work, in Practical Life focuses on care of oneself, care of others, and care of the classroom environment. Practical Life work aids in the development of large and small motor skills, coordination, and independence. Children may be presented lessons on washing a table, pouring water without spilling, and tying a bow. While these may seem to be simple tasks, they require each child to follow a complex process of steps, correcting themselves as they go, until they reach independence with a skill. These exercises lead to self-discipline and a lifelong sense of responsibility. The skills gained through this work are the foundational skills of all subsequent learning in all areas of the classroom.
Children learn by exploring and interacting with the world around them while using their senses. The Sensorial area of the Primary classroom helps children develop a refinement of their senses, leading to a deeper understanding of the relationship between objects around them. Children may work with sorting different sized cubes from large to small with our Pink Tower, or build different polygons with our Constructive Triangle Boxes to refine their visual sense. Working with our Thermic Bottles to differentiate between hot and cold, or our Touch Tablets to find rough and smooth, children will refine their tactile sense. Listening intently to our Sound Cylinders helps a child determine subtle differences in volume with their auditory sense. Smelling and Tasting Bottles encourage refinement of olfactory and gustatory senses. The work in this area prepares the “Mathematical Mind” of the child by offering practice with exactness and order.
Through her studies, Maria Montessori determined that we have a “Mathematical Mind.” This “Mathematical Mind” refers to our natural tendency, as humans, for order, exactness, and orientation. She designed our math materials with this knowledge. Our math materials focus on quantity, symbol (number), and the relationship between the two. The materials introduce children to each concept concretely to internalize what they are actually learning or doing. They are able to hold and manipulate the concept they are learning about, with their own hands. A child can feel the difference between one unit bead and one thousand unit beads put together to form a cube. The many math materials allow a concept to be introduced to each individual child in the way that they learn best.
With their “Mathematical Mind,” children are drawn to order and logic in the world around them. For this reason, Montessori language materials focus on phonetic sounds of letters first. Children are introduced to letter sounds with our Sandpaper Letters. This allows children to hear the sound a letter makes while also feeling the way it is formed. At the same time, children can work with materials that introduce new vocabulary, sequencing of events, isolation of sounds in words, and even “writing” their own words with our Moveable Alphabet. Our focus on phonics and vocabulary leads to an understanding of the “rules” of the English language at an age where children are sensitive to the language use around them and are wanting to understand it for themselves.
Dr. Montessori believed that at a young age, children begin to understand that they are part of a larger community. To help young children understand their global community and live with others in peace, Montessori created cultural lessons to introduce children to the experiences of others throughout the world. Our materials introduce children to many types of animals and different human cultures so they can begin to learn to appreciate the importance of our similarities and celebrate our differences. Throughout this practice of peace, children discover how to communicate disagreements and come to a solution of peace together, preparing them for friendships and interactions with others as adults.