We prepare your child for success, covering Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Maths and Culture
“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence."- Maria Montessori The above quote is the crux of the aim of the Practical Life (PL) activities in a primary Montessori environment. This area encompasses all the activities which help the child become self sufficient, take care of themselves and the surrounding environment. Of all the areas in a Montessori classroom, the Practical Life area forms the foundation, the cornerstone of this education. It prepares the child for life. It assists in their physical and cognitive development. All the activities on the PL shelf are purposeful, and typically tend to strengthen gross and fine motor skills. These activities are very meaningful and attractive; hence appeal to the child’s inner needs. It teaches them how to be responsible citizens in a community beyond the classroom. At two and a half years of age, the child’s Sensitive Period for order is at its peak. At this time, if the child is shown activities that appeal to his/her inner needs, it puts the child on the path to perfection through work. The children wish to explore, adapt to and contribute to the environment and society around them. This leads to development of concentration and, ultimately, leads to independence, which is the main aim of this pedagogy. Practical Life is the foundation of independence, as it helps the children move into sensorial, language, and mathematics. There are four main points of focus in the PL area; Analysis and control of movement, Care of Self, Care of Environment and Grace & Courtesy. All these activities are geared towards the creation of a holistic child who can independently and joyfully do tasks such as eating, dressing, taking care of themselves and their environment (plants and pets included). Thus, in any Montessori classroom, children are always seen moving about and being perfectly capable of carrying out basic tasks by themselves, such as fixing a snack, pouring water from a glass jug, etc. They are all involved in jobs such as table washing, drying, taking out the trash, etc., which have a meditative effect on a child, especially the ones who are usually very restless. Though these tasks seem mundane and trivial from the outside, the child is actually mimicking the whole outside world in this small environment and functioning at the capacity of an adult.
The Anthea WayIn our classrooms, learning is enjoyable and personalised. First, each child is given a “presentation” of a fundamental lesson by the teacher/guide after the teacher has observed the child over a period of time. The purpose of the fundamental lesson is to introduce a new material to the child. According to Paula Lillard (https://amiusa.org/rcw-test/paula_polk_lillard-2/), it is akin to a scientific experiment, where the teacher, based on her acute observation and knowledge of the child, decides the right time to introduce this material and takes the initiative to help the child in his/her growth. These lessons are almost always given on an individual basis to the child. The three main characteristics of a fundamental lesson are brevity, simplicity and objectivity. By speaking very few words, the teacher effectively shows the concept that is hidden in the materials. This allows for self-exploration by the child. The lesson needs to be presented in a simple non-complicated manner to avoid confusing the child. The teacher must entirely fade away in the presentation, where the main focus should be on the object being presented to the child and its use to the child. The important pre-requisite for a fundamental lesson is that the teacher be extremely thorough, both in knowledge and presentation, to the child. The teacher should also have an acute sense of observation where he/she judges if the child is ready to learn this new lesson and also observes during the presentation if this child shows keen interest in the object. If the child seems distracted, uninterested or not ready, the teacher smiles and puts the work away for another day. If the child has grasped the essence, picks up the work after being invited to do so and starts to work with it, then the teacher observes from far without interference. Knowing its use is merely a first step in the process of knowledge acquisition. When the child constantly repeats the activity, it’s inner needs are met and a true mastery of the work occurs. So a simple activity, such as pouring grains from one pitcher to the other, is presented as follows; The child is invited for a lesson, then the child follows the teacher to the activity and they both sit down at the table in a position such that the child is able to watch the lesson, then the teacher shows the special pincer grip to hold the pitcher’s handle and then slowly and deliberately pours the grain into the other pitcher. She then places the empty pitcher noiselessly back on the tray and then repeats with the other pitcher so that the grains are back in the original pitcher. Throughout this demonstration, care is taken to ensure that the points of interest are highlighted and the child is joyfully engaged. The materials are autocorrecting so this also enables the child to function confidently as the feedback is from the material itself. No adult is correcting the child as this hampers their self-esteem (causing the child to be hesitant to learn something new). This is much in contrast to the traditional preschools where there is a group learning and all children are shown a task as a large group; there is no attempt to observing the individual child and his/her capacities and incapacities. Secondly, the child is given the freedom to repeat the activity and is actively encouraged to do so. This helps in the mastery of the activity and enables the child to function with renewed confidence. It helps with the ultimate goal of creation of a free and independent child. This is also an opportunity for the teacher to observe and correct her own assessment of whether the task is developmentally appropriate for that child or not. The teacher can then assess what task can be presented to the child next. This is why Montessori is the only pedagogy where learning is one hundred percent individualised.
Aims & Goals
Direct AimThe aim and purpose of the PL activities are multi-faceted. They have direct and indirect purposes linked to them. The direct aims are what the activity is intended for, such as the buttoning frame teaches the child to button himself/herself. It teaches the child that movements should be measured and geared to a purpose. Movement is intrinsic in the Montessori environment because the genius in Dr. Montessori identified, a long time ago, that the intellect has direct correlation to movement. She knew that the movement is the tool which will employ the body in the service of the mind to fulfill a purposeful goal.
ConcentrationPL activities also have many indirect goals as well. These activities are aimed at teaching the child order and precision by incorporating a series of steps. This, in turn, increases the child’s ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand. This concentration develops independence, which leads to an emotionally mature and evolved child who is ready to face the challenges in the real world.
IndependenceFreedom of choice is one of the guiding principles in the prepared environment. Dr. Montessori believed that the child reveals his/her true self only in an atmosphere of freedom. Free choice enables a child to be independent and make responsible choices, clearly satisfying an inner need. For example, an activity like polishing a metal has a precise order to it and follows a sequence of steps. Children at this age are in the sensitive period for order and they are thirsty for such activities. They are free to choose an activity as often as they want and whenever they like. Activities, such as polishing, in addition to building their concentration also teaches them to care for the environment around them. Thus, one work tends to have multiple purposes and discretely prepares the child in a holistic way to face the later life challenges successfully.
Grace & CourtesyAll of the PL activities have an inbuilt component of Grace and Courtesy. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy towards education was far from being viewed as mere academics. It was about raising the whole child to seamlessly fit into the world around him/her and be a responsible citizen of the world. The lessons include explicit instructions on how to say please and thank you, how to politely interrupt someone, etc. This is not only key to the well-being of the child, but enhances the social skills of the child as well. All the food preparation activities involve the child walking around the classroom with the cucumbers he/she has sliced or the carrots that he/she has grated and share it with her peers and teachers. The amount of pride that a child experiences by doing real adult activities is unparalleled. It generates a very positive work ethic in a child from a very young age and raises confident children.
“There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in some way in the senses, and senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge”"- Maria Montessori Exploration has been a predominant force in the human development and even a child, right from birth, learns about its environment by exploration and adaptation. As Dr. Montessori herself has noted in “The Discovery of the Child”, a child of two and half to three years comes in with a host of impressions that it has absorbed by exploring its environment, both physically and mentally. This leads to a collection of confused, but significant, wealth in its mind. It is here that the sensorial materials help in establishing clarity and order in the child’s mind, by distinguishing the accidental from the essential knowledge. Dr. Montessori called the child a “sensorial explorer” at this age. The sensorial exercises help the child understand and classify things around him/her in a more rational way, thereby laying the foundation for true intellectual freedom. The sensorial area in the classroom aims at refining the senses that the child already has innately. The exercises of practical life establish a sense of order and a deep understanding of the process. The sensorial exercises then act further on this sense of order and refine the senses. These exercises improve the child’s concentration and enhance the child’s knowledge of the world around him/her. Concentration, in turn, leads to independence and unleashes the creativity in the child. These exercises help the child understand the subtle variations in the things around his/her environment, such as shape, texture, colour, taste, etc. It plays a major role in enhancing the hand-eye coordination. This training and sharpening of senses has obvious advantages in developing precision and accuracy, which is extremely important in fields such as architecture, scientific research and many such fields. Modern research has shown the link between limited sensory exposure and the rise of neurological disorders in the child. This clearly attests to the importance of this area in the classroom.
The Anthea WayMontessori materials are designed to cover a wide area of senses as follows;
- Sight (Visual sense) – helps discriminate between objects based on sight. The activities in this section are classified further by size (such as pink towers), colour (such as colour tablets) and form (such as the cylinder blocks).
- Touch (Tactile sense) – helps understand different surfaces in the environment; for example, rough and smooth boards help sensitize the child’s hands for difference in texture, and activities such as rough and smooth tablets show gradation and progressive increase in difficulty to challenge the mind.
- Sound (Auditory sense) – helps refine the auditory sense and understand the nuances of sounds around the child. The sound Cylinders show the child minute differences in sound quality and the bells teach the child varying pitches, while also inculcating a love of music in the child.
- Taste (Gustatory sense) – helps refine the taste buds and provide a better understanding of various tastes in the child’s world. The tasting jars activity introduces tastes, such as sweet, salty, bitter, etc. and enhances the child’s knowledge of the world around him/her.
- Smell (Olfactory sense) – helps the child refine the sense of smell and help differentiate one smell from another. For example, in the smelling jars activity the pungent and sweet smells invite many reactions from the children.
- Temperature (Thermic) – helps the child enhance the thermic sense. For example, the thermic bottles activity introduces the sense of hot, cold and neutral temperature.
- Weight (Baric) – helps the child understand the differences in weight and pressure. The baric tablets are very attractive to the child and discretely teach them the concept of weight.
- Stereognostic Sense – This refers to the muscular memory that a child develops by merely moving his/her hands over and around an object to get a sense of what the object is and how it feels in weight, shape, size and form. This leads to a special memory in the child’s brain. This sense is extremely important when the child learns to make abstractions. This sense reduces any frustration that comes with the child’s new learning process. The mystery bag and geometric solids are very popular because of the “mystery” factor associated with it. Children love this work and it is often repeated in our classroom.
Aims & GoalsResearch has now clearly validated that stimulating the senses that send signals to the brain strengthens the neural pathways for learning. This area of the Montessori classroom clearly helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively. Sensorial exercises help prepare the child for intellectual development in an orderly manner.
Direct AimSensorial materials are attractively designed to entice and engage the child to work with it. It has multifaceted purposes especially relating to the child’s development - physically, socially and cognitively. All the sensorial materials have the direct aim of refining the pincer grip, and hence help in preparation for the task of writing, in addition to developing the particular sense as described above.
Increased focus and concentrationThe pink tower and broad stairs inculcate a sense of order, patience and movement, as the child patiently goes back and forth to build the tower and disassemble it and rebuild on the stand. By this repetitive motion, the children perfect themselves while also simultaneously building social skills as these works tend to be used by two children. Movement is beautifully infused into many of the sensorial materials, as Dr. Montessori had recognized a century ago the connection between movement and intelligence. She designed a method of education that not only respected the child’s drive for movement, but used it to enhance their cognitive abilities. This is a striking difference between traditional and Montessori schools, and is attributed as a key factor in the success of the Montessori children.
Conceptual base for advanced subjectsMany of the sensorial materials lay the foundation for other subjects, such as Mathematics, geometry, music and geography, through indirect preparation and the use of materialized abstractions. The beauty of this method though is that, irrespective of how abstract a concept is, the materials are extremely concrete and easily manipulated by the child. The binomial and trinomial cubes are physical representations of complex algebraic equations, but still the children work so easily with it. They are passively absorbing the concept, which will yield them success in their later school years. They create beautiful extensions and this creativity taps into their cognitive skills.
Enhanced observational skillsThe materials are so designed that the variation amongst them is very subtle and will require a sharpness of a particular sense to distinguish the difference. This aids in developing an acute sense of observation and heightened awareness of the world around them.
Self-Reliance and confidenceBy the time our children leave Anthea at 6 years, they would have developed a deep sense of observation of the world around them and a desire to work diligently on any given problem. This discipline enhances their cognitive abilities and, in turn, strengthens their mental resolve to see a task, cognitive or otherwise, to completion and yields, ultimately results in a child who is self reliant and ready to take on the challenges of Grade 1 and above, with grit and cheer.
“Not only does language fuse men into groups and nations, but it is the central point of difference between the human species and all others. Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization” One of the most fascinating and mysterious process is the child’s ability to speak and communicate. Language is one of the key features which distinguishes humans from other species. Each human has the capacity to use language to express ideas in a unique way. It is unique to each culture and can be a powerful tool, for advancing our thoughts and bringing human beings together. In a sense, it is the root of our civilization. The Language area is at the heart of an Early Childhood classroom, as it encompasses works from all the other areas of the classroom, especially Science and Culture. In fact, it is not relegated to merely works but is also is omnipresent in a sense. Language skills acquisition starts as soon as the child enters the classroom with his/her greeting and socializing. We all know how children easily learn from each other; hence the classroom with many children is an ideal place for learning language. Modern research now has shown that the development of language skills begins soon after conception, and babies in the womb clearly absorb and hear what goes on in the environment around them. Hence an open and balanced environment is the most conducive way to language learning, which we provide abundantly at Anthea!
The Anthea WayThere is a lot of indirect preparation involved in the Language curriculum. There are three components involved – speaking (includes sentence structure, clarity and correct usage of grammar), writing (involves proper grip and clear handwriting) and reading with confidence. All of these components are intermingled in a Montessori classroom in all the areas. For example, the Practical Life and Sensorial areas help refine the pincer grip, which helps in preparation for writing. These areas also gradually include vocabulary to enhance the child’s repertoire of spoken language. This is one area where our teachers shine in their exemplary knowledge of child development and understanding of milestones. Our teachers are trained to keenly observe the child and identify any red flags, such as delayed speech, and other signs.
Oral LanguageDevelopment of the oral language skills starts as early as 18 months from our Stepping Stones program. The children are exposed to a wide variety of opportunities to absorb meaningful language from the environment. A typical child of 2.5+ years that comes into a Primary classroom has been exposed to a wide variety of languages at home and other environments, and has been absorbing the information unconsciously through the Absorbent Mind. The child is in a sensitive period for Language and Order, and is eager to explore the environment around her. The role of a Montessori educator is to provide an intellectually nourishing environment, which is not only constructed upon the child’s existing knowledge of Language but also adds to it, thus enriching the experience for the child. We also ensure that we are able to boost the confidence of this child by enabling him/her to name, classify and segregate the environment around her and express her learning confidently. Strong Oral Language skills set the base for further expansion of the child into reading, writing and creatively expressing herself. In addition, he/she must be given adequate space and confidence to speak at small or large group settings about positive and factual experiences. This will positively impact the child and promote freedom of expression. The child must be exposed to clear and rich language so that she can emulate such behaviour. Our first year children (around 2.5+ years) enjoy learning the names of tools, household items and other familiar items in the immediate environment, thus Nomenclature, Vocabulary enrichment and conversational pictures are very key lessons for this age group. An astute adult will constantly enhance and refine the literacy skills of the children by changing the visually discrimination works, such as object matching and picture-picture matching. Thus, nouns adjectives and other parts of speech are offered in an informal way to expand the academic capabilities of the child. Snack table, library and peace table are all different areas in the classroom which work on enhancing grace and courtesy among children. These simultaneously work on social skills and improve their vocabulary.
WritingDevelopment of the oral language skills starts as early as 18 months from our Stepping Stones program. The children are exposed to a wide variety of opportunities to absorb meaningful language from the environment. A typical child of 2.5+ years that comes into a Primary classroom has been exposed to a wide variety of languages at home and other environments, and has been absorbing the information unconsciously through the Absorbent Mind. The child is in a sensitive period for Language and Order, and is eager to explore the environment around her. The role of a Montessori educator is to provide an intellectually nourishing environment, which is not only constructed upon the child’s existing knowledge of Language but also adds to it, thus enriching the experience for the child. We also ensure that we are able to boost the confidence of this child by enabling him/her to name, classify and segregate the environment around her and express her learning confidently. Strong Oral Language skills set the base for further expansion of the child into reading, writing and creatively expressing herself. In addition, he/she must be given adequate space and confidence to speak at small or large group settings about positive and factual experiences. This will positively impact the child and promote freedom of expression. The child must be exposed to clear and rich language so that she can emulate such behaviour. Our first year children (around 2.5+ years) enjoy learning the names of tools, household items and other familiar items in the immediate environment, thus Nomenclature, Vocabulary enrichment and conversational pictures are very key lessons for this age group. An astute adult will constantly enhance and refine the literacy skills of the children by changing the visually discrimination works, such as object matching and picture-picture matching. Thus, nouns adjectives and other parts of speech are offered in an informal way to expand the academic capabilities of the child. Snack table, library and peace table are all different areas in the classroom which work on enhancing grace and courtesy among children. These simultaneously work on social skills and improve their vocabulary.
Indirect PreparationThe preparation for writing at Anthea begins very early on, right from the Stepping Stones program. Children as young as 18 months are shown materials in the Practical Life and Sensorial Area that refine the gross / fine motor and the pincer grip (pencil holding grip). They work with sandpaper letters, which help with understanding the formation of the letter, so that when they actually start writing they have a good understanding of how to write the letter.
Direct PreparationThe skills mentioned above help the child hold the pencil correctly and then, when the teacher decides that the child is ready to hold the pencil, he/she is introduced to the metal insets. The metal insets are a delightful way to introduce the child to the love of writing. The child traces any of the ten geometric shapes and starts to fill inside the shape with undulating lines. This helps the child learn control and proper wrist movement necessary for writing. The resulting patterns excite the child and hold their interest for a long time. It is a great tool to creatively express themselves and directly helps in improving their writing skill. This is in sharp contrast to traditional schools, where a pencil is forced upon the child at a predetermined age and the child is made to draw sleeping and standing lines with no room for creative expression. Like with every other subject, the child is never enthused about learning, and looks at it like a chore instead!
Phonemic AwarenessEnglish and other vernacular languages (Telugu and Hindi) are taught only with a phonics approach. The initial preparation starts in the Stepping Stones program, where the child is introduced to sound games such as ‘I spy’. The teacher brings out a box of miniature objects (mostly familiar to the child, such as cat, mouse, tiger, etc.) and focuses on the beginning sounds, and slowly and clearly emphasizes the sound of the letter. The name of the alphabet is not introduced to the child initially. After the child has a good knowledge of the initial sounds in words, the child is then exposed to last sounds and then other sounds in the word. This practice is done extensively before the child is moved to the next tool – Moveable alphabets. The teacher’s knowledge of the sensitive periods for learning language is very crucial for the child’s success in reading and writing. Sensitive periods is a key term used in the Montessori pedagogy and refers to the important periods in a child’s development where “acquisition” of a particular skill or knowledge happens with ease, that is, absorption happens without a conscious effort by the child. If this period is missed then the child is no longer drawn towards it and formal “learning” has to occur, which appeals much less to the child. Thus knowing the sensitive period greatly facilitates easy teaching. The children in the sensitive period for word composition will be seen uttering the initial sounds or syllables of their names or a newly learnt word’s initial sound. He/She will show voluntary interest in figuring out the sounds and keen observation of spoken language in the classroom. He/She will be seen tracing or watching other children getting Sand Paper Letter (SPL) lessons. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the children have sufficient hand control, as the sandpaper letters use a multi sensory approach to learning sounds by using the sight, auditory and tactile senses. This inculcates a stereognostic memory of the alphabet and its sound. The letters are presented in a sequence such that the child is set up for success. For example, “b” and “d” are not introduced right after each other as the child could get confused. After the child has mastered 10-12 sounds, he/she moves onto the Moveable Alphabet (MA). The other didactic material introduced by Dr. Montessori, which helps in sound recognition, is the MA. This helps in putting the sounds in a logical order to form a word. So the child is writing much before physical writing with a pencil. This is a fairly involved process as it requires breaking the phonetic word into its smallest elements, looking for the appropriate letter from the MA box and then placing them in the correct order to make the sound again! For example, to make the word cat, the child sounds out the first sound “cuh” (and not the letter name “see”) and then sounds out “a” and then “t” respectively, and takes the letters out of MA and dictates to himself/herself. The children are not corrected at this stage as it curbs their creativity and curiosity. Care is taken to ensure that the children are not reading at this stage as reading requires a higher level of intellectual development. Phonemics can be considered as a crucial bridge to reading. It reinforces the knowledge of sounds and, more importantly, the coming together of sounds to make a word. When a child is capable of reading a word that was just made with the MA, then he/she is ready to be introduced to phonetic word matching with objects/pictures. These objects or pictures serve as clues and are a more concrete form of learning. This is a significant shift in the child’s academic capability, as decoding is a skill that recruits higher intellectual faculties when compared to writing. When the child has worked with these for a while, the clues are removed and the child is asked to read short vowel booklets thus becoming more abstract. They then move onto mixed vowels and, eventually, to phonograms. This is the part of English language where new rules are introduced, such as phonograms and silent E. In phonograms, two sounds come together to make a whole new sound, such as “s” and “h” make the “sh” sound. The child is allowed to work extensively with many phonograms. Silent “e” works demonstrate the easiest way to make a long vowel sound by adding an e at the end of a word, such as cap and cape. Phonemic lessons give the child a very strong base to work with reading and ensure that the child can take on reading with pleasure, and it is not a painful process anymore. Reading is a great tool by which the child not only learns more about the world he/she lives in, but also enables the child to explore his/her personality and develop his/her intellect. It should be a joyful discovery and the joy on the children’s face when they are able to read their first words cannot be described! Even they realize how much more empowered they are with this new found success. However, it can be a daunting experience if it is not approached correctly. This is why the Montessori pedagogy indirectly prepares the children for reading by having all the PL and sensorial activities from left to right and top to bottom, thereby indirectly training the eye for reading and visual perception. The other skill needed to enable the child for success in reading is to build a strong foundation in building (encode) words and phonics. The understanding that sounds come together to make words is profound for the new reader and all this preparation makes the transition to decode or read smooth. The Montessori reading curriculum then slowly exposes the child to sight words and lessons, such as favorite words, which entice the child to read. Lessons such as phrases and sentences help the child develop an understanding of how sequence of words put together make a meaningful sentence. Out teachers look for signs of children who are in the sensitive period for reading. They are typically making words and reading them back. They are also seen doing pretend reading and peeking into others’ works and reading out their works, etc. They then hone in on this observation and start the child on the path to reading the language joyfully. Children at this age should read very meaningful and beautifully illustrated stories with rich language. This is a great way to inculcate a love of reading, and develops comprehension skills. This then leads us to the choice of children’s literature in the classroom; one should be very judicious in their choice of books for this age range. Access to good books is an important step in developing the love of reading. Children in this age do not clearly understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and hence absorb all that is around them. Stories are a great way to teach children about their environment, hence books should be chosen that are either real or could be real. The content of the book should be such that it should enhance the child’s vocabulary. Hence books that are too choppy or simplistic may not appeal to their higher faculties and is best avoided. The illustrations should be taken into consideration as well, especially for the non-readers. It is a good idea for the library to be stocked with artistic and well-illustrated picture books to entice the non-readers towards books and get them used to the idea of reading a book. The entire classroom is steeped in beauty and aesthetics, and the same sense should pervade the books as well. One should be looking for books whose illustrations are realistic and detailed, not animated and over simplified. Real life stills and beautiful art will enhance the pleasure of reading. The study of Montessori Grammar is a delightful way to teach parts of speech to a child that has begun reading. It is the framework and building block of our written and spoken language. Montessori approach to Grammar is the most fascinating aspect of the curriculum. It is so grounded in the concrete that it makes learning important, and difficult concepts fun and dramatic. They use ancient grammar symbols to give visual cues to identify nouns, verb adjectives, etc. and this makes creative expression a pleasure. Creative expression is the ultimate form of self-expression by a child. This is because the child is ultimately able to go through the multiple steps of conceiving an idea, then collating the thoughts and then encoding them by writing it and expressing himself freely. This is a paradigm shift in the cognitive ability of a child. The skills mentioned above help the child hold the pencil correctly and then, when the teacher decides that the child is ready to hold the pencil, he/she is introduced to the metal insets. The metal insets are a delightful way to introduce the child to the love of writing. The child traces any of the ten geometric shapes and starts to fill inside the shape with undulating lines. This helps the child learn control and proper wrist movement necessary for writing. The resulting patterns excite the child and hold their interest for a long time. It is a great tool to creatively express themselves and directly helps in improving their writing skill. This is in sharp contrast to traditional schools, where a pencil is forced upon the child at a predetermined age and the child is made to draw sleeping and standing lines with no room for creative expression. Like with every other subject, the child is never enthused about learning, and looks at it like a chore instead!
Aims & GoalsAnthea graduates, at six years of age, typically write paragraphs in English and clearly identify parts of speech, such as Noun, Verb, Adjective, etc. This is very much in contrast to any preschool in the country where the most that a 6 year old knows is writing a few sentences at best. In regular schools, Grammar is typically taught from Grade one onwards, whereas our graduates are armed with a solid understanding of semantics and parts of speech! Our children have an expanded vocabulary, which ranges from a wide variety of topics in Geography, Science and Culture. Our children can write legibly in cursive and print, and compose short narratives. Our environments are infused with the necessary tools for advancement of beautiful language, including recitation of poetry, reading books and inviting the capable children to compose their own poems and displaying it. This helps the child connect with the finer aspects of life and helps develop an appreciation of art. This will enable the child to embark on a life long journey of language exploration.
“In its natural state the human mind is already mathematical: it tends toward exactness, measure and comparison.” ~Maria Montessori (The Absorbent Mind) Mathematics is one of the most hotly debated topics when it comes to comparisons between the traditional education and constructivist education methods. In traditional instruction, children are assumed to learn by internalizing abstract concepts; teachers simply correct the errors and present the right answer. In the Montessori Method, the children are allowed to manipulate the concepts by hand concretely. They are given the time to understand how numbers relate to one another and then they are slowly taken through the abstract process. Many adults and children, who have learnt Math the traditional way, perceive it as a cold and boring topic with many abstract symbols, far removed from the world around us. This myth was broken by the genius of Dr. Montessori, who knew that Math is all around us in so many ways without us even realizing it. In fact Mathematics is a product of thousands of years of evolution, which humans used as a tool to express and relay quantitative information of the surroundings around them. Montessori also discovered that children between 3-6 years of age were in their sensitive period for sensorial discoveries. To meet the needs of these sensitive periods, she designed didactic materials that involve the use of the senses, the hand, and the mind. As they absorb this sensory information, they begin to discriminate and create an internal order. Montessori believed that children who absorbed information using their senses during this sensitive period would later on use this information for higher intellectual faculties, which she called, the Mathematical Mind. Dr. Maria Montessori has very succinctly put forward this concept as follows; “In its natural state the human mind is already mathematical: it tends toward exactness, measure and comparison.” ~Maria Montessori (The Absorbent Mind). All children are born with this mathematical mind. They have a natural propensity to absorb things which bring order into their lives. Order is the fundamental basis of the development of the Mathematical Mind. Since Maths is such an exact science, it naturally appeals to the child’s inner needs. If it is not presented to the child in the right way and at the correct time, his/her subconscious mind will reject it and not accept it at a later date They are based in concrete initially, such that a child develops a clear concept in his/her mind that he/she can gradually and surely abstract and create a world of innumerable possibilities.
The Anthea WayThe Montessori math curriculum is intricately intertwined with the sensorial curriculum for this exact reason. The sensorial curriculum teaches children about relationships between objects, shapes, dimensions and amounts. Many sensorial materials, like the tower of cubes, refine the visual sense to discriminate between sizes. They help the child experience the concept of 10, the basis of our decimal system, in an indirect fashion. The Sensorial materials like the Math materials are exact in nature. They are presented in an exact sequence and are used by the child precisely in the same manner. It teaches the child how to compare and classify the environment based on differences in size, color and texture, amongst other senses. Children get visual and muscular impressions of plane and 3-dimensional shapes with the geometric cabinet and the geometric solids respectively. The Binomial and Trinomial cubes allow the child to have an early sensorial experience of materials that have a foundation in geometry and algebra. The child learns the concept of long / longer / longest while using the red rods and is indirectly absorbing the concept of measurement. In a way, the sensorial area is the foundation on which the mathematical construction happens. Montessori math begins with the concept of 1 – 10 or Numeration. The child is first introduced to these quantities in isolation and in concrete forms. The six materials in Numeration section to be presented to the child in order are as follows; Number Rods, Sandpaper Numbers, Number Rods and Cards, Spindle Boxes, Cards and Counters, and Memory Game. The Montessori philosophy is based on a clear and unambiguous understanding of the concept first, especially in mathematics. All the materials are so designed that the children learn extensively with concrete hands-on experience first and then move on to understanding more abstract concepts later. This same principle is used in presenting the Numeration lessons to the child as well. First, we start with the number rods; purpose is to learn numbers from 1-10 in sequence and teach the names of the numbers. Care is taken to ensure that at this stage no number sign (such as 1, 2, and 3) is introduced. The child is merely taught the sequence as the smallest red rod as 1, and the next red and blue rod as 2, and so on. The focus is on the lesson being pure and simple. Once the teacher is sure that the child has understood the sequence from 1-10 clearly, we then move to sandpaper numerals. In math, we always present quantity first before we present the symbol. Once the quantity is etched well in the child’s mind we move to the symbol, which, in this case, are the sandpaper numerals. This lesson’s sole aim is to teach the child the symbol associated with numeration 0-9 and develop a visual and kinesthetic memory of the numerals. Once the quantity and symbol are both well understood, it is then that the teacher moves on to the association phase, where both the quantity and symbol are associated and the child internalizes the whole concept. In case of the above example, the number rods and cards will be the association lesson for the child to learn fully the concept of quantity and symbol of number from 1-10. In case of the spindle boxes (more concrete), it is the same progression where the quantity is loose but symbol is fixed. In the cards and counters, the symbol and quantity are both loose (more abstract). The memory game is the most abstract, where the children have internalized the numbers so well that they know exactly what number to bring back. The child is then introduced to the Decimal System. After mastery of numbers one to ten, the child is taken into the awe-inspiring world of decimal operations. The children are shown the golden bead materials where they manipulate one-unit bead, a string of ten beads (one ten bar) and string of ten, ten beads to make one hundred square and ten squares to make a 1000 cube. The child can concretely work with these beads and the corresponding cards to form four digit numbers. Such big numbers are not daunting to a four and half year-old child who understands place value very well. The child then spends enough time with these materials to solidify their knowledge in various operations, such as addition of four-digit numbers, subtraction, multiplication and division operations. In parallel, the child is learning linear numeration up to 100! The concept of concrete to abstract is a very oft used term in this method. It is a logical progression of materials in the classroom and the way it is introduced to a child. Care is taken that the child gets enough concrete experience and the concept is solidified in the child’s brain before moving on to the abstract parts. It is introduced to the child when it is developmentally appropriate. This is extremely important as the child forms its foundations in these concrete concepts. Care is taken by the guide to ensure that the child is not rushed into the abstract too soon before solidifying its needs with the concrete materials. The critics of the system, who do not properly understand the Montessori method, are often quick to point out this reliance on materials as a “crutch” that will render the child incapable of working without them. This is totally incorrect. As Dr. Montessori aptly said, the child of the mind who is working with the materials is not like a tethered balloon, but like an airplane that has to run on the ground for a while before it takes off and reaches the sky by itself. When the right moment occurs, the child will take off to a different plane of creativity, where he/she will operate more creatively and freely. Just as the airplane needs to come back to the earth to refuel, so will the child come back for fresh experiences with the concrete to be able to take off on another flight (E M Standing, Her life and work Pg. 168).
Aims & GoalsThe role of the adult becomes very important in ensuring success for the child. The Montessori pedagogy does not believe in correcting a child’s mistakes as the environment is self correcting; if you do not carry the tray properly, things spill so the next time the child would know to walk carefully on its own. Many materials in sensorial are self correcting and have a built in control of error. In math, care must be taken, as the teacher tends to be the control of error in many works. When they are constantly corrected, children learn to be afraid of making mistakes. They begin to limit their exploration and cease to try new or challenging work. By allowing children to self-correct and learn from their mistakes, we teach them that the purpose of work is not just about getting the right answers. It is about the process of learning to learn and enjoying the knowledge, rather than focusing on competing to get the right answer. The idea is to satiate the child’s inner need through work. Parents need to be educated in this philosophy, as most of the pressure on the child does tend to come from home. The parents who do not understand the philosophy might justifiably get worried about the wrong answers, numerals written backwards, etc. Parent education workshops on the curriculum are a great way to address this issue and, hopefully, once they see how involved the process is they would be reassured. At Anthea, we consider it our responsibility to help our parents come on board this remarkable journey and discuss the math curriculum at length with them. We impress upon them that accuracy is not the aim but the process is the key focus. We invite them into the classroom and show them how involved the works are and how much legwork it entails. The child reveals itself through its work. A careful guide is one who observes her children keenly, and takes the child further along by introducing new concepts when developmentally appropriate. The goals for a typical first year student at Anthea (3.5+ years) would be to be proficient in all numeration lessons. The aim is to ensure that they have a firm understanding of quantity and symbol, and association between the two. If the guide observes and sees that the child is very comfortable in this, we can then move the child along to decimal system and teen lessons in parallel. The goals for a second-year student (4.5+ years) are to typically revise numeration, continue decimal system, linear counting including skip counting, fetching, bank games for static addition, addition strip boards and short bead stair addition. The typical goals for a third year student (5.5 + years) is to work with all the memorization works, dot game, snake game and word problems.
"Let us give the child a vision of the whole universe…for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” (To Educate the Human Potential) – Dr. Maria Montessori The cultural area of our classroom encompasses Geography, Science, Art and Music. When a child is born it belongs to a family, but as the child grows up, the world around him/her and his/her role in it expands. The goal of the Montessori Culture curriculum is to make the child realize the vastness of the universe and how he/she is interconnected to not just other people but also to the nature around him/her. This induces a sense of respect and responsibility to preserve this unit in its entirety. This can occur only when the child experiences the world slowly and deliberately, internalizing the observations and discoveries, thus engaging in the process of self-construction. This solid foundation forms the basis of what the child carries forward into adulthood, and spreads peace and joy in his/her environment.