The Practical Life area is importantpart of a Montessori classroom environment. The child develops many skills while working in this area. Some of these skills include: self care, caring for the environment and independence. Dr. Montessori wrote:
“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist
them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them
into those kinds of activities which they can perform themselves and
which keep them from being a burden to others because of their
inabilities. We must help them to learn to walk without assistance,
to run, to go up and down stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and
undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs in a way that is
clearly understood and to attempt to satisfy their desires through
their own efforts. All of this is part of an education for independence.”
Learning independent skills help a child develop a healthy sense of self, but also an awareness that s/he can make a contribution to the classroom and to their own family community. Independence is encouraged at home to in order to complement what is happening at school.
Practical Life activities include: preparing food, cleaning up, taking care of plants and animals, gardening, getting dressed and taking care of clothes.
The Practical Life area has even more important learning objectives which include facilitating a smooth transition to school by providing familiar activities, to develop concentration, to develop fine and gross motor skills, to develop problem solving skills and logical thought processes.
The purpose and aim of Sensorial work is for the child to acquire clear, conscious, information and to be able to then make classifications in his environment. Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through his senses, the child studies his environment. Through this study, the child then begins to understand his environment. The child, to Montessori, is a “sensorial explorer”.
Through work with the sensorial materials, the child is given the keys to classifying the things around him, which leads to the child making his own experiences in his environment.
Sensorial Exercises were designed by Montessori to cover every quality that can be perceived by the senses such as size, shape, composition, texture, loudness or softness, matching, weight, temperature, etc. Because the Exercises cover such a wide range of senses, Montessori categorized the Exercises into eight different groups: Visual, Tactile, Baric, Thermic, Auditory, Olfactory, Gustatory, and Stereognostic.
Montessori saw the importance of the manipulation of objects to aid the child in better understanding his environment. Through the child’s work with Sensorial material, the child is helped to make abstractions, he is helped in making distinctions in his environment, and the child is given the knowledge not through word of mouth, but through his own experiences.
Language is a system of symbols with an agreed upon meaning that is used by a group of people. Language is a means of communication ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized sounds and signs, thus, being the spoken and written language.
When the child arrives in the Montessori classroom, he has fully absorbed his culture’s language. He has already constructed the spoken language and with his entry into the classroom, he will begin to consolidate the spoken language and begin to explore the written forms of language. Language is involved in the process of thinking, so the child will need to be spoken to and listened to often. The child will need a broad exposure to language, with correct articulation, enunciation, and punctuation. The child will need to experience different modes of language and to hear and tell stories. Most importantly, the child needs to feel free and be encouraged to communicate with others. With the child’s absorbent mind the child by age six will have reached the 3rd point of consciousness in language where he understands that sounds and words have meaning and that these symbols can be used in writing. He will become fully articulate, he will be able to express himself in writing, he will be able to read with ease, and have a full comprehension of the thoughts of others.
To help the child in his development in language, the child is learning at his own rhythm. This allows the child to concentrate on the learning of each important step in language so that each progressive step is done easily and without any thought on the part of the child. The special material also plays an important role in aiding the child develop the powers of communication and expression, of organization and classification, and the development of thought.
As the child leaves the Montessori classroom after the age of six, he will have become an articulate person, being able to communicate his feelings in well-formed sentences and in writing. He will be able to write these thoughts and feelings in a skillful handwriting. He will have the ability to write in different styles and about a variety of subjects. The child will have total reading and a sense of the home language at a level where he will be the master of his words.
The Montessori Mathematics curriculum consists of hands-on learning materials, detailed lessons, one-on-one instruction, and deep levels of understanding the process of numeration.
Dr. Montessori was fond of quoting the French philosopher and mathematician, Pascal, who said that all humans have a “mathematical mind”. Montessori believed this to be especially true for children. They explore the world by organizing and categorizing what they find and they love to find patterns in the world.
Children in the Montessori classroom have the opportunity to learn many mathematical concepts before they are six years old. They’ll begin with very concrete materials and gradually progress to abstract concepts. They learn to recognize, recite and eventually to write the numerals one through one thousand, and to associate those numerals with the appropriate quantities (number).
Younger children work with the Number Rods, Spindle Boxes, Sandpaper Numerals or Numerals and Counters as they absorb information about the concept of zero and even & odd numbers. When these concepts are understood they’ll enjoy the Ten and Teen Boards, the Hundred Board and the Long Bead Chains. As the children progress, opportunities for learning addition, multiplication, subtraction and division are explored. When they’re ready, the older ones can be introduced to the memorization of basic number facts and often embark on the “path to abstraction” with variations on the Stamp Game. They also love the Dot Game and the Small Bead Frame to expand their experiences and understanding of mathematical processes.
The Montessori math curriculum is varied and challenging – but never forced upon the children. They love these materials! They’re colorful and fun to work with, intricate and beautiful. Math is fun, and has little to do with memorizing formulas without understanding the logic behind them. It’s a positive and effective method to introduce Math to young children.
Dr. Montessori called science, history, social studies and geography the “cultural subjects” because she believed that the knowledge and understanding of these subjects is what makes the difference between a “literate” person and a “cultured” person. Today we might use the term “educated”.
The Montessori cultural studies is another area that makes a Montessori classroom so different from other classrooms. The cultural subjects are taught in a very specific order, (big picture to smaller parts), and integrated into the curriculum. Eventually, after the foundation of each of the individual cultural areas is set, the study of the individual areas are then integrated into each other as well as the core curriculum, creating a deeper understanding of the world and the interconnectedness of everything in it.