Children begin by learning the phonetic sounds of the alphabet and use their growing knowledge to read and write increasingly complex words and sentences.
We begin to teach very young children the functions of grammar and sentence structure to students as young as first grade, just as they are first learning how to put words together to express themselves. This leads them to master these vital skills during a time in their lives when it is a delight, rather than a chore.
During the Elementary years, we increasingly focus on the development of research and composition skills. Our students write every day, learning to organize increasingly complex ideas and information into well written stories, poems, and reports.
Because of our multi-age classroom design, our youngest students are constantly exposed to the older children in the class who are already reading. The total environment of the Primary class (3 to 6 years-old) tends to create and reinforce in our young children a spontaneous interest in learning how to read. We begin to teach reading as soon as that interest is first expressed.
Control of the hand in preparation for writing is developed through many exercises, including specially designed tasks in the use of the pencil. Such exercises begin with very young children and extend over several years so that mastery is gradually, but thoroughly, attained.
Children begin to spell using the moveable alphabet to sound out and spell words as they are first learning to read.
Continued study of phonograms
The study of grammar begins almost immediately after the child begins to read, during the sensitive period when he is spontaneously interested in language. It continues over several years until mastered. The idea is to introduce grammar to the young child as she is first learning how to put thoughts down on paper, when the process is natural and interesting, rather than waiting until the student is much older and finds the work tedious.
We introduce our children to the function of the parts of speech one at a time through many games and exercises that isolate the one element under study. The younger children gain the concept of a noun by labeling objects with written name tags and to recognize verbs by reading a card with a simple command printed out (such as run or sit) and demonstrate their understanding by acting it out. As their reading vocabulary increases, verbal commands involve full sentences and multiple steps: “Place the mat on the table and bring back a red pencil.” At this level, each part of speech is studied in a simple, concrete way. Montessori has assigned a geometric symbol to represent each element of grammar. (For example, verbs are represented by a large red circle.) The older children analyze sentences by placing the symbols for the appropriate part of speech over each word.
Learning the numbers and number symbols one to ten.
Introduction to the decimal system: Units, tens, hundreds, thousands are represented by specially prepared concrete learning materials that show the decimal hierarchy in three dimensional form: units = single beads, tens = a bar of 10 units, hundreds = 10 ten bars fastened together into a square, thousands = a cube ten units long ten units wide and ten units high. The children learn to first recognize the quantities, then to form numbers with the bead or cube materials through 9,999 and to read them back, to read and write numerals up to 9,999, and to exchange equivalent quantities of units for tens, tens for hundreds, etc.
Development of the concept of the four basic mathematical operations: addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication through work with the Montessori Golden Bead Material. The child builds numbers with the bead material and performs mathematical operations concretely. Work with this material over a long period is critical to the full understanding of abstract mathematics.
Development of the concept of “dynamic” addition and subtraction through the manipulation of the concrete math materials. (Addition and subtraction where exchanging and regrouping of numbers is necessary.)
Sensorial exploration of plane and solid figures at the Primary level (Ages 3 to 6): the children learn to recognize the names and basic shapes of plane and solid geometry through manipulation of special wooden geometric insets. They then learn to order them by size or degree.
The Primary Globes: These are specially prepared globes for the very young child that isolate single concepts of globe study—how land and water are shown, and the corresponding shapes of the continents that they learned from the puzzle maps.
The Puzzle Maps: These are specially made maps in the forms of intricate, color-coded, wooden jigsaw puzzles representing the continents, the countries of each continent, and the states of the U.S. They first enjoyed simply as challenging puzzles. Soon, however, the children begin to learn the names of given countries, and begin to become familiar with them.
Land & Water Formations: These materials are designed to help the very young child understand basic land and water formations such as island, isthmus, peninsula, strait, lake, cape, bay, archipelago, and so on. At first, these concepts are represented by three-dimensional models of each, complete with water. Then the children learn to recognize the shapes on maps, and learn about famous examples of each.
The solar system is introduced with nomenclature cards and books on each planet.
Transference to maps: Introduction to written names and various forms of maps, along with early study of the flora, fauna, landscapes, and people of the continents.
An introduction to humankind's search to understand how Earth was formed, from creation stories to the evidence of contemporary scientific research: origins, geologic forces, formations of the oceans and atmosphere, continental drift and tectonic plates, volcanoes, earth quakes, the ice ages and the formation of mountain ranges.
The study of the hydrosphere: ocean, rivers, lakes, the water cycle.
A more advanced study of the solar system: characteristics of each planet, the sun, and the moon, phases of the moon, distance between planets, etc.
Countries are studied in many ways at all levels, beginning at the primary level. A number of festivals are held every year to focus on specific cultures and to celebrate life together: an example being Chinese New Year, when the entire school might study China, prepare Chinese food, learn Chinese dances, and participate in a special dragon dance parade. Anything that the children find interesting is used to help them become familiar with the countries of the world: flags, boundaries, food, climate, traditional dress, houses, major cities, children’s toys and games, stamps, coins, traditional foods, art, music, and history. This interweaves through the entire curriculum.
The fundamental needs of man are food, shelter, clothing, defense, transportation, culture, law, religion or spiritual enlightenment, love, and adornment.
The concept of time and historical time is developed through many activities and repeated at deeper complexity:
The story of the evolution of the planet and its life forms over the ages, along with an overview of human history. This is repeated throughout the curriculum in increasing depth of study.
Each year the child continues to study and analyze the needs, culture, technology, and social history of various periods in history. The trends of human achievement are charted, such as the development of transportation, architecture, great inventions, and great leaders.
Students begin to study the earliest humans. They consider early societies in terms of how they organized themselves to meet the common needs of all peoples: food, clothing, shelter, defense, transportation, medicine, arts, entertainment, government, and religion.
First puzzles representing the biological parts of flowers, root systems, and trees, along with the anatomical features of common animals. These are first used by very young children as puzzles, then as a means to learn the vocabulary, then are related to photos and/or the “real thing,” then traced onto paper, and finally with labels as a reading experience.