Casa (Pre-school and Kindergarten)
In Montessori schools, each learning experience for the child involves many areas of knowledge, for children tend to integrate their learning rather than separate it into “subjects”. Language studies, vitally important because the comprehension of all other areas depends on linguistic skills, build on the Montessori preschoolers’ understanding of phonics and grammar, and leads naturally to reading, creative writing, and drama. Mathematics combines arithmetic, algebra, and geometry into a system where each complements the other. In the cultural area, as children are involved in understanding the story of the whole universe, they can engage in research and special studies in biology, geology, geography and history. Second language acquisition is most easily absorbed by younger children. Allegro Montessori provides twice weekly Core French from 5 years upward.
Recreational activities emphasize physical exercise indoors and outdoors, team game skills, and attitudes of cooperation and mutual acceptance.
Maria Montessori believed that human development is incomplete without the explicit influences of the spiritual. Allegro therefore offers a multi-cultural studies program respecting the beliefs of all children and their families.
Allegro Montessori considers the arts essential for a truly creative, disciplined and enriched human life. The children discover the music within themselves by song and movement. They are encouraged to express themselves with a wide variety of instruments, artistic materials and dramatic presentations.
Children in thier early years are attracted to tasks which an adult considers ordinary; for example cleaning furniture, polishing shoes and paring vegetables. By engaging in these activities young children follow one of their strongest inner urges to imitate adults. In the practical life area of our classrooms children develop and perfect their coordination. They gradually lengthen their concentration span. They learn to pay attention to detail as they follow a sequence of actions. The children acquire good working habits as they complete each task and put everything away before starting another activity.
By the use of special sensorial materials – things to be touched, shaken, heard, smelled and visually examined – children learn to distinguish and categorize, and to integrate new information into what they already know. The child’s acquisition of conscious knowledge thus takes place when the intelligence focuses in a concentrated way on impressions given by the senses.
In the Montessori classroom, young children learn the phonetic sounds of the alphabet letters before they learn the alphabet names in a sequence. The phonetic sounds are presented first because these are the sounds children hear in words that they will shortly begin to read. As soon as a child exhibits interest in some area of language, the classroom Director introduces specific language material to the child. Writing and/or constructing words with moveable letters nearly always precedes reading in a Montessori environment. Gradually, children learn the irregular words and words with more than one syllable. When they are ready to read, their skill in phonics allows them to approach new words and not just a specific few which they might have been trained to recognize by sight. A child’s interest in reading is cultivated as a most important key to future learning.
The children are introduced to grammar with enjoyable games which show them the difference between nouns, verbs and adjectives. This experience becomes the foundation of language analysis in the Elementary years.
Given access to tangible mathematical materials in their early years, children can easily assimilate many facts and skills of arithmetic. (These same facts and skills, if introduced later in an abstract form, are often the cause of much drill and drudgery).
As children become interested in counting, they greatly enjoy touching or moving the items they are counting. The concrete Montessori materials for mathematics – designed to be combined, separated, shared and compared – enable children to discover for themselves the basic operations of mathematics.
In a Montessori classroom, there are a variety of materials that can be used for numeration, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. This variety maintains children’s interest while giving them many opportunities for the necessary repetition.
Science and Nature
Children’s innate curiosity about the natural world is stimulated through nature walks, the sharing of special items discovered in nature, and later through projects and simple experiments. The enjoyment of the plant and animal kingdoms fosters a love and respect for all living things.
Large wooden geographical puzzles provide some of the most popular activities in the classroom. At first, the children use the maps only as puzzles and later as tracing pieces to create their own maps. Gradually, they learn the names of countries, their land formations, climate and products.
As an introduction to the understanding of history, the children make a time line of their own lives, beginning with their baby photographs.
Children enjoy the experience of other cultures, their customs, food, music, religious traditions, costumes and language. Classroom presentations in these areas by parents and other guests gradually help the children to develop an appreciation of our diverse cultural heritage and an understanding of others.
In the Casa environment, projects in art foster the joy which the young child finds in creating something. The children have the freedom to explore a variety of media and to express their imagination. The process, and not the end product, is the important element.
According to Maria Montessori, the child absorbs the musical sounds of the environment with the same ease as a native spoken language. Music education encompasses movement, dance and listening to different genres of music. Musical games are presented to encourage the child to enjoy music to the fullest, whilst learning basic music theory. Percussion instruments are used to help internalize rhythm. The use of Solfege (Do, Re, Mi) is used to help establish the understanding of the Western scale system, in discovering the distances between pitches, as well as in helping to read music. Singing and participating in songs is also very beneficial in helping the children find their singing voices. The aim of the music session at this early level is to help children find delight in making music and to develop basic music skills.
Children between 4 and 6 years are at a sensitive age for learning languages. Vocal chords are still sensitive and adaptable to new sounds at this age. The full day students have three French lessons per week and are encouraged to practice new words and phrases whenever possible. The primary aim in the presentation of a foreign language in a Montessori school must not be the teaching of that language but to stimulate such interest and love for it that the child will want to learn it. The French program is based on the AIM method and curriculum. AIM (Accelerated Integrated Method) is an action based approach that provides well rounded experience for different learning types.
“In this program, approximately 95% of the gesturing is done by the teacher…Students are asked to “talk” while the teacher is “gesturing” to ensure a high level of focus and participation.”
Each level has a particular play/story on which the vocabulary is based, and provides the child with a concrete idea to base the meaning of each new word. Group work and individual work is a part of the curriculum. French songs pertaining to the story/play and dances are also introduced in each level to peak the children’s interest in the love of acquiring a new language