The Montessori Elementary receives children already accustomed to being independent, self-motivated learners and encourages them to use their maturing reason and to become highly productive and skilled individuals, cooperative with others, and appreciative of the world in which they live.
Children of the Elementary years have remarkable intellectual powers which are enhanced by educational resources and by the imagination of the adults around them. Responding to the boundless learning capacities of the Elementary age, the Montessori curriculum aims not only to prepare children to perform at an arbitrary grade level, but to achieve the highest level to which they themselves aspire. Therein lays its distinguishing feature: The curriculum follows the child and not the other way around.
Language studies are vitally important because the comprehension of all other areas depends on linguistic skills. Yet language is integrated into the entire Montessori curriculum, and its treatment as a separate subject comes primarily when the child needs a particular clarification on special points. These points focus on spelling, grammar, word study, punctuation, capitalization and penmanship. The main experience in reading and writing comes through the child’s work in other areas of the curriculum, such as geography, history, botany, culture, and so on.
Because children have different cognitive styles, they are given different resources for learning to read. Once reading is mastered, the child is directed toward quality literature and poetry and into self-expression through creative writing.
A qualified Director offers regular French language instruction to all Elementary students. The emphasis is on the development of aural skills through conversation, songs and games. The French curriculum is based on the AIM method and curriculum. AIM (Accelerated Integrated Method) is an action based approach that provides a 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 and individual work is also a part of the curriculum. French songs pertaining to the story or play and dances are introduced in each level to peak the child’s interest in the love of acquiring a new language! Building on their Casa foundation, the Elementary students are introduced to more reading and writing as they become more familiar with the vocabulary.
The Montessori materials not only support but enrich the Saskatchewan curriculum. The use of concrete and symbolic materials with built-in error control develops sound mathematical skills and leads children to make their own abstractions.
As elsewhere in Montessori education, experience with tangible materials comes first, then the naming, then symbolic representation or written symbol. After each of these elements is studied in turn, they are associated with one another. In the Montessori mathematics curriculum, this sequence is referred to as quantity, symbol and association.
Many of the materials used in the Casa are also present in the Elementary classroom and hands on use continues as each new process is presented with the materials so that the children proceed from sensorial experience to abstraction in a series of steps carefully constructed so that they are able to make their own discoveries and abstractions. As a result, the children are provided with an internalized understanding as well as great pleasure in their understanding of mathematics.
Learning geometry in a Montessori environment parallels the historical development of the subject. Geometry begins as a concrete experience with abstraction following at a later date. The Montessori student follows the same sequence, beginning with sensorial experience through manipulation of both plane and solid geometric figures. The geometry materials invite creative activity that involves two and three dimensional construction of forms, artistic drawings and ornamentation.
As much geometric nomenclature is used as the child is able to assimilate, so that the child will have information and vocabulary at this or her command when at the stage of exploring “how” and “why”. If an Elementary child had had no previous Montessori experience, the sensorial experience in geometry is made available to that child as soon as possible in the Elementary classroom.
Social and Physical Science
The Montessori classroom integrates social studies and the sciences as they are integrated in life. There are, therefore no sharp distinctions or lines of demarcation among the areas included in these subjects when they are studied in the Elementary environment. Some of the subject areas incorporated under this broad heading are: anthropology, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, economics, geography, geology, history, physics, politics, sociology and zoology.
The overlapping and integration among subject areas are very evident. For instance, history in the Montessori classroom follows the development of the solar system, life on earth, the beginning of humankind, early civilizations and then recorded history. The study of geography shows the child how the physical configurations of the earth contribute to history. In turn, geography becomes the basis for the study of economic geography and an appreciation of the interdependence of all peoples.
The first science experiments are designed to give the child the knowledge fundamental to the understanding of the solar system, the earth and its physical characteristics, life on earth, and the needs of plants, animals and humanity.
The Montessori Human Relations Curriculum is an organizing center for the “cultural” subjects, especially geography and history. It is introduced as early as possible in the Elementary Program. The classic Montessori chart, “Fundamental Needs of Humankind”, is intended to evoke the children’s curiosity and discussion in the areas of material or concrete needs (food, clothing, housing, transportation) and spiritual and abstract needs (culture, religion, love, adornment). Discussion helps children understand that the needs of people are the same in all places of the earth and in all times of history. Children can come to understand the fundamental similarity among all people and the variety of ways in which they meet their essential needs. Classroom visitors, field trips and a range of special projects enrich the Elementary children’s understanding of the social and physical sciences.
The classroom Director aids the children to develop skills in order that they may creatively express themselves through various media. Art is both expression for its own sake and also an integrating factor for the rest of the curriculum. For instance, the child may choose to make geometrical drawings, geographical maps, or illustrations for history, botany, literature, and so on. The media explored in the Elementary environment includes painting, sculpture, print making, carving, weaving and other textile areas.
Over a period of time, there is a study of the historical development of artistic expression and schools of artistic thought. As the child matures, art is seen in relation to the socio-cultural context to architecture, literature, religion, politics, music, inventions and exploration.
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. 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 to help the child find their singing voice. As the children approach the Elementary levels, more in depth theory is introduced. As in the entire Montessori approach, the actual experience is followed by the naming process: making music is followed by theory studies, ear training and dictation. In the same way as Montessori Casa language activities result in “total reading” for the Elementary child, earlier musical foundations enable children to enter into the realms of critical listening, music-reading and composition during the Elementary years.
The children and members of the community are invited to share their various musical talents with the class throughout the year.
Recreational activity includes outdoor physical exercises in all seasons. The children engage in building team games skills such as ball-handling, running, catching and so on. There is an emphasis on developing attitudes of cooperation and mutual acceptance, along with the challenge to compete with one’s self rather than competing with others. The school gym is available to the Elementary class on a regular basis