The primary program at Bryant Woods Montessori School is based on the Montessori method. Children are constantly learning as their minds are like sponges during these early years. A carefully prepared environment provides activities in practical life, sensory development, language, mathematics, science, geography, art and music. Children three to six move through a sequential curriculum at their individual rates. Independence, initiative, respect, and responsibility are fostered in a warm, caring, orderly, and stimulating setting. The primary program provides opportunities for focus, concentration and the joy of discovery. Working with the many activities helps the children to discover and begin to master their environment.
This area is considered the link to the child’s home environment and thus a familiar and comfortable perch from which to begin exploring the world. The exercises in practical life form the foundation of the Montessori philosophy and encompass a great diversity of activities to help the child grow toward greater concentration and independence. The materials involve children in precise movements allowing them to concentrate, to work at their own pace uninterrupted, to complete their work, and to gain internal satisfaction. The materials fulfill specific purposes in the real world for children. They learn to take care of the environment, e.g. sweeping, dusting and scrubbing a table or chair, caring for plants and animals. They learn to take care of themselves, e.g. washing hands, polishing shoes, and dressing. These specifically designed activities enable the child to realize order and logic in the classroom environment. Concentration, attention, order, independence, and muscular coordination originate with this work and continue to develop through repetition. In addition, practical life centers the child in a social atmosphere where lessons of grace and courtesy are the mainstays of conversation. A child is treated with respect and is therefore respectful.
The sensorial exercises are comprised of a series of objects that are grouped together because they share a physical quality such as size, shape, sound or color. Each piece of sensorial material is designed to emphasize one quality, but in different degrees that are perceptually observable. Learning to perceive minute differences between and among objects are an important by-product of working with the sensorial materials. To train a child’s senses is to create an astute observer. Practice at judging, classifying, and discriminating give children a perceptual “alphabet” with which they organize their minds and their world.
The Montessori sensorial materials offer a wealth of concrete objects. Manipulation of these objects sequentially leads the child to abstract concepts. This is a long process but the sensorial materials provide “materialized abstractions” that are the groundwork for the concepts of number and numeral. The sensorial area gives the child a perceptual idea of basic mathematics. It is indirect preparation for the mathematics, language (sound discrimination, visual perception, eye-hand coordination), and the cultural areas (awareness of classification).
Lessons are usually given individually but can be given to small groups of children. Concerted effort is made to give formal, classic, ordered presentations of how materials are to be used. After an initial presentation, the child is free to use the materials in a constructive manner. It is then the teacher’s responsibility to intercede at the proper time to provide more sophisticated information on the same exercise or introduce a new lesson on the next material in the sensorial sequence.
Children must have a multitude of sensorial experiences with size, dimension, and form before they are introduced to any mathematical concepts of quantities and their symbols. Before formal lessons in math children need to be able to compare, classify, pattern, map, and have an idea of sets. Many exercises are thus designed to lead the child to discover similarities and differences – to sort and arrange objects in one-to-one correspondence, and to manipulate sets of objects. The child needs to experience many opportunities to rote count after which he or she is ready to begin working with materials to associate quantity with mathematical symbols.
Once the child is familiar with the association of quantity and symbols 0 – 10, an overview of the base 10 decimal system with numerals 0 – 9999 is begun. The children then work with the squares and cubes of sets of numbers 1 to 10.
The Montessori approach to math is special for many reasons. All the operations learned in math come from concrete manipulations of our materials such as rods, beads, spindles, cubes, cards and counters, etc. The children do not merely learn to count, they are also able to visualize the whole structure of our numeration system and to perform the operations of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division using a variety of concrete materials to manipulate.
A balance exists between small group and individual lessons depending on the material being presented. The Montessori materials are concrete and very appealing to children. Each presentation begins with the quantity, then the symbol and finally the association between the two.
Because young children need concrete manipulation of materials to understand mathematical concepts, this area uses a multi-sensory approach, which invites careful movement. The children all move through the same sequence of materials and concepts, but at his or her own pace.
The young child enters school during a period of great sensitivity to language. Language development, its usage and vocabulary are therefore woven throughout the classroom. Conversations with peers and adults are a natural part of classroom life and time is devoted everyday to the reading of books, big and small, poetry, singing of songs, acting out familiar poems and stories and sharing. The child moves freely within the Montessori environment. Combining the child’s natural curiosity with hands-on activity helps the child internalize information. The language program encourages the development of oral language, auditory, writing and reading skills.
Opportunities for oral expression are provided daily. The children listen to and participate in familiar and new stories, poetry, rhymes, and songs. These activities also lend themselves to dramatic expression. Sharing and talking about group and individual experiences allow the children other opportunities for conversation.
Teachers read aloud to the children regularly. Listening skills are further developed through music, appropriate questioning, story telling, sharing time, CDs, silence games and sound matching activities. The Montessori language materials isolate letter sounds, show correct letter formation and reinforce the sound/symbol connection.
Teachers are constantly modeling writing through activities such as: group experience stories, child dictated stories, adapted work, transcribing the child’s description of his/her art work, and daily functional writing. Children are encouraged to use writing materials throughout the classroom. Following Maria Montessori’s premise, writing precedes reading. Accepting the child’s own spelling and letter formation affirms and promotes the child’s writing. Before the child is ready for a pencil, using the movable alphabet allows the child to “write” personal stories.
Reading is presented with a phonetic base, sight word vocabulary and group language activities which encourage the children to become aware of words, sentences, beginning punctuation, content, authors, illustrators and publishers.
Each child enters school with different language experiences and abilities and adds to them daily. Montessori’s individualized approach and developmentally appropriate lessons help the child build cognitive language skills. The “absorbent mind” of the child readily “soaks up” these experiences and brings about a natural maturation in language.
In the primary program, the cultural area introduces the child to aspects of the world using the hands-on approach. This allows the child to absorb information in a natural manner, encourages the child to observe what goes on around them and helps the child to begin to make sense of it all. In addition, learning the true names of real things and seeing relationships is a meaningful way to look at the world.
In Life Science the child uses models, specimens, pictures, classroom pets and plants to begin to identify, match, and classify things in the environment. There is some investigation of the external parts of vertebrates and plants using observations of living samples and specimens and nomenclature materials. Life cycles of plants and animals are introduced through classroom observations and sequence cards.
Earth Science includes the naming, matching and sorting of rock and mineral specimens and daily observation and recording of the weather.
In Physical Science the child has hands-on experiences in the investigation and observation of matter such as in Sink/Float or Magnetic/Non-magnetic activities.
Astronomy is introduced concretely in our “The Birthday Celebration.” The child symbolically walks around the sun for every year of their life.
Geography includes an introduction to the Gee-sphere (land, air and water) the land/water and continent globes, puzzle maps of the world and individual continents, mapping activities, land and water forms, and an introduction to climate/environment areas of the world. The study of the continents gives hands-on experience in making maps and flags, dressing in costumes, music, dance, art, stories and dramatizations and the investigation of a people through artifact boxes and the occasional guest speaker.
History includes personal time lines and time lines of plants and animals, and the study of the passage of time with clocks and timers.
Gross Motor Development
The children will have ample opportunity to play outside. On days of inclement weather gross motor activities will be done “on the line” in the classroom.
The children have foreign language instruction weekly. Music and Art are integrated into the daily community time and work time.
Cultural Arts Programs
Programs are scheduled monthly as an enhancement to the Montessori curriculum.