The activities in this area encourage coordination, concentration, independence, and a sense of order. Children may be observed scrubbing a pumpkin, stringing a necklace, blowing bubbles, zipping, sewing, cutting or using a stubby screwdriver. These activities encourage the hand strength that will be needed to write, the sequencing abilities needed to read, and an ever-growing attention span and memory to accommodate the academic challenges that lie ahead.
The materials and activities in this area of the classroom encourage classification through visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile impressions. Fine tuning the visual discrimination skills will allow the child to easily distinguish between similarly formed letters for reading. Discovering patterns, similarities and differences builds a strong foundation for math skills. Ultimately, fine tuning the senses enables precise observation and orderly thought patterns which lay the foundation for math, language, geometry, geography, science, art and music.
Children begin exploring the pre-math concepts of classifying, patterning, one-to-one correspondence, and rote counting. They progress to associating symbols with quantities, identifying “odds and evens”, understanding place value, and skip or linear counting. Children are introduced to two and three dimensional geometric shapes such as ovals and ovoids. Children utilize concrete materials to explore addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The use of clocks and money is explored. The Montessori materials help the child move from the concrete to abstract use of numbers.
Montessori uses a phonetic approach to teach reading skills. Children will learn the most common sound of each letter through the combination of one-on-one instruction and the multi-sensorial input of sandpaper letters. Once a handful of letter sounds has been mastered, children will use cut-out letters to build simple three letter words. When children sound out these words, they begin the incredible journey of reading.
Handwriting is fostered through the Montessori focus on fine motor classroom activities. Children begin to write in sand, on whiteboards, and on small and large easels. They progress to writing on lined paper and in journals. In addition, overall language growth is stimulated through regular reading of fiction and non-fiction books, the labeling of classroom materials to encourage sight reading and noun recognition, and vocabulary expansion through group lessons on topics such as Asia or the solar system.
The diversity of our world is celebrated in the classroom. Stories, artifacts, food, music, and art teach children to respect and accept differences as well as recognize the similarities that unify us.
The children learn about physical geography through the use of globes and puzzle maps.
Children explore the natural world through hands-on activities with magnets, simple machines, minerals, water and sand. The children garden outdoors and care for indoor plants and animals. The life cycles of chickens and butterflies are demonstrated by in-school hatchings each spring. Study of the solar system includes a trip to Parkland Planetarium.
The directresses incorporate singing, movement, dance, yoga, sign language, musical instruments, and art appreciation into their daily group lessons. Our third year students learn simple Spanish; kindergarten students attend a concert at Krannert Center. All faculty and staff model and teach respect, polite behavior, empathy, compassion, and responsibility. Peace education is a unifying theme for Montessori schools around the world.