Maria Montessori Biography
Principles of the Montessori Curriculum
The Montessori Learning Environment
Principles of the Montessori Curriculum
The Montessori curriculum is divided into the following categories: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture. Additionally, our schools offer regular Music lessons.
The exercises in the Practical Life area reflect Montessori’s concept of “an education for life” as the child develops practical skills necessary to gain mastery over his actions and he learns to use the common objects of daily life. By engaging in real activities and using real objects with purposeful ends, the child develops real abilities, which give him independence and control of his life. It also helps the child adapt to his environment, as he must follow the social norms and culturally specific methods that govern its care. This gives the child a sense of belonging and order. By engaging in these activities, the child learns to focus his attention for the entirety of an activity and upon completion, has a deep sense of fulfilment. Therefore the aim of these activities is not only practical but also developmental. Through these activities, the child to develops concentration, independence, co-ordination of movement, inner discipline and independence. This inevitably prepares for the physical, intellectual, cultural, and social life of the individual.
Practical Life activities are divided as follows:
- Care of the person: washing hands, polishing shoes, tying bows, etc.
- Care of the environment: dusting, polishing, washing a table, arranging flowers, etc.
- Grace and Courtesy: greeting, giving and receiving compliments, how to sneeze politely, etc.
- Control of Movement: walking on the line, etc.
During the ages of three to six the child is naturally inclined to refine his senses. As such, Maria Montessori created a series of scientifically designed sensorial materials to respond to this developmental period in the child’s growth.The materials are characterized by having a quality in them isolated. This is accomplished by having a series of graded objects in which the objects are themselves identical with a single varying quality such as colour, shape, size, sound, texture, weight, temperature etc. In addition, to sensitize the child to the isolated quality, his other senses are eliminated. For example, in the lesson of texture, to create an acute sense of touch, a blindfold is used to eliminate sight. This allows the child to begin distinguishing between objects and perceive what is essential from what is accidental, and also to organize, classify and categorize his impressions of the physical qualities of the world. Consequently the child rediscovers his environment by the way of his senses in a clear, meaningful and intelligent manner.
The sensorial materials not only build intelligence but abstraction as well. As the child experiences the material in a sensorial manner, he gradually begins perceiving the highlighted quality and gains an awareness of it. As he fixes his attention on the exercise and repeats it, a mental image is crystallized in his mind and an iconic impression is established. Therefore, through this process, the child learns to abstract the dominant quality from the numerous qualities in the materials. As language is added to the isolated quality being perceived, a concept of the attribute is formed. The classification is now complete as the child can now practically apply these conceptual categories, such as “small”, “large,” “hot”, “cold” etc. to the externally world in varying situations. This process of building abstracting begins with establishing contrasts, then matching exercises, followed by grading exercises. These exercises allow the child to refine his senses to the point where he begins to perceive the slightest differences in a series of objects. With this acquisition and the language given to conceptually categorize his discoveries, the child becomes very sensitive to the world around him and thus appreciates and values it.
The Sensorial activities are divided as follows:
- Visual Sense: Cylinder Blocks, Pink Tower, Brown Stairs, Red Rods, and Geometry Cabinet, etc.
- Tactile Sense: Rough and Smooth Boards, Baric Tablets, and Thermic Bottles, etc.”
- Auditory Sense: Sound Cylinders, Bells
- Gustatory Sense: Tasting Bottles
- Olfactory Sense: Smelling Bottles
“Language is the fruit of the spirit, an expression of the spirit. Each world exists only for a moment. It seems nothing in comparison with the mountain. But though it is nothing, it has magic powers because through it we can create pictures in the mind, pictures of things that happened in the past, images of things that can happen in the future. We can create love, hate. We can make people vibrate in their spirit.”
-Mario Montessori (Maria Montessori’s son) (1958, lecture, London).
Language is a powerful instrument unique to humanity; it is truly what makes an individual social as it is through the expression of thought using collectively agreed upon symbols that she is a member of a given society. Language development is therefore essential in Montessori education as it is the basis for the child to adapt to his specific location in history and his socio-cultural environment.
There are three aspects to the Language program in the Montessori environment: Spoken Language, Writing and Reading.
Spoken Language is divided into the following: Enrichment of vocabulary, Language Training and Sound Games. The purpose of Enrichment of vocabulary is nomenclature: namely, to support the children’s process of adaptation by providing them with the names of all that exists in their immediate environment and daily life, and by putting them in context. This is done using classified picture cards and everyday objects. Language Training invites the child to use language through oral composition and self-expression, thereby gaining self-confidence. It also allows the child to experience literature, poetry, and drama. Sound Games are essential in preparing the child for language especially in the written and reading aspects. The child must discover that language is made up of sounds and that words are combinations of sounds. These activities are done daily and are the foundation for the phonetic system of reading in the Montessori method.
Following spoken language the child is introduced to writing, as Montessori discovered it to be simpler task than reading, which contravened popular perception. Writing is the ability to express one’s own thoughts through the use of written symbols. Therefore, one must have a full comprehension of one’s thoughts, knowledge of the 26 symbols of the English alphabet and the ability to analyze the sounds within the word. However, the hand tends to develop more slowly than the mind and has traditionally been an impediment to the child’s ability to write. Therefore Montessori ingeniously developed the movable alphabet, which is a box containing all of the letters in the alphabet. Having already learned the phonetic sounds of some or all of the letters, the child proceeds to ‘write’ phonetically forming first words, then sentences, using the individual letters in the box. Once the child has developed enough strength and control of hand movement through the Indirect Preparations provided throughout the environment, he can begin to write using chalk and chalkboard, then paper and pencil.
Reading is the culmination of the language program as it is the most complex of the three aspects of language. Reading involves interpretation and the reception of ideas, intentions, nuances and meanings. Unlike writing that involves merely analysis or the breaking down of components of words to find their sounds, reading involves the sounding out and synthesis of words to derive meaning. Ultimately it is much easier to create and express your own thoughts that fully interpret another’s. However, the child in the Montessori environment moves towards Total Reading in which she can skilfully experience the completeness of understanding what she reads, and relate to the author’s style, emotions, and nuances.
In completing this program, the child is given the tools to engage in all forms of language as the power-activity of the intellect and a channel for the spirit to find expression.
This is a sensorial introduction to the world of numbers. The materials in the mathematics area begin by giving the child a very concrete experience with numbers. As the child progresses through the curriculum, the materials become less concrete and the child is able to work with abstract concepts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions. With this method, the child is able to achieve a natural appreciation of the basic concepts and avoids the mental blockages that so often occur when they first face the abstract.
The five categories in the Mathematics curriculum are as follows:
- Quantities and Symbols 1 to 10
- Linear Counting
- The Decimal System
- Memorization of the 4 Operations
- The Passage to Abstraction
The areas of the Culture curriculum include: Geography, Botany, Zoology, Music, Art and Science, and there are a variety of activities that stimulate the child’s interest in and innate receptiveness to the natural world. This area of the curriculum consists of globes, puzzles maps, land formations, water formations, animals and their habitat, life cycles of plants and animals etc.
The children are also introduced to many cultural activities such as dances, songs, nature walks and reading stories that tell the story of famous artists, nature, different cultures and holiday celebrations. It is also a special treat for the classroom if families visit to share their cultural holidays with the children; this is always a memorable experience for the class.
The children are taught weekly music lessons in the Kodaly method, which is a vocally based, multi-sensory approach to music education, and theoretically corresponds to what the children are learning in the classroom. In our Kodaly music program, the children learn a repertoire of folk songs, children's songs, rhymes and games with movement as a natural accompaniment to the singing. Simple percussion instruments, puppets, pictures and stories are used from the early levels, though the primary instrument remains the singing voice. This direct musical participation creates a reservoir of melodic and rhythmic motifs from which musical concepts are made and conscious through the child's own discovery. This provides a solid foundation for musical literacy.