“Our experience with children in elementary schools has shown us that the age between six and twelve years is a period of life during which the elements of all sciences should be given. It is a period that, psychologically, is especially sensitive and might be called the “sensitive period of culture” during which the abstract plane of the human mind is organized.” -Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori Areas of Curriculum: Language
Language Arts and Writing
Reading of every kind is highly encouraged, as children are introduced to poetry, folktales, non-fiction, and classic literature. Children are also given many opportunities to read out loud – giving a presentation they have written, or dramatizing the work of another author. Children are taught the art of handwriting and cursive. At this age, children greatly enjoy reading and writing, because most of the work in this area pertains to their individual interests. There is necessary skill work in developing the child’s literacy, but the Montessori curriculum opens up many doors for the children to read and write about what is most exciting to her.
Grammar/Function of Words
Reading of every kind is highly encouraged, as children are introduced to poetry, folktales, non-fiction, and classicGrammar boxes, symbols, and charts fill the Montessori language area. They are housed in brightly colored boxes that seem to invite the child. Each part of speech begins with a lively introductory lesson that speaks to the child’s imagination. The work of grammar comes at the time of the child’s life when he is most excited about language and still has a strong propensity for absorbing it. The Montessori approach allows the child to build her own sentences as she learns the functions of words, rather than dissecting the work of another.
Work Plans and Record Keeping
Children in an elementary classroom begin to keep a record of their work. The children work with teachers through the use of work plans and journals. The child still has the freedom to choose their own work, as well as choosing to work with another child or in a group. Keeping track of their work helps them make good work choices, and lets the teacher see which presentations have been done and which are still needed.
Montessori Areas of Curriculum: Mathematics
The math area begins with the Golden Bead material to teach beginning math concepts (place value, quantity/symbol association, and concrete addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). The materials bring a “hands-on” quality to the classroom, with children learning through trial and error, self-discovery, and teaching from other children. The materials quickly move the child to an abstraction of math concepts, including problem solving, fractions, borrowing and carrying, graphing, measurement, long division, and algebraic equations. Each material gradually becomes more abstract in nature, but presents very concrete patterns of the proceeding abstraction.
Geometry is a fascinating area of Montessori. Actual wooden shapes are used to master the terminology of all of the plane figures and solids. Matching cards are used to introduce types and positions of lines, types and positions of angles, and special characteristics of shapes. Experimentation with other materials leads children to their own discoveries of spatial relationships, including congruence, symmetry, and equivalency.
Montessori Areas of Curriculum: Sciences
Botany and zoology encompass a wide field of biological study. Matching cards are used to learn the characteristics of many plants and animals, and charts aid in the classification of the plant and animal kingdoms. After this first knowledge is gained, children begin to research on their own, using their knowledge of specific plant and animal species. The Timeline of Life and other lessons teach biological concepts such as interdependency, evolution, symbiosis, adaptation, and classification.
Chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and meteorology are also areas of study in the elementary classroom. These lessons are presented as “Key Lessons” in support of the great lessons telling the history of the universe. The children are presented with concrete materials such as constellations, types of rock, parts of an atom, and stellar nucleosynthesis. There is also a shelf available to the children with experiment prompts and all the materials necessary for the children to conduct such experiments in their own time. Non-fiction books fill the classroom library, allowing the children to research a wide variety of subject matter pertaining to sciences.
Montessori Areas of Curriculum: Cultural
History & Geography
In the Lower Elementary years, History and Geography are studied from the big picture perspective. Children are learning about the history of the world and universe. Geography and history include the study of civilizations and countries. Wooden puzzle maps of each continent are studied, with children learning the names, flags, animals, cultures, and geographic features of each country. History begins with the study of time, including clocks, calendars, and timelines. As various fundamental needs of people (like shelter, transportation, food, and clothing) are explored, the children research and chart changes in these needs over time and across cultures.
Montessori Areas of Curriculum: Practical Life
Practical life, which was a separate area in the 3-6 classroom, is now integrated with the day-to-day care of the classroom and its inhabitants. Tasks may include preparation of snack and daily meals and watering of plants and care of animals. Elementary children dust the shelves, organize and straighten the materials, sweep and vacuum, and keep the classroom neat and clean.