3 – 6 Years
To gain the most benefit, the Primary program should be viewed as a long term commitment. The curriculum spans three years, with each year building upon the prior, culminating in the Kindergarten year. Children between 3 years of age and Kindergarten are grouped together. Materials presented in the first year, increase in complexity as the child grows older.
The child’s first year in the Primary program is one of developing concentration, making sense of order and developing a basic understanding of how to use the rich Montessori materials. The second year is designed to help build a stronger sense of self as the child moves through materials now familiar from the year before. The third and final year, finds a child mastering materials he saw older children embrace and provides the most wonderful gift of all: an opportunity to be the “teacher”, mentoring the younger children. That third year in the cycle is the most fruitful, bringing together all the child has learned during the previous two years and allowing him to become a leader.
The Primary 3 – 6 classroom curriculum is grouped into five general areas: practical life, sensorial, language, math and cultural. With the guidance of a teacher, the children are allowed to make independent choices in these areas of the classroom.
Practical life exercises help children care for themselves independently and instill a sense of responsibility for the environment. Children concentrate on developing daily skills, such as spooning, pouring, sweeping and dishwashing. Just beneath the surface are the development of skills that are less tangible – concentration, coordination, independence and a sense of order. These are the foundation of a child’s work habits.
Sensorial activities aid the child in the development of their senses – sight, touch, sound, taste and smell. Dr. Montessori wrote, “Everything that enters the mind, enters through the senses.” Children develop visual and tactile discrimination, using materials designed to stimulate the senses, such as smelling jars with candles, temperature bottles, fabric matching and a Montessori favorite, the “pink tower.” Emphasis is placed on textures, shapes, sizes, colors, smells and sounds of objects.
Language curriculum is designed to help the child develop all basic aspects of language (listening, speaking, reading and writing). Conversational language is the first piece of the language curriculum – importance is placed on a child’s ability to tell a story, as well as listening and retelling a story in both individual and group settings. Letter formation is taught using a sensorial and kinesthetic approach. The child is first provided a sensorial impression of a letter and then moves into writing through prepared steps. Writing is developed not only by forming letters but also by working on the formation of shapes that eventually turn into letters. Reading is also taught using a multi-sensorial approach and children learn to read phonetically with sounds. Our teachers use commonly found objects to reinforce the sounds (“c” = candle or cat). In addition to phonetic reading skills, the whole-language approach and acquisition of sight words are woven throughout an integrated curriculum. But most importantly, the love of reading is fostered with teachers daily reading to students from a wide variety of books and literature.
Math materials provide the child with a concrete impression of the quantity being taught, along with the symbols. Children are encouraged to explore quantities not only with their eyes but also with their hands. We help the child manipulate objects (golden beads for instance) to show number value. For instance, a child of four or five can see that “272” is composed of 2 one-hundred-squares, 7 ten-bars and 2 units. The child is better able to master abstract mathematical processes after experiencing hands-on representations of the concepts.
Cultural programs round out the Primary 3-6 curriculum and are broken down into two areas: the study of the natural world and the study of cultures. Nature study brings the real world into the classroom and children are exposed to living (animal and plant species) and non-living (rocks, sticks, marbles) classifications. Fall nature walks are sure to include leaf collecting and many discussions about squirrels and frogs. The social studies curriculum teaches geography and the exploration of cultures. Children create world maps and study specific cultures, especially the background of students in the class. Children become familiar with another culture’s flag, food, music, and clothing. Attention is placed not just on the differences of other cultures but the similarities as well.