The Montessori Primary Program focuses on the growth of children between 2.5 years and 6 years of age in a specially prepared mixed-age Montessori Environment. It fosters the growth of functional independence, task persistence and self-regulation. The primary program promotes social development through respectful, clear communication and safe, natural consequences. It contains a large variety of materials for the refinement of sensory perception and the development of literacy and mathematical understanding.
The first plane child (birth to 6 years) is a sensorial explorer through movement. He explores facts, qualities in the environment, the sounds and symbols in the environment and the way of life of those he lives with. The tendencies to explore, orientate and order in the world are immediately available to the senses. This plane is also characterized by the absorbent mind. This child builds his mental muscles from what he finds around himself. Children also have sensitive periods that aid them in their adaptation.
All the material in the environment are child sized. The young child strives for order. External order develops inner order in the child. Every material is classified and categorized in the environment. The Montessori environment is an enabling environment. Children have the freedom to choose their work and develop independence by working with the material.
Materials in the Montessori environment are categorized into five categories. They are:
- Elementary Activities
- Sensorial Activities
Further information about each of the categories is given below.
Practical life activities are found in all the cultures across time and space. These activities vary from culture to culture. Practical life activities can be defined as activities done every day to look after us and the environment. These activities form the foundation for child’s life and education. Unless practical life activities are performed, there is a vital link missing in child’s life. Children connect with the environment using practical life activities. They grow up in the midst of practical life activities. Even for the new born, practical life activities are done for and around the child.
The interaction of humans with the environment is through movements. These activities help the child in the coordination of movements. For every activity, there is a definite beginning, purpose and an end. These activities are purposeful activities. Both body and mind work together to perform practical life activities. Body and mind coordination occurs through practical life activities. All the practical life activities involve child’s growing mind and body. For example, the technique of washing hands revolves around the movement of wrists and fingers. It is accomplished from careful coordination with the mind. Repetition of these tasks leads to efficiency, speed and perfection.
Children have a sensitive period to create movements. There is an irresistible push to create movements and repeat them. Practical life activities form a vital role in developing their movements. Children are familiar with practical life activities as they are activities in the environment they live in. They have an irresistible urge towards them as they involve movements.
The House of children is prepared with the child’s needs in view. Children are given opportunities in the environment to perfect their movements. Dr. Montessori incorporated practical life activities for the creation and perfection of movements. Children find answers to their needs in these activities. Children have an irresistible push to repeat these activities. They repeat activities with joy. These activities have a greater significance for children. The purpose it serves them is different from the purpose it serves the adults. The adults perform these actions to take care of self and the environment. But, the children perform these activities also to perfect their movements and they obtain internal joy and happiness from these activities. They create impressions and get perfection by performing these activities.
Elementary activities involve basic movements. These movements are required to perform other complex activities. Examples of these activities are pouring, folding, holding a bucket etc. There are not many complex movements in these activities. Children start working with these activities when they enter the Montessori environment. By performing these activities, there is a boost in confidence and psychological growth. They also acquire coordination through these activities.
Children are also introduced to activities which include care of self, care of environment and grace and courtesy lessons. These lessons help the child conduct himself in the environment and a larger society. Grace and courtesy lessons imbibe in the child the discipline required to function in the present day society.
Senses are tools for gathering information. Information is gathered through sensory receptors. When senses come in contact with the environment, they gather information. The parts of the body that gather information do not process the information. Information acquired through the senses is random. Impressions are acquired in no particular order. Based on the elements in the environment, children gather sensorial impressions. Every experience in the environment is a multi-sensory impression. For instance, eating food uses the sense of smell, taste and sight. Information that comes in through our senses has no particular classification. Impressions are taken in as have experiences in the environment. The newborn child has the capacity for limitless experiences. All these experiences are gathered as impressions in his mind sensorially.
Sensorial activities help the child become conscious of the various physical properties of matter. These enable the child to order, classify and comprehend the sensorial impression absorbed from the environment. They help the child develop certain types of motor co-ordination, prepare for the language and arithmetic and helps in sensorial refinement. It enriches his/her vocabulary and also prepares for writing and drawing. These serve as intelligent means of exploration of the environment and support the cerebral development of the child.
Dr. Maria Montessori believes that the hand is the instrument of intelligence. Activity of the hand builds the mind. These activities are the experiences the child must have. We offer activities so that development of the mind is possible and gradually build up intelligence. From material objects, we pull the child into a world of ideas. Dr. Maria Montessori uses the psychological technique called materialized abstractions for that purpose. Ideas cannot be given to the child. They are internalized through activities in the environment. Hence, it necessary to give the child physical objects for experience. Dr. Maria Montessori took ideas and put them into materials around which the child would be active and engaged. The mind looks for patterns and comparisons and obtains clues from them to build understanding.
The concept of isolation of sensorial qualities is used in our classrooms. From multi-information impressions, she isolated individual qualities. Only one quality varies in the material. All the other qualities are identical. The child has minimal impact and effect from other qualities as they are the same. Only the contrast stands out. Quality in an object can be isolated by keeping every feature to be the same except the one which needs to be highlighted. After isolation, we compare and reject the ones that are not the same. That work is done by the hand. Dr. Maria Montessori calls this the principle of isolation. All the qualities in the material are the same except the one quality which we want to bring to the child’s attention. By pairing and grading these qualities through the use of their senses, children understand the environment around them.
Around two and a half years of age when the child enters the house of children, he would have already acquired the spoken language with considerable semantic and syntactic potential. The language he possesses would reflect his home environment and may have adapted certain faulty usage. Thus, his language may be inadequate from various points of view. As the absorbent mind gradually gains consciousness, the child needs to consolidate the various human functions and mental faculties, which also include consolidation and further refinement of his spoken language. Since the child cannot achieve this task himself, the prepared environment offers favorable conditions for the task of consolidation through utilization. Spoken language is not concrete enough for the child for his future intellectual pursuits. Therefore the child has to acquire the related language skills of WRITING AND READING.
In order to master the spoken language the child has to work at levels.
- The phonic level
- The semantic level
- The syntactic level
Groups of sounds together form words, which in turn make up sentences and thus a language is formed. Thus sounds or phonetics are the basic units of a language. While the child enters the House of Children along with enriching his vocabulary and structured language he also needs to become aware of the sounds, which are typical to his language. This would not only enable him to improve upon his articulation for the present, but also would serve as an indirect preparation for the future, thus enabling him to acquire writing and reading skills.
In spoken language the child is given sounds of alphabets. Sand paper letters are offered to the child as the symbols of these sounds. Children then work with movable alphabets to form work at a phonetic level. Phonetics help the children understand the spellings of common words and give them a command over language. Even though the children are not taught formally, the writing comes around 4 and a half years of age, as an explosion. Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that any developmental conquests (writing), has behind it, several multi motivated convergent but indirect preparations. When each strain of indirect preparations gains strength and comes into fusion with others, the explosion occurs. Reading also comes as an explosion similar to that of writing as a natural consequence of various convergent developments. Children explore language further by working with parts of speech and structures of sentences. This work is done sensorially to appeal to the child’s mind.
Along with English, which is a primary language for instruction and communication, children are also exposed to Hindi and Telugu. Children explore Hindi and Telugu languages in the same way as they explore English language in the Montessori Method.
Mathematics is an area then which precise relationships between entities can be established. The process would involve evaluation, comparison, calculation and precise conclusions. As a corollary the verification is itself a process.
Numbers are introduced in three distinct stages. At this very beginning the child is given activities and experiences to appreciate the quantitative aspect of an entity. Simultaneously, he is also given the appropriate nomenclature. This is opposed to the earlier practice of the other areas wherein nomenclature is introduced after sufficient experience is not complete without the characteristic activity of counting. In order to count the child needs the number names.
ARITHMETIC IS DIVIDED INTO 6 GROUPS
Concept of Numeration
In this groups the child is introduced to the various aspects of the basic numbers 1 to 9. These include the quantitative value, the number names, the numerical symbols, the sequence & the concept of zero. Therefore the child is offered the basic unit. He is also introduced to the inter relationships between the basic numbers & also as they are related to the basic unit.
Decimal system of numeration
The child is introduced to the decimal system which is very simple and yet powerful. It makes reckoning very easy. It is also the basis for the most popular and universal system of measurement namely and the metric system. It has a regular structure. If the concept of numeration (first group) had enabled the child to evaluate the entities from the point of view of their absolute value, it is the decimal system which would help them identify the place value. When these are put together the child is able to work with large numbers with same ease with which he had worked with the basic numbers. Around this period the child experiences are urge and skill to handle large numbers. Taking this into cognizance, the child has to be introduced to various arithmetical operations namely addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. This is the 1st and formal introduction to arithmetic of operation.
The Teens & Tens
As the child is moving towards the end of the II group this is offered. The conventional names of the numbers have no mathematical significance. With English, conventional names are limited to a combination of one ten (11 to 19) and the different groups of tens (20 to 90). Introduction of the conventional names has also given the child the opportunity to appreciate numbers in a linear fashion. In this manner child is able to master linear counting. Though to begin with this group does not have mathematical significance, the later part of the group offers the child scope for memorizing the basic multiples of the basic numbers 1 to 9.
Memorization (basic combinations)
Having been introduced to the nature of the 4 arithmetical operations the child is able to apply them to the various hierarchies. The various combinations of each of these operations as related to the basic numbers are given.
Passage to Abstraction
Having worked with the second group and absorbed the concept of decimal system of numeration and the fourth group where in the child has scope to memorize the combinations for the various mathematical operations. The child is now offered scope to bring these 2 groups together. The child will now perform operations on larger numbers with ease.
As part of the sensorial material, the child is introduced to fractions. He also comes across fractions while working with napkins, constructive triangles, binomial cube, trinomial cube and decanomial, square. However a formal arithmetic introduction is given. Having been introduced to the basic unit growing in one direction till infinity the child is also given the sub divisions of the basic unit in the other direction, also going up to infinity. Having been given the basic understanding of the various factors involved in a fraction the child is given scope to utilize them. This is done by introducing the 4 arithmetical operations.
Culture is the elements of the environment into which the child is born. Every child from birth strives to accustom themselves to the culture into which they are born. Elements in the nature when studied in depth become scientific subject for study but when they are given to the senses and hands, they become items of culture. When the elements of nature are given to the senses and hands of the child, he starts accepting them as part of his life without any questioning thus making those items of human culture.
Various items which are provided as a part of culture are
- The World of Land and Water
- The World of Plants
- The World of Animals
- The World of Shapes
- The World of Man(history)
- Arts, Crafts and Traditions
his system in which a child is constantly moving objects with his hands and actively exercising his senses, also takes into account a child’s special aptitude for mathematics. When they leave the material, the children very easily reach the point where they wish to write out the operation. They thus carry out an abstract mental operation and acquire a kind of natural and spontaneous inclination for mental calculations.
Dr. Maria Montessori