The educational program for the Primary level at the Greensboro Montessori School is distinguished by a core curriculum where each child acquires and applies a breadth of skills during a three-year learning cycle. Well-planned lessons are presented in a carefully prepared educational environment filled with specifically- designed, age-appropriate materials. The trained, skilled teacher creates opportunities for individual children in a mixed-age community. The children learn and achieve at a rate which meets their particular needs and allows their talents to emerge. The primary program encourages the young child to explore, to cooperate, and to attain academic and social independence. The acquired skills are intended to prepare each child not only for success at the next academic level, but also for success in life.
Practical Life exercises instill skills in caring for oneself, for others, and for the environment. Activities include many of the tasks children see as part of the daily routine in their home as well as lessons in the social graces and courtesy. Through these tasks children develop muscular coordination, skills of independence and focus their attention in activity that promotes concentration and attention to details.
Building concentration and fine motor skills
Sensorial exercises promote the development of the senses and the building of skills in discrimination, observation and descriptive language. Children develop cognitive skills by learning to order and classify their impressions through activities in touch, sight, taste, smell, listening and exploring the physical properties of their environment. Sensorial exercises lay the foundation for introduction to mathematical concepts.
The mathematics curriculum in the Primary classroom invites children to follow their
own path to abstraction through repetition of tasks of their own interest. Children use movement to carry out tasks leading to optimal understanding of concepts rather than the rote memorization methods so often used in more conventional education. Children are developing their mathematical mind through sensorial and practical life materials long before they ever feel they are “doing math.” When they do begin to practice the concepts of mathematics, it is through a variety of learning styles and a variety of materials. Children are able to approach math in a style that is optimal to their individual needs, which include visual, kinesthetic, aural or a combination of all three learning styles.
The curriculum spans over three years and includes the following areas:
- Logical Quantification
- 0-10 Activities
- Decimal System, place value
- Linear Counting
- Addition, Multiplication, Subtraction, Division
- Measurement: dimension and time
The Montessori activities build skills in sound discrimination, prepare the hand for writing, encourage the development of written expression and lay a foundation of phonetic skills that prepare the child for reading. Students begin with the pre-reading skills of opposites, parts of a whole, and rhyming with objects, pictures, songs, games, and pictures books. Children practice with sounds using the sandpaper letters in one-on-one or small group lessons. Over the course of three years students become emerging readers, practice handwriting skills, write with movable letters, and are even introduced to oral presentation skills with short projects.
Central to the primary classroom are experiences which provide the child with opportunities to learn about geography and various cultures, history, music, art, science and nature. In the spirit of inspiring Dr. Montessori’s ultimate vision of peace in the world, the cultural activities help the child respect differences by showing the basic similarities of human beings and other living things.
In order to expose children to a second language during what Maria Montessori called “the sensitive period” for absorbing languages, all GMS Primary classes have Spanish lessons 4 times a week, taught by a native speaking teacher. Kindergarten classes have an additional Spanish class each week in the afternoon.
Children at this young age are enticed by nature. Studies have shown that giving a child the time for unstructured play in nature, enhances a child’s concentration and observation abilities. Children at GMS are given many opportunities to play in the School’s wooded area and gardens. In the Spring and Fall, primary children have gardening classes once a week. They create garden beds, plant, weed, water, harvest and prepare food from the bounty of the gardens. Children gain an understanding of the life cycle of plants, the seasons and the source of the fruits and vegetables they eat. Children at GMS go outside in most any kind of weather. Maria Montessori said, “There is no inappropriate weather for children. There is only inappropriate clothing. “
By spending time in nature, children at this age gain an appreciation for the natural world and, later in their development, are ready to work to preserve it.
Learning to communicate with others in difficult situations is an important life skill and is taken seriously at GMS. As a toddler, the children are taught the words to express their feelings and needs to each other. When children enter the Primary level at the age of 3, they are guided by the teachers or older classmates to use a conflict resolution model when a conflict with their peers arises. The children involved gather at the classroom “Peace Table” to tell their stories about the situation that happened and to initiate ideas for resolution. By the time a child is 5 years of age, she/he is usually able to go through the conflict resolution process independently of a teacher’s help. This process for resolving conflicts is used in the primary through upper elementary classes. In middle school more of a peer mediation model is used if necessary.
There are opportunities for longer lessons and more advanced extensions of work. The afternoon is when those deeper lessons are usually given. The older children are expected to do work each day in reading, writing and math. They may have a “work plan” to finish by the end of each day to prepare them for the expectations of the Lower Elementary level. Cultural and science studies are taken to a deeper level in the afternoons as the older children are more able to understand a larger world and more complex concepts.