1. Activities of everyday living
When children first come to our school and trough their time with us, they will be introduced to activities of everyday living. This as the name suggests, circles around activities from every day live, such as such as spooning, pouring, sorting, chopping, peeling and washing to name some of them.
Many of the materials that are in use, the children will have had previous experience of seeing at home. The activities predominantly are designed to help children achieve independence, as they learn skills that enable them to do things for themselves. They support and refine their fine motor skills, such as hand and eye co-ordination and certain activities also help to develop the specific skill to complete daily tasks independently.
As children, refine these life skills and develop independence, their self-esteem grows and simultaneously the ability to concentrate. This in terms creates the opportunity for social awareness exercises by caring for the environment such as wiping tables prior to having food or cleaning the table, planting and watering the plants. We, also encourage children to bring in their own food, which they chop and share with others during snack time. This quite naturally, develops a sense of responsibility and consideration for others in a very positive manner.
Common courtesy towards others is gained in the form of daily routines of “grace and courtesy” results in gaining important social skills. Children not only prepare and share fruit snack, but between them also set the table. Slowly, but surely, the children at the setting start to learn how their environment is organized; where to find activities, how to organise their workspace and their materials. The children learn that everything has its own place and to approach each task in an orderly way. Once they complete an activity, it for example is put away so their friends can use it next.
From an overall perspective these activities play a very important role in our curriculum as it brings many skills to live through play in a friendly and positive environment, resulting in the development of independence, fine motor skills, concentration, self-esteem, social awareness, social skills, intelligence and a sense of order and self-control.
2. Educating the Senses
This area allows children to understand their environment while learning through their senses. Each piece of material has one isolating quality, such as colour, weight, size, shape, texture, sound or small. Many of the materials are early introduction into Math-based activities, such as pairing and grading of colour, shape and weight. Children, learn about this area in a very practical way, as they touch and interact with the materials. Through their curiosity they themselves discover the properties, materials such as the Cylinders, the Towers, the Stairs, the Colour and Sound boxes. This develops, their power of observation and concentration. Furthermore, many of the materials are designed so that children are able to correct their own mistakes. This gives them greater freedom, independence and self-confidence.
The materials encourage children to work in an ordered way and help children to develop logical thinking. Many of the materials, also help develop children’s muscular co-ordination and provide indirect practice for more complex tasks such as reading and writing. For example, many of the materials are worked from left to right because this is direction we read and write in, knobs on the cylinder encourage children to use a tripod grip, which they will use when they use pencils.
The children furthermore learn specific language associated with the materials that they are working with and so develop a wider vocabulary. Many of the materials therefore provide direct experience of mathematics, language, science and culture and creates a conscious overlap with other key focus area’s of the curriculum.
3. Learning the first principles of Math
Children learn to recognise and order numbers and count out matching physical qualities using an array of beautiful and enticing materials, such as Sandpaper textured numbers. This is one of the earliest Math materials that engages the child’s tactile sense, helping them to develop a deep impression of what the different numbers feel and look like. Specific resources that are used at the setting with specific aims to develop first Math principles are:
Number Roads with and without cards:
- To Introduce children to counting up to 10 using whole quantities (without cards).
- To make children aware of the quantitative relationship between numbers including sequence (with cards).
Sand Paper Numerals:
- To teach the child the written symbols and preparations for writing.
- To further practice in associating the quantity with the written symbol.
- To introduce the concept of 0.
Cards and counters:
- To further practice in counting and associating the correct number of objects with the numerals.
- To see If the child can place the numerals in the correct order.
- To introduce the idea of odd and even numbers.
The Short Beads:
- To teach children numerals between 1 to 10 and quantities.
Many, other sensorial materials are directly and indirectly introduced to children as well such as the concepts of shape and dimension, the number and metric measurement system.
4. Learning the first principles of Literacy
Montessori argued that is easier for a child under six to write before the child can read. She believed that a child’s hand at the age of six is fixed and less pliable. Therefore, any bad habits will be difficult to redress. For a child to write legibly and speedily without tiring, it subsequently is important that the hand becomes trained. This writing skill is indirectly developed by using a combination of sensorial materials as well as practicing practical live activities. The equipment that our setting uses to support this development, consists of three pieces:
1. The inset for design (fine motor skills):
- To prepare for writing.
- To practice correct pencil holding, control and precision.
- To give experience in drawing and infilling the shapes.
- To refine lightness of touch.
- To develop pattern and use of colour.
- To observe the child’s growing ability to control hands movements
2. Sandpaper letter (fine motor skills):
- To develop a kinesthetic impression of letter shapes.
- To associate the phonic sounds with the kinesthetic impressions and memory of the letter shapes.
- To learn writing direction of the letter shapes. We are careful to teach the pure sound of each letter.
3. Moveable Alphabet (intellect):
- To word build relating to writing without a pencil.
In terms of context, the Sandpaper letters are one of the main materials used in developing literacy skills, as children trace over the individual letters and say the name repeatedly, again engaging the tactile sense in order to form muscular impressions of the different letter formations.
5. Understanding of the world
The Montessori ethos that we support: “encourages children to see themselves as ‘citizens of the world’ and experience both the immediate community in which they are growing up and also the global community. Therefore, their experiences of the wider context of the enabling environment are rich and link with cross-cultural experiences and growing respect for our planet and all life on it”. (Barbara Isaacs 2015).
This area is as wide and varied as it can be resulting in a variety of material. In practice this area is divided into geography, history, nature and science. There, are many geography materials in the classroom to teach a child their place in the world. This is achieved by looking at the seasons, studying the weather and changing the calendar daily, as it helps the child to establish a cycle of time. Children, also are encouraged to bring things to put in our nature area. This area is also closely linked with the EYFS area of “Understanding of the World”. We, have a cultural shelf that continuously is updated per topic and we aim to put as much into practise such as with our “Arctic” topic or “Diwali Festival”, or Christmas (see January, November, December ’21 News letters)
Other example of materials that are used are books and puzzles that support the topic at hand in order for children to help them to make sense of the work around them. At the preschool we have a fast collection of books that are continuously rotated on the shelf.
Expressive arts and design, is an area in the Montessori approach that is labelled as an area of learning. At the setting we guide the children to use resources spontaneously giving them the opportunities for development of the imagination with some support from our staff. They can choose from a wide range of variety of resources from the creativity shelf in order to create their own pieces of art. This gives children the freedom to experiment with their individual thoughts and ideas. Creative thinking in play stimulates curiosity and freedom of self-expression and discovery. Creativity in itself, we believe, plays a vital role in the development of the child allowing them to make sense of their world by developing their own understanding based on the direct experiences in the environment. Children are therefore also encouraged to express themselves spontaneously by providing opportunities and materials for music and dance. We, for instance teach Spanish through songs, rhymes and stories by a native speaker and also teach Yoga.
We furthermore, value nature and believe it is key part of a child’s development. At out school we have a lovely garden with climbing frames, tricycles, bikes, a Wendy house, slides, sandpits, water trays, mud kitchen, garden beds for growing vegetables, all of which the children enjoy using. We also have an outdoor willow hut, set up in a circle shape where we enjoy our story time and many other pieces of equipment.
We, most importantly, also have the opportunity to take the children to the next-door wood and farmland, where the children can learn and see different animals, such as geese, horses, chicken and explore den building alongside many other activities. We, therefore believe that having this additional extensive outdoor opportunity is a true enrichment to our curriculum as it extends their social skills through co-operative interaction and concepts of our so important environment.