The Primary Curriculum
The Primary classrooms, for three to six year old age group are designed for children to “learn by doing.” In our environment there are a variety of activities. It is a calm, structured space constructed to meet a child’s individual needs. Here, the child experiences a blend of freedom and discipline in a space especially designed for his or her optimal development.
The Montessori primary curriculum is interdisciplinary and interactive. It encompasses five broad areas:
Practical life exercises instill care for self, others, and the environment. Activities include many of the tasks children see as part of their daily routine in the home such as preparing food, dusting, sweeping, and washing dishes. These purposeful activities allow the children to learn to function independently by caring for their own needs and the needs of the class environment. They learn to complete such tasks by developing their powers of control and concentration. One distinct group of Practical Life exercises is referred to as “Grace and Courtesy” which aids the development of acceptable social behavior in and out of school (greeting, thanking, apologizing, and serving).
Sensorial Area helps the children in the process of organizing their intelligence. All five senses are engaged as children learn to differentiate among sizes, colors, weights, forms, textures, scents, tastes, and musical sounds. Aristotle said, “There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses.”
Language Area provides the opportunity to develop oral language through discussions, storytelling, poetry, and vocabulary lessons. A phonics approach to reading is incorporated. The “Sandpaper Letters” help children to fuse sound and symbol effortlessly, through a sight-sound-touch presentation of the alphabet. Numerous studies have found that explicit and direct phonics instruction offers significant benefits to children learning to read. The earlier children receive phonics instruction, the better. Many reading experts, as well as the National Reading Panel, stress that phonics instruction must be individualized for every child. One-size-fits-all phonics instruction doesn’t always work. A Montessori classroom offers just that: individualized phonics instruction starting in the Primary class. Writing and reading skills are generally developed consecutively. To further enhance reading development, children are taught grammar and word function within sentences.
Mathematics Area helps children learn and understand the concepts of math by manipulating concrete materials. Various activities allow the child to internalize concepts of quantity, sequence, decimal system, place value, and to explore the processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. This work gives children a solid understanding of basic mathematical principles, prepares them for later abstract reasoning, and helps develop problem-solving skills.
Geography, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art, and Music are integrated in the Primary curriculum. Children learn about the earth, continents, countries, states, climates, and animals, as well as the principles of honoring all religions, cultures, and people. This helps children to obtain a sense of self and community and an understanding of where in the universe they can fit. Art programs provide the opportunity to enjoy creative activities and gain a better understanding of the great masters.