The Montessori classroom provides a setting that optimizes a child’s growth and development. Characteristics such as ability to concentrate, an interest and pleasure in meaningful work, self-discipline, and social skills do not develop in a single occurrence - they happen anew at each stage of development. This is one reason the Montessori method does not need a separate program for gifted children – it is designed to respond to each child’s individual needs and pace of development.
Curriculum and environment play a vital role in supporting this development. The curriculum must be a skillful blend of content that meets educational needs and is presented in a way that supports the development of these four characteristics.
The classroom setup should encourage work and cooperation, and this should be coupled with materials that support the child’s growing understanding of key concepts and goals. This combination creates a learning environment that supports both intellectual and emotional development.
The Montessori curriculum enhances knowledge and understanding, as well as emotional and social development. These must be balanced to allow both to flourish – since we know the ability of students to be successful academically is closely tied to their emotional and social well-being.
Maria Montessori said children learn best by touch and manipulation, not by repeating what they are told. The Montessori method is structured around and promotes the child’s natural, self-initiated impulse to become absorbed in an environment and to learn from it. Montessori uses specific materials, techniques and curriculum areas that assist each child in reaching his or her full potential. Each material isolates one concept or skill that has been specially designed with children’s natural interests in mind – so little or no nudging is needed from adults. These materials are designed to be tools that help children work and learn at their own pace, see abstract ideas in a concrete way, and help them understand the concepts they are working on.
The Montessori curriculum is organized into the following key areas:
Practical Life - lays the foundation for all other work to be done in the classroom. It:
- Invites the child to act and work on real life tasks that foster independence, coordination, order and concentration.
- Contains objects familiar to the child, including everyday tasks to master the care of self and care of the environment - eating, dressing, pouring, sweeping and tying, as well as grace and courtesy.
- Encourages responsibility, autonomy, and self-esteem.
Sensorial - this aspect of the curriculum is the starting point for intellectual growth. It:
- Stimulates intellectual development helping children order, compare and classify things that involve all the senses.
- Makes future learning more meaningful and useful.
- Inspires careful observation and identification of similarities and contrasts.
- Helps the child refine his or her experience of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
- Is modeled on scientifically based concepts, such as metric system dimensions or algebraic formulas.
Math - Introducing math at an early age lays the foundation for later cognitive development. Our math curriculum:
- Prepares for the gradual transition to abstract thinking.
- Transforms ideas into actions with hands-on learning that makes abstract concepts clear and concrete.
- Introduces elementary students to the study of the fundamentals of algebra, geometry, logic and statistics, in addition to the basic arithmetic principles.
Language - Activities across the curriculum foster vocabulary development, communication skills, writing, and reading readiness. Specifically:
- Reading readiness materials address phonemic awareness and word decoding skills.
- Writing precedes reading, as the children experiment with drawing and forming letters while developing motor control for writing.
- Reading skills normally develop so smoothly in Montessori classrooms that students tend to exhibit a sudden “explosion” in their ability to read.
- Includes reading for research, writing for reports, following written instructions and recipes, and recording observations and results.
Reading - Reading is an integral part of the academic program at AMS.
- Young children work on phonemic awareness and phonics using the classic Montessori materials which allow the child to understand that words are composed of sounds.
- Once a child learns some consonant and vowels sounds, they start to put these sounds together to make words.
- All 5 year-olds-and elementary students work in small groups and one-on-one to:
- expand their knowledge of phonemic awareness
- work with digraphs and blends
- practice reading phonetic books
- learn the Dolch Words- 220 of the most common words used in reading
- Older children work in small groups or a one-on-one situation based on their ability.
- Small reading groups meet together during the week to read and discuss award winning Children’s Literature. The discussions center on:
- comprehension, new vocabulary, setting and theme
- comparing or contrasting books
- ideas of what can be learned from the book
- projects, summaries, or book reports
Cultural - this portion of our curriculum provides a sound introduction to botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, geology, history, geography, and astronomy. Specifically:
- It cultivates children’s natural fascination with the universe and helps them develop a lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about the world in which we live.
- Specially designed maps are used to learn names of the world’s continents and countries.
- Elementary students complete in-depth studies of the world’s culture, including language, literature, dress, food, artwork and music - both past and present.
- Elementary students participate in a science and/or cultural fair every spring.