This program has children between the ages of 3.5 and 5 years. This program, like all our other programs, is specifically designed to follow the child’s individual needs. The teachers present their lessons individually as well as in small groups. Independence continues to be encouraged while the child explores and experiments within his or her environment. The materials in a Montessori environment are attractive thereby inviting the child to use them as many times as they want to. This repetition refines their skills and gain mastery with the materials. The curiosity of the child is challenged and rewarded through this “self learning”. The children learn important life skills, coordination, concentration and also develop their self esteem by working with the materials in the classroom. The Five Areas in the classroom are explored to their maximum capacity in this program. We also offer our students two Field Trips during the year related to the themes they would be working on.
The Five Areas of our Classroom:
Practical Life Area:
Dr. Maria Montessori emphasized the necessity of the Practical Life Area in the Children’s House. She found that the child has a strong urge to participate in a group and contribute. The activities in Practical Life area lay the solid foundation for the physical, mental and moral development of the child. The direct aim is to assist the child obtain social skills, personal independence and hence self-esteem and self-respect. The indirect aim is to develop the child’s fine motor movements which involve the body, intellect and will. The exercises require the ability to move carefully, to focus, to complete sequential steps, to concentrate, to make intelligent choices and to persevere in one's work. As a result of periods of time spent concentrating on such a task a child becomes calm and satisfied and, because of this inner peace, a love for others. Practical life activities differ from culture to culture, family to family and child to child. The key is, like any Montessori activity, is to observe the child and to truly understand his needs. Practical life activities assist the children to:
1. gain independence
2. develop an understanding and respect of the environment
3. develop motor perception and perfection of movement
4. develop a sense of responsibility
5. appreciate culture
6. establish order
7. develop power of concentration
8. grow in self-knowledge
9. develop good self-esteem
10.respect those around them
11. develop in a social environment
12. develop spatial awareness
13. improve hand-eye coordination
14. intellectually develop through the use of the hand
Montessori believed that there are Sensitive Periods in the development of the child when the child is completely absorbed by one aspect of the environment. In this period there is order, concentration, coordination of movement, achievement of independence and the development of language. It is important to let the child explore his environment without correcting him as everything in the Montessori environment is designed to be self correcting. When a child works on a practical life activity he understands it from start to finish. The child repeats these exercises until he needs something more stimulating. When doing these activities the child is moving, he knows where he picks his activity from, how he does his activity from start to end, giving a direction to his movement. The activities are just the right size for the child; they invite the child’s will and encourage him to work with them. At his own will, the child works with the activity and is able to perform the task with great skill and perfection. This creates a discipline within the child. It teaches him how to do the tasks in a sequence that is orderly. These activities create unity between thought, will and action.
There are five main areas in Practical Life that the children are exposed to in a Montessori environment. They are as follows:
1. Preliminary Exercises: These are the exercises that are introduced to a child when he enters the Montessori environment. The child’s relationship with his environment is the main focus of these activities. The exercises include walking carefully in the environment; lifting a chair and placing it carefully; carrying objects; unrolling and rolling mats; folding cloths; opening and closing doors; pouring and squeezing activities etc. By using his hands he not only strengthens his fine and gross motor skills but his intelligence is also enhanced. Through movement using their gross motor skills they become independent and take pride in their achievements. Their movements become refined and they learn to walk and move things around them skilfully. They learn how to sit properly and how to carry chairs and tables in a correct manner thus developing an awareness of weight. They learn how to carry a jug of water without spilling its contents, carry and pass a pair of scissors safely, carry a pail of water with balance, pour from a jug to different containers, carry and handle books with care and roll and unroll a mat with refined movements. Folding cloths and aprons are also learnt which develop their hand-eye coordination, refine precise movements and indirectly prepare them for geometry. Then there are exercises like opening and closing (of boxes and bottles) activities, wringing a cloth and squeezing a sponge, which help strengthen the wrist muscles. “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence”
2. Care of the Indoor and Outdoor Environment: The child learns to care for everything around him in his classroom which he considers his home. He learns to take care of surfaces, materials in the classroom, and the plants and animals in his indoor environment. He takes pride in sponging spills, scouring, washing tables and chairs, washing the floor, windows and cloths whenever there is a need to. All these exercises develop hand-eye coordination, concentration, control of movement and an innate desire to care for the environment. He learns to take care of the materials that he works with in the classroom. He makes swabs and mitts to help polish glass, silver, wood and brass, he washes dishes and cutlery and learns to set a tray and the table. He learns to arrange flowers in a vase and enhance the environment of which he is such an integral part. When he learns how to rake leaves he also develops hand-eye coordination along with gross motor development. “A child is constantly inspecting hid surroundings, his “house”; and when a chair is out of place, making the room look disorderly, we can be certain that it will be the smallest children who notice it. Before a child reaches the age of three, the highest form of work and the most ennobling that engages him is that of arranging furniture and putting things in order, and it is also one that calls for the greatest activity.”
3. Care of the Person: When the child learns how to dress himself by fastening buttons, hooks, zippers and the like, blow his nose, wash his hands, sew buttons, clean his shoes, knot a tie etc., not only does he learn how to take care of himself and get a lesson in personal hygiene, but there is also a series of controlled and refined movements that are learned. He learns that there is a specific sequence, for example, in washing hands, and the care of self is learnt very early in life. This leads to the child’s independence. “After a teacher has shown a child exactly how it should be done, he keeps constantly at the task buttoning and unbuttoning the frame until he has acquired speed and dexterity” (page 90, chapter 5 – “Education in Movement” from the book “The Discovery of the Child” by Maria Montessori.)
4. Grace and Courtesy: The exercises of grace and courtesy are usually presented as a role-play activity. Like the other Practical Life exercises, these exercises are a part of everyday life for the children and the adults in the environment. It is the role of the teacher and her disposition and mannerisms in the classroom that are important here so that the child learns to emulate common manners and courtesies like extending greetings to a visitor, saying please and thank you, allowing someone to pass, interrupting, opening and holding a door for someone, picking up for someone. The movements of the child here are refined because of the grace with which he extends his fine manners. “The inward satisfaction of a child, whether as a guest at table or waiter or artist or student, consists in consciously doing what is right according to principles.”
5. Control of Movement: Through activities like walking on the line, the purpose of this area is to acquire balance in child. Then there is the Silence Game, a game that nourishes the child’s spirit, and the awareness dawns on the child that he has an inner life. This is the final exercise in the development and control of movement. The child has been prepared for it by learning to control their movements and to balance in the other exercises of practical life. “Thus our actions acquire a certain grace, as it were a spiritual perfection”
The senses play an important role throughout our lives, but never is the growth potential as great as during the early years (between three and six years). The child absorbs a multitude of impressions from his environment since birth. However, during the period of life between three and six years of age, the child is undergoing rapid physical growth, and there is a development of his psychic faculties. The child develops the senses of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell through the manipulation of and experience with his surroundings. This phase is characterised by the beginning of conscious knowledge. The purpose of Sensorial materials is to refine and develop the child’s senses in order that the senses can better serve the individual development of the child, for, it is through the senses that the child relates to his environment. Because the senses cannot possibly develop beyond the individual’s surroundings, it is our duty as educators to provide the child with a nourishing and rich environment. It was Dr. Montessori who pioneered the use of Sensorial materials to refine the senses and aid in the intellectual development of children. “The training and sharpening of the senses has the obvious advantage of enlarging the field of perception and of offering an ever more solid foundation for intellectual growth” Montessori provided a very valuable and original contribution within her educational approach when she developed the doctrine ofSensitive Periods. The “Sensitive Period” is defined as a definite period in childhood during which the child reveals psychic aptitudes and potentials that afterwards, disappear. During such a period, the child will focus intently on some objects in his environment, making them the focal part of his world. Other objects will pale in comparison through this period of sensitivity. It is a period of real constructiveness when the hands are the busiest. The hand and the senses work together. The senses receive stimuli from the environment and the hand uses this information to perform appropriate actions. Through the manipulation of objects in the environment by using his hands the child feeds his intellect. He learns concepts from concrete to abstract with the use of the materials and of his hands. A Sensitive Period not only focuses a child’s mind on certain elements of his environment, it also establishes and perfects some functions in the child’s development.
The Sensorial materials are attractive and call to the child. Each group has same quality but in different degrees, graded from minimum to maximum (e.g. pink tower – all are cubes, same colour only difference is in size). Distractions like busy patterns and loud colours are removed so the child can focus attention on the actual purpose of the activity. There is a built in Control of Error in each material and they are self correcting. Unlike the materials for Practical Life, Sensorial materials are scientifically designed, so they are not familiar to the child and he has no point of reference from his home environment. Everything about it is new, so his mind is open to whatever it will teach him; he has no preconceived notions about the function of that material. They allow a child to create a basis of order in his mind and allow intelligent exploration of the environment. The materials clarify the child’s vision and eventually lead to fundamental abstract thinking. The child’s motor coordination improves and as the senses become more refined they can gather more reliable and accurate information. The refined senses create more awareness of beauty and enhance artistic creativity. The child is more articulate, more analytical and more prepared for intellectual activities. Most importantly, Sensorial activities assist in early detection of disabilities or weaknesses in a child’s perception. The materials, because they use all the senses, can allow a child who has difficulty in one area to still learn effectively by stimulating another area of sensitivity. The ultimate purpose is to help the child feel and experience peace and happiness.
“It may be said that that we acquire knowledge by using our minds; but the child absorbs knowledge directly into his psychic life.”
Maria Montessori knew that it was essential to make mathematics accessible to the young mind during a period in development when they are especially sensitive to the acquisition of these abstract concepts. She termed her approach “materialised abstractions” which refers to the process of reducing the information content of a concept or theory into digestible bites which the child can experience hands on.
In the Montessori prepared environment, abstract concepts are presented to the child in the form of hands on materials. These materials are specially designed to capture the child’s interest i.e. they are made of natural materials, they are beautiful, they are child size and thus appeal to the child’s sensitivity to small objects. Most importantly, they require the use of the child’s hand which we already know to be key in the learning process and also in the development of concentration. Because the use of the senses is also a key factor in this process, many of the materials are colour coded, thus giving the child another factor to add to the association of the concept to the material. Once the child begins to work with the material, the concepts become absorbed through associative learning. The mathematics materials in the Montessori classroom are a series of abstractions that help the child work through the concepts of numbers, quantities and calculations. Finally, as the child becomes more proficient in the use of the materials, the materials become more and more abstract i.e. there are less concrete aids for doing calculations thereby requiring the child to draw on experience and imagination to determine their answers. Concrete manipulation of materials later becomes abstract thinking as language is added to these exercises. Mathematics is as natural to human beings as language. When a child is learning language his thirst for words is insatiable. A child working on the first reading exercise, for example, has the concrete object in front of him to facilitate the abstract exercise of reading the word card. When a child is confronted with concrete materials he immerses himself into it and draws out the best that is in him. It stimulates his intellect that would probably be inaccessible at such a young age. He learns to concentrate because of the inherent nature of the material. Similarly, in the Math Area, a wide range of concrete material is available to the child. Repetitive use of these materials will soon lead to the child grasping the same concepts abstractly.
Numbers and mathematical concepts are so abstract, that Dr. Montessori introduced simple yet attractive materials for the children to work with; thus making the subject more interesting. As is characteristic with all the Montessori apparatus, mathematical materials also move from concrete to abstract and from simple to complex. Since quantities are more concrete and visually impressionable, the children are introduced to the quantities first, followed by the numerical symbol (abstract) and finally, they are shown how the two can be combined. This progression is followed in all the math concepts, whether it is the number rods and numerals, the decimal system or fractions. The concrete to abstract path of education is also noticed in the sequence of exercises. For example, mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are first performed with the golden beads, then the stamp game (abstract material) and finally with the small bead frame (most abstract) for each of the above. Children are introduced to the number rods first, which is fixed quantities before the spindle box or counters and numbers which are loose quantities. So again, we see the progression from concrete to abstract. Dr. Montessori realised that we facilitate the understanding process if we unite together units as fixed quantities in increasing succession. Little children find it difficult to add one more unit at a time because often they might say 1, 1, 1, 1 for every single unit we put down instead of counting them as 1, 2, 3, 4. Montessori teachers must make sure the children are well versed with the first section of the mathematical materials which include the number rods, sandpaper letters, spindle box and the numerals and counters before they advance any further. These materials lay a foundation for understanding numbers 0-9, without which math makes no sense whatsoever. While traditional schools would normally describe the meaning of zero, a Montessori teacher lets him discover this for himself while working with the spindle boxes. After the visual representation, she further plays a game by asking them to ‘blow zero kisses’ or ‘come here zero times’. “We must make a child feel that 0 is nothing. For this we use exercises that are highly amusing to the children.” As the materials also move from easy to more difficult, static addition is introduced and thoroughly practised before going on to dynamic addition which requires more skill and maturity. They master the ten board and teen board before working on the hundred board.
A popular misconception is that children become so dependent on materialisations that they are not able to really grasp the abstract concept or will not be able to function if such materials are not available. The truth is that children require the concrete materials for quite some time before their mind is able to clarify these abstract concepts. Every child is different and may take his own time to reach the point of abstraction. Once a child reaches that delicate point of abstraction, the teacher should not withhold him by redirecting him to the concrete materials. “When the instruments have been constructed with great precision, they provoke a spontaneous exercise so co-ordinated and so harmonious with the facts of internal development, that at a certain point a new physical picture, a species of higher plane in the complex development, is revealed. The child turns away spontaneously from the material, not with any signs of fatigue, but rather as if impelled by fresh energies, and his mind is capable of abstractions.”
The Language Program in our curriculum emphasises on vocabulary/oral language, reading, writing and eventually reading comprehension. The ages from three to six years old are a sensitive period for learning language. Initial sounds are introduced through Sandpaper letters where the children internalize the letters of the alphabet by tracing them and saying the sounds as they trace with their fingers. The next step is to match beginning sounds to objects. Children eventually learn to build phonetic words and thus begins the onset of writing and reading. Reading thus becomes a natural development, it is not forced or taught abstractly, rather it comes to the child through a natural progression. The Metal Insets in the Montessori classroom provide the child the opportunity to refine their pincer grip to hold their pencil and hence improve their penmanship. It helps the children acquire proficiency in using a writing instrument, including lightness of touch, applying the right amount of pressure, line control, and familiarity with the curves and angles found in the letters of the alphabet.
The introduction to the letters of the alphabet is presented phonetically and in the lower case. There is a progression from learning the sounds, to building simple three letter phonetic words. The child moves on to building longer phonetic words and learning phonograms along with ‘puzzle words’ that are sight words with no phonetic rules. When the child is proficient with reading phonetically, grammar is introduced to teach him/her the different rules of sentence construction and also the exceptions to those rules in order to enable the child to spell and read fluently. The child would then be ready to write stories, do simple projects based on his/her learning, use the dictionary and speak eloquently and with confidence.
The Montessori philosophy aims at connecting the child to a bigger picture, where he sees himself as a part of the whole; as a citizen of the world. The goal of making the child independent is ultimately towards interdependence. The concept of interdependence throughout the universe is realised by the child through Cosmic Education. Thus, the Culture section of the Montessori Method emphasises interdependence within the ecological system, between countries and regions and fellowship throughout mankind. Dr. Montessori felt that children exposed to these ideas at an early age grow into responsible citizens of the world, making better decisions towards peace, justice and progress. She realised that an integrated approach to education is the only path to Cosmic Education. “As everything in the physical and moral world is one and indivisible, bound together in closest union, human development is gravely impeded by the presentment of isolated educational facts in a desultory manner, because it is impossible to disconnect things united by a sacred and eternal law.”
One of the most unique features of a Montessori classroom is the introduction of Social Sciences at a very young age. The ‘Culture’ area in the prepared environment gives children an opportunity to discover through exploration Botany, Zoology, Geography, History, Art and Music. All this is achieved while still following the fundamentals of no set syllabus for all and lesson presentations upon the child’s readiness. The intention throughout is to maintain an integrated curriculum so that the child sees the connection between the largest and smallest living creature, the effect of the living on the non-living and vice versa. Although the teacher touches on subjects that are not traditionally introduced at this age, she does restrain content to the appropriate level. “Montessori has no notion of presenting the children at this age with a closely reasoned and systematic scheme of universal knowledge. She has no intention either, of turning the teacher into a walking encyclopaedia.”
General sciences help the children discover laws of nature like buoyancy, evaporation, magnetism and the properties of water. The nature table is a part of the prepared environment. It is the jumpstart to discussions and further exploration of botany and zoology. Gardening activities themselves teach so many fundamental principles about nature. The prepared environment reflects nature within the classroom and outside as well. Nature permeates a Montessori classroom, thus giving children a chance to feel one with it. “A child, who more than anyone else is a spontaneous observer of nature, certainly needs to have at his disposal material upon which he can work.” The classification of plants and animals helps understand the universe. Not by rote memorisation, but through discussion, nature walks, puzzles and classified cards, children observe and learn about the characteristics of the animal and plant kingdom. Little children learn to take care of the classroom plants and pets, which teaches them responsibility, empathy and makes them more observant.
Going against the norm of introducing children to their immediate community, followed by the city, province, country and continent, in that order; Montessori realised that reversing the order is one way of removing the egocentric focus in the child’s mind. The geography materials introduce the child to different landforms, habitats and help him/her realise that the physical conditions of the earth contribute to human conditions. It gives the children a sensorial impression of land and water forms and the continents; making it easier for them to imagine and give these ideas a proper picture in his mind. The chid is exposed to different cultures through pictures and objects and realises that there is a much bigger world other than his neighbourhood. They learn not only to tolerate but also to appreciate the diversity of cultures in the world and see how different people are still bound by the thread of mankind.
The timeline of a child’s day and that of the seasons develop a sense of serration of events related to the time. These simple yet vital lessons make conscious to a child the passing of time and its effects on the world around him. He learns a very important function of reading the clock by manipulating it himself. Besides, the child begins to feel that he is a part of humanity if he knows about events and people before he was here. To aid children in understanding the long labour of humans to the present day, Montessori schools present timeline lessons and a basic grasp of the present, past and future.
The colour tablets, cylinder blocks, metal insets and geometric cabinet are some materials that develop appreciation for colour, design and form. The child is left free to work or design in art and sculpture leading to greater creativity. An easel is an integral part of Montessori classrooms and artwork by famous artists is displayed in the classroom. Later children may be presented with classified cards of portraits, sceneries and abstracts.
A Montessori classroom often has classical music like Mozart playing the background while children work, thus awakening an interest in music. The preparatory exercises include ‘walking the line’ on the rhythm and the ‘bells’ from the sensorial area in the classroom. Teachers show them how to play instruments; after which they are introduced to different instruments from around the world through classified cards and finally they move to understanding notes and scales.
Cosmic education is an integrated approach to nurture the spirit of the child. “Our care of the child should be governed not by the desire ‘to make him learn things’, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him the light which is called intelligence.”
Maria Montessori believed that every human being went through a quantum leap in learning during the preschool years. She felt this was especially true from birth to the first few years of life. The years when a child learns language is surely a profound and mysterious process of learning. The absorbent mind-the mind soaks up information like a sponge. The sensitive period of learning languages is between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Elite Montessori School offers an enriched and interactive French Program every day where the children learn French in small groups in a fun filled environment. As a routine, the children learn their numbers and letters in French every day, and also do the Calendar talking about the days of the week and months of the year. They learn about the four Seasons, and the weather are discussed every day. The lessons are planned according to the themes of the month and emphasis is placed on using French vocabulary during the lessons. Songs are taught based on the themes as well. All celebrations of various cultures are talked about and the children learn the greetings for the festivals and celebrations in French. During our Winter Concert the children proudly sing some songs, including the National Anthem, in French! There are 3 groups within the Casa Program: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. The Advanced groups are introduced to books of Grammar and Vocabulary. Every Friday, there is French Circle for each class where the children watch a short Drama as part of the French-in-Action Program. The children then discuss the Drama in class.
The Music program is a profound part of our curriculum. Children have music once a week for 45 minutes. The children learn songs, notations, rhythm, and are introduced to a variety of musical instruments. The music teacher teaches them songs for various events in the school: the Winter Concert, Music Monday, International Day celebrations, Graduation Ceremony etc.
We, at Elite, stress the importance of a well rounded physical development program for our children. We offer a Gym Program in the Fall and a Swimming Program in the Spring. Gym activities include activities that develop gross motor coordination, soccer, basketball, music and dance, aerobics, yoga and fun filled games that require physical activity.